Houston Free and Cheap Activities for Kids!


Summer vacation is just around the corner!  If you’re on a budget, but you still want to have a good time with your kids this summer, make sure you check out these Houston Free and Cheap Activities for Kids!

Houston Free Activities for Kids

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Discovery Green – If you haven’t checked out Discovery Green yet, this summer is the perfect time to do it!  They’ve got something for EVERYONE including free kayak classes, free yoga, and free family movie nights!  They’ve also got a playground and fountains where your kids can play!

Find park hours and directions here–> Discovery Green Information


Image Credit: Hermann Park Conservancy

Hermann Park – They’ve got the perfect spot for a summer picnic!  You’ll also find Japanese gardens, hiking trails, playgrounds, fountains, and more!  For a small fee, you can ride the train or pedal boats, too!  They’ve got easy access to many local museums and the zoo, too!

Buffalo Bayou Park – They’ve got 160 acres of biking and jogging trails, fountains, and art work!  It includes a skate park, dog park, police officer memorial, nature play area, and more!  In the evenings, check out the Waugh Bridge Bat Colony!

Houston Arboretum & Nature Center – We haven’t been here yet, but it’s free 365 days a year and includes hiking trails and wildlife habitats!  They also have special children’s programs for children ages 18 months-12 years old!  Find out more here–> Houston Arboretum Children’s Programs

Take advantage of these free zoo and museum days: parking fees may apply – if you’re a Bank of America card holder, the first weekend of the month, you can also enjoy The Children’s Museum, Houston Zoo, and The Museum of Fine Arts free thanks to the Museums on Us program

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Miller Outdoor Theater – This has been on my “bucket list” for awhile now!  They’ve got FREE daytime and evening performances that the entire family can enjoy including children’s classics and performances from the Houston Grand Opera.  Arrive early for the best seating!

See the schedule here–> Miller Outdoor Theater schedule

Make sure you check out the Theatre Under the Stars scheduletoo!  Upcoming plays include Cinderella, Hairspray, and The Little Mermaid (you do have to purchase tickets for these events)


Port of Houston Boat Tour – How cool is this?  You can take a FREE 90 minute boat tour of the Port of Houston!  Kids and parents will enjoy seeing local “wildlife” including pelicans and seagulls, checking out all the ships, and seeing how they move cargo!  You must make reservations in advance.

Check out the tour schedule and make your reservations here–> Port of Houston Boat Tour Reservations


Water Spraygrounds – Did you know that the City of Houston has 23 FREE Splash Pads that they call Water Spraygrounds?  Find a location near you here–> Free Splashpads in Houston

Image Credit:  HALS

Image Credit: HALS

Zube Park Free Train Rides – Houston Area Live Steamers offers free train rides once a month at Zube Park!  All ages are welcome to ride!

See the latest schedule here–> Zube Park Train Rides schedule

 Activities for Kids in Houston


These activities are not “free” but they are “must see” things to do in Houston!  One of my favorite ways to see all of these things on a budget is with a Houston CityPass!  Kids can see five attractions for $41 and adults pay just $51!  You’ll save up to $45 when you get one!  Check it out here–> Houston CityPass


Downtown Aquarium – They’ve got carnival games, rides, and more!  Your kids can feed the stingrays in the Stingray Reef and they’ll love all of the exhibits in the Aquarium Adventure, too.


Houston Children’s Museum – I have to confess that I haven’t been to children’s museums in other places, so I have nothing to compare this to, but I think that the Houston Children’s Museum is pretty fantastic!  Your kids get their own ATM card to manage while they’re there.  They will earn money working jobs ranging from a veterinarian to a cashier at a grocery store and if they’re lucky, they may even end up working at a news station!  I recommend planning to stay for several hours!


Houston Museum of Natural Science – My kids are HUGE fans!  See dinosaurs, mummies, and more!  They have rotating specialty exhibits, too!


Houston Zoo – My kids have LOVED trips to the zoo from a young age.  Make sure you check out the schedule online before you go so you don’t miss special daily events.  Splurge and let your kids feed the giraffes at least once.  It’s an unforgettable experience!


Kemah Boardwalk – I took my kids to the Kemah Boardwalk for the first time during Spring Break this year!  They loved it so much that my son begged to go back for his birthday!  They’ve got thrill rides, live music and entertainment, boardwalk games, and great restaurants!


Space Center Houston – If you live in Houston and you haven’t been to Space Center Houston yet, you MUST visit! I can still remember my first trip as a child and I learn new things every time I go back with my own children! TIP: Arrive EARLY and head straight for the tram tours. Otherwise, you’ll be waiting several hours if you try to go later in the day!

You can also choose to visit The Houston Museum of Fine Arts.

Here are a few other activities work checking out:
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Summer of 2014 Staycation Travel Guide!


Summer is almost here!  One way to save money is to plan a staycation!  If you’re looking for ways to enjoy your city on a budget, check out the Summer of 2014 Staycation Travel Guide!  You’ll also find budget friendly tourist attractions in other cities you may be visiting this summer!

Here are some tips for saving money on your next vacation:

Here are some of my staycation tips:


Summer of 2014 Staycation Travel Guide

A – D

Phoenix-Metro, Arizona ~ Mom Endeavors
Scottsdale, Arizona ~ Saving For Someday
Tucson, Arizona ~ Desert Chica Ramblings
Bentonville, Arkansas ~ This Sweet Life
Fullerton, California ~ More with Less Today
San Diego, California ~ Southern Cali Saver.com
Denver, Colorado ~ Bargain Blessings
Washington, District of Columbia ~ Kidventurous

F – I

Jacksonville, Florida ~ Saving The Family Money
Orlando, Florida ~ The Educators’ Spin On It
Tallahassee, Florida ~ SwagGrabber
Tampa, Florida ~ Not Consumed
Chicago (and suburbs), Illinois ~ A Savings WOW!
Chicago, Illinois ~ Entertaining Chicago
Fort Wayne, Indiana ~ Simplified Saving
Indianapolis, Indiana ~ Chaos Is Bliss
Des Moines, Iowa ~ Eat, Play, Love Des Moines

K – P

Northern Kentucky (Boone, Kenton, Campbell Co) ~ Simply Sherryl
Annapolis, Maryland ~ The Happy Housewife
Boston, Massachusetts ~ Maven of Savin
Grand Rapids, Michigan ~ Give Me Neither
Metro Detroit, Michigan ~ Saving Dollars and Sense
Oakland County, Michigan ~ Everyday Savvy
South Haven, Michigan ~ Bargain Briana
Twin Cities, Minnesota ~ Creative Couponing
Kansas City, Missouri/Kansas ~ Kosher on a Budget
Kansas City, Missouri/Kansas ~ Kansas City Mamas
Southern Missouri ~ Getting Freedom
Omaha, Nebraska ~ Family Fun in Omaha
Reno (& Northern), Nevada ~ Premeditated Leftovers
Buffalo/Niagara Falls, New York ~ Anns’ Entitled Life
Syracuse, New York ~ I am THAt Lady
Cincinnati, Ohio ~ Adventure mom
Columbus, Ohio ~ Cleverly Simple
Dayton, Ohio ~ Savings Lifestyle
Northeast Ohio ~ Raising Lifelong Learners
Northeast Ohio (Canton, Akron, Cleveland) ~ Sisters Shopping on a Shoestring
North Central Oklahoma ~ From this Kitchen Table
Portland, Oregon ~ Frugal Living NW
Erie, Pennsylvania ~ Growing Kids Ministry
Harrisburg/Central, Pennsylvania ~ Family Balance Sheet
Lancaster, Pennsylvania ~ Pandora’s Deals
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania ~ The Coupon High
Northeastern Pennsylvania (NEPA) ~ Bucktown Bargains

R – W

Providence, Rhode Island ~ Everyday Family Living
Beaufort, South Carolina ~ Kathys Cluttered Mind
Chattanooga, Tennessee ~ Living Chic on the Cheap
Nashville, Tennessee ~ The Hands-On Homeschooler
Arlington, Texas ~ Baby Boomer Rants
Bryan/College Station, Texas ~ How to Homeschool My Child
Dallas, Texas ~ Surviving The Stores
Fort Worth, Texas ~ Coupons and Freebies Mom
Houston, Texas ~ Melissa’s Bargains
Katy, Texas ~ Moms Confession
Rio Grande Valley (McAllen), Texas ~ iLoveMy5Kids
Salt Lake City, Utah ~ Teach Beside Me
Charlottesville, Virginia ~ How to Have it All
Richmond, Virginia ~ Vacation Maybe
Williamsburg, Virginia ~ The Talking Suitcase
Seattle, Washington ~ Thrifty NW Mom
Oshkosh, Wisconsin ~ A Little Bit of This and That

Moody Gardens: 10 tips for making the most of your Staycation!


We lived in Houston for 7 years before we decided to visit Moody Gardens for the first time!  After that trip, we were asking ourselves why we waited so long!  It was a huge hit with our entire family and we loved it so much that we bought season passes!

Here is my Moody Gardens review and some of my tips for making the most of your trip:

1.  Call ahead to ask about the day’s schedule or check it out online.  Moody Gardens is a hot spot for weddings and conferences.  On our first visit, the Aquarium pyramid was closing early for a wedding.  Unfortunately, we didn’t know and had decided to make that our last stop, so our trip was cut short and we missed out on seeing a lot.

2.  Arrive early to get the best parking!  There is a parking lot located right in front of the Visitor’s Center, but there are limited spaces and they fill up quickly!  The other parking lots are on the side and it’s a bit of a walk to get to the attractions.  This may not be a big deal at the beginning of the day when you’re just getting started, but at the end of the day with hot and tired kids, it is a big deal (we learned this the hard way!)

3.  Be aware of height requirements before you go.  The water slides at Palm Beach and the Ridefilm all have height requirements.  There’s nothing worse than waiting in line and then having your kiddos be told that they don’t meet the height requirements!  Check out the height requirements online before you go (they range from 42″ to 48″) and figure out how tall your kids are so you know what they can ride!

4.  Decide what IMAX 3D movie you want to see before you go!   It had been years since I had seen an IMAX movie, and seeing one in 3D was even more amazing!  They have several different movies available and you have to pick your show time when you get there (if you get a full day pass).  Be prepared and check out the movie schedule before you go–> IMAX 3D movie schedule  

Every seat will be full, so arrive 20-30 minutes before your scheduled start time to get the best seats!

5.  Check out The Garden Restaurant.  Moody Gardens has concessions stands in the Visitor’s Center and in the Aquarium Pyramid.  There is open seating in each of these areas, and they get very crowded during peak meal times.  You would think that a restaurant means a greater expense, but we were pleasantly surprised.  The Garden Restaurant had a full buffet, and they also had a salad and dessert bar option, which was only $5.99!  My husband and I opted for the salad bar and got the regular buffet for the kids (it was only $7.99).  We were able to feed our family of 4 and eat a relatively healthy meal for less than it would have cost us to eat in the food court, including the tip!  Plus, we didn’t have to deal with the crowds in the open areas and fight to find seats.  It was perfect for us to take a short break and recoup.

NOTE:  I don’t know if the buffet is always available and pricing may be different during the dinner hours.  You may want to check on all of this before finalizing your dining plans.


6.  If you’re planning to visit Palm Beach, go in the evenings!  We ate dinner and then went to Palm Beach and my kids had the splash pad to themselves!  There were no lines at the water slides and my daughter was able to just walk right up and ride.  The wave pool and lazy river weren’t overly crowded either.  Don’t forget about the sand toys!  My kids were disappointed that we didn’t have any toys and wanted to build a sand castle.  This was one of the highlights of the trip for my kids and is always a favorite for them when we go back!

NOTE:  Come prepared to spend some extra money to rent a locker.  Rentals start at $5 and a $5 deposit is also required.  Palm Beach hours vary based on events.  Check on this before you go.


6.  Don’t skip out on the Colonel Paddlewheel boat!  That was a highlight for us.  We were able to go on the last trip of the night and had a great view of the sunset plus we watched the fireworks from the boat.

7.  Consider the exhibit in the Discovery Pyramid before taking little ones.  These exhibits rotate and the exhibit the first time we visited showed real human bodies.  The skeletal and muscular system didn’t bother me or my five year old much, but when we got into the room where brains and other organs were on display, I had to leave with him.  I think we were both a little traumatized.

8.  Consider a season pass – The cost of a season pass for a family of 5 is $320.  The cost for a 2-day pass for a family of 5 would be $309.75.  If you live in the area, a trip to Moody Gardens is a great day trip and there are lots of special events throughout the year that make it worth going!  We have loved our season pass.


9.  Don’t miss the special events – Moody Gardens has a number of special events throughout the year including Bands on the Sand during the summer months, the Festival of Lights at Christmas, and the Curt Miller Magic Show at various times throughout the year.    We went to a Curt Miller Magic and dinner show at Christmas and then visited Festival of Lights and that is also something the kids still talk about.

We just visited the Dinos Alive! exhibit that is currently there and my kids really enjoyed it!  There was a lot of attention to detail and they especially liked the part with the baby dinos hatching.  As an added bonus, we had watched the DinosAlive 3D movie at Imax before we went, and I loved hearing my kids share facts about dinosaurs!

10.  Buy a souvenir cup – The cost for a souvenir cup is currently $5.99 and includes $1 refills.  A 20 ounce drink is $2.99, so the souvenir cup will quickly pay for itself, especially if you visit during the hot summer months or if you are purchasing a season pass and plan to visit several times!


My kids LOVE the zoo, but the heat in the summers in Houston makes trips to the zoo unbearable.  We never make it very far before the kids are hot, tired, and cranky.  Moody Gardens gives you the zoo experiences without the heat because everything is enclosed!  One of our favorite experiences in the Rainforest Pyramid was being only a few feet away from a sloth and watching him eat.  We loved the birds, plants, and flowers.  For us it was the best of the Cockrell Butterfly Museum and the Houston Zoo all in one location.  At the Aquarium Pyramid, we loved being able to see the penguins swim up close.   We can’t wait to go back!  I have a feeling that Moody Gardens is going to be our favorite Staycation destination!

NOTE:  I was not compensated for this review in any way.  My family loves Moody Gardens and I just wanted to share our experiences with others!

Summer of the Staycation: Enjoy your city on a budget!


No money for a family vacation this summer? Become a tourist in your OWN city and enjoy a Staycation! I’ve teamed up with some of my fellow bloggers to bring you hundreds of staycation ideas for your area! You’ll find great ideas for day trips and if you are planning a getaway, you’ll get insider tips from locals about the best sites to see!  You’ll be surprised by all the free and inexpensive things you can do without having to plan an overnight trip!

I posted about one of my family’s favorite day trips – San Antonio, TX!  You can find my post here–> San Antonio Staycation:  Fun and Free Things to Do with Kids

If you live in the Houston area or are headed there this summer, you can check out this post on Moody Gardens–> Moody Gardens:  10 Tips for Making the Most of your Staycation

Here are the rest of the Staycation posts by region:

Mid Atlantic

NW (or all), Connecticut :: Parenting Miracles
Boston (or all), Massachusetts :: Maven of Savin
Central, New Jersey :: Our Good LIfe
Adirondak Mountains and Central, New York :: For This Season
Buffalo/Niagara Falls, New York :: Ann’s Entitled Life
Syracuse, New York :: I am THAT lady
Erie, Pennsylvania :: Growing Kids Ministry
Greater Harrisburg, Pennsylvania :: Family Balance Sheet
Hershey, Pennsylvania :: Good Deal Mama
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania :: Beyond the Cover
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania :: The Coupon “High”
Poconos, Pennsylvania :: Bucktown Bargains
Scranton, Pennsylvania :: Bucktown Bargains


Des Moines, Iowa :: Make the best of everything
Aurora, Illinois :: A Savings WOW!
Central, Illinois :: The Homeschool Scientist
Chicago, Illinois :: Chicagoland Homeschool Network
Naperville, Illinois :: The Sensible Mom
Schaumburg, Illinois :: Ravings By Rae
Fort Wayne, Indiana :: Simplified Saving
Indianapolis, Indiana (Metro Area) :: In Good Cents
Muncie, Indiana (Central IN) :: the daisyhead
Northern Indiana :: So Dough Savvy
Kansas City Area :: Kansas City Mamas
Metro Detroit, Michigan :: Saving Dollars and Sense
Grand Rapids, Michigan :: Give Me Neither
Oakland County, Michigan :: Bargain Shopper Mom
Minneapolis, Minnesota :: Creative Couponing
Rural Minnesota (either Southern our Lake Country) :: Mommysavers.com
St. Cloud, Minnesota :: Frugal Finders
Kansas City, Missouri/Kansas :: Kosher on a Budget
Springfield, Missouri :: Getting Freedom
Cincinnati, Ohio :: Family Friendly Cincinnati
Columbus, Ohio :: Cleverly Simple
Dayton, Ohio :: Savings Lifestyle: Dayton
Mansfield, Ohio :: The Traveling Praters
NE Ohio :: Raising Lifelong Learners
Northeast Ohio (Canton, Akron, Cleveland) :: Sisters Shopping on a Shoestring
Black Hills, South Dakota :: Little House Living
South Dakota :: Moms Mustard Seeds
Oshkosh, Wisconsin :: Adventures of a Stay at Home Mom


Phoenix, Arizona :: Mom Endeavors
Scottsdale, Arizona :: Saving For Someday
Tucson, Arizