Houston, named after former General Sam Houston who, in 1836, won the Battle of San Jacinto which gained Texas its independence from Mexico, is the fourth most populated city in North America and home to approximately two and a half million residents.
It is a magnet for tourism, being closely linked with the Space Center Houston, and NASA’s astronaut training and flight control complex together with many other interesting attractions.
Reading through the list of the best things to do in Houston will help you and your family to plan a fun filled, exciting time.
1. Museum of Natural Science
The Houston Museum of Natural Science (abbreviated as HMNS) has an amazing collection of mineral specimens, space station models, 60 large skeleton mounts – which include four Tyrannosaurus Rex and three large Quetzalcoatlus – a planetarium, and lots more to occupy the family for the day.
The museum’s great popularity is also down to its generous number of special and guest exhibits. Established in 1909, it is now one of the most popular in North America.
The kids will love the grasshopper clock situated at the museum’s striking entrance, whose legs harmonize with the passing seconds.
2. Children’s Museum
Founded in 1980, Houston Children’s Museum is one of 190 children’s museums in the United States, founded by a group of parents who wanted to raise early childhood development within the community.
The museum has some absorbing hands on interactive exhibits in subjects such as science and technology, history and culture, and more. In particular, The Market, an area where the kids will have fun – and learn at the same time – how to apply for jobs, get paychecks and use their ATM card.
There is also a popular outdoor area that has toy boats and water pipes to enjoy too. This will be a hit with all the kids.
3. Space Center Houston
One of the city’s topmost attractions, the space center is home to more than 400 artifacts together with an abundance of both permanent and traveling exhibits as well as other displays relating to America’s awesome space flight programs.
The whole family will be spellbound as they look through the museum’s collection of movies and interactive consoles.
Known globally as the International Space Station Mission Control, and home of NASA Mission Control and astronaut training, as an additional treat guests are then taken behind the scenes to see NASA Johnson Space Center where history was made.
Book online: Houston: Space Explorer Pass
4. Discovery Green
Recently renovated, this 11.78 acre public city park is thought of by locals as a much needed urban oasis. It is very community spirited, offering free yoga classes, toddler story times as well as movie nights and regular concerts.
It also has a playground, free WiFi, open air reading rooms and an area from which you can borrow games and balls when the family feels like getting active. Alternatively, just enjoy a picnic as you laze on the upward sloping green, relax and watch everyone else. A great family day.
5. Downtown Aquarium
This splendid six acre dining and entertainment complex was made even more amazing by the amalgamated redevelopment of two of Houston’s landmarks, the Central Waterworks Building and Fire Station No.1.
Now with plenty of room to house its 500,000 gallon aquatic wonderland with 200 species of exotic global residents, it is a great attraction for all the family, and especially the kiddies as they can enjoy the fun aquarium’s rides, from Frog Hopper to Shark Voyage and Aquatic Carousel.
There are plenty of treats for the adults too as the venue includes shopping, an upscale bar, full-service restaurant, a fully equipped ballroom and geographic and aquatic exhibits.
Included in: Houston Tour and Aquarium Ticket
6. The Health Museum
For all the budding scientists in the family, or just those who enjoy things of a scientific nature, this is the venue for you.
The Health Museum welcomes over 180,000 visitors a year, (over 2.5 million so far.), partly made up of more than 22,000 schoolchildren as part of their field trip.
One reason for this draw is the museum’s excellent interactive health and science educational experiences, which include things like a hands on walk through the human body, real organ dissections, and a multitude of ever changing new and exciting exhibits.
For an additional small cost, your kids can enjoy a visit to the cell lab where they can carry out some simple and fun experiments.
7. Speedy’s Fast Track
This family entertainment center is the perfect answer for those who want to let off steam, show off their skills and just have some all round fun. Made up of arcade games, miniature golf, laser tag and Formula 1 style go karts; this venue has both indoor and outdoor entertainment to suit everyone.
With friendly and helpful staff, super clean facilities and table, video and pinball games together with super enjoyable games Godzilla Wars JR, Wacky Gator Super Speedway and Awesome Rat for the kids – to name just a few – Fast Track Amusements is the place for the family to head to.
8. Museum of Fine Arts
The MFAH not only benefit the never ending visitors who come to enjoy the museum’s stunning collection of over 6,000 years of history and approximately 64,000 works from six continents, but also the 1.25 million who attend the museum’s workshops, programs and resource centers every year.
