Visiting Houston with kids? Houston is one of those cities where you can make a trip exciting for both your kids and yourself!
In typical Samantha fashion, I found myself in Houston unexpectedly. Around lunch time on a super hot summer day I decided I would get in the car and head to H-town. It probably wasn’t the smartest idea to visit Texas in the summer heat with my 9 month old on my hip while 5 months pregnant.. but what can I say? When the travel bug bites, I listen.
Back in 2017 when I lived in Texas, I explored San Antonio extensively while avoiding Houston all together. I had heard a lot of bad things about the city. How it was dirty and how the people were rude. I actually never heard one positive thing about Houston the whole time I lived in Texas. I’m so glad I decided to go and see the city for myself.
Now that I’ve finally had the chance to visit Houston, I have mixed feelings. I had a good time, my daughter had a blast, and I loved our hotel and the area it was in. However, I did get into a situation with a homeless man while walking to get lunch. Like in most big cities, homelessness is a real problem in Houston
I walked my sweaty and tired pregnant self just three blocks down from our hotel to a little sandwich shop with my 9 month old in my arms. On our way back a homeless man was walking with his arm reached out begging and when he got close to me he forcefully jabbed his outstretched hand into my sternum before knocking into me as he walked on by. We both went our own ways and that was the end of it.
I didn’t have any other problems with anyone while we were in Houston, but that incident really bothered me. Yeah, what he did physically hurt me, but what bothered me the most was that I was pregnant and alone with a baby in my arms. I felt vulnerable and situations like that just make you think about your safety and what all COULD happen when you are alone and encounter different people.
These sort of things can happen to you no matter where you are… walking back to your car in the post office parking lot, while you are pumping gas, etc. etc. etc. I just really like to make a point when talking about my travels to give the whole truth. The cost, the highs, the lows, what not to do and so on.
Moving past that incident, I still was happy to visit to Houston and this happening doesn’t discourage me from traveling alone with my daughters in the future and it shouldn’t discourage you either.
Now, when it comes to cheap cities to visit in the U.S., Houston usually doesn’t make the list. However, there are always ways to decrease your travel expenses. Whatever your budget, I’m going to show you how to have an amazing time in Houston.
Free Things To Do in Houston With Kids
Boat Tour of Houston Ship Channel
This is a fantastic opportunity that you don’t want to miss. Sam Houston Boat Tours offer a free 90 minute tour of the Houston Ship Channel. The vessel hold 100 passengers at a time. The only thing you have to do is reserve your place on the boat 24 hours in advance online.
Walk the Museum District
The museum district in Houston has 19 museums and 4 different walkable zones. You will find many of the museums are either free or have certain days and times of the week that they offer free admission.
This is a great place to step out of the city and into nature. It’s also great for kids because of their indoor nature center and the curved boardwalk around the pond. You have a good chance of seeing turtles and other wildlife while you’re at the arboretum.
Art Car Museum
One of the museums I recommend most is Houston is the Art Car Museum. Old cars have been drastically transformed into works of art. You can also see some restored vintage cars as well.
Walk the Historic District
Another area of Houston worth taking a self guided walking tour. See historical landmarks, mansions, churches, and parks. You also can sit along the water at Allen’s Landing Park.
A huge 445 acre urban park located in the southern end of the museum district. The Houston Zoo, Japanese Garden, the planetarium and Bird Island are all in Hermann Park. There are photo opportunities throughout the park and some key features such as the reflecting pool and the Centennial Gardens.
Sylvan Beach Park
Just a thirty minute drive from Houston is the free Sylvan Beach Park. If you are looking for the closest beach to Houston, this is it.
Visit Houston’s Asia Town
Houston has their own little piece of Asia in the city. You can visit the Hong Kong City Mall or take an Asian heritage tour. There are shops and restaurants to visit through out the area. You can also stop at the Teo Chew Temple. Teo Chew is a Vietnamese Buddhist temple and the atmosphere is quiet and serene. When visiting you must dress modestly. Dresses or pants for women and no tank tops or short skirts.
Other Great Things To Do in Houston With Kids
The Houston Zoo
As a traveling mom of two little girls, I’ve been to a lot of zoos, aquariums, nature centers, etc. I have to say Houston Zoo is one of the best. The highlights for us were the sea lion habitat and the elephant habitat. Little ones will love watching the sea lions swim around beneath them. You can also watch the elephants take a swim right in front of you!
