As a native of Houston, it was my backyard for years and holds many great memories from the Houston Rodeo to Hermann Park. For families, it 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 and more. Here are the top things to do in Houston with kids.
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.
With 6,000 animals and 55 acres to explore, the Houston Zoo is the second most visited zoo in the U.S. In fact, with an annual attendance of over 2 million people. Visitors will find serveral ecosystems to explore like an African forest or the Galapagos Islands (opening in 2023). A zoo goer 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.
Located at 6200 Hermann Park Dr. Open daily 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. (last entry at 3 p.m.). The zoo has a flexible pricing plan, which means tickets, which must be reserved in advance, can range from $20.70 to $26.45 for adults and from $16.45 to $21.20 for children 3 to 12, depending on the date and time of your visit.
Miller Outdoor Theater
With eight months of free programming, the Miller Outdoor Theater has been a locals favorite for generations. It offers a large stage with an orchestra pit and professional lighting to accommodate 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 along with 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 area 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.
Read More about Texas
Houston’s Museum District
Houston features 19 museums in four walkable zones. The easily museums to explore are next to Hermann Park.
Houston Museum of Natural Science
Founded in 1909 Houston Museum of Natural Science offers over 1.5 million objects in its permanent collection with exhibits across more than 430,000 square feet of space. It is one of the top things to do in Houston with kids, or without.
Several of its exhibits are exception, like the Morian Hall of Paleontology and the Cullen Hall of Gems and Mineral. The Farish Hall of Texas Wildlife displays 450 specimens of animals that live in Texas. The Cockrell Butterfly Center is a favorite with kids and the Burke Baker Planetarium regularly plays shows.
Located 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. If you’re hoping to save some money, you can purchase the Houston CityPASS. 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 $20.
Children’s Museum Houston
A must stop for families with smaller kids and it 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 takes 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.
Contemporary Arts Museum Houston
With its location near the MFAH, this facility focuses on international, national and regional art from the last 40 years. In its icon 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, Friday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Admission is free.
The Menil Collection
John and Dominique de Menil started collection art after they fled Nazi-held France in the 1940s and relocated 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. Open Wednesdays through Sundays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. There is no charge for admission 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 a14-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 the1942 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 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, located at the intersection of Chartres Street and Bell Street. The “Houston is Inspired” is another top mural destination for visitors with is poppy colors, located at 313 Travis St.
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 at 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 and kids 3 and younger enter for free. Ample parking is available on-site and costs $5. This is a Houston CityPASS attraction.
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 and outdoor time diffuses energy.
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 and 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.
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
As a beloved landmark since 1985, it is a Post Modern water feature. The Waterwall 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.
As he largest shopping mall in Texas, the Galleria features 400 stores and restaurants. One of the top things to do in Houston with kids is visitor the 2.4 million square feet, multi-level shopping destination that 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.
Built in the landmark Houston Fire Station No. 1 and Central Waterworks Building, the 500,000-gallon aquarium offer 300 species of marine life as well as a Spanish galleon and a giant Pacific octopus. The Downtown Aquarium offers a popular restaurant and a carousel and 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. with the restaurant opening 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 $6 and kids (4 to 12) are $4 and kids 3 and younger enter for free.