Houston Area

Animals to Astronauts: Top 19 Fun Things to Do in Houston

Hermann Park Houston
The McGovern Centennial Gardens in Houston’s Hermann Park. credit: Travel Texas

As the fourth largest city in the U.S., Houston offers top museums and attractions. From Hermann Park to Space Center Houston, visitors will find a balance of indoor and outdoor activities. Best of all, many of the top museums are located close together.  Here are the top things to do in Houston with kids.

19 Fun Things to Do in Houston

  • Houston Zoo
  • Herman Park 
  • Miller Outdoor Theater
  • McGovern Centennial Gardens
  • Houston Museum of Natural Science
  • Children’s Museum Houston
  • Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
  • Contemporary Arts Museum Houston
  • The Menil Collection
  • Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens
  • Holocaust Museum Houston
  • Space Center Houston
  • Discovery Green
  • Buffalo Bayou Park
  • Memorial Park
  • Gerald D. Hines Waterwall Park
  • The Galleria
  • Downtown Aquarium
  • Armand Bayou Nature Center
Houston Zoo
The Houston Zoo is one of the top zoos in the U.S. credit: Travel Texas

Houston Zoo 

With 6,000 animals and 55 acres to explore, the Houston Zoo is the second most visited zoo in the U.S., with an annual attendance of over 2 million people. Visitors will find several ecosystems to explore, like an African forest or the Galapagos Islands. A visitor favorite is the world of primates.

The children’s zoo offers animals like goats to pet. There’s a natural play area with a sand and mud area. The carousel has been a favorite with kids for years. This is one of the top things to do in Houston. 

Located at 6200 Hermann Park Dr. Open daily 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (last entry at 4 p.m.). Online reservations are required. The zoo uses demand pricing. Adult admission starts at $24.95 and kids (3 to 12) are $19.95, depending on the date and time of your visit.

The Houston CityPASS can be used at the Houston Zoo. It offers admission to five attractions: Space Center Houston, Houston Zoo, Children’s Museum in Houston, Museum of Fine Arts-Houston, and the Kemah Broadwalk.

Hermann Park

With 445 acres, Hermann Park is one of the top things to do in Houston with kids. It is an urban oasis and offers several areas to explore. From the Japanese Garden to the Friendship Pavilion from Taipei to an edible display garden, families can explore in outdoor spaces of Hermann Park.

It offers a sculpture walk to enjoy art in the outdoors. The Miller Outdoor Theater is also located within Hermann Park, home to a full schedule of interesting productions.

Hermann Park is also home to the Houston Zoo and a popular miniature train. Additionally, families will find lakes, fountains, pedal boats, and trails.

Located at 6001 Franklin St. Hermann Park is free to visit and is open daily from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. Parking is free at select lots in the park.

Miller Outdoor Theater

With eight months of free programming from Spring to Fall, the Miller Outdoor Theater has been a local favorite for generations. It offers a large stage with an orchestra pit and professional lighting for its outdoor productions. It offers over 1,700 seats. On the sloping lawn, 4,500 spectators can enjoy a production on blankets or with chairs. 

Located at 6000 Hermann Park Dr. Check the schedule for the latest production. Four assigned seats can be reserved online the day before a performance. Lawn seats are first-come, first-serve. The Miller Outdoor Theater offers a concession stand. Free parking is available at the Houston Zoo and the McGovern Centennial Gardens.

McGovern Centennial Gardens

With 15 acres, the Mc Govern Centennial Gardens features a kids’ area, a 30-foot-tall mount, and public art from around the world. It is close to the Miller Outdoor Theater and the train, so it’s easy to explore while visiting other areas of Hermann Park.

Located at 1500 Hermann Park Dr. Open daily from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Free to enter. Free parking in the area. 

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 dinosaurs at the Natural History Museum
The dinosaurs at the Houston Natural History Museum. credit: Travel Texas

Houston’s Museum District 

Houston features 19 museums in four walkable zones.

Houston Museum of Natural Science

Founded in 1909, the Houston Museum of Natural Science has over 1.5 million objects in its permanent collection and exhibits across more than 430,000 square feet of space. It is one of the top things to do in Houston. 

Several of its exhibits are exceptional, like the Morian Hall of Paleontology and the Cullen Hall of Gems and Minerals. The Farish Hall of Texas Wildlife displays 450 specimens of Texas animals. The Cockrell Butterfly Center is a favorite with kids, and the Burke Baker Planetarium regularly plays shows. 

Located at 5555 Hermann Park Dr. Open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Admission costs $25 for adults and $16 for students, seniors and kids ages 3 to 11; kids 2 and younger can enter for free. Admission on Thursday is free from 2 to 5 p.m. Parking is available in the museum’s on-site garage for an all-day rate of $30. 

