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Trip to Houston with Kids
Fun things to do in Houston & Galveston with kids from preschool through teen
In the slide show above, you're viewing pictures of fun family attractions in Houston and Galveston, Texas which you may enjoy if you visit Southeast Texas. On the rest of this page, you'll discover a number of fun places to visit...whether you're staying for a week, or merely a weekend.
Houston/Galveston area family fun
Beach vacation...or city getaway? You don't have to choose--you get BOTH!
Houston and Galveston together form a vacation destination that "has it all." Maybe locals don't feel like Houston and Galveston attractions are very close to each other. To those who drive to Southeast Texas from miles away, however, these cities seem like next-door neighbors. It is entirely possible to enjoy the attractions of Galveston in the morning...and see the sights of Houston in the afternoon & evening. Or, vice-versa.
It isn't every day that you can plan a quiet beach vacation, and still have all the array of shopping & attractions in one of the USA's largest cities. Or, pick an urban getaway, yet still enjoy a day or two at the sea side. But, that's exactly the opportunity you'll have when you make a Galveston-Houston trip!
List of best Galveston attractions for kids
1.) The Beach: What child DOESN'T love the beach? Digging in the sand, building sand castles, and wading in the Gulf? Galveston, Texas is the place where many a child has experienced his or her first glimpse of the sea!
Map to Galveston's beach: It's probably impossible to NOT find the beach...because although Galveston Island is long, it's not very wide. But just in case, here's a Google map of Galveston, so that you can view the city's layout before you arrive.
PDF Printable Map of Galveston: Here's a different map of Galveston which shows all of the city's major tourist attractions written in bold red print. It's also printable. Here's a link to the full-color printable map of Galveston, Texas hosted by Galveston.com (the city's official tourist website.) Because of its large file size, this map takes a moderate length of time to download, and then it needs to be enlarged in order to see the details. If you'd like a map that's more quickly loading, here's a black & white PDF map of Galveston which you may prefer.
2.) Schlitterbahn Galveston Island: If you're from out-of-state, you may not heard about this terrific Texas chain of water parks. (Of course, if you're a water park-lover, you've probably heard of Schlitterbahn, no matter where you're from. Its flagship location in New Braunfels generally gets the #1 spot in water park polls every summer...including the Travel Channel's poll, too!)
Although the Galveston Island location isn't as big as the Schlitterbahn in New Braunfels, it's still a wonderful water park. Kids from tots to teens will ALL find plenty to enjoy here. For further information, here's the Schlitterbahn Galveston website.
3.) Moody Gardens, Aquarium and IMAX: Having fun while learning is what Moody Gardens is all about. This beautiful facility has a top-notch aquarium, hosts science exhibits, features IMAX nature movies...and more. This is another attraction that's good for all ages, because each child may enjoy and understand the displays and movies on his or her own level. Here's the Moody Gardens website, which will fill you in on all the details.
4.) Rainforest Cafe: You've gotta eat somewhere...and what child, teen or adult isn't captivated by the Rainforest Cafe themed restaurants? Its jungle/animal/aquarium-style decor is enchanting. This particular location has a sweeping Gulf view, plus games and a Jungle Ride! Here's the Rainforest Cafe website, which will tell you more about the restaurant's menu and prices.
5. Lone Star Flight Museum: If any of your family members are airplane or history enthusiasts, you won't want to miss the Lone Star Flight Museum. Here's a link to the Lone Star Flight Museum's website, where you can discover the things you may see and do here.
Kemah Family Fun
Kemah may be small, but there's plenty going on for all ages here!
Waterfront boardwalks are part of our nation's history. You'll find them up & down the East Coast, along the West Coast, and even on some lakes, as well. The problem with them all is generally the same, however. Historic, yes, they may be; but they're not always as well-kept as your family may like.
The Kemah Boardwalk is your family's chance to enjoy the fun of boardwalk rides & games...but in a clean, shiny & new environment. Owned by Landry's Restaurants, the Kemah Boardwalk first opened not all that long ago (2001.) In addition, since there was heavy damage to the Boardwalk during Hurricane Ike, extensive head-to-toe remodeling has been done very recently.
The Kemah Boardwalk lies beside Galveston Bay, a beautiful setting in which to dine and enjoy the rides. The Boardwalk Bullet wooden roller coaster dominates the scene---a 96' tall woodie with a 92' first drop! Its trains reach up to 51 mph and, when you're not too busy screaming, you may notice that riders get a sweeping view of the bay. (It's so popular that the coaster even has its own website: www.BoardwalkBullet.com!)
Other thrill rides are on hand for those who like their rides fast & furious; but those with tamer tastes have several smooth 'n easy rides to enjoy, as well. Kiddie rides complete the list of Kemah Boardwalk fun & will turn your outing into an all-ages event. When you're hungry, you'll notice quite a variety of restaurants to enjoy. Here's the Kemah Boardwalk website which will fill you in on all the details, including prices.
