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24 Best Things To Do in Houston With Kids [Museums, Nature, Entertainment, and Food]

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Jessica Merritt
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Jessica Merritt

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A long-time points and miles student, Jessica is the former Personal Finance Managing Editor at U.S. News and World Report and is passionate about helping consumers fund their travels for as little ca...
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Houston is the largest city in Texas (and the fourth largest in the U.S.). It is packed with arts, nature, diverse food, and family fun.

Houston is a destination of its own, and it’s not far from the beaches of Galveston, which gives families seemingly endless opportunities for entertainment, learning, and exploration. While it has a reputation for suburban sprawl, and you’re practically guaranteed to sweat, there’s so much for kids to experience in the Bayou City.

With 2 airports, it’s easy to fly into Houston. George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) is the city’s largest airport and a United hub. William P. Hobby Airport (HOU) is smaller but it’s a Southwest hub, so you can search for cheap flight deals into Houston. Galveston is about an hour’s drive away, depending on where in Houston you’re starting from, and you can reach other Texas cities such as Austin and San Antonio within about 3 hours — Dallas is slightly further at 4 to 5 hours.

Featuring numerous family-friendly museums, nature recreation, and so much food, Houston is a great place for curious kids to soak up science, history, and hands-on learning that’s a lot of fun. Whether you want to see space, interact with science, enjoy performing arts under the stars, or tour a WWII-era air terminal, you can do it all in Houston.

See our top picks for kids to experience in the Bayou City.

The 10 Best Activities in Houston With Kids

1. Play, Learn, and Eat at the Downtown Aquarium

Downtown Aquarium
Ride a train through the shark tunnel at Houston’s Downtown Aquarium. Image Credit: Secret Houston

At the Downtown Aquarium, you can visit the Aquarium Adventure Exhibit featuring a rainforest, sunken temple, Texas bayou, and a live stingray touch tank. Kids who prefer furry friends can check out the aquarium’s outdoor tiger exhibit — there’s a kid crawl spot in the window where children can (safely) get close to the tigers.

If you’re hungry, there’s a full restaurant with floor-to-ceiling aquariums you can view while dining. Outside are extensive games and rides, including the Shark Voyage train that takes you through a shark tunnel aquarium.

2. Take in a Performance at Miller Outdoor Theatre

Miller Outdoor Theatre
Enjoy outdoor performances in Hermann Park at Miller Outdoor Theatre. Image Credit: Miller Outdoor Theatre

A free outdoor theatre in Hermann Park, Miller Outdoor Theatre offers excellent opportunities for kids to enjoy performing arts. Featuring children’s theater, cultural performances, ballet, opera, and more, there’s a lot to take in at Miller Outdoor Theatre.

It’s one of the best free activities for kids in Houston, as you can reserve complimentary seats under the pavilion or bring chairs or a blanket to sit on the lawn for a performing arts picnic.

3. Encounter Wild Animals at the Houston Zoo

Houston Zoo
The new Galapagos Islands exhibit at the Houston Zoo. Image Credit: Houston Zoo

The Houston Zoo can transport your family to far-flung destinations with its African Forest, South American Pantanal, and Galápagos Islands animal exhibits. Home to more than 6,000 animal residents, the zoo has over 600 species to encounter. Highlights include the Malayan tiger, red pandas, African lions, Masai giraffes, giant river otters, Galápagos tortoises, Asian elephants, gorillas, and the University of Houston mascot cougars.

There’s so much to take in at the Houston Zoo, including a natural encounters building where kids can climb through an aquarium tunnel, a wild nature play area, a lively animal carousel, and a children’s zoo featuring playscapes and playful otters.

Hot Tip:

If a visit to the Houston Zoo’s Galápagos Islands exhibit makes you wish you could visit the real deal, check out our review of an epic Galapagos cruise.

4. Ride the Train at Hermann Park

Hermann Park
Take a train ride through Hermann Park. Image Credit: Hermann Park Conservancy

Home to the Houston Zoo, Miller Outdoor Theatre, and numerous kid-friendly attractions, Hermann Park is one of the best parks in Houston for families. You can ride a train for a tour through the park — or get a ride to Miller Outdoor Theatre, Houston Museum of Natural Science, or the Texas Medical Center.

On McGovern Lake, picnic with the ducks or take a pedal boat out for a spin. If you prefer to stay on land, you can hike the urban forest along the banks of the bayou or tour the Japanese Garden to take in the bridges, waterfalls, and incredible cherry trees. Play opportunities abound, including the new Commons play area with a family carousel, a natural play garden, and a rocketship slide.

