School is officially out. The weather is officially hot. Kids are going officially crazy. And parents are officially flummoxed: with roughly three months to keep your children busy, what are we supposed to do with these children? Let’s get the obvious ones out of the way first.
Waterparks like Wet ‘n’ Wild Splashtown in Spring and Typhoon Texas in Katy are great ways to tire your kids out…I mean spend some quality time with your children as they get a week’s worth of exercise in a few hours. Discount tickets are often available online but, if you can afford them, season passes are the way to go. They’ll pay for themselves in as little as two visits, and give you the freedom to come and go as you please. My family has season passes to Typhoon Texas, and we went recently for an afternoon trip that cost us exactly $0. We got there around 4:00 p.m., parked in the front row, easily found an empty table for our stuff, and packed a day’s worth of fun into three hours.
The Houston Zoo is one of the nation’s best, in part because you can go several days in a row and never have the same experience twice. Daily tickets aren’t terribly expensive but, like waterparks, yearly memberships are the way to go. Days at the Houston Zoo are packed with activities that will keep kids engaged and interested, like story time in the Children’s Zoo and Keeper Chats that teach children about how the exotic animals are cared for. I highlight the Zoo for two important reasons, however. 1) You can bring as much food as you want into the Zoo. I’ve seen families roll huge coolers on wheels into the place and set up picnics on one of the many tables scattered around the space. 2) For a largely outdoor space, there is abundant air conditioning available. You can visit the reptile house, the aquarium, the bird enclosure, Natural Encounters (and its adorable otters), and the bug house to keep cool during the dog days of summer. The dining options have recently been revamped, and all of the restaurants have indoor seating. You’re going to sweat at the Zoo no matter what, but there’s always relief around the corner.
If the Zoo doesn’t give you all the animals you can handle, head on over to the Waugh Drive Bat colony, located at the intersection of Waugh Drive and Allen Parkway. Get there about 30 minutes before sunset and you’ll see hundreds of bats leaving their nests to hunt for insects. If, like most Houstonians, you absolutely hate mosquitoes, this is your chance to engage in some real schadenfreude. Rumor has it that this bat colony is easier to see than the more famous one in Austin.
Museums and Theaters
Want to stay cool, maybe learn something, and not spend any money? Head on down to the Museum District every Thursday for free admission to Houston’s world-renowned museums. You’ll have to buy a ticket if you want to see any of the special collections, but general admission tickets won’t cost you a dime. Of particular note is the Museum of Natural Science’s dinosaur exhibit, which still feels new even though it opened a few years back. Crowds are naturally heavier these days, so get there early to secure parking.
If you’re looking for something to do in the evening, you can’t go wrong with Miller Outdoor Theater or the Thursday concert series at Discovery Green. Both events are free to attend, but you’ll want to check the venue’s online calendar before heading out. You don’t want to settle in for a night of harmonies with the family only to be greeted by the musical stylings and explicit lyrics of Slim Thug (who performed at Discovery Green in May). If you’re looking for outdoor movies, check out the websites for City Centre, Discovery Green Sugar Land Town Square, Miller Outdoor Theater, or Memorial City Mall, all of which host free screenings throughout the summer.
You’ve probably heard of most of the activities mentioned thus far, but have you taken a free 90-minute cruise along the Houston Ship Channel? You can take a tour Wednesday through Saturday at either 10:00 a.m. or 2:30 p.m. Reservations are first-come, first-served, which means most of the summer tours are already booked. Bookmark this one for next summer, unless you’re lucky enough to snag a spot this coming August.
Another out of the way hidden gem is Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens, which hosts Detective Days all summer. Adult admission is $10, but kids are free! Children ages 6 and up are given a series of riddles and clues to learn about horticulture, art, design, and American history. You can solve your case outside in the gardens from 10-4 Tuesdays through Saturdays and 1-4 on Sundays, or keep cool in the house while solving your mystery Friday-Sunday from 1-4.
This blog can only scratch the surface of everything there is to do in Houston this summer. For instance, I didn’t mention the Arboretum and Nature Center, the Lone Star Flight Museum, or any of the activities put on by the Houston Public Library. Hopefully, though, the above list gives you an idea about places to take your kids to enrich their lives and keep their brains active and engaged, even as their summer hiatus.
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