Houston has many attractions for all ages. I’ve been there for conferences and business trips. Galveston is close enough for an easy day trip to the beach, dinner on the Strand, a bay fishing trip, or deep sea fishing adventure. There are professional sports teams. There are amazing parks and recreation centers. But with so many options, how do you know which are the best things to do? Here are our picks for the best museums in Houston for kids:
Houston Museum of Natural Science
The one location that we can visit over and over again is the Houston Museum of Natural Science. There are fossils, gems, minerals, seashells, chemistry, and Egyptian collections. There is an giant screen theater with some 3D offerings.
Our favorite section of the museum is the Butterfly Center. It includes an entomology center, an interactive bug learning center, and an enclosed rain forest area where hundreds of species fly uninhibited around a 50 foot waterfall. While you are not allowed to touch the butterflies or catch them, they frequently land on guests briefly throughout the walk.
The interactive bug centers could easily hold children’s interest for hours. Where else can you learn so much about bugs – including how to cook and serve them? I always shudder a little as I walk by, but there are vending machines that sell a variety of bug foods. I’m not brave enough to try any of them, but my family enjoys (ugh!) the lollipops with meal worms, crickets, or scorpions.
In downtown Houston, there is an underwater haven, the Downtown Aquarium. The aquarium is a diverse blend of indoor aquatic exhibits and outdoor adventure. Fish aren’t the only species inside. There are huge snakes, birds, and a white tiger. Outside there is a train that winds through an outdoor 360 degree trip. As the open air train enters the aquarium tunnel, you are surrounded on the sides and above you with exotic fish and sharks swimming just inches away.
The highlight of our day was lunch in the aquarium restaurant. We sat steps away from a 155,000 gallon floor to ceiling tank filled with starfish, exotic fish, coral, and sharks. Our food came all too soon as we enjoyed the sharks sitting next to us!
Houston Space Center
A little bit further out of town is the Houston Space Center, but it is well worth the drive. With multiple exhibits outside, you could wander the Center for days, but it is completely doable in a single day as well. The Center has an indoor kids’ space just inside the door that is a perfect place for the children to burn off a little energy midway through the visit. The negative side is that the kids’ space is the first thing they see walking in the door!
Once you get past the play area, there is a mock-up of a space shuttle to tour, exhibits that include used space vehicles, moon rocks, astronaut paraphernalia, and the history of space exploration. There is also an interactive element to the Center with space flight simulators (these were lots of fun!), movies, and learning games. There are also scales to show you how much you weigh on different planets and the moon. (I’m not interested!) Overall, the Space Center is a great day trip for the casual visitor and could interest the space enthusiast for several days.
For a great hotel near the Space Center, check out Hilton Houston NASA Clear Lake.
With so many family friendly options, you’ll find something for everyone’s interests. What’s on your list for the best museums in Houston for kids?