Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Affordable Kid Things to do in Houston this Summer

My life as a stay-at-home-mom started off with a bang. In the beginning, I spared no expense toting the kids all around the city to a different place every day…making up for lost time, I suppose. We had a plan for every day of the week and I really enjoyed all of these new experiences with my kids.

Well, my working-mom ways haven't completely left me…I still thrive on having something planned every day! However, I quickly realized that on my no-salary salary, upwards of $30 a day in admission fees alone to do all of these things wasn't going to cut it! I wanted to share some of the free and more affordable places that I've found and would love your feedback on the same. Yes, I realize summer is coming to an end (maybe?!) but it's going to be boiling in Houston through September so you still have plenty of time to give these a whirl!

My HOT Houston Summer Kid Picks!

  1. Splash Parks - I was introduced to the wonderful world of splash parks when I went to visit my friend Chelsea in May. I don't know why this was such a novel idea to me but I just envisioned chaos and dirty water. NOT THE CASE. In Houston, there are some great city parks with water features that are FREE FREE FREE! Here are the two that I have visited and loved:
    1. Discovery Green - You can find "Gateway Fountain" towards the corner of McKinney and La Branch downtown. The splash park was big enough for Cooper to get a kick out of it and gradual enough for Carrington to crawl around at the edge and play. As a bonus, there is an awesome playground right next to it that the kids can run back and forth to. Really, it is too dang hot to play on a playground midday in Houston in the summer so the chance to cool off in the water was awesome. Double bonus, at the time we went, Kyle was still working downtown so he picked up some sandwiches and we had a family picnic on the lush lawn!
    2. Jaycee Park - My friend Shelby told us about this place and we love it. The splash area is small enough for me to feel safe letting Carrington loose and she had so much fun. This is a great place for crawlers. Also, they have a really unique playground as well…not your typical slide and swing set. When Cooper tired of the splash area, as three year olds do, he was very content to explore the playground and I was easily able to keep him in sight. Jaycee Park is located right inside the 610 loop and very easy to get to.
  2. Looscan Neighborhood Library - We visited  the library for the first time last week. This library has story time every Wednesday. We walked into quite a scene in the second floor meeting room. There were kids EVERYWHERE playing with all sorts of toys on a big colorful carpet. The sight had Cooper immediately running for the hills but I somehow convinced him to say. The storyteller was really enthusiastic and sweet and started the class with a couple of songs before she read books and led craft time. Cooper very enthusiastically told the teacher he would not be participating in crafts (yeah, ok) but I'm sure the other kids had a great time. All in all, this was a great place to spend an hour for free in the air conditioning.
  3. The Little Galleria - A free air-conditioned play area for the win. Located in the Galleria, the Little Galleria is a foam replica of the buildings in the Galleria. Cooper could climb to the top of all of the buildings and there was a little slide small enough for Carrington to scoot around on. While small, this play area held their attention for about 30 minutes. I would definitely bring them back and would use it as a bribe if I ever needed to run a dreaded Galleria errand with kids! 
  4. Houston Children's Museum - OK, so this one isn't free but I think the membership is such good value. For $95, you can get a family membership for a year and use of the express entry line. The three of us would burn through $95 in admission fees in just about three visits so the membership was a no brainer. We now go about once a week and love the kinetics room, the science experiments and, of course, the outdoor water park. Let me tell you, enjoying a $1 coconut popsicle outside while your kids happily play independently is such a treat.
  5. Houston Zoo - Again, not free, but the membership is such a steal at $96 for a family for the year. My father-in-law has gifted this to us for the last two years and both of my kids thoroughly enjoy it. The Houston Zoo is one of the rare kid places in town that actually opens before 10am (9am to be exact), so if you go early you can beat the heat and the crowds a little bit. Plus, you can always pop into the reptile house or cruise through a mister if you get too hot. And then there's the ice cream…

The proof is in the pictures!

Carrington at Discovery Green

Cooper at Discovery Green

Jaycee Park
Smiles for Jaycee Park

Waiting for story-time at Looscan

The Little Galleria (and typical blurry Cooper pic)

Of course Sister LOVED the Little Galleria!

Teamwork at the Children's Museum

Zoo Carousel with Cita!
My list of summer recommendations would not be complete without mention of our beloved shark pool. For the days when your activities are confined to the house, this is a no brainer. I bought two from Academy last year when they were on sale for $10. Sorry, the price has now gone up to $12.99, ha! We are still on the original after two summers of play. You can hook up your hose and water shoots out of the tail. Throw in a plastic slide and you are practically at a water park!

Since it would be a disservice just to mention the places I loved, I do have one for the "DO NOT RECOMMEND" list. My friend Lyndsey and I took our kids to the Soto Exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts this morning. As advertised, this exhibit is "intended to be touched, handled, and waded through" and our kids really enjoyed doing just that. However, I did not appreciate the docents hovering around asking our kids not to hold on to the strands or get them tangled every five seconds. "NO RUNNING! NO HOLDING! NOOOOOOOOO TWIRLING!" I have never been more relieved to see a troop of big kids from a summer camp show up to divert the attention!

Here's the thing, either a place is kid-friendly or it isn't. I am not the parent that brings my kids to fancy restaurants or other places that are not age-appropriate and in fact frown upon parents who do. I'M A RULE FOLLOWER PEOPLE!!! However, the MFAH advertising was clearly geared towards kids and the environment was anything but. When Cooper tripped and fell in this tunnel (we were all a little disoriented), the docent came running over not to offer help but to ask the we return to the pathway immediately. Yeah, got it! I think the final straw was when a docent at the park across the street (not even a paid part of the museum) asked Lyndsey's two year old to back away from the bronzed statue she was admiring and sweetly pointing to. Yes, the statue that was outside that birds poop on. 

The kids had fun nonetheless but I will NOT take them back until they are at least 25!

Clearly these kids were about to tear the place down:

Admiring the exhibit from the safety of my arms!

Big kids had no time for photos!

That's a happy boy!

Sister was not sure what to think!

Yeah, we got it.



  1. Add those fun days to Watercolors, Blanco River, The Coast, and Colorado. Quite a summer for the kiddos! Beautiful pictures.

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