We’re just getting back from a great trip to Texas. Unfortunately, I wasn’t actually there long enough to develop that sweet southern accent ;). It was my first time visiting and we had an awesome trip exploring the lower southeast corner of the state.
Houston has no shortage of family-friendly activities! We saw multiple points of interest a day and kept busy from sun-up to sun-down. So, I’m sharing our itinerary and highlights to make the most of your stay in Houston too.
Day 1: Space Center Houston + Kemah Boardwalk
So our trip wasn’t exactly just to Houston. We flew through Houston and drove to Orange, TX to visit some family. After spending a few days in Orange, we checked out of our hotel and drove the two hours back to Houston. We stayed near the Galeria (a huge mall on the west side of Houston) – but decided it made sense to stop at the Space Center on the way (since it’s on the east side).
The Space Center was awesome, even for little kids like ours.
It’d be ideal for the 8-12 range (since they’d have a better understanding of what space is) – but Ben really liked it anyway. There were lots of activities for kids, and a tour of a space shuttle mounted to an airplane (Ben LOVED this!). There’s also a tram tour that takes you around the entire campus (where the astronauts train), but we didn’t reserve tickets and the line was too long for our young kids. So, if you’re interested in that aspect, I’d highly recommend reserving tram tickets ahead of time. We spent about 3 hours at the museum (including a lunch break).
Kemah Boardwalk is about 15 minutes from the Space Center.
There’s plenty of paid parking nearby, and lots to see and do. You do need to purchase tickets for the rides and there’s only one ticket booth, so that was a long wait. However, we took the kids on a little train ride through the entire area and got a glimpse of everything there was to offer. There’s plenty of restaurants and boardwalk games, a free playground, and more. We could have probably spent an entire day there!
Day 2: Museum of Natural Science + Discovery Green + Waugh Drive Bat Colony
We started bright and early at the Museum of Natural Science.
There was $20 all day parking available at the museum, so there was no issue with us driving there. Houston’s museum district is impressive – 4 huge museums (Science, Children’s, Contemporary Arts, and Zoo) all within reasonable walking distance from each other. We had other plans for the day, so we didn’t end up visiting anything other than the Museum of Natural Science, but it’d be easy to spend an entire day just in the museum district.
The Museum of Natural Science was very kid friendly. We were able to save a significant amount on admission tickets by purchasing through Groupon ahead of time. There’s also a butterfly exhibit (an indoor bio dome rain forest) for an extra $9 – which was well worth it! Ben absolutely loved the dinosaurs, it was the largest collection I’ve ever seen. Some of the other exhibits weren’t too interesting for the kids, but we did make it through the entire museum in about 3 hours.
After leaving, we took a ride through the city so the kids could nap in the car. We had an early dinner at Papparucho’s across the street from Discovery Green. The restaurant had a nice selection of tex-mex standards, and the location was great for an after-dinner walk through the park at Discovery Green. During the day, there’s a free splash pad/fountain that would be awesome in the warm weather (our visit was on the cooler side). We spent some time at the playground here before heading to Waugh Drive at dusk.
Sunset at Waugh Bridge bat colony (probably one of my favorite stops)
A quarter million bats have made an overpass over the Buffalo Bayou their colony, and at dusk, swarms can be seen heading out into the night. There’s parking along the street on both sides of the Bayou and a really nice park/river walk to spend time at. You really have to see it, trust me, it’s worth it! Just get there a good 45 minutes before sunset. Best part – everything is free!
Day 3: Mandir+ Houston Arboretum + We Heart Houston Sign
We spent our final morning in Houston traveling to some short stops – we had a 5 pm flight to catch, so we wanted to get back to the airport around 2 to return our rental car and get lunch.
BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir
About a 20 minute drive from center city Houston, the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir is a must-see. We decided to let Eli stay asleep in the car and brought Ben with us to walk the grounds. A Mandir is a Hindu temple – and since Ben doesn’t really understand that it’s a place of devotion and respect, we decided not to enter the actual temple, but rather observe from the outside. Completely made of white marble and limestone, it’s definitely worth the ride just to see how beautiful it is in person!
Houston Arboretum & Nature Center
Making our way back through the city and towards the airport, we wanted to go somewhere where the kids could be outside (since they’d be pretty cooped up on the flight later that afternoon). A friend of ours suggested Memorial Park – and within it, the Houston Arboretum & Nature Center. They had a very nice visitor center with free children’s area, and several trails. We were short on time, so we stuck to the smallest trail which was a loop around their pond – and it was a great visit!
Last Stop: We Heart Houston Sign
I knew I just had to swing by this landmark, and it was only a couple minutes from the Houston Arboretum! It’s on the side of the service road of a major highway – so be careful snapping pictures! We just pulled over and took a couple and were on our way!
We had an awesome time!
All in all, our trip to Texas was surely a great adventure. I’d highly recommend it for a family trip if you have reason to be in the area. Are you traveling to Houston anytime soon? Or have you been already? I’d love to hear all about your trip below!