Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo // © 2017 iStock
Feature image (above): Houston is Texas’ biggest city and the country’s fourth-largest. // © 2017 Visit Houston
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
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.
WHERE TO STAY
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.
WHERE TO EAT
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
WHEN TO GO
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