Complete with an IMAX theater, internationally recognized exhibits, a planetarium, and butterfly center, the Houston Museum of Natural Science is one of the top ten most visited museums in the U.S.! The IMAXÂ® 3D camera is one of the highest resolution image-capturing devices in the world and creates an incredible eye-popping experience for viewers. The planetarium opens a vast, new world for those who reach for the stars. Several of the shows are programmed with the legendary music of Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin. Kids can learn all about dinosaurs, chemistry, wildlife and insects! Families are encouraged to attend special events throughout the year, including the Family Energy Festival, Tricks, Treats and T-Rex, and Dino Days. Time travel takes visitors back to the historical escapades, exclusive artifacts, and remarkable stone carvings. Check their calendar for up-to-date listings because this museum is a must for any visitor!
Local Expert tip: The museum can be quite crowded on the weekends, so call ahead if you want to avoid hundreds of visiting students.
The Menil Collection is considered one of our nations best private collections and museums. Works by Warhol and Matisse are available and the Byzatine Icons exhibit is considered one of the most important of its kind. The founders of the Menil Collection are John de Menil and Dominique Schlumberger de Menil who moved to the United States during World War II and made their home in Houston. The couple became important collectors and there contributions were key to the development of culture, modern art and architecture in the Houston area. The neighborhood surrounding the museum has an artistic vibe and the property is a quiet reflection of a peaceful and dreamlike landscape. Public programs and held at the Menil Collection are free, but seating can be limited, so check out their calendar for more information. Throughout the year, the Menil also offers a free Ã¢ï¿½ï¿½ArtistÃ¢ï¿½ï¿½s EyeÃ¢ï¿½ï¿½ public program on the first Sunday of the month (with the exception of April and July) and visitors take part in an open discussion with a Texas Artist.
Local Expert tip: Best for Adults, Teens and Tweens
Whether your child is ready to audition or simply take in a play, plan on bringing the family to the Houston Family Arts (HFAC) facility to discover the opportunities this venue has to offer. Known as an intimate setting for all ages, the theatre is a great place to see a diverse selection of performing arts. They have produced legendary musicals, dramas and comedies on the main stage, including Godspell, Driving Miss Daisy, and Midsummer Night's Dream. The entertainment is affordable with tickets averaging $14 per person and season packages are available. Classes are currently held at the HFAC Actorâ's Academy, which is gaining a great reputation as one of the leading acting educational programs in the city. Classes range from tap dancing, ballet, filmmaking, writing, vocal ensemble (Glee), homeschool options, and stage combat. HFAC is dedicated to producing original and popular theatrical works that promotes strong family values.
Local Expert tip: Don't be afraid to take your three-year-old to a show! Many of the productions are suitable for youngins!
Live coverage of Mars Science Laboratory, a walk through the stars and the future of exploration will be covered on your tour of the Johnson Space Center in Houston. Families can feel what its like to launch into space like a real-life astronaut while spending the afternoon with a NASA astronaut or experience the sensation of a "blastoff" in the Blastoff Theater. Stroll through the Astronaut Gallery and get a first hand look at the portraits of everyone who has flown to space along with the world's best collection of spacesuits. And if you want to feel gravity under your feet, explore The Feel of Spacemodule that simulates what it's like to be an astronaut aboard a space station. There is even a diner on the premises for a quick bite to eat.
Local Expert tip: Science buffs will enjoy the latest & greatest Tram Tour at the Johnson Space Center and for real NASA fans, check out the Level 9 Tour.
Whether you are planning a birthday party or family outing, the Children's Museum of Houston is an exciting way to spend the day. In 2009, the museum was refurbished and expanded to offer a beautiful bright colored pagoda-style entry way, more than fifteen exhibits, hands on educational attractions, scientific experiments and technology, a real-life news anchoring station and a three-story tower for climbing. The action-packed venue is a perfect way to engage kids and adults of all ages. The Kidtropolis, USA exhibit teaches kids how to live and lead in a real life city, as they participate in politics, owning businesses, learning to vote and how to make cities work! The EcoStation, powered by solar energy, is an active indoor-outdoor environmental exhibit where kids can explore what makes the Earth tick. The ThinkTank is a multi-level thought-provoking exhibit and a place kids can master brainteasers and puzzles. For children from ages birth to 35 months, there is an entire area dedicated to tots.
