Houston is one of the most diverse cities in the United States. As a result, a family vacation to this famous Texas town is an extraordinary cultural experience. If exploring the Buffalo Bayou and checking out museums and the zoo all while noshing on incredible ethnic cuisine sounds like an ideal way to spend your vacation days, then check out our guide to all Houston has to offer. Read on to find out where to stay, eat and play in Houston.
photo: by Annette Benedetti
Houston is a surprisingly vibrant city that provides visitors with access to a multitude of family-friendly museums, art installations, parks and diverse dining establishments. Your family has an endless array of adventures to choose from—and likely more than you can fit into one visit. We suggest you put your attraction-packed itinerary together in advance to get the most out of every minute you spend in this remarkable locale.
photo: by Annette Benedetti
Your kids won’t want to miss stretching their legs at Houston’s incredible parks. Buffalo Bayou Park offers up 160 acres of green space that runs along 10 miles of the Bayou. Your family can bike or walk along paths that give you access to the water where you can kayak or canoe. Your kids will enjoy stopping off at the Barbara Fish Daniel Nature Play area or the Lee & Joe Jamail Skatepark. Additionally, this park offers a unique art experience—the Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern—which is guaranteed to wow everyone in your family.
The first of the City’s underground drinking water reservoirs (built in 1926), the Cistern has been transformed into a public space that houses periodic art installations. Your kids will thrill at a walk through the 87,500-square-foot expanse which includes 25-foot tall concrete columns set row upon row, and hovering over two inches of water on the reservoir’s floor. The current installation features blinking lights in multiple colors and patterns, and an opportunity for visitors to become part of the experience.
Emancipation Park is Houston’s first public park, built in 1872. Recently renovated, it offers visitors a swimming pool with a spray park and lighted basketball and tennis courts. And Hermann Park, located right in the center of the city, is a must-see. It is next to the Houston Museum of Natural Science and the Children’s Museum of Houston, and it houses the Houston Zoo and the Japanese Tea Garden. Your family could easily spend the whole day going on paddle boats, train rides and exploring this gem of green space.
photo: Annette Benedetti
The Buffalo Bayou is central to Houston’s history and your family can learn all about it—and the city—on a Buffalo Bayou Pontoon Boat Tour. Appropriate for children ages 5 and up, this boat ride gives you a new an breathtaking view of the city over the course of a 1/2 hour excursion. There are a variety of experiences available including twilight tours, history tours, seasonal tours and more.
The Children’s Museum of Houston is a must on your list of things to experience. It features 14 permanent galleries and exhibits in a jaw-dropping 90,000 square feet of play space. Your kids will enjoy interactive play in areas like Kidtropolis, where babes run their own town! But, the Children’s Museum is just one of the many museums you should take time to check out. The Houston Museum of Natural Science is home to a Planetarium, a giant screen theater and so many exhibits your head will spin. Make sure to hit the Modern Hall of Paleontology, the Wiess Energy Hall, and how could you resist the Cabinet of Curiosities?
If you are a family of art lovers, then a trip to The Menil should be on your to-do list. This museum is free to everybody and features the famous Menil Collection. Located in a 30-acre neighborhood devoted to art, the museum was created out of the Menil family’s private and extensive collection. Pieces from around the world transport your family across time and space, and are likely to leave you speechless and filled with wonder.
You can’t leave Houston without a trip to the city zoo of course! The Houston Zoo is home to more than 4,500 animals that call the 55-acre attraction home. Travel through the African Forest, and say hello to the sea lions. Don’t forget to stop by and check out the elephants and giraffes too! If your kids love sea life, you must stop by the Kipp Aquarium where you can take a voyage from the Pacific to the Amazon Basin. The aquarium features over 200 species and 2,000 individual fresh and saltwater fish.
photo: by Annette Benedetti
Houston has a whole district devoted to theater, so we suggest taking advantage it. If the weather is nice, catching a show at the Miller Outdoor Theater is ideal. Located in Hermann Park, mom and dad can relax and enjoy a show while the kiddos get their wiggles out. Theater venues worth checking out include the Alley Theatre, Jones Hall and the Wortham Center, which are all located next to one and other and showcase family productions on a regular basis.
Photo: by Annette Benedetti
An important thing to understand about eating in Houston is that your meals are more than just a way to fill your bellies, dining in this cultural mecca is an experience. You’ve heard of Tex-Mex cuisine, but have you ever tried Tex-In? Pull up a chair at Cowboys and Indians for this yummy fusion experience. From nann quesadillas to curries served alongside chicken fried steak to yummy samosas, this restaurant will introduce you to a modern take on Indian food and Southern comfort dishes that will leave everyone satisfied.
Do you have a family full of hungry adults and children with very different cravings? No problem. The Conservatory Beer Garden & Food Hall is extremely family friendly, super fun and full of awesome food options. This cool place features independent, local businesses that offer international cuisine. From pizza to bbq to pho, you will find everything your heart desires and more! There’s even a wine bar for sipping and clinking to celebrate this superior find.
The 8th Wonder Brewery has an impressive number of beers on tap and an awesome outdoor space for little ones who want to run around. For bites, they offer rotating food trucks that pull up outside so that you can enjoy bites and sips picnic style.
Finally, experience Houston’s authentic China town where you experience some of the best noodles you will ever have at Kuen Noodle House. Seriously, you won’t find better noodle soup anywhere, and your kids will love watching the noodles be made from scratch right in front of their eyes! That’s right, from flower and egg right to the bowl, it all happens right before your eyes. And oh my, the final product is amazing! You’ll want to head back for more.
If you want to feel like royalty, a stay at the The Four Seasons Hotel Houston is perfect. You will get a good dose of old-school Texas hospitality as the staff greets you and makes sure you make it from your ride to your room seamlessly. Book a room or a suite and enjoy incredible views, a luxurious bed and plenty of amenities. And while the swimming pool, fitness room, bar, and private rooms with the world’s first-ever Topgolf-branded simulator are all good reasons to be drawn to these accommodations, this hotel earns our approval for two additional reasons. First, The Four Seasons Hotel offers a family plan that doesn’t charge families an extra fee for children 18 years of age and younger occupying the same guest room as their parents or guardians. And, special rates may be available for two adults and two children 18 years of age and younger occupying two rooms.
Additionally, you’ll appreciate their firearm policy which prohibits any person from openly carrying any firearm in an unconcealed manner. They take their client’s safety and sense of security seriously, and that puts us all at ease.
Another solid choice is the Magnolia Hotel. If you want unique lodging, the Magnolia Hotel in downtown Houston is your best bet. Beautiful rooms fill 22 stories of the historic building, the roof top pool gives guests a view of the Houston skyline and the fun, cheerful lobby is a welcome sight to weary travelers. The complimentary buffet breakfast is hearty and the milk and cookie bar is the perfect way to end a busy day.
This trip was paid for by Visit Houston, but all opinions expressed here belong to the writer.