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Comprised of vibrant neighborhoods, rich culture, and delicious gastronomy, Houston, Texas is a dream destination for the whole family. This urban getaway has it all: prehistoric exhibits, beautiful nature walks, expansive skate parks, playgrounds, and tons of other budget-friendly activities.
My 8-year-old daughter and I spent a weekend in downtown Houston, and I was delighted to discover how much there was to do, including lots of fun, free things to do, and how easy it was to get around. Want a museum? Head to the Museum District. Looking for a place to play? Parks, skateparks and playgrounds abound.
We stayed at the centrally located Hyatt Regency Houston so we could adventure all day and spend our evenings relaxing in the hotel’s rooftop pool. We packed in a lot and can’t wait to go back for more!
Family-Friendly Museums in Houston
With Museum Passes from the Houston Marketplace in hand, our first stop was the Museum District. Here you will find 19 museums conveniently grouped into four walkable zones.
When headed to a zone, look for street parking which is much more affordable than the museum garages. If you park near the HCA Houston Healthcare Medical Center, I recommend circling back for a meal at Bodega’s Taco Shop. My daughter loved building her own nachos (she picked shredded cheese, lettuce and rice as her ingredients and was thrilled).
Check out our favorite kid-friendly Houston restaurants!
The main reason for our weekend stay was to visit the Children’s Museum Houston. We hadn’t been in a few years and my daughter loves its sprawling outdoor water playground called Flow Works. Another favorite is the indoor play area, Kidtropolis, where children can role-play running a city and stimulating the economy.
We can easily spend a few hours at the museum, and it’s included in the Houston Museum Pass. When visiting Houston with kids, don’t miss this stop!
I was impressed by the large collection of dinosaur bones at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. My daughter enjoyed the Dreher Masterwork’s gems exhibit.
If we were to go again, I would purchase a Houston Museum of Natural Science Value Access Pass because that includes access to the Burke Baker Planetarium and Cockrell Butterfly Center as well as the permanent exhibits. Then, we would have made a day of it. Instead, we walked across the street to check out Hermann Park!
Outdoor Fun in Houston
The Houston Museum of Natural Science is one of many attractions located in and around Hermann Park. Once you’ve parked, you may as well stay awhile!
You can walk to the Hermann Park Railroad for a ride on the miniature train, head to the Buddy Carruth Playground for all Children, pass by the Miller Outdoor Theatre or go to McGovern Lake for paddle-boating. You can even walk to the Houston Zoo to feed the giraffes.
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SheBuysTravel Tip: This park is huge. To limit complaints from the littles, you may want to bring a stroller.
Be sure to consult the map before heading out into Hermann Park, as it’s easy to get lost. This happened to us, but that led to the discovery of the Japanese Garden, a lovely free garden with plenty of shade.
After strolling through and hopping on all the stone pavers, my daughter was ready for ice cream. We had to head back to the car and drive to find some, but Amy’s Ice Creams was a hit!
Since it’s close to the Hyatt Regency Houston, we also spent quite a bit of time on the playgrounds in Discovery Green. This is a wide-open space with outdoor art and grassy knolls. My daughter had a great time playing here and making friends.
Discovery Green is located across the street from the George R. Brown Convention Center where there happened to be a free car show with a DJ the weekend we visited.
On this visit, I didn’t have my sons with me. But last year I took my boys to Houston just to check out the North Houston Skatepark, which is the biggest skate park in North America.
If you have kids who like to skateboard, don’t forget to pack the boards when heading to Houston. There is also a huge playground next to the park. You’ll need a car to get there because it’s a way out of the city.
There are a number of public gardens in Houston that are free to visit. On another past visit to Houston with kids, we stopped by Bayou Bend. This lovely former estate of Texas philanthropist Ima Hogg offers 14 acres of gardens and trails to explore.
Another great free spot for kids to burn some energy outdoors is the Houston Arboretum & Nature Center. My kids loved roaming the trails and boardwalks through 155 acres of nature. Download the trail map and be sure to hit the nature playscape.
You can also check the online calendar for events like Picnics at the Arboretum or Evening Insects Songwriter Circle.
As I mentioned, there is so much to do in Houston, you can’t possibly tackle it all in one trip. On my list for our next visit to Houston with kids is the Houston Botanic Garden (we can’t get enough of nature trails) and Buffalo Bayou Park.
While the botanic garden is not free, Buffalo Bayou is and also offers gardens, a nature play area, hiking and biking trails, paddle boats and bike rentals. Plus, there’s a skatepark. The Lee & Joe Jamail Skatepark is a 30,000 square-foot in-ground facility overlooking Buffalo Bayou.
Where to Stay: Hyatt Regency Houston
For our weekend in Space City, we made the Hyatt Regency Houston our home base, one of the family-friendly Houston hotels. The conveniently located downtown hotel is pet-friendly with 955 rooms, a heated outdoor pool, and three on-site restaurants.
The Scandinavian contemporary decor feels bright and airy, with a cool lobby bar (aptly named Lobbibar), cozy wood-canopied booth workspaces and swanky guestrooms. I loved the new Nordic feel as well as the gray-blue accent wall in my room, inspired by artist Mark Rothko whose abstract expressionist art is housed at Menil Collection, located just blocks away from the hotel.
My 8-year-old was delighted to ride the glass elevator up through the 30-story atrium to our room. Once there, she immediately put on the oversized hotel robe and cozied up in the window seat for some hot chocolate from the in-room Keurig. Then, we headed to the heated rooftop pool where she practiced underwater handstands and front flips for hours.
I recommend bringing your own tube for the pool, for maximum floating fun.
Plan Your Visit to Houston
Before heading to Houston, check out the Houston Marketplace for discounted passes. There are lots of family-friendly options here like the Kid’s Choice Museum Pass, the Downtown Aquarium All-Day Adventure Pass and CityPASS which includes discounted admission to the NASA Space Center Houston.
More Houston Area Adventures
If you’ll be in town for a while, don’t miss more family vacation attractions in the greater Houston area. Ride the carousel at the Kemah Boardwalk amusement park and pet stingrays in the aquarium. Or, take a road trip to enjoy the waterpark at Moody Gardens followed by a day at the beach in Galveston with your toes in the sand.