As the country’s fourth largest city, our southern neighbor Houston is booming with Texas-size fun for the whole family. Discover what life is really like on Mars at Space Center Houston, walk through lush greenery at Hermann Park or opt for indoor exploration at a museum built especially for kids. While you’re in town, stop by one of the over 10,000 restaurants with food options running the gamut from the classic chicken and waffles to crawfish. (Pro tip: the Houston City Pass will get you deals at most of the listed locations. Purchase on citypass.com).
FOR MINI EXPLORERS
Kids who dream of going up, up and away need go no farther than SPACE CENTER HOUSTON for an inside look at space travel and the many wonders beyond Earth. The center boasts more than 400 things for kids to see and do, such as an up-close look at a flown spacecraft, a moon rock that yes, kids can touch, and the must-see permanent attraction, Independence Plaza. Peek inside the historic 905 NASA shuttle carrier aircraft and a replica shuttle sitting atop the 240-ton jumbo jet in the plaza. Then visit exhibits such as Astronaut Gallery, displaying spacesuits and space gear, and Mission Mars, where kids learn all about our neighboring red planet.
The CHILDREN’S MUSEUM OF HOUSTON is home to 14 galleries, including a challenge course, an eco station, a Cyberchase gallery modeled after the animated TV show “Cyberchase” and much more. The museum’s Kidtropolis gallery is particularly popular among kiddos, serving as a mini “city” for kids to experience adult life by playing pretend jobs and shopping for groceries at the faux H-E-B grocery store. Ask about the museum’s S.E.C.R.E.T. mission, an hour-long gaming experience taking kids through nine missions.
Located about 40 minutes from Houston is KEMAH BOARDWALK, the Texas version of the Santa Monica pier. Walk along the Galveston Bay while perusing through the illuminated water fountains (with 75 different water jets) for kids to dance through or the must-ride Ferris wheel. Make it a day trip “under the board walk” with a plethora of shopping, dining and amusements to see, such as the Treasure Chest gift shop. Pro tip: on Mother’s Day (May 12) mom’s get a free All Day Ride Pass with the purchase of a regularly priced All Day Ride Pass.
FOR NATURE LOVERS
From paleontology to the must-visit Cockrell Butterfly Center, HOUSTON MUSEUM OF NATURAL SCIENCE, located at Hermann Park, is a no-brainer for littles who love all things science and wildlife. The museum’s butterfly center is filled with tropical plants and more than 60 species of the world’s largest butterflies. The paleontology hall is one of the biggest in the United States (roughly the size of a football field), with larger-than-life displays of dinos and mammoths. Ride the Geovator in the energy hall—imagine a “Star Trek” spaceship—that takes kids back in time to the Cretaceous Period via moving screens.
After you and the kids have learned about the species of yesteryear, explore the rest of HERMANN PARK. While you’re discovering native Houston species, hop aboard a mini train for a ride around the park or rent a pedal boat at Lake Plaza. A walk through McGovern Centennial Gardens is also a must, with a large lawn, water fountains and lush gardens. Stop by the Buddy Carruth playground for old-fashioned playtime on swings and slides. While you’re in the area stop by the Houston Zoo, spread over 55 acres.
FOR ART LOVERS
Based on a philosophy of fostering personal experiences with art, John and Dominique de Menil founded THE MENIL COLLECTION. The art space consists of five buildings housing permanent and traveling exhibitions along with single artists’ installations such as the Cy Twombly Galler and Richmon Hall. Collections range from the Paleolithic era to contemporary pieces. MC’s green space might be especially popular for your littles, with ample space for their feet to explore and large outdoor sculptures paving the way, such as Jim Love’s Jack, a seemingly large, red Jack. Be sure to stop by the Menil Bookstore with a section just for kids, including books and toys.