Kemah Aquarium Restaurant: Your kid's favorite choice of restaurant just might be the Kemah Aquarium Restaurant. A sister-facility to Houston's Downtown Aquarium, you'll enjoy activities like petting and feeding the rays...in addition to dining accompanied by great aquarium views. Here's the Kemah Aquarium Restaurant's website to tell you all about it.
Fun Houston Attractions with Kids
1.) Space Center Houston: One irreplaceable spot on your Houston itinerary, if you have any interest at all in science or history, will be Space Center Houston. Florida may have the launch sites; and space museums throughout the country may have real relics...but only Houston has the space flight command site!
Maybe you feel as if your kids are still too young to "get much out of" a visit to Space Center Houston. That may or may not be true. Youngsters may not be able to grasp the technical details here, nor feel the sense of history. Still...don't dismiss it, either. Inside the visitor's center, a full range of interactive attractions await you. Kids can pretend to be preparing for a space mission, discover what it's like to be on board a shuttle, and enjoy a number of well-designed activities. The Space Center Houston website can tell you everything you need to know to plan your visit.
2.) The Battleship Texas: in La Porte (at the San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site.) Another only-in-Houston activity is touring the Battleship Texas. Part of a state historic site, the older members of your group will also enjoy the park's museum and monument. But even kids will be fascinated by visiting a REAL battleship! So very huge...and so many strange new things to see! Here's the Battleship Texas website where you'll discover much more about this park's importance in history.
3.) Houston Downtown Aquarium: Houston doesn't have the only aquarium restaurant in the US...but there are mighty few of them. Here's your chance to dine while the fishes swim by! (It's hard to keep your mind on your meal!) But you don't need to dine to enjoy this facility. You may tour its very attractive aquarium, which has been designed especially with kids in mind. As a fun adjunct to your visit, try spending some time in the aquarium's on-site amusement park. There's even an interactive fountain in which your kids may cool off on a hot day. The Downtown Aquarium's website will tell you everything you need to know.
4.) Hermann Park attractions: Hermann Park is not merely a large urban green-space---it's a major cultural hub of Houston! It would be impossible to see and do every family activity in & around the park neighborhood in just one (or even two) days. Why? Too many attractions that beg you to linger!
The Houston Zoo is a favorite activity for all ages in the family. All your favorite animals will be there...plus some you've certainly never seen before, as well.
The Houston Museum of Natural Science showcases a panorama of top-notch exhibits, just as you'd expect from such a large, urban scientific institution. Among its can't-miss attractions are fascinating presentations at the Burke-Baker Planetarium.
Close to Hermann Park are two other museums that kids love...and adults find equally fascinating. The Houston Health Museum enlightens kids about health & body functions (through age-appropriate interactive exhibits that get kids involved.) Plus, the museum also displays traveling exhibits on other science topics, as well. In a separate building nearby, kids also won't want to miss the Houston Children's Museum, another source of good learning-through-fun exhibits and activities on a variety of topics.
Discount coupons to HMNS, the Children's Museum of Houston and the Downtown Aquarium: Believe it or not, you can get discount coupons to both of these fun Houston attractions from the Houston Premium Outlets! Simply visit the Houston Premium Outlets website & join their free VIP club. You'll have access to discount coupons for the outlet mall's stores...AND for several different offers for attractions in the community---including these 2 museums, as well.
Active Family Fun in Houston
Houston Family Fun Centers, Water Parks, Miniature Golf, and Ice Skating
After stuffing your minds at Houston's terrific educational attractions listed above, your family may just want to get out & play for awhile. Not a problem!
1.) Splashtown is Houston's major water park. You'll find a large wave pool, water slides, a river for floating and kiddie areas here; in other words, all the attractions and things to do that water park-fans have come to expect and enjoy. For current prices and directions, you'll wish to consult the Splashtown water park website.
2.) Family Fun Centers in Houston: The Houston metro area is huge. Still, no matter what part of the city you may be visiting, there should be a Family Fun Center or miniature golf course not far away.
A list of some of the major family fun parks in greater Houston includes:
Houston's Astroworld closed after its 2005 operating season. Family vacations to Houston have never been the same since.
Houston family vacations used to be dominated by the thought of all the fun everyone would have at Astroworld. It was fun bringing toddlers and preschoolers to Astroworld. It was even more exciting to bring elementary school-age kids to the theme park...experiencing their first steps up into the world of "family rides" with them. Even tweens and teens actually cracked smiles and quit rolling their eyeballs while at Astroworld. It was simply so much fun!
Hearing "are we there yet?" was never as annoying back then. Parents were just as excited as the children to reach the rides...and could completely understand why small fry felt as if they "couldn't wait any longer!"
Although today's preschoolers are growing up without Astroworld trips...and today's middle school kids can barely remember the park...there are still thousands of older fans who remember Astroworld very well. The park's 2005 closing still seems like a fresh wound. To talk about it, well...it hurts; it just seems so sad. There is no way that any list of "Houston things to do" is going to be the same as when Astroworld held the #1 spot at the top of everyone's itineraries.