Hot Tip:

We recommend starting with a train ride so you can get a sense of all that Hermann Park has to offer.

5. Ride a Model Train at Houston Area Live Steamers

Houston Area Live Steamers
Ride model trains for free with the Houston Area Live Steamers. Image Credit: Houston Area Live Steamers

On select weekends from March through November, Houston Area Live Steamers offers public run days with free rides on a large-scale model railroad. The approximately 15-minute ride takes you on a mile-long track through Zube Park, which has tiny train stations and features along the way. All ages are welcome, and no reservations are needed, though donations are welcome. The nonprofit organization also sells merchandise and snacks.

Hot Tip:

Don’t miss the October run days featuring spooky rides! Houston Area Live Steamers sets up a haunted forest, graveyard, and more. Many families dress up in costume for the spooky rides.

6. Try International Food at POST Houston

Thompson Houston POST Market
POST Houston features an international food hall and rooftop lawn. Image Credit: Jessica Merritt

POST Houston is a great destination for kids with diverse palates. It features an international food hall full of stalls with bites from 5 continents and multiple James Beard Award-winning chefs. Take a spin around first to see what’s available and let everyone pick what they want. If you want to sample but your kids don’t, there’s typical kid food here, too, with grilled cheese, chicken tenders, burgers, spaghetti, and an ice cream shop with rainbow-hued waffle cones.

Just off the food hall near the restrooms is a Gachapon shop with Japanese toy capsules — use the card machine to get some coins and let the kids go wild picking out trinkets. Make time to explore the building, too, as it’s a retired U.S. Postal Service headquarters with amazing architecture, and don’t miss the Skylawn rooftop park and farm, where you can take in the skyline, get a great photo op, and let the kids run around.

Hot Tip:

Look for signs near the Gachapon shop explaining the building’s lookout galleries — windows and eavesdropping tubes that the USPS used to monitor workers as they processed mail.

7. See a Show at The Hobby Center

Thompson Houston house car The Hobby Center
The Hobby Center often has family-friendly performances. Image Credit: Jessica Merritt

Houston’s Theatre District downtown has numerous opportunities to see live performances, but The Hobby Center stands out as the most family-friendly major theatre with national touring shows. This theatre often features shows the entire family can enjoy, including Broadway touring productions of “The Lion King,” “Peter Pan,” and “Dog Man: The Musical.” Matinee shows are typically available, usually at lower prices than evening shows. Sensory-friendly performances are available for select shows, and ushers are always eager to guide young theater-goers.

Hot Tip:

While you’re downtown seeing a show, visit POST Houston for a snack before or after the performance. It’s just a few minutes away by car or a 10- to 15-minute walk.

8. Have Second Breakfast at the Hobbit Cafe

Hobbit Cafe
The best place to have second breakfast outside of the Shire. Image Credit: Secret Houston

You might joke that your kids are like hobbits, always demanding a second breakfast. At the Hobbit Cafe, you can deliver on those demands in a delightful way. This small “Lord of the Rings”-themed cafe has served up hobbit-sized (read: huge) portions of sandwiches, salads, and more since 1972.

Formerly vegetarian-only, Hobbit Cafe is a great option for veggie lovers, but it’s also a fantastic place to try a unique burger. On weekends, hit Hobbit Cafe for a classic second breakfast featuring pancakes, eggs Benedict, omelets, and south-of-the-border breakfasts, including huevos a la Shire.

Hobbit Cafe is friendly for young hobbits, with a kids menu featuring nachos, quesadillas, chicken dinosaurs, grilled cheese, a burger, chicken breast, and impressive sides ranging from shredded carrots to black beans and classic or sweet potato fries.

9. Experience 19th-Century Life at George Ranch Historical Park

George Ranch Historical Park
See the history of Texas ranching at George Ranch Historical Park. Image Credit: George Ranch Historical Park

If your idea of Texas involves horses, cattle, and log cabins, George Ranch Historical Park can take you back to a time when that was the reality on the Texas frontier. This 20,000-acre working ranch has numerous historic homes, some of which you can tour, along with interpreters who can explain what life was like on the frontier, show you how ranchers managed cattle, and demonstrate blacksmithing techniques.

Hot Tip:

The historical park is close to Brazos Bend State Park, which is well worth a visit while you’re in the area. You can spot alligators and experience the diverse ecosystems, including a wide range of wetlands. Stay late on Saturday nights to visit the George Observatory, where you can use high-powered telescopes to see the stars.