Local Expert tip: Plan on spending more than a day if you want to see all of the educational resources this museum has to offer
Hermann Park in Houston is perfect for shade on a hot summer day or if you want to make a splash in the fountain playground. This conservancy is a citizen's organization dedicated to the conservation of the community's natural environment. It features 445 acres to run, jump, and play on, along with walking trails, fishing, a railroad train and pedal boats. All ages can relish in the beautiful landscape, eat at the Pinewood CafÃ© or visit the Japanese Garden. Miller Outdoor Theater offers free performances for eight months out of the year under a covered seating area. Do you want to celebrate an occasion at Hermann Park? Visitors can rent covered picnic pavilions, the garden center, Memorial Log House, the Golf Club, or the Hermann Park Train for private parties. There are plenty of playgrounds and nature trails to satisfy any botanist and families can enjoy a safe, green haven away from the hustle and bustle of Houston.
Local Expert tip: Bring plenty of UV protection during the summer!
The Houston Zoo is an educational experience for all ages. Stroll through the 55-acre zoological park, which is home to over 6,000 animals. The exhibits venture into the worlds of exotic animals, amphibians and reptiles, marine life, African forests, and birds. There is a Children's petting zoo allowing kids to get closer to the animals. The Asian Elephant Habitat is dedicated 7000 square foot elephant barn with outdoor areas allowing a better view of these magnificent beasts. The Wortham World of Primates unlocks a whole new view on the world's most captivating animals. In 2010, the zoo expanded its complex and opened the African Forest, which was a $100 million dollar project that recreated the wild environment of Africa, featuring monkeys, rhinoceros, giraffes and kudu. Up-close and personal viewing is available and visitors are allowed to feed the giraffes several times a day. Overall fall and winter tend to be less crowded then summer months and the animals seem to be more active.
Local Expert tip: Located in Hermann Park, timing is everything at the Houston Zoo and the animals are more active in the morning.
Plan on getting wet at the SplashTown water park in Houston. With jumbo slides, wading pools, and plenty of tubes, there are countless ways to wet your whistle. The Tornado drops you 75 feet down a 132-foot long tunnel where you end up in a 5000-gallon giant pool of swirling water. The Texas Freefall is five stories high and not for anyone who canâ––t handle the plunge! There are family rides available, which include, Tree House Island, the Guadalupe Adventure, Crocodile Isle, and Leaky Pipes. Of the three, the Guadalupe Adventure is the most easy-goinâ–– as families float down a cascading â––lazy river.â–– There are several quick-casual dining options in the park and the menu tends to gravitate toward kiddie food, like pizza, burgers and turkey legs. But donâ––t fret, mom and dad, Margaritaâ––s Bar & Grill serves alcoholic beverages. Cabanas are available for rent and come with food and beverage service, meal deals, and discounts at the Beach Shop. But if you are only looking to make a splash for a day, come early so your family has time to take several slippery rides on the main slides.
Local Expert tip: Plan on spending about $50 bucks on entry, tubes, lockers, and parking. Then add a couple more bucks for towels, food and drinks.
The downtown Aquarium may not be the largest or best, but it is certainly worth a visit. Families will enjoy a full service restaurant; aquatic exhibits, rides, games, and fun fishy stores. Tour the marsh and bayous of the Gulf, witness a sunken treasure, jump on board the C.P. Huntington train and "choo" through a 200,000-gallon shark tank! The underwater adventure is located after the renovation of two of Houston's most historic landmarks, Fire Station No. 1 and the Central Waterworks Building. The Aquarium is spread out over a six-acre compound sporting a 500,000-gallon aquatic tank, which is home to over 200 species of aquatic specimens from around the world.
Local Expert tip: The Aquarium is known to close for private events, so check out their schedule before heading out.
With 1000 skates available for rental, the Aerodome offers families a cool time on the ice! Day or night, everyone can skate to a montage of great tunes! While you are sliding around the ice, remember to hold hands, especially if you are a beginner! This is a great cardio workout for kids and adults and scheduling is flexible for beginners and pros. For the younger tots, tweens and teens, the Aerodome offers a variety of hockey and skating classes. There are group classes for your kids, if needed, and for your shyer tyke, private lessons are available. Friday Night Live is a weekly event that provides games and dancing on ice with a DJ spinning popular tracks. Groups are welcome and parties of 10 or more receive a discount (with the exception of Friday Night Live).
Local Expert tip: Don't worry about buying ice skates before you go; they have every size imaginable for rent.