Bright lights; big city.  While large cities are not always easy to navigate with three young children, we found enough family-friendly activities in Houston to make a trip to Texas' largest city well worth your while.  So, whether you are planning your next family get-away or simply find yourself in the Houston area for business or otherwise, check out our top-picks for what to do once you are there.

 

CityPass Houston

A great value for Houston attractions is to purchase a CityPass.  At $39 per adult and $29 per child, a family could save 45% on entrance fees to six of Houston's most popular attractions.  If you are planning a trip to Houston and want to maximize your sightseeing, Texas Family Travel recommends you purchase a city-pass from www.citypass.com or directly from one of the featured attractions.  Know that the included attractions would take three full days, if not more, to fully experience, so you should only do the CityPass if you have ample time.  For a shorter trip without the CityPass, we would recommend the first three attractions below (Space Center Houston, Children's Museum, and Ice Skating at the Galleria).

 

Space Center Houston

Our favorite attraction in Houston is Space Center Houston.  Celebrating the city's unique ties to NASA, Space Center Houston is a full-day's worth of historical and scientific fun.  The indoor playground, alone, would be enough to convince us that this is a great place for children.   Our kids had a fantastic time climbing and exploring the three-story interactive play structure.  Beyond the playground, the other exhibits and presentations were both educational and entertaining.  We particularly enjoyed the "Life in Space" live presentation where we learned about the everyday activities of an astronaut living in zero-gravity.  Our kids loved touching a moon rock and seeing how much they would weigh on Mars.  Tips for your trip:

The one aspect of the Space Center that we felt was over-rated was the tram tour of Johnson Space Center - the real, working NASA.  Our children were bored with this time-consuming tour, so we believe your time is best spent staying with the exhibits.

Before you go, check out books on space at your local library.  We were surprised how little our children knew about the space program, and we believe the time spent learning about astronauts beforehand positively enhanced their visit to Space Center Houston.

For a unique culinary experience that your family will enjoy, make sure to buy some "astronaut ice cream" at the gift shop before you leave.

 

Houston's Children's Museum 

Wow! The Children's Museum of Houston is amazing!  Room after room of engaging exhibits geared specifically toward young children, your family could easily spend an entire day exploring this museum.  Their fitting slogan, "A playground for your mind" is very descriptive.  From scientists with lab coats, to police in a patrol car, kids can let their imaginations go wild and explore the world around them through play.  We recommend every Texas family visit this well-done children's museum.  Note: because of the popularity of this attraction, the museum can get quite crowded and feel chaotic to parents, but we believe it is still worth a visit because of the fun offered.  If possible, try to visit on a weekday morning when it will be less crowded.

 

 

Ice Skating at the Galleria (not included in CityPass)

One of Texas Family Travel's favorite activities in Houston is ice skating at Polar Ice located in the Houston Galleria.  Visiting at Christmas time and skating around the Texas-sized Christmas tree is a tradition for many Texas families.  Regardless of when you visit, teaching your warm-weathered children to skate on ice is a wonderful experience that will create treasured family memories.

 

 

 

Downtown Aquarium

The Downtown Aquarium is a fun family outing in downtown Houston.  The aquarium boasts sting-rays in touch pools, an octopus, and even a white tiger.  It is not a large aquarium, but the displays  are well-done.  The kids will love the carnival rides (including ferris wheel and merry-go-round) outside.  We recommend that every family visiting the aquarium experience the Shark Voyage train ride.  Parents and children will enjoy the ride through the shark tunnel and "finding the lost great white shark".  With a CityPass, unlimited access to the rides is just $5 more.

 

 

 

 

 

Houston Zoo

While not our favorite zoo in Texas, we still believe the Houston Zoo offers great opportunities for family-fun while in Houston.  The primates exhibit was extremely entertaining, and our children loved climbing through the "burrows" of the groundhog exhibit.  The Houston Zoo is located in the heart of beautiful Hermann Park.  We recommend you pack a picnic lunch and eat by the pond located just outside the zoo's entrance.  It is also fun to explore Hermann Park either by foot, by paddleboat, or via the miniature train that circles the park.  Tip:  Encourage your child to research their favorite animal before visiting the zoo.  When you come to that animal's exhibit, let your child be the "animal expert" and educate the rest of the family about their animal.

 

 

 

Houston Museum of Natural Science

A Houston CityPass includes admission to the main exhibit hall of the Museum of Natural Science.  While our family enjoyed some of the exhibits, most of them were geared toward an older audience (5th grade and higher).  The museum included several extra exhibits and an IMAX for an additional fee.  We felt like the cost for a family to experience this museum in-depth could quickly become too expensive.  The one exhibit that we believe is worth the cost, is the Butterfly Center.  For the best butterfly encounters, be sure to wear bright colors so the butterflies will land on you.