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The COVID-19 pandemic has changed how Houston children spend their summers, but with the world returning to a sense of normalcy, parents are looking for things to do in Houston this summer. From free outdoor concerts to story times for kids to waterpark splashing and more, there’s ample summer fun for the whole family.

Here are the Defender’s picks for kid and family friendly activities in Houston this summer.

Outdoors

Because the Centers for Disease Control says outdoors is the best place for unvaccinated people, and children under 13 are still unvaccinated, many parents are looking for the best places to take their children outdoors this summer.

  • Galveston beach is a great to go hang out, and have fun. And with the Pleasure Pier, families can enjoy the beach or take in the amusements on the boardwalk. The great thing is this is all outdoors, so no worries about a virus spreading. Visit www.galveston.com
  • Moody Gardens: The Galveston location is ideal for families and groups alike. Delve into the oceans depths at the Aquarium Pyramid, explore the world of science at Discovery Museum, experience the action of MAX and enjoy gulf breezes aboard the Colonel Paddlewheel Boat. Visit www.moodygardens.com
  • Kemah Boardwalk: This coastal getaway features themed restaurants, retail shops, and amusements for the whole family. This 35-acre carnival-like atmosphere has a 36-foot carousel, a 65-foot Ferris wheel and rides like the Aviator, the Inverter and the Boardwalk Tower. Visit www.kemahboardwalk.com
  • Market Square Park: Grab a blanket for any number of fun (and free) activities at Market Square Park. Located in the center ofDowntown Houston’s Historic District, the park features a play area for kids, performance area for events, and even a picturesque garden with seasonal flowers and a water fountain. The park also has a dog run with a water feature for your furry best friend. Regular free events include movie screenings, concerts and even a little blanket bingo.
  • Discovery Green: An 11.78-acre public park that’s frequented by locals and visitors alike, Discovery Green has a little something for everybody! Enjoy free yoga classes, concerts, movie nights, storytime for toddlers, and open-air reading rooms. You can also rent games for use in the playground, or just laze about on the green—there’s free Wi-Fi too!
  • Urban Harvest Farmers Market: Get your fresh fruits and vegetables with a side of entertainment and education at the Urban Harvest Farmers Market. Besides selecting your favorite veggies, you and the kids can also take virtual classes to learn about the many aspects of gardening. And if you’re really gung-ho, you can sign up for one of the certificate courses. Meat, coffee and other culinary products are also for sale. Check out the Urban Harvest calendar for their variety of event listings and food demonstrations.
  • Buffalo Bayou Boat Tours: Take a break from the hustle and bustle of the city with a private, relaxing ride along the Buffalo Bayou with a boat tour. The 90-minute ride takes you along the heart of Downtown, historic Buffalo Bayou past Allen’s Landing, Sesquicentennial Park and Sabine Promenade, McKee Street Bridge, and the industrial side of the city. Due to Covid-19, only private charters are available, but the tour can accommodate up to 20 people and be scheduled at your convenience based on availability.
  • Lee and Joe Jamail Skatepark: If you enjoy being active and adventure is on your to-do list, check out the Lee and Joe Jamail Skatepark. Located in Eleanor Tinsley Park, the state-of-the-art venue is the first world-class, in-ground skatepark in the region. Whether you’re a novice or you’re ready to go pro, the public 30,000 square-foot area is perfect for beginning, intermediate and advanced skateboard classes for learners ages 6 to 17.
  • Miller Outdoor Theater is a tradition for countless residents. Families can bring picnic baskets, blankets and lawn chairs. Visit www.MillerOutdoorTheater.com
  • Houston Arboretum and Nature Center: If you’re wondering what to do in Houston with kids, the 155-acre center that protects the native flora and fauna and educates visitors is an excellent choice! Walk the 5 miles of trails, enjoy the interactive exhibits at the Discovery Room, shop at the Nature Shop, and explore The Wildlife Garden and the Carol Tatkon Sensory Garden!
  • Houston Area Live Steamers: Dedicated to live steam modeling, the Houston Area Live Steamers is “the” organization for free rides aboard steam engine and diesel model trains, along a 4,700-foot track. Take the Cypress Creek and Southern Railroad track for a scenic ride through the Northwest Harris County park, replete with miniature bridges and windmills. You can also picnic in Zube Park.
  • Old Macdonald’s Farm: This activity center features a range of fun things to do, from mini-train rides to pumpkin patches to swimming pools to a petting zoo. Pet a range of animals including cows, sheep, emus and llamas. In addition to playgrounds and pony rides, there are slides for the young ones and a volleyball area for older kids.

Indoor

The Chidren’s Museum of Houston reopens June 8.
  • Project Row Houses: Travel to one of the city’s oldest African American neighborhoods to take in the art of Project Row Houses. Located in Northern Third Ward, Project Row Houses includes six blocks of 40 shotgun-style homes adorned with art, photography and literary projects. Visitors can learn about the history of the area and enjoy food from local vendors at its daily Project Food Trucks throughout the summer.
  • Space Center Houston:Kids can experience the rich history and the awe of space at Space Center Houston. From the popular Build-A-Rocket to Mission Kidtrol, children will explore and learn the concepts of space. For a real behind-the-scenes look at NASA, take your kids on the exclusive Level Nine Tour. Visit www.spacecenter.org
  • Children’s Museum of Houston: This museum has quite the noble beginning—the founding members of the museum were parents who sought to improve childhood development in the community, back in 1980. Check out the range of interactive exhibits. The Market is a play-area-cum-learning-center; there’s also another outdoor area with water pipes and toy boats for the tots to enjoy.
  • The Chocolate Bar: This is as close to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory as it gets; satisfy all those sweet cravings in this restaurant that pays tribute to all things chocolate. Dig into delicious cakes, cookies, pies, ice cream and the must-try ‘trompe l’oeil’ pizza, stock up at the traditional candy counter and enjoy live music and swing dancing on Thursdays.
  • The Mad Potter: This is where you head for all things pottery related; this fun studio has on offer a ton of fun kids activities that will leave tots spoilt for choice! Choose your vessel, paint it, and take it home! The studio also organizes summer camps and painting parties for kids and adults (and for pets, too!).

Water fun

  •  Schlitterbahn Water Park: One of the top family-friendly hubs in the state, Schlitterbahn appeals to both the adrenaline junkies and the more sober of disposition, too. Ride the uphill Dragon Blaster water coaster, or catch lovely views of the park while riding the Soaring Eagle Zipline. You’ll have to navigate the park through its lazy river—quite a fun, unique feature! ·    
  • Splashtown: Located in far Northwest Houston, Splashtown houses acres of water slides, tube rides and interactive children’s play areas. Beat the Texas heat by going tubing down a lazy river, splashing around in the wave pool, or sliding down a 7-story water slide. Season passes and discounted group rates available. There are countless ways to hit the water in SplashTown. Try the 75-foot drop into a ginormous pool of swirling water in The Tornado, or the 5-story Texas Freefall for a serious adrenaline rush! There are also many family rides, such as a lazy river and many kid-friendly eateries. ·     
  • Quillian Center Noah’s Ark and Pool: One of the best pools in Houston, the Noah’s Ark pool is an ideal attraction for families with small children. Shallow water and a variety of toddler-friendly slides and waterfalls make this a safe and enjoyable way for families to escape the heat. The Quillian Center also includes two full-size swimming pools, a basketball pavilion and an indoor climbing wall for older children. Facilities are available to rent for parties or other large-group gatherings.