How to Have a Perfect Family Vacation in Houston

How to Have a Perfect Family Vacation in Houston

With world-class museums, unique attractions and easy access to the beach, Texas’ largest city provides everything you need for the ultimate family getaway By: Ilene Jacobs
<p>Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo // © 2017 iStock</p><p>Feature image (above): Houston is Texas’ biggest city and the country’s fourth-largest. //...

Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo // © 2017 iStock

Feature image (above): Houston is Texas’ biggest city and the country’s fourth-largest. // © 2017 Visit Houston

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Known more for its energy, healthcare and  aerospace, Houston may not be the first place that comes to mind when planning a family vacation. But the country’s fourth-largest city has emerged as one of most exciting travel destinations for 2017. Perhaps that’s because Houston gives visitors a lot to cover in terms of attractions and events. The only dilemma? Trying to squeeze it all in.

A good place to start is the city’s Museum District, a tree-lined neighborhood boasting 19 museums, galleries and cultural centers in a 1.5-mile radius.

Families with younger children will want to head to the Children’s Museum of Houston, where they can explore 14 interactive exhibits, including Kidtropolis, a pint-size city designed for children to learn how the real world works. Next up is the Houston Museum of Natural Science, which features four floors of awe-inspiring galleries containing everything from mummies and rare gems to a renowned paleontology hall.

Need a place for the kids to blow off a little steam? Then you’re in luck — Houston has more green space than any other top 10 most-populous city in the U.S. And one of the city’s finest public parks, Hermann Park Conservancy, also happens to be in the Museum District. Along with paddleboats, a miniature train and an outdoor theater, this 445-acre park is home to the Houston Zoo.

Another outdoor favorite is Buffalo Bayou Park, a lush 124-acre greenbelt that stretches along the city’s namesake waterway. Here, you’ll find a system of trails, a skate park and several children’s playgrounds, as well as canoe/kayak and bicycle rental centers.

But the park’s biggest draw by far is its "Cistern," an underground drinking-water reservoir that has been reimagined into a tourist destination and public art space. Open to kids ages 9 and over, the Cistern is only accessible through a docent-led tour, but visitors are welcome to peek inside through a periscope installed above.

Of course, a visit to the Space City wouldn’t be complete without a stop at Houston’s top attraction: the Johnson Space Center, situated about 30 miles from downtown Houston. The complex functions as NASA’s primary control and training facility as well as Houston’s first Smithsonian Affiliate museum.

After the space center, if families head about 7 miles down the road, they’ll find  Kemah Boardwalk, a 60-acre waterfront theme park on Galveston Bay that features shops, restaurants, rides, games and nightly entertainment.

Speaking of Galveston, it’s only an hour drive from downtown Houston and well worth setting some time aside to explore.

In addition to beautiful sandy beaches, the island offers Moody Gardens, an eco-themed amusement park with an aquarium, a rainforest habitat, a science museum and a waterpark.

Finally, try to plan your visit during March when the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is held. Billed as the world’s largest, this three-week shindig includes concerts, carnival rides, cook-offs, livestock competitions and of course, action-packed rodeo thrills.


Marriott Marquis Houston
For those who want to be in the heart of the action, this newest addition to the Houston skyline features restaurants, bars, a spa and a one-of-a-kind rooftop lazy river shaped like Texas.

The Houstonian Hotel
Set on 18 acres of woodland in the heart of Houston, the resort offers playgrounds, pools and access to a health club. Concierge Level rooms include complimentary continental breakfast and snacks.


Downtown Aquarium
Guests can dine alongside a 150,000-gallon fish tank as well as enjoy amusement park rides and various habitat displays.

El Real Tex Mex
This cavernous eatery serves up old-school Tex-Mex in a former 1930s movie theater.


Due to its proximity to the Gulf of Mexico, Houston experiences a subtropical climate year-round and receives more rainfall than Seattle. Winters are usually mild, while summers are always hot and humid. The best time to visit is between February and April and from September to November, when average highs range from 68 to 86 degrees.

Houston is served by two airports: George Bush Intercontinental Airport, located 20 miles north of downtown; and William P. Hobby International Airport, located 11 miles southeast of downtown. Note that Houston is the hub for United Airlines.

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