BUDGET By far, your best bet bang for your buck is the Houston Zoo. Located in central Houston, it is easy to find from any major freeway and is a wonderfully relaxing oasis away from concrete and traffic. Admissions run from $8 to $12 per person, but military ID card holders are FREE!!! You can bring your own food in to picnic in shady pavilions, but there are also several places to buy yummy (but pricey) zoo food. If it is hot, go early and make sure your kids have a suit under their clothes for the Splash Pad.
SPLURGE Right down the street from the zoo you will find the Houston Museum of Natural Science. Admission to the main exhibition hall starts at about $12, but any special exhibits, Imax shows, or the Butterfly Dome, will cost extra. If you can’t decide what to choose, I would go with the Butterfly Dome. Set up as a giant globe, it displays a wide array of exotic butterflies flittering through a muggy rainforest, complete with a cascading waterfall.
BUDGET If sports are your thing, Houston is the place to be. With three professional sports teams, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, and various PGA golfing events, tickets are almost always available for something. One of our family’s favorites was the Houston Astros baseball games. I can’t say we are really baseball fans, but we had such a great time cheering for the team at Minute Maid Stadium, it is something we will not soon forget. The cheap seats start at about $12 and they are almost always available….even last minute. Eat before you go, because the souvenir sodas and stadium eats are pretty expensive, but you might want to bring some extra money for some Blue Bell ice cream, which is made in Texas.
SPLURGE Probably the most expensive sporting event we went to was a Houston Texans football game. Played at Reliant Stadium, cheering with about 72,000 of your closest friends is a once in a lifetime experience. Tickets need to be purchased well in advance, because the games often sell out. We left the kids at home for this one because the tickets hit almost $200 for the both of us. Add the $30 parking and some $10 beers and you’ve taken a vacation from your vacation. But the beers, the cheerleaders, the jumbo-trons, and the thousands of cheering fans, make it well worth the cost. It is football as exciting as it gets!
BUDGET Your trip to Houston will not be complete without visiting the Gulf of Mexico. Almost every weekend from about April through October, we went down the beach. Skip the touristy beaches and go where the locals do to save some money. Head south on Hwy 288 and follow the signs to Surfside Beach Texas. In about 45 minutes you can drive directly onto the beach and pull your vehicle right up to the water’s edge. The water is shallow and warm, and there are plenty of shells on shore, and small waves to catch with your boogie board. Stop at one of the three Buckee’s gas stations on the drive down and buy some fried chicken and beach souvenirs for a steal!
SPLURGE Most people drive to Galveston Island for their beach visit in Houston. Galveston has the beach AND a lot of extra activities to enjoy. Most of Galveston beaches are set along the city seawall. Chairs and umbrellas are available for rental, and are a good idea to get in the hot Texas sun. There are many drink and food shacks along the beach, and unlike Surfside, most of the beaches have lifeguards on duty. If you are not quite into the sand in your chicken picnic I mentioned above, you’ll be happy to know that Galveston has many restaurants, from McDonalds to Rainforest Café, to Landry’s Seafood. And, if ending your day washing the sand out of your bathing suit isn’t your thing, you must hit Schlitterbahn…..a fantastic water park that is famous in Texas. Tickets start at $53.00 per person, but you can often find family deals online. Float on the lazy river or fly down one of the zero gravity slides, either way, it is a great day for all ages in your family.
I could really go on and on and on, but these suggestions were probably my family’s favorite things we enjoyed while living in Houston. I hope you get a chance to visit someday!