10. Visit the Pyramids of Moody Gardens

Moody Gardens Galveston
Moody Gardens has an aquarium, rainforest, and more. Image Credit: Moody Gardens

Not far from Space Center Houston is Moody Gardens in Galveston. This family-friendly attraction is expansive, and you could spend days visiting all of the attractions. It features an aquarium pyramid, rainforest pyramid, discovery museum with rotating exhibits, 2 immersive theaters, a paddlewheel boat, and seasonal attractions, including a ropes course and white sand beach.

The 8 Best Museums in Houston With Kids

1. Play and Learn at Children’s Museum Houston

Childrens Museum Houston
Kidtropolis at Children’s Museum Houston. Image Credit: Children’s Museum Houston

Billed as a “playground for your mind,” Children’s Museum Houston has interactive exhibits for all ages. It’s a great spot for indoor activities when it’s too rainy or too hot for the outdoors.

In Kidtropolis, kids can run their own city, visit an ATM, shop at a grocery store, work at a vet clinic, or even shoot a weather segment for the local news. Families with children up to 3 years old can visit Tot*Spot, a crawl-friendly environment with interactive toys, soft climbing, and sensory exhibits designed for the youngest museum patrons.

Outside, the EcoStation offers always-changing activities such as water quality testing and soil typing. If you’re hitting the museum during the summer (or spring or fall) heat, get some relief at FlowWorks, where kids can use water to learn about science and physics — and maybe enjoy a few splashes, too.

Hot Tip:

The Children’s Museum of Houston is in the Houston Museum District, near the Houston Museum of Natural Science, Houston Zoo, Miller Outdoor Theatre, The Health Museum, and numerous art museums. Check out our detailed guide to the best museums in Houston.

2. Fly to Mars at Space Center Houston

Space Center Houston
Explore the Skylab Trainer, where astronauts prepared to visit America’s first space station. Image Credit: Space Center Houston

You can’t book Virgin Galactic tickets with points and miles just yet, but you can visit the next best thing: Space Center Houston.

On this working NASA campus, you can meet an astronaut, see rockets that have been to space and back, walk through a space shuttle and shuttle carrier aircraft, peruse the International Space Station Gallery, and discover what it takes to go to Mars. It’s a must-visit for any kids (or adults) who dream of the stars.

Don’t skip the tram tours — you can see astronauts at work in the Astronaut Training Facility, tour Rocket Park to see Saturn V rockets up close, and visit the historic mission control that received the fateful “Houston, we have a problem” report from Apollo 13.

Hot Tip:

Space Center Houston is in Webster, almost 30 miles southeast of Houston and about halfway to the beach at Galveston. Plan ahead for traffic and expect your Space Center Houston experience to be an all-day affair.

3. Interact With Natural History at the Houston Museum of Natural Science

Houston Museum of Natural Science
Journey through prehistoric life in the Houston Museum of Natural Science Morian Hall of Paleontology. Image Credit: Houston Museum of Natural Science

The Houston Museum of Natural Science (HMNS) is a haven for science nerds, whether your family is into dinosaurs, space, natural history, or animal life.

In the Cabinet of Curiosities, visitors are encouraged to spin the globe, open drawers, and encounter curious artifacts to their heart’s delight. The new Matter in Motion permanent exhibit is a neon dream featuring an interactive periodic table dance floor, a robot cooking station, a human hamster wheel, and the chance to lift a piano using a pulley system.

On the top floor is the Weiss Energy Hall, featuring 2 rides and numerous interactive exhibits that detail the inner workings of the energy industry Houston is known for. Visit the Cockrell Butterfly Center, a 3-story rainforest conservatory where there’s a good chance a butterfly will land on you as you learn about insects and search for the resident iguana. Book tickets to the planetarium or giant screen theater to see shows such as “Cosmic Collisions,” “Mummies: Secrets of the Pharaohs,” and “Sharks 3D.” There’s also a Sugar Land location featuring a dig pit, an interactive hall of technology, and more.

Hot Tip:

HMNS is a perfect indoor activity for kids in Houston. Whether it’s a rainy day or just too hot to be outside, you can park in the garage directly connected to the museum and never have to step foot outdoors.

4. Crawl Through a Colon at the Health Museum

The Health Museum
The Amazing Body Gallery offers a tour of the human body. Image Credit: The Health Museum

The Health Museum is dedicated to health and the human body, with interactive exhibits and a hands-on lab. In the Amazing Body Gallery, kids can see how major organs work while walking on a blood cell carpet. Take a stroll through a brain, see the bones your body uses to ride a bike, test your flexibility, and even crawl through a colon in this permanent exhibit. In the cell lab, kids can don lab coats and visit experiment stations for hands-on learning.