The Houston CityPASS can be used at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. It offers admission to five attractions: Space Center Houston, Houston Zoo, Children’s Museum in Houston, Museum of Fine Arts-Houston, and the Kemah Broadwalk.

Children's Museum in Houston.
The Children’s Museum in Houston. credit: Travel Texas

Children’s Museum Houston

It is a must-stop for families with smaller kids. This is one of the top things to do in Houston with kids.

It offers 90,000 square feet with fun activities like the Tot*Spot, just for little kids. The FlowWorks interactive exhibit is another top activity with water games. For older kids, the Invention Convention offers a mini engineering workshop.

Located 1500 Binz St. Open Tuesday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (with extended hours until 8 p.m. on Thursday) and Sunday from noon to 6 p.m. General admission is $15 for everyone older than 1 and seniors get a $1 discount. (There’s an additional $7 fee for the spy game.) Entrance fees are waived every Thursday evening from 5 to 8 p.m. for Family Free Night. This attraction accepts the Houston CITYPASS.

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

For art-loving families, the Museum of Fire Art, Houston offers the most recognizable artwork in its collection of 70,000 works. Visitors will see artwork from artists like Georgia O’Keeffe and Pablo Picasso. The temporary exhibits are good as well so visitors should consider those too.

Located at 1001 Bissonnet St. Open Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from 12:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. Adult admission is $19, students (with ID) and youth (13 – 18) are both $12 with kids 12 and younger entering for free. This attraction takes the Houston CityPass.

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Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, offers an excellent collection. credit: Catherine Parker

Contemporary Arts Museum Houston

With its location near the MFAH, this facility has focused on international, national, and regional art for the last 40 years. In its iconic aluminum building, the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston offers five to 10 different exhibitions a year and doesn’t feature a permanent collection. 

Located at 5216 Montrose Blvd. Open Wednesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. (9 p.m. on Thursday). Admission is free. 

The Menil Collection

John and Dominique de Menil started collecting art after fleeing Nazi-held France in the 1940s and relocating to Houston. Located on a 30-acre property, the Menil Collection displays part of its over 19,000 works of art. It concentrates its collection of works from Africa and the Pacific Islands along with Byzantine and Medieval art. Additionally, visitors will find works from the Americas, especially the Pacific Northwest.

With a focus on Surrealism, visitors to the museum can find works from artists like Salvador Dalí, Alberto Giacometti and Joan Miro. The Rothko Chapel, which the Menils founded in 1971, is another must.

Located at  1533 Sul Ross St., it is Open Wednesdays through Sundays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Admission is free, and free parking is available on-site. The green space surrounding the buildings is open daily from dawn to dusk.

Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens

Inside the former home of prominent local philanthropist Ima Hogg, visitors can browse the collection of American decorative arts. In conjunction with The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, The Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens offers some artwork along with ceramics, furnishings and silver in distinct spaces, or “rooms”. The facility also features a 14-acre formal garden in the exclusive River Oaks neighborhood.

Located at 6003 Memorial Dr. Open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m. Adult admission with the Highlights Tours costs $12.50 for adults and $6.25 for children 13 to 18. Tickets for the gardens-only tour run $7.50 for adults and $5 for youths ages 13 to 18. Parking on-site.

Holocaust Museum Houston

Houston is home to the fourth largest Holocaust Museum in the U.S. With 57,000 square feet across three stories; visitors will find exhibits like the 1942 railcar for transporting victims. Additionally, there is an art gallery dedicated to Holocaust artists who survived.

Located at 5401 Caroline St. Open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and noon to 5 p.m. on Sundays, closed on Mondays except for holiday weekends. Admission is $22 for adults, $16 for seniors and free for anyone 18 or younger. Admission is free for everyone from 2 to 5 p.m.

Houston's murals.
One of Houston’s murals. credit: Travel Texas

Houston Murals and Public Art 

Museums are great to visit, though Houston offers public art and murals across downtown Houston. For a sizable chunk of the city’s murals, head to the Houston Graffiti Building at the intersection of Chartres Street and Bell Street. The “Houston is Inspired” is another top mural destination for visitors with its poppy colors, located at 313 Travis St.

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Space Center Houston
Space Center Houston credit: Travel Texas

Space Center Houston at Johnson Space Center 

As an official NASA visitor center, the Space Center Houston at the Johnson Space Center is one of the top things to do in Houston with kids. With 250,000 square feet, this is an educational complex and space museum in one complex. With over 400 space artifacts, like the largest collection of Moon rocks, it’s a must for NASA fans. 

As the home of NASA mission control, the exhibits at Space Center Houston offers more than a retrospective of past NASA missions. It focuses on the present and future NASA missions, like the current human spaceflight program in “the Artemis Exhibit”.

