Family Vacations to Houston, Texas

Kemah Boardwalk, Texas
Kemah Boardwalk (courtesy, GHCVB)

Houston Highlights

  • Have an out-of-the-world experience at Space Center Houston.
  • Watch puppet shows and shop at a Mexican village at the Children's Museum of Houston.
  • Ogle a 2,000-carat topaz crystal at the Houston Museum of Natural Science.
  • See lions, tigers, koalas, and many more animals at the Houston Zoo.
  • Picnic, stroll, and ride a mini-train or pedal boat at Hermann Park.

Fifty miles from the Gulf Coast, the burgeoning metropolis of Houston offers families great museums, a gander at the nation's space program, and day trips to Galveston's wide beaches. It might owe its lifeblood to the fortunes and flow of black gold, but the city has a heart that's as good for Junior as it is J.R.

Houston claims the moniker "Space City USA"—you know, "Houston, the Eagle has landed." NASA's Johnson Space Center is just 25 miles south of downtown, and at the facility's Space Center Houston, families get thrust into the action of a shuttle launch with the multimedia movie Blast Off. You can also visit Mission Control and Rocket Park on a 90-minute tram tour, learn how to build a rocket; and find out what it feels like to jump on the moon at Kids Space Place.

Houston's Downtown Aquarium takes you through a variety of habitats including a 200,000-gallon shark tank. Alligators star in the Louisiana swamp; schools of fish dart around a sunken 17th-century Spanish galleon hull in the Shipwreck exhibit; electric eels, piranha, and poison arrow frogs lurk in the Amazon River section; and four majestic white tigers pace in the final exhibit.

See more alligators as well as crocodiles, lions, tigers, elephants, and koalas at the Houston Zoo, located in Hermann Park. In the zoo's Wortham World of Primates, follow a boardwalk through a treed enclosure to view lemurs, gibbons, tamarins, and other tree-swinging critters. At Natural Encounters, get close to such small mammals as meerkats, otters, and vampire bats. Plan to stay awhile in Hermann Park, too, a 400-acre urban oasis with pedal boats, a miniature train ride, a tranquil Japanese garden, and plenty of places to picnic. Also, check the summer performance schedule for the Miller Outdoor Theatre.

At the Houston Museum of Natural Science, also in Hermann Park, along with seeing fossils, a mummy, and a moon rock, ogle a 2,000-plus-carat topaz crystal and other dazzlers in a world-class display of stunning minerals. There's also an IMAX theater, planetarium, and butterfly center with hundreds of live flutterers.

Creative play comes naturally at the top-ranked Children's Museum of Houston. Kids discover pond life and watch eco-friendly puppet shows at the EcoStation, shop at a re-created Mexican village's open-air market, and dress up and role-play at the Victorian Playhouse.

Miles of Gulf Coast beachfront are a favorite draw on Houston's doorstep. Just 20 miles from downtown Houston, Kemah, on Galveston Bay, creates an amusement-park atmosphere with its boardwalk, carousel, Ferris wheel, and eateries. About 50 miles south of Houston, Galveston lures families with its miles of sand, fishing piers, and Victorian-style village. After swimming and sunning, enjoy the sunset on a horse-drawn carriage ride along Galveston's Strand.

Tip: Download Space City eCoupons at for discounts at attractions and restaurants.

Recommended Side Trips: Galveston, Austin, San Antonio's resident family expert Candyce Stapen has written the book on family travel, having authored some 1,400 travel articles and 27 books, 26 of them on family travel. She is the winner of the 2004 "Caribbean Travel Writer of the Year for North America" award and a three-time winner of the Society of American Travel Writers' Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism award. Her articles have appeared in publications including Nick Jr , FamilyFun , Parents , Better Homes & Gardens , Conde Nast Traveler , National Geographic Traveler , and the Family Travel Network , among others. Her book, the National Geographic Guide to Caribbean Family Vacations is available from

Published: 3 Oct 2007 | Last Updated: 8 Aug 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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