5. See Planes at the 1940 Air Terminal Museum

1940 Air Terminal Museum
The 1940 Air Terminal Museum is next to William P. Hobby Airport. Image Credit: 1940 Air Terminal Museum

Kids who are fascinated by airplanes can take in aviation history at the 1940 Air Terminal Museum, a retired air terminal. Once the Houston Municipal Airport, it’s now host to permanent and rotating exhibitions sharing the history of air travel and airplanes. You can see aviation history, airplane models, memorabilia, and a hangar full of vintage aircraft.

As it’s right next to William P. Hobby Airport (HOU), you can also sit on the museum’s back porch for some planespotting action.

6. Get Nostalgic at Houston Toy Museum

Houston Toy Museum
Revel in toy nostalgia at the Houston Toy Museum. Image Credit: Groupon

The Houston Toy Museum is an incredible toy collection that kids and adults can enjoy. Walk through the exhibits to show your kids all the cool stuff you used to play with at their age — and maybe fire up some eBay searches. Though most of the exhibits are behind glass, there’s an interactive play space for kids with giant games and a soft play area for toddlers.

7. Ride Trains at Galveston Railroad Museum

Galveston Railroad Museum
Climb aboard an iconic Warbonnet passenger train at the Galveston Railroad Museum. Image Credit: Galveston Railroad Museum

Train-obsessed kids can get their fill of railway fun at the Galveston Railroad Museum, which features 5 acres of trains. This museum houses approximately 40 train features, including Santa Fe Warbonnet locomotives, passenger cars, dining cars, and a Garden of Steam with a mini train and a steam tractor. There’s also a fully restored railroad depot with a gift shop, interactive displays, and statues.

8. Share a Love of Art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Museum of Fine Arts Houston
Sunday Family Studio days at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, invite families to join a teaching artist in the galleries and studio. Image Credit: Museum of Fine Arts Houston

Art is for everyone, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, encourages kids to learn about and interact with art, featuring numerous programs and art spaces kids can enjoy. Family programs include the Family Zone with a coloring station within the galleries, Sunday Family Studio days with a teaching artist and masterpiece creation, MFAH Playdates featuring multisensory experiences for kids 4 and under, and educational programs at the Glassell Junior School.

Exploring the museum is an adventure for children. Beyond the galleries of fascinating art and artifacts, the museum features numerous light tunnels with varying effects, an outdoor sculpture garden, an architectural water fountain kids can cool off in, and an interactive slo-mo video art installation near Le Jardinier, the cafe.

Hot Tip:

If you’re visiting special exhibitions, pick up an audio tour device for each member of your family on the way in. Kids love hitting QR codes with the device and listening to curators share interpretations and stories about the art.

The 2 Best Sports in Houston With Kids

1. Run the Bases With the Houston Astros

Houston Astros
Kids can run the bases at Minute Maid Park after every Sunday afternoon home game. Image Credit: Houston Astros

After every Sunday afternoon home game for the Houston Astros, kids can run the bases at Minute Maid Park. It’s a thrilling experience for kids to take to the field under the bright stadium lights. Be sure to grab a baseball cap ice cream during the seventh-inning stretch for extra energy! Children 5 to 12 can participate and must be able to run or walk alone — no adults allowed. Kids who may need help making it around the bases, such as those in wheelchairs, can contact Astros Fan Accommodations for assistance.

Hot Tip:

If you’re visiting as a family of 4, consider registering your child for the Astros Buddies Club. For $38 (plus taxes and fees), kids receive 4 ticket vouchers and fantastic Astros gear.

2. Slide Around at Slick City Action Park

Slick City Action Park Katy
Zoom down slides at this indoor slide park. Image Credit: Slick City Action Park

Right near Typhoon Texas at Katy Mills Mall is Slick City Action Park, where you can ride massive slides inside the mall. Whether you’re racing down hills, swirling around a bowl, riding waves, or getting launched, this slide park is an adventure. It’s appropriate for all ages, with a Junior Jungle for kids under 45 inches. If you get bored on the slides, hit acrobat swings, the web crawler, or air courts, which can help you jump and dunk higher.

