Houston, Texas, is an amazing city, filled with welcoming locals, loads of history and a lot of educational fun for families traveling with kids. Now, we don’t normally do the tourist thing when visiting new locations. Instead we opt for total local immersion. However, after 6 years of visits to Houston to love on family, we deemed it imperative to give our kids a taste of the city life. And there is no better way to do that than with a City Pass!
Family Fun in Houston with CityPass
There is a lot of family fun to be had in the city of Houston. In the six years we’ve been traveling down here from Colorado to visit family, we have never once ventured into a museum or other touristy attraction. Instead, we’ve visited like locals. We hang out in Hermann Park, shop in the underground tunnels, gape at Skyscraper Canyon. We rode the Light Rail, fun for us mountain folk. And we toured the Cathedral and the Chase Tower.
Truth be told, we’ve never really had the budget to enjoy more than the free things to do in Houston. That is, until we discovered the Houston CityPass.
The CityPass (purchased here) is a booklet of admission tickets to the top 5 must-see tourist attractions in Houston that, when bundled together, saves you 47% off admission prices. In real dollars, that is a savings of $44 per adult and $31 per child!! We jumped at the opportunity to visit the Space Center Houston, the Downtown Aquarium, the Houston Museum of Natural Science, the Houston Zoo and The Children’s Museum of Houston.
If 47% off admission prices isn’t enough of an incentive to purchase a CityPass, then the fact that you get to skip all lines should be. This little perk literally saved us hours. We made a slight scheduling mistake in visiting Houston during Spring Break and the lines to get into each of these attractions was, in a word, ridiculous!
But, with a CityPass, it was easy. You simply walk to the window specifically for CityPass holders and bypass the lines, except at the Natural Science Museum, but more on that later!
Another bonus to the CityPass is all the attractions, with the exception of Kemah Boardwalk (an option), are educational. You know us homeschool parents; we love to sneak in education in the wildest of places! The kids think they are just having fun, but we are Knowledge Ninjas imparting as much information in our children’s brains as humanly possible.
What’s interesting to me is they always come away with questions that were not answered. For instance, at the Natural Science Museum the dinosaur fossils were connected in varying ways. My uber observant and increasingly questioning kids wanted to know how the ribs of the different dinosaurs were actually attached to their bodies.
The first stop on our exciting Houston tour was the Downtown Aquarium. We love aquariums. Life under the water is one of those unknowns, foreign and seemingly serene. As a family that spends a lot of time in water, we are fascinated by the creatures that live in our rivers, lakes, and oceans.
The aquarium is divided into sections, seven of which are included in the CityPass. I believe the only add-ons are the rides and the shark exhibit. We toured the Louisiana Swamp, the Ocean, the Tropical Rainforest, the Sunken Temple, the Gulf of Mexico, the White Tiger exhibit. We were able to pet stingrays at the Stingray Reef. This was of particular interest because Dan had the unfortunate experience of being stung by one in SoCal last year!
Our CityPass gave us the option of the zoo or the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. We chose the zoo, a logical choice for all of us!
I have an ambivalence toward zoos. But I have to admit the Houston Zoo was impressive, with it’s 55 acres and pristine grounds! It has the largest primate exhibit I have ever seen. It was so huge that we spent more time here than anywhere else.
Our favorite animals hands down were the primates. Primates are so smart and so funny and apparently very loving. We saw two monkeys embrace in an intentional hug!
Some other favorites were the Asian Elephants and the lions. Our boys are reptile crazy, and the Reptile and Amphibian Room was a fave. We saw a white alligator, one of only 14 in existence! Then the kids oohed and ahhed over some of the most venomous snakes, an enormous Komodo Dragon and a Burmese Python!
Our little Emmy, 6, has a special appreciation for animals and our earth and conservation in general. We study animals together and talk often about which animals are stable, which are endangered and which are extinct.
She loved the zoo, and she left charged and determined to do whatever she can, personally, to change the course of their paths. If a zoo can do that, my ambivalence changes to seeing the animals that live there less as victims and more as ambassadors to the plight of animals worldwide! Thank you Houston Zoo!