This world class museum takes great pride in being home to treasures such as Gleizes’s La Femme, Memling’s portrait, Monet’s Water Lilies and an impressive amount of Roman period sculptures and paintings. If you want to make sure you’re not going to miss anything, there are 45 minute guided tours for the family to enjoy.
There is also a great café with well above average refreshments.
9. Minute Maid Park
Minute Maid Park is home to Houston’s Major League Baseball team the Astros and is now famous for seeing a major league team playing on natural grass outdoors.
This exciting renovation was approved of by their 3 million fans, whonow come to take advantage of the 242 ft high retractable roof – another first, bringing open air baseball to Houston for the first time in over 35 years.
A super attraction for all the family as there will be lots of fun to be had whether it be rain or shine.
And for moms and dads, there is a Happy Hour Beer outlet in Left Field with great beer variety. There are also plenty of food choices and excellent BBQ availability.
10. Cockrell Butterfly Center
The Cockrell Butterfly Center and Brown Hall of Entomology has a huge variety of species and serves as a teachable moment for kids and anyone interested in bugs, providing entertainment and education for the entire family.
The center is home to a living butterfly habitat with spectacular specimens of some of the world’s strangest arthropods as well as fun interactive quizzes and games. And here are some useful hints; as you walk through the area, have a look under leaves and take the time to read about the life cycle – found at the entrance to the center – where you can see chrysalis in their various stages. And wear bright colors. The butterflies are more than likely to land on you then.
11. The Galleria
When the family feels the need for some serious retail therapy, a visit to The Galleria should certainly do the trick. Modeled after Milan’s stunning Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, it is home to over 400 high end stores, wonderful restaurants and food outlets such as Cheesecake factory, Chili’s and White Oaks Kitchen, a full size ice rink, state of the art children’s play area, seven beauty salons and lots more besides. It won’t be any surprise to hear that it is Texas’ largest mall. From Valentino and Gucci to Prada and La Perla there is something here to keep every member of the family happy.
12. Hobby Center for the Performing Arts
Opened in 2002, the Hobby Center is made up of 60 ft high glass walls with stunning views of the city’s skyscrapers, located on the edge of the theatre district. There are some wonderful shows and plays performed here and a visit to the center would be a lovely outing for all the family as there are often children friendly shows to see. The center takes pride in its plush seating that offers its patrons comfortable and decent leg room as well as its popular snack and candy options.
13. Hines Waterwall Park
The Gerald D. Hines Waterwall Park is a great place for the family to obtain some really good down time within a stunning backdrop. The park features a 64 ft semi circular fountain that re-circulates 11,000 gallons of water per minute that tumbles down the structure’s inner and outer walls. Pretty awesome to watch, I’d say. This landmark park is surrounded by 186 oak trees and is a popular spot for its locals to meet up with friends, enjoy a Frisbee game, picnic, walk or even a fabulous photographic opportunity.
14. Texas Rock Gym
Offering over 14,000 sq ft of climbable surface, 5 Auto Belays, 42 Top Ropes, a lead arch and a separate bouldering area, the Texas Rock Gym is a marvelous venue for all the rock climbing and gym addicts of the family, whatever their age. The gym emphasizes safety and, in order to minimize the inherent rock climbing risks, all participants must take part in the gym’s safety orientation and belay training class, Climbing 101, regardless of previous climbing experience. Besides all of the above, the gym also offers Yoga, Tai-Chi and Kung Fu options. The friendly staff will be happy to lead you in the right direction.
15. Saint Arnold Brewing Company
How about a treat for mom and dad? A visit to Houston’s oldest craft brewery is guaranteed to offer an interesting and enjoyable time when they drop into Saint Arnold Brewing Company. The brewery does everything from brewing and filtering the beer to kegging and bottling it – then it’s up to the visitors to drink it. The company brew several different beers, some seasonal and some available all year round, and can be found in grocery stores, liquor stores, bars and restaurants throughout Texas, Louisiana and Florida. You will be looked after by professional and courteous staff as you enjoy a tour then lunch and refreshments (one of the breweries tasty beers of course.) afterwards.
Related tour: Houston: Brewery Pass with Beer Tastings
16. Toyota Center
Named after Japanese automobile manufacturers Toyota (who had paid $100 million for the naming rights), the center’s arena is home to the Houston Rockets of the National Basketball Association as well as being former home of the Houston Aeros of the American Hockey League. The arena has spacious seating together with clean facilities. This is a very popular area for both visitors and locals as there are also a multitude of very good restaurants and hotels nearby, so why not take the family to a game or concert and finish off a perfect evening with a tasty meal after?
