Find Family-Friendly Fun and Adventure in H-Town
Parents vacationing in Texas’ largest city and in search of kid-friendly attractions may find themselves repeating a whole new mantra: Houston, we don’t have a problem. Visit the city’s Museum District to discover a variety of educational institutions, including a revered zoo and a natural history museum that inspire toddlers to teens. Explore other Houston neighborhoods, be dazzled by a world-renowned aquarium and uncover a center that celebrates the city’s pivotal role in space exploration.
Let Them Learn a Little
Enter an imaginary world at the Children’s Museum of Houston (1500 Binz St., Houston, TX) where little ones can work in a pretend vet clinic, shoot objects through a 12-foot pneumatic tube system and produce their own puppet shows. At outdoor exhibits, children collect insects and redirect water flowing through an aqueduct via a hydro switchboard. Kids ages 8 and up may participate in a special tech workshop, working with a 3-D printer, soldering circuits and building robots. The museum has extended hours and free admission every Thursday night.
Journey to a World Under the Sea
More than just a home for fish, the Downtown Aquarium (410 Bagby St., Houston, TX) is a 6-acre complex featuring a restaurant, shops and various kiddie rides, including a carousel and a 100-foot Ferris wheel. The rides don't operate in the event of rain, lightning, high winds or otherwise inclement weather. Make your way through exhibits showcasing a variety of aquatic creatures, from a shipwreck-themed tank filled with coral reefs and a giant Pacific octopus, to a Louisiana swamp-inspired exhibit featuring alligators, crayfish and bullfrogs. Kids will squeal with delight as they touch and feed stingrays and come face-to-face with majestic white tigers. Each attraction in the complex charges individual fees.
Move Among the Animals
Enjoy close encounters with wildlife at the Houston Zoo (6200 Hermann Park Drive, Houston, TX), a 55-acre parkland that's home for more than 6,000 animals. Walk through a primate exhibit as howler monkeys swing overhead. Observe an African forest habitat dotted with white rhinos. Finally, crawl through a glass tunnel as piranhas swim by. Free attractions include a playground outfitted with climbing walls and underground passageways in addition to a splash pad that stays open when it’s warmer than 70 degrees F. For an added fee, kids can feed giraffes or take a ride on the animal-themed carousel.
Explore Science and Nature
Step into the past at the Houston Museum of Natural Science (5555 Hermann Park Drive, Houston, TX) as you take in exhibits filled with pre-Columbian artwork and the skeletal remains of extinct animals. Interactive exhibits let kids test the durability of structures on an earthquake table, change the arrangement of atoms in a molecule and alter ocean currents by controlling a globe’s rotation. Take a leisurely stroll through a butterfly habitat, travel across the galaxy during digital star shows at the planetarium and watch the majestic world of nature unfold at the Wortham Giant Screen Theatre, all of which require additional admission fees. It’s free to view the museum’s permanent exhibits from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. every Thursday.
Kids who dream of one day becoming astronauts will have a blast at the Space Center Houston (1601 E. NASA Parkway, Houston, TX), the official visitor’s center of NASA’s Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center. Reserve your tickets, free with your paid admission, for the 90-minute tram tour through the center’s grounds, complete with stops at a Saturn V rocket, two mission control rooms and a vehicle mock-up facility where scientists and engineers test and develop new technology. The tram is an open-air vehicle, so dress appropriately, particularly during Houston's scorching 90-plus-degree summer days. The museum portion of the center is also home to the world’s largest collection of moon rocks, the Apollo 17 command module, the last Mercury spacecraft sent into orbit and a theater with a five-story screen.
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A travel writer since 2002, Leah Rendon has written countless articles for online pop-culture magazines and various travel-related websites, including Eurobooking and World66. Gosford also has experience in copywriting, having developed a series of articles related to network marketing. She graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles with a degree in theater arts.