Space Center Houston
We loved Space Center Houston. And talk about educational! Science, technology, engineering and math abound in the world of space, and my kids ate up every bit of it! They were intrigued by the exhibits, the artifacts, and the movies. They were especially enthralled by the stories of the individual astronauts. We learned about the International Space Station, astronaut training, what it’s like to travel and live in space, and so so much more. The little Angry Birds Playground in the forefront was pretty fun too!
We took a tram ride to NASA Mission Control – you know, Mission Control, as in, “Houston, we have a problem.” It was here that we learned about the Orion Project, which I was blown away to learn about. I had no clue it was even a thing!
Orion is NASA’s new exploration spacecraft, expected to take astronauts deep into space, including Mars, in 2035! And here I literally thought space exploration was dead in the U.S.!
Space travel is such a foreign and fascinating subject that, in all honesty, we are easily intrigued. Can you imagine standing on the moon? The MOON!? Or living on the International Space Station? How about being one of the four astronauts going to Mars? We did imagine it and I gotta say is… mind blown. I wish I’d visited the Space Center when I was a kid.
Houston Museum of Natural Science
If I was going to talk to my girlfriends about the one stop they could forgo, this would be the one. Houston Museum of Natural Science really isn’t a museum geared toward young kids. In fact, this was so evident we limited our tour of the museum to the dinosaur exhibit and the energy exhibit.
Both of these were somewhat interesting and somewhat educational, but not overwhelmingly so. And the fact is that it is heavily geared toward evolution and all that. I caution parents to be prepared to have a discussion about their beliefs and how they support or contradict the theory!
Chalk it up to exhaustion or lack of energy, but I was less than engaged. Of course, the dinosaur exhibit held the attention of all but the youngest of our kids (and me). Our youngest, 6 and under, lost interest after the first or second dinosaur. In their defense, even I thought they all looked the same.
However, I’ll tell you this exhibit did spawn a lot of discussion and research in the older kids and they are still, two weeks later, discussing what they learned…so perhaps for kids, 8 and up, this would be a great educational stop, and you moms will just have to suck it up.
The Energy Exhibit
The energy exhibit was way too advanced for both myself and the younger crew. However, given that fracking and oil drilling is such a hot political topic, our oldest kids were interested in this exhibit. Here the entire process of energy development is explored, from how oil and natural gas are formed to the ways in which they are used.
The one really interactive method was the Geovator, which literally is done so well, you feel you are 1000’ underground. Qell at least I did, because I’m slightly claustrophobic and felt like I was going to pass out. It is here that the younger kids had the best opportunity to learn the process of drilling!
The Children’s Museum of Houston
The Children’s Museum of Houston was incredible. It was voted the #1 Children’s Museum by Parents Magazine and rightly so.
I could never do this place justice in just a few short paragraphs, so just know this: If you find yourself in Houston looking for something fun and engaging and educational (and air conditioned) for your kids, this museum is it!
There was one section that knocked my socks off: Kidtropolis. It’s a bona fide, fully functioning, city for kids. Here you learn about jobs and paychecks and purchasing power and voting and shopping and the list goes on !
When you enter the museum, you are given “credit cards” for use in this exhibit. Each card has a balance of $20 on it. They can use the $20 anywhere in the city and can pick up real jobs (each worth $20) throughout Kidtropolis to keep their card well stocked! I was beyond impressed!
This museum is a must see and rest assured, we’ll be back!
Houston, We Have A Problem – Not Enough Time!
As for Houston, there is so much more to investigate and experience! I mean we even missed the great eats to be had like those seen here.
As it was, we were so excited to see so much of Houston. From all the interesting historical sights that are free to the museums and major attractions that are included in the CityPass, Houston is definitely a fun city to visit with kids in tow! The CityPass is a fabulous way to ensure that you are spending your limited time seeing the top rated attractions and maybe, sneak in some educational mojo in on the side!! We’ll be back again, Houston!