If you're one of the many people who miss Astroworld, you may want to pause for a moment in your trip-planning to view some of the park's "fan sites." You can fondly reminisce about your past park visits while looking at pictures of its rides an attractions. One good site is SixFlagsHouston.com; another is AstroworldPark.com; and yet another is MikeRobinson.net (done by an avid fan.) If your family has felt the loss of this memorable theme park, viewing these websites will bring back some very good memories!
Houston Attractions--Discount Coupons
Here's a list of places you might try when you're looking for discount coupons to Houston attractions. In addition, you should also check the websites of the individual attractions you wish to visit. (Some of them issue their own discount coupons and/or offer discount tickets IF you order them on the attraction's website.) And, some Houston attractions do offer annual passes...which can mean very good savings if you plan to be a regular visitor.
1.) Greater Houston Convention & Visitors Bureau: This agency offers a wide variety of Houston attractions coupons (as well as hotel & restaurant coupons, too.) On their website, VisitHoustonTexas.com, you'll find a wealth of tourist information, along with coupons for activities, eg. Houston Downtown Aquarium Coupons, a bowling coupon, Houston Premium Outlets VIP Coupon Book offer, Moody Gardens discount coupon, San Jacinto Monument & Museum of History coupon, Schlitterbahn Galveston Island discount coupon, and a merchandise discount in the Houston Visitor's Center. (The website's list of coupons does change from time to time; their offers may be different at the time you take your vacation.) Here's a link to the VisitHoustonTexas.com discount coupon section for your convenience.
2.) Texas AAA: If you're an American Automobile Club member, you'll be eligible for special club-member discounts. Discount tickets and deals are available through the AAA for Houston attractions like the Discounts for the Natural Science Museum, Houston Rockets, Houston Zoo, Kemah Aquarium, Mountasia Fun Center, Schlitterbahn water park, Space Center Houston, and Gray Line Tours. Here's a link to the AAA of Texas website.
3.) Houston Premium Outlets VIP club: You may have seen this popular outlet mall's VIP club mentioned earlier on this page. It may seem strange...but it's true that the Houston Premium Outlets have discount coupons available for several Houston attractions...but only for their VIP club members. Membership is free; plus you'll get access to discount coupons at some of the mall's outlet stores, as well. In return, you agree to receive the mall's promotional emails. This isn't really a problem, though. I'm a member, but I hardly ever get an email from them. They're not going to fill up your inbox with junk; so far, they've only been sending me notices of big mall-wide sales.
Attractions with discount coupons through the Houston Premium Outlets which will interest families with kids include the Aerodrome Ice Skating Complex, Downtown Aquarium of Houston, Houston Museum of Natural Science and the Children's Museum of Houston. Here's a link to the Houston Premium Outlets website, if you'd like to learn more about their VIP Club.
4.) Facebook and Twitter discounts for fans: It takes a little more work than merely clipping or printing a coupon to find Facebook and Twitter discounts for Houston attractions. First, you've got to have Facebook and Twitter accounts. Then, you have to sign up as "fans" of your favorite attractions. (Some attractions in Houston have Facebook pages; some have Twitter accounts; and some have both of them.) Then, you have to follow their messages often enough to catch the discounts that are mentioned (because not all posts mention discounts; some just talk about "what's new" at that particular attractions.
A bit of persistence pays off, many times. For example, the Children's Museum of Houston offerred a $15 discount on membership for their Facebook Fans recently. And, the Downtown Aquarium of Houston gave instructions for texting them to receive a 2-for-1 Adventure Pass. You never know what discounts might come up next...and you'll only find out about them if you're a "fan" of your favorite attractions!
5.) Houston City Pass: If you're taking a vacation trip to Houston with kids, you'll surely be visiting more than just one attraction. You may wish, then, to consider the Houston City Pass, which is a multi-attraction discount program which can save you 30-40% over purchasing full-price tickets at each attraction.
How does the Houston City Pass work? There are 7 member attractions, and you get discounted admission to 5 of them. These are: 1.) Space Center Houston 2.) Downtown Aquarium 3.) Houston Museum of Natural Sciences 4.) CHOICE of either the Children's Museum of Houston OR the Museum of Fine Arts 5.) CHOICE of either The Health Museum or the Houston Zoo.
The down side is that you'll be paying in advance to visit 5 attractions...and you won't get a refund if you don't actually get around to visiting one or more of them. However, you don't need to commit to purchasing the coupon book until you actually arrive at the first attraction (since every one of the member attractions sells the Houston City Pass.) Also, because you do have 9 days to visit the 5 attractions, it's a pretty flexible program. To learn more about the Houston City Pass, please check out the colorful ad to your right.
6.) Houston Entertainment Coupon Book: Entertainment Coupons Books are stuffed with dozens of discount coupons for attractions, restaurants, hotels and shopping. Each major city, including Houston, has its own special edition. The drawback? These books aren't free; and they must be ordered in advance (because they're not sold at the member attractions.)
The advantage? These are usually good coupons---often 2-for-1 offers. And, the sheer number of coupons in each book is overwhelming. Attractions coupons in the Houston book include the following ("bogo" means "buy one get one free.")