17. The Music Box Theater
This performing arts theater does a marvelous job with its presentation of original sketch comedies. So if the older teens and adults of the family are fans of live musical review with a little humor mixed in, this definitely is the place for them. The shows are funny and fantastic with very talented performers able to add their memorable and special touch. There are also refreshments on offer in the form of soft drinks, wine, beer and snacks for everybody to enjoy.
18. JPMorgan Chase Tower
For a glimpse of the high life – literally. – a trip to JPMorgan Chase Tower should be on the cards for you and the family. Formerly the Texas Commerce Tower, the 75 story skyscraper, standing at just over 1,000 ft high, has the distinction of being the tallest building in Texas, the world’s tallest five sided building, the 13th tallest building in the United States and the 79th tallest building in the world. That’s a lot of ‘tallest’, if you ask me. There is a quick (and free) ride to the observation deck where you will be able to enjoy the wonderful view beyond you. The tower’s architecture is of an art deco design and truly lovely.
19. Miller Outdoor Theatre
This outstanding theater offers both culturally and artistically assorted daytime children’s programming as part of its free productions season as well as many other free plays, concerts, dances and shows to suit all ages. The theater, situated on 7.5 acres of land in Hermann Park, runs from mid March through mid November and is a very popular venue, as you can imagine. There is the option to either bring your chair, blanket and food (alcohol is allowed providing it is in a container) or you can purchase seating when you are there. The seats are covered in case of rain.
20. Buffalo Bayou Park
With an excellent choice of multiple trails for walking and biking, Buffalo Bayou Park is a lovely location to take the family for some healthy exercise. The meandering park is made up of 124 acres of spacious green with awesome views of Houston skyline thrown into the mix. Besides all of this, there is also a nature play area, artwork and live artistic performances to enjoy together with a dog park if you have any four legged friends in the family. For the family that enjoys outdoor activities, this is the perfect location.
21. 1940 Air Terminal Museum
This is a must see for all the aviation addicts in the family. The museum is housed in the original art deco Houston Municipal Airport and showcases a truly wonderful display of all things airline related, including Houston’s own aviation history. The Museum occupies the entire ground floor (with the renovation of the upper floors including the observation decks and tower cab pending) and holds airline treasures such as the ticket desks for Braniff and Eastern Airlines and many more wonderful displays of architecture and aviation from a time gone by.
Topgolf is a new kind of golf experience, offering flat-out family fun for any age or skill level. This innovative way of playing golf, where players hit microchipped golf balls at targets on an outfield is certainly a new way of enjoying the game, and has become so popular, now welcomes over 8 million worldwide annual visitors. After a fun game which uses state of the art electronic scoring, the family can relax and enjoy some of Topgolf’s excellent food and drink menu.
23. iFLY Indoor Skydiving
This has to be one of the most awesome family attractions ever. From 3 years and up, enjoy this amazing indoor skydiving experience which is the simulation of real freefall conditions in a vertical wind tunnel. The tunnel has fans at the top that draws air through the flight chamber which then push it back down the sides through Return Air Towers, turning the air into the bottom of the tunnel and back up toward the flight chamber through an inlet contractor which then lowers the space that the air can travel in. This speeds up and compresses the air before it reenters the flight chamber giving you a smooth column of air, allowing you to fly. The venue provides all the gear & instruction required, and if you would rather watch than participate, there are plenty of seats for everyone.
24. Pinto Ranch Fine Western Wear
For a wonderful memento of your visit to Houston, why not drop into Pinto Ranch? The store is home to an amazing amount of Western goodies which embody both the traditions and romanticism of the area. From premier merchandise such as Men and Ladies buckles, belts and jewelry to the biggest collection of fine western gear like beautiful shirts, genuine Stetson hats, realFilson leather coats and hand made cowboy boots, you will be able to wear your memories when you’re back home.
25. Battlefield Houston
How about a family fun day of exciting laser tag. Step into Battlefield Houston’s zombat zone and enjoy some truly awesome missions – from Domination, Hitman, Search and Destroy and Sniper using high quality laser guns, the family will feel as if they have stepped into their own live video game. And this is not your average laser tag; players do not wear vests as is the norm, but a headband. The laser has to hit the headband to disable the player for a few seconds. Best of all, no matter what the family member skill level, everyone is guaranteed a role to play in the missions they are assigned. After an exhilarating time for all, stop and enjoy the arena’s snack and drink outlet.