I was really surprised at how little marine life this aquarium had. It was a pretty small aquarium. However, what makes this place worth a visit is that they have a restaurant, a white tiger exhibit, and a mini amusement park. Our favorites were the ferris wheel and the train ride through the shark tunnel!
“Houston we have a problem” A trip to Houston wouldn’t be complete without visiting the space center. Take a tour of the center, buy a classic NASA sweatshirt, and even have lunch with an astronaut.
Battleship Texas State Historic Site
If you are a history buff, you should take tour of the battleship. You can tour the ship yourself or take a guided tour to learn a more in depth history of the ship.
Where To Eat
Listed in the “Top 9 Up and Coming Pit masters” this is THE place to stop for Texas style BBQ and ribs.
FOR YOUR SWEET TOOTH
Glazed- The Doughnut Cafe
Dig in to some delicious over the top doughnuts. S’mores, Kit Kat, Oreo, or go crazy with a cheese burger on doughnut buns!
FOR A QUICK BITE
We stopped here twice for lunch; its a great hole in the wall restaurant. Their Spicy Crisp Chicken Sandwich is SO GOOD, I ordered it both times!
A perfect quick stop to build your own salad. Their salad bar has more options and toppings than I’ve ever seen on one before. You can also get soups and wraps!
Where To Stay
Houston Marriott/ Museum District
We loved staying at the Houston Marriott. The room was nice and we had a great view of the city. It was nice to stay in a hotel so close to the attractions we wanted to visit while we were in the city. I’ve never actually stayed in a hotel this expensive until my trip to Houston. We paid $250/night. Looking back, my travelers heart is aching because I’m thinking about what kind of trip I could have taken with the leftover money if I stayed at a hotel half that price…
However, you may want to consider this hotel if you don’t want to rent a car or have to take an Uber all over the city. You really can get to so many attractions and restaurants on foot from this Marriott. You also get amazing views from their rooms no matter which side of the hotel you stay in.
Hampton Inn & Suites
A more affordable option is the Hampton Inn & Suites. It’s also in a great location for walking to surrounding restaurants and activities. You can get a room for around $130/night. The Hampton Inn is right off of Interstate 10 and you are just a short walk away from Memorial Park, the Houston Arboretum, and the quirky Beer Can House.
For a boutique hotel option, try out the Hotel Ylem. It’s a super trendy hotel with a bar, free breakfast and a 24/7 gym. This hotel will allow you easy access to The Houston Zoo, The Downtown Aquarium, Hermann Park, and the museums in the museum district, all within a twenty minute drive. At around just $105/ night this is a great hotel for the price!
How Much Does it Cost to Visit Houston?
I tend to be a frugal traveler. I don’t sleep in hostels or couch surf. Nor do I go our to nice dinners and I don’t usually stay in the nicest hotels. So, this analysis is going to be somewhere on the cheaper side, but not “backpacker cheap.” I think four days is a good amount of time to see the city, so this cost break down is for someone spending three nights/four days in Houston. Simply adjust the days accordingly to fit how many days you plan on staying in Houston.
Also, when it comes to transportation to and from the city, our costs will all be different. I’m going to plug in my travel costs and you can simply replace it with your own estimate for your transportation into the city. Attractions included in this cost break down are the Houston Zoo, The Houston Aquarium, and entrance fees to museums. On our trip to Houston we ate out five times and the rest of our meals were made from groceries I bought and kept in our hotel room.
Transportation to and from Houston: $400
Accommodations: $410 (3 nights)
Getting around the city: $80
Food & Drink: $100
Misc./Other: $50 (tylenol, sunscreen, unexpected parking costs, etc.)
Total Cost for Three Nights & Four Days in Houston: $1,150
Again, this is definitely a middle ground travel budget. Without a doubt you could stay in a five star hotel, rent a nice car, eat every meal at a sit down restaurant, and pay to get in to tons of attractions to up your travel expenses. You could also stay in a budget hotel or Air BnB, eat the majority of your meals from the grocery store, and only see free or cheap attractions to lower your travel costs.
No matter how you choose to see the city, Houston with kids is a lot of fun! I always say travel doesn’t have to end when you have children; in a lot of ways it really just begins.