A Monday in Houston... With a Toddler
April 12, 2009 9:25 PM   Subscribe

It looks like we're going to be in Houston for a full day, and are trying to find something to do. Difficulty: We have a two-year-old in tow, and Houston's famed Children's Museum is closed on Mondays. :(

Usually it's pretty easy to find travel recommendations here, but I was surprised to not find much on Houston (except this).

We're probably going to hit the Galleria at some point--our hotel is very close to it--but would like to see something other than a shopping mall while we're here. Parks, museums, any recommendations along those lines would be useful, especially if they're toddler-friendly and unique to Houston. (And, uh, open on Monday.)

We'd probably like to get a decent dinner in the evening, so recommendations on kid-friendly restaurants would be appreciated as well.
posted by mrbula to Travel & Transportation around Houston, TX (11 answers total)
Best answer: I have no idea of the geography of the area, as I've never been there--so I don't know if it's anywhere near where you're staying--but I've heard the Houston Zoo is very good. Sounds like the kind of thing most two-year-olds would enjoy.
posted by cerebus19 at 9:33 PM on April 12, 2009

If you're near the Galleria, you'll be near the Water Wall at the Williams Tower (formerly Transco). It's a lot more crowded than it was when I started going there as a teenager in the early 80s, but it's really lovely.

My friends with kids in the under-4 age range talk about going to Discovery Green all the time. It's downtown and would involve a car trip.

/Houston expat now in Austin, no kids but lots of friends with them.
posted by immlass at 9:49 PM on April 12, 2009

There's a skating rink in the Galleria mall. Even though your little one probably won't skate, this may be interesting to watch, in addition to a very interesting fountain in the mall right across (if it's still there?) the Discovery store (if I remember properly). I ended up eating in a number of the restaurants which were in the Galleria because of lack of access to a car. There were a number of good mid-priced restaurants which would be toddler friendly. Also, there was a lower end Mexican restaurant next to the skating rink which was dynamite!

I posted this question to the hive a while back and followed many of the suggestions given in that thread and all of them were good.
posted by kch at 9:56 PM on April 12, 2009

Best answer: Seconding a trip to the zoo: it's actually pretty great, and hopefully the weather will be as wonderful as it was today. I'd advise you, however, to stay away from the Galleria: it's a terrible, soul-crushing place and I can't imagine a two-year-old (or anyone else, for that matter) having a good time there.

If you end up at the zoo, make sure to walk around Hermann Park for a while: I bike through it almost every day and see kids having fun watching all the different birds all the time (bring a camera for some great pictures, too). Bring a loaf of bread or birdseed to feed the birds for even more fun (not sure if it's allowed, but kids especially seem to love it).

The Houston Museum of Natural Science features a butterfly center which might be fun for kids.
posted by halogen at 10:09 PM on April 12, 2009

confirming that the Galleria isn't the greatest place in the world for anyone, but if you're going to be there for your own reasons, it's worth having a few ideas in your back pocket.
posted by kch at 10:34 PM on April 12, 2009

Best answer: No to Galleria, YES to Zoo and Houston Museum on Nat. Science, right near each other. Hermann Park near the Zoo entrance is still undergoing renovations, but they just opened the train! The train! Any two-year-old will LOVE it. Zoo has a great merry-go-round and good petting zoo section. If you get there right when it opens you can see them feeding lots of the animals and the zookeepers are very friendly, happy to answer questions.
Be sure to bring a stroller or tired-child-carrying-implement of your choice, it's a long but fun day and they will definitely get nappish when you are as far from your car as possible.
posted by pomegranate at 3:54 AM on April 13, 2009

Oh and Discovery Green is the bomb-diggety but we always have the best time when there's lots of other kids there, so after work/school hours is better. If you're spending the night you could go to Discovery Green for an early dinner, your child can play and you can eat really yummy food.
I'm telling you, zoo day is the best way to spend just one day in Houston. There are beautiful botanical gardens and museums in walking distance of the zoo, too, for adults - but I doubt you'd have time to get to them.
posted by pomegranate at 3:57 AM on April 13, 2009

As stated above, there is a great train at the zoo. Perhaps even better, depending on the child, is the Metrorail, which runs along Main Street, and Fannin. This train has the opportunity to entertain by viewing the streetscape of downtown, midtown, and the medical center, all for $2 per person.

Also, try the Houston Arbortum, which is just up the West Loop from you. There are very nice nature trails, and a nature center with things for little hands to do.
posted by Midnight Skulker at 7:08 AM on April 13, 2009

Best answer: You don't say when you're coming, but the Children's Museum is open on Mondays after Memorial Day. Just FYI.

I agree that the zoo/Hermann Park/museum district (all within a very walkable half a mile, even with a stroller) is really where the money is, both for kid-friendliness and for a general nice time in Houston, particularly at this time of year. You'll have to drive a short way from the Galleria area, but you can park in one of the free Hermann Park lots (or in the not-free but relatively cheap Natural History Museum parking garage, if you don't want to bother). From there, you have access to all of the above. The butterfly pavilion at the NHM is worth checking out. The train that people have mentioned is fun, but it's in the park rather than in the zoo. As an added bonus, you are then right on the light rail, which will take you to Discovery Green if you're feeling particularly ambitious. The only downside to the area is that it's kind of hard to get lunch if you don't want zoo food. You could light rail into the medical center to the Dryden stop, where there is a Chipotle, Subway, and a sushi place, but otherwise you might plan on eating a packed lunch or planning to drive.

The Galleria is just a mall, and not really worth going unless you have some high-end shopping to accomplish.

Restaurants: Houston is by and large a very casual city, so most places are actually pretty kid-friendly, although I wouldn't recommend Tony's or Marks. Particularly fun places for kids include Lupe Tortilla, which has a big sandbox and playground, and very convenient to the Galleria and the Museum District. Mission Burrito on Alabama also has a playground, and also gives toys with kids' meals. Otherwise, just pick somewhere you want to eat, and unless it is really upscale or if you go really late, you're likely to be fine.

Have fun! You can memail me for a phone number if you need a local contact for directions or an emergency diaper or anything. :)
posted by LittleMissCranky at 8:33 AM on April 13, 2009

Another vote for the zoo and discovery green.
posted by arcticseal at 5:11 PM on April 14, 2009

Response by poster: We hit the zoo, Herman Park and the Galleria. The zoo was fantastic, and our two-year-old loved it.

The Galleria, as halogen noted, did turn out to be a terrible, soul-crushing place, but at least we were able to grab dinner.
posted by mrbula at 9:38 AM on April 15, 2009

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