The 4 Best Outdoor Fun in Houston With Kids

1. Hike and Play at the Houston Arboretum

Houston Arboretum
The Houston Arboretum’s Nature Playscape is a hit for kids of all ages — and close to the gift shop with ice cream for sale. Image Credit: Houston Arboretum

Follow a trail of discovery at the Houston Arboretum and Nature Center, where you can hike among nature in the heart of Houston. Visit wetlands, the prairie, woodlands, and more, with field stations for learning along the way. The nature playscape features a spider web climb, a water garden, tree stumps to jump on, and huge grass stalks to climb. Inside, the Discovery Room offers interactive learning exhibits where kids can meet animals, identify plants, and learn more about the nature and wildlife of Houston and the Texas Gulf Coast.

2. See the Bayou, Bats, and Art at Buffalo Bayou Park

Buffalo Bayou Park
Find huge lawns, live performances, events, and endless nature play at Buffalo Bayou Park. Image Credit: Buffalo Bayou Partnership

A 160-acre park in the shadow of downtown Houston with a great skyline view, Buffalo Bayou Park has lovely gardens, trails, public art, and events. Areas of particular interest for families include the Hobby Family Pavilion with performances and events, underground cistern tours, and the nature play area with a picnic pavilion featuring rock scrambles and a trilevel treehouse.

Families can visit the Waugh Bat Colony every evening at sunset to see Mexican free-tailed bats take flight. The colony is under the Waugh Drive bridge along the bayou trail.

3. Cool Off at Typhoon Texas

Typhoon Texas
Typhoon Texas has acres of Texas fun in the sun. Image Credit: Typhoon Texas

Typhoon Texas is a 25-acre water park west of Houston in Katy, convenient to Interstate 10 and Katy Mills Mall. It’s packed with family fun for all ages.

The youngest family members will love Typhoon Jr. — a water play and splash pad area with kid-sized versions of larger slides at the park — and the Gully Washer shallow pool packed with interactive water features and slides. Older kids can play in the Howdy Hollow pool with an obstacle course or ride any of the numerous slides, including the Duelin’ Daltons plunging slides. The lengthy lazy river is always cool, but the wave pool heats up with live music and dancing!

As you work up an appetite in the water, be sure to try the award-winning barbecue and the most addictive soft pretzels in the Houston area.

4. Explore the Nature Discovery Center

Nature Discovery Center
Hit the trails at Nature Discovery Center. Image Credit: Nature Discovery Center

The Nature Discovery Center has everything a young naturalist could want, with ecosystems ranging from woodlands to prairie and wetlands, a nature play area, a pond, a sensory garden, and a critter classroom. Visit the discovery rooms and the critter classroom to meet the park’s animals, or pick up a loaner backpack or scavenger hunt for junior conservationists to use within the park.

Kid and family programs include park-after-dark walks, nature story time with animals, mess-maker play sessions, tween bird club, and science camps.

Final Thoughts

There’s so much to do in Houston, with something for every family to enjoy, whether you dream of the stars, love art, enjoy meeting animals, or want to sample diverse cuisine. With 2 airports servicing numerous airlines, it’s easy to get to Houston and start exploring. Pack your sunblock and hat and get ready to have a blast taking in the Bayou City.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Houston family friendly?

Houston is an family friendly destination packed with museums, nature exploration, interactive exhibits, and endless play opportunities. Children of all ages can have a great time experiencing the Bayou City.

What is Houston best known for?

Houston is famous for space exploration, diverse food, the energy industry, cultural institutions, and sports teams. Children can experience these notable city features at Space Center Houston, the Houston Museum of Natural Science, museums, sports stadiums, and food halls.

What museums are free in Houston on Thursdays?

Several museums in Houston offer free admission on Thursdays. The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston is free Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Children’s Museum of Houston is free Thursdays from 5 to 8 p.m., and The Health Museum is free from 2 to 7 p.m. on Thursdays. The Houston Museum of Natural Science is free from 5 to 8 p.m. on Tuesdays. The Houston Zoo offers free admission on the first Tuesday of the month — reservations are required. Some Houston museums are always free, including the Menil Collection and Contemporary Arts Museum Houston.

What is there to do inside for kids in Houston?

With intense thunderstorms and even more intense heat and humidity, not every day in Houston is a great day outdoors. Indoor activities for kids in Houston are plentiful. We recommend the Houston Museum of Natural Science, Children’s Museum of Houston, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and The Health Museum when you need things to do indoors with kids in Houston.

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About Jessica Merritt

A long-time points and miles student, Jessica is the former Personal Finance Managing Editor at U.S. News and World Report and is passionate about helping consumers fund their travels for as little cash as possible.

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