Visitors can’t miss the “Space Shuttle Independence” mounted on top of Boeing’s NASA 905 shuttle carrier aircraft at Independence Plaza.

ProTip: Reserve a spot on the behind-the-scene tram tour of the Johnson Space Center, included in admission, since tram space is limited. 

Located outside of Houston at 1601 NASA Pkwy. Open weekdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on weekends from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.. Adult (12 and older) admission ranges from $29.95 to 34.95, kids (4 to 11) are $24.95 to $29.95, and kids 3 and younger enter for free. Ample parking is available on-site and costs $10.

This is a Houston CityPASS attraction. 

Houston skyline
Houston’s skyline during the spring. credit: Travel Texas

Top Parks in Houston

Visiting a park is a top thing to do in Houston with kids. The open space is perfect for running around.

Discovery Green

For visitors staying in downtown Houston, this is an urban park located in the heart of downtown Houston. With its 12 acres, visitors will find amenities for both the young and old in an area that used to be a parking area. Favorite areas include the one-acre lake, and it offers two restaurants and two performance spaces.

Located at 1500 McKinney St. Open from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. (midnight during the summer) daily. It is free to visit. 

Buffalo Bayou Park

The 160-acre Buffalo Bayou Park, includes a 30,000 square-foot, a nature-inspired playground, an in-ground skate park and picnic pavilion. This is also the home to the Waugh Bridge Bat Colony. Buffalo Bayou starts in Katy and is a 52-mile waterway to Houston Ship Channel. The 10-mile stretch of the bayou runs from Shepherd Drive to the Port of Houston Turning Basin is called the Buffalo Bayou Park,

Located at 1800 Allen Pkwy and Memorial Dr. Open from 6 a.m.-11 p.m. daily. Free to enter

Additionally, The Water Works building is located inside the park. It was originally a 4-acre reservoir that is an events area with a grass lawn. Located at 105 Sabine St.

Memorial Park

As the largest urban park in Texas, Memorial Park is much larger in size than Hermann Park. It offers 1,500 acres to explore though there are fewer organized things to do, though it is a destination for picnicking along with Houston residents who ride and jog on the 30-plus miles of trails.

Located at 6501 Memorial Park Dr. It is open from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. year-round and free to visit. Parking lots and street parking available for free. 

Gerald D. Hines Waterwall Park

A beloved landmark since 1985, the Waterwall is a Postmodern water feature. It is 64 feet tall and pours out a whopping 11,000 gallons of recirculated water per minute. The area includes a  landscaped two-acre park and is a popular spot for photos. 

Located at 2800 Post Oak Blvd. Open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. Free to enter. 

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The Galleria

As the largest shopping mall in Texas, the Galleria features 400 stores and restaurants. One of the top things to do in Houston with kids is visit the 2.4 million-square-foot, multi-level shopping destination that includes a pair of hotels, a full-size ice rink, and lots of places to eat. 

Located at 5085 Westheimer Rd. Open from Monday to Thursday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday noon to 7 p.m.

Downtown Aquarium

Built in the landmark Houston Fire Station No. 1 and Central Waterworks Building, the 500,000-gallon aquarium offers 300 species of marine life, a Spanish galleon, and a giant Pacific octopus. The Downtown Aquarium also offers a popular restaurant, a carousel, and a ferris wheel (each with an additional fee). 

Located at 410 Bagby St. Open Sunday to Thursday from 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. The restaurant opens at 11 a.m. daily. Adult admission is $15.99 and children (under 42-inches) and seniors enter for $13.99. Rides are an additional fee.

Armand Bayou Nature Center

As one of the largest urban wilderness preserves in the U.S., the Armand Bayou Nature Center measures more than 2,500 acres. Visitors will find forests, wetlands and prairies along with 370 different species of animals.

Located at 8500 Bay Area Blvd. Open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and from noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday. Adult admission is $7 and kids (4 to 12) are $5 and kids 3 and younger enter for free. 

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Houston offers lots of attractions, many of them close together, amazing considering the size of Houston, the fourth largest city in the U.S. With a balance of indoor and outdoor activities, families can explore their interests from animals to art to parks and more. Here are the top things to do in Houston with kids for a native. Top Things to do in Houston with kids | Family fun in Houston #Houston #Texas

Catherine Parker has a passion for travel and seen all 50 U.S. States. As a former flight attendant with one of the largest airlines, there isn't a North American airport that she hasn't landed in at least once. Since clipping her professional wings after 9/11, she combines her love of the open road with visiting architectural and cultural icons. She is based out of Central Texas dividing her time between writing and restoring a pair of 100-year-old houses. She shares her life with her three kids and her husband.

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