Houston is a vibrant and diverse city that boasts year-round sunshine, friendly people, great food, and excellent schools. It’s therefore a great place for families to be, whether you’re a local or you’re planning a trip. There are tons of things to keep the kids entertained! If you do want to visit, the best time to do so is between late September and early June when the blazing heat and humidity are relatively low. Here are just some of our favorite things to do with kids in Houston.
Best Places to Stay in Houston
The hotel choices, even with kids, is practically endless in Houston. If you’re looking to add to your hotel reward points (free hotel room for another trip w out the kiddos?), the AC Hotel Houston is urban midtown at its best. More boutique your style? Check out the Hotel Icon and the Magnolia Hotel.
If no hotel is kid-friendly enough for you, and you need your own house or apartment (mini kitchen? kids get their own bedroom?), Airbnb has some of our all-time favorite Houston spots — from a 3 bedroom house near downtown to a modern loft in the Galleria to a new blue modern house close to downtown.
How to Get Around Houston
You can certainly walk around, especially if you’re staying in the downtown area, but unless you’ve got your own vehicle, you’ll be needing a car. Hertz has pickup locations at the airport and also throughout town.
Best Experiences in Houston for Kids
We know you used to enjoy exploring town at your leisure, but let’s be realistic and accept that you’re with kids and kids need a plan. Put down their tech devices (and yours) and plan a few special experiences that are unique to Houston. Everything from a Houston Hustle scavenger hunt to a downtown foodie tour to kayaking Galveston Bay can be booked beforehand.
Free Things to Do in Houston
For a little tranquility The Japanese Garden is a beautiful oasis within the park where kids can explore the manicured pathways and hidden bridges. Afterwards take a paddle-boat ride and feed the ducks. It’s open all week 9a.m. to 6p.m. Pinewood Cafe, also in Lake Plaza offers a view of the lake and delicious sandwiches. The Buddy Carruth Playground is always fun and there are also running and walking paths throughout the park as well as a golf course. A reflecting pool within the park is a popular family gathering spot and you can always find a drum circle or saxophone player nearby to serenade you. Open 6a.m. to 11p.m. everyday.
Hermann Park is a great picnic spot that both kids and grownups will love. Bring your blanket and snacks and enjoy the breathtaking view of the city from the top of the hill. The best part? There is plenty of room to run around if and when the kids get antsy.
The Menil Collection. Located in the Montrose neighborhood The Menil Collection includes a free museum in Houston that boasts more than 17,000 paintings, sculptures, prints drawings, photos and rare books. The building holding the collection is located on Sul Ross street and is surrounded by a row of restored bungalows and a huge expanse of green space that is perfect for the kids to play. Even if you don’t want to go inside the Museum you can easily spend an afternoon outdoors. Here you will find Montrose hipsters, families and lifelong Houstonians all mingling in the grass, having picnics, and taking in the view of Renzo Piano designed building. Open 11a.m. to 7p.m. Wednesday to Sunday.
Food trucks regularly set up shop nearby so you can grab a bite to eat on the lawn. Nearby is the large Broken Obelisk sculpture located within a reflecting pool and surrounded by more green space for playing. The whole vibe of this place is laid back and the kids are free to run around, check out the artwork, eat and relax. In case you’re curious what’s broken with the Broken Obelisk, Houston Chronicle explained a bit more.
Donovan Park is funded by private citizens and ranked one of the best playgrounds in Houston. It’s located in Houston Heights a historic and hip neighborhood in Northwest Houston. The park features a beautiful series of tree house like structures and hidden tunnels with a large wooden train beckoning you from the street. The builder showcases the arts and crafts style that is unique to this neighborhood within the design of the play area. Kids will have a ball playing hide and seek and exploring here or just hanging in the train cars. Open 24/7. Walk to nearby Revival Market afterwards for amazing cold brewed iced coffee and specialty groceries (for the grownups) and yummy sandwiches and pastas for everyone.
Cullen Sculpture Garden. Located in the Museum District, this little gem is free and showcases beautiful sculptures in a no-fuss outdoor environment. Little ones will gawk at the sculptures and have fun running over, under, around and through the various pieces. Afterwards, grab a snack from the food trucks that are regularly parked in the adjacent lot and sit at the tables and chairs provided while you refuel. Open 24/7.
Discovery Green Opened in 2008 Discovery Green is a giant green space located right in the middle of downtown Houston. Surrounded by otherwise bland steel & concrete is a vibrant public park that features colorful works of public art & sculpture, a lake, a performance stage and a plethora f activities for kids such as Toddler Tuesdays, yoga classes, a beautiful playground, a splash pad and family movies on the green. On any given weekend you will find a festival that takes over the performance space. Open 6a.m. to 11p.m. everyday. There are usually food carts and vendors nearby if you get hungry, and for a sit-down meal there is the Lake House restaurant featuring a kid-friendly menu.
A good place to check out for some silly and self-timed family portraits is the Gerald D. Hines Waterwall Park. Located in Uptown Houston near the Galleria mall, this park offers plenty of space to run around. The Water Wall itself makes for some gorgeous photos, while its cool mist is a relief from the warm Texas afternoons. Open 8a.m. to 9p.m. every day.
Kids Activities Houston, TX
The Houston Zoo is also located within Hermann Park. It boasts more than 6,000 animals as well as a carousel, petting zoo, playground, daily performances for the kids, and the opportunity to feed the giraffes. It’s the second most-visited zoo in the US, so it’s a must when in Houston with little ones. Open 9a.m. to 7p.m. every day except Saturday, when it closes at 5p.m.
Located between the Museum District, Rice University and the Houston Medical Center, Hermann Park boasts 400 acres of kid-friendly activities. If your little one likes trains, start with the Hermann Park Railroad which runs from the train depot at Lake Plaza about every 20 minutes and takes you on a tour through the park. Hermann Park opens 6a.m. to 10p.m. every day.
Russ Pittman Park and Nature and Discovery Center. This gem located in the Bellaire neighborhood of Houston is like finding a secret garden in the middle of the city. Its a 4-acre property with an old restored home in the center that serves as an office and also houses the indoor Nature Discovery Center where there are themed rooms for the kids to play; here they can check out the turtles in their aquarium, read books, look at exhibits about nature, and play with blocks and puzzles.
The outdoor space features a series of small pathways that meander through lush gardens and a “mini prairie” with large trees for shade and a beautiful little fountain. There is also a fat bunny rabbit and various birds that the kids can check out, and at the edge of the park there is a playground. The park is open every day from 5a.m. to 9.30p.m. while the discovery rooms open noon to 5.30p.m. Tuesday to Friday or 10a.m. to 5.30p.m. on weekends.
Memorial Park and Arboretum. One of the largest urban parks in the United States, this 1,400-acre facility is a popular destination for runners, bikers and families. For the younger kids there is an excellent playground within the park called the Vale-Asche Foundation Playground. This playground was built as Houston’s first “Play Ground Without Limits” and is designed to be fully accessible for children with sight, hearing, and mobility impairments. It has a series of bridges, slides, and ladders which kids of all ages will love. Also check out the Houston Arboretum and Nature Center located within the Park. Open 7a.m. to 6.30p.m. everyday.
Kid-Friendly Attractions in Houston
Looking to get a feel for all of the family fun Houston has to offer? One of the best ways to experience many attractions in Houston, Texas — including Space Center Houston, the Downtown Aquarium, Houston Museum of Natural Science, Houston Zoo and Kemah Boardwalk — is to buy a CityPass. With this awesome ticket, you’re able to save on visiting five of Houston’s top attractions for one price.
The Children’s Museum of Houston. This award-winning museum has 90,000 square feet of fun for kids of all ages. For the babies and toddlers check out the Tot Spot which has a large enclosed area full of soft toys, walkways, bridges and books for the littlest ones to enjoy. For older kids there are dozens of exhibits like Kidtropolis where there is a grocery store, bank, city hall, and tons of vehicles for them to climb in and out of. Power Play features a huge indoor power tower for kids to climb and a giant light filled floor that they can jump and dance on to their heart’s delight. There are science exhibits, an outdoor Water Play area called Flow Works, a library with a large selection of books and daily story times as well as many seasonal exhibits and events. Open 10a.m. to 6p.m. most days apart from Thursday, when it closes later to make way for Free Family Night (5p.m.-8p.m.) and Sunday, when it opens at noon.
Kids’ Favorite Things to Do in Houston
The Houston Symphony. The Houston Symphony hosts a series of family concerts in the Fall and Spring that feature popular and classic music geared toward kids. Past offerings including music from Beauty and the Beast and Harry Potter. After the concert there are also fun activities. This will make the kids’ Houston visit a memorable one.
Brazos Book Store. Although small, this locally-owned Houston bookstore is one of our favorite places for finding books for the little ones. It has a small children’s section with a place to sit and read with the kids as well as a carefully chosen selection of new and classic books and toys. Open 10a.m. to 8p.m. everyday but Sunday (noon until 6p.m.).
Best Things To Pack For A Trip To Houston
When packing for a trip to Houston, weather should be top of mind. The humid, hot temps work best with light fabrics. Instead of the usual jeans, consider these cotton cargo pants, which would pair well with your favorite Vionic slip-on shoes and Loeffler Randall western booties. (Houston isn’t a super walkable city, so a bit of a fancy heel won’t hurt too much.) For the day, go for easy-fit denim shorts and classic white Keds sneakers. We love breathable knit tops and a variety of easy butt-covering tees that go with the cargos, the denim and your favorite leggings with pockets.
While the weather is warm, many buildings are cool, so keep a light cardigan tucked away – this cozy leopard cardigan has a bit of personality – Texas is not for wallflowers. Top off any look with a touch of local love, like this Houston Astros baseball cap. And even though the weather feels humid, you still need to keep skin protected with a tinted sunscreen and hydrated with Tata Harper’s Daily Essentials Travel Set.
Mom tip: As Houston is a foodie city, it’s imperative that we keep meal time in mind— packing darker colored clothing can help hide all manner of sin (and BBQ-sauce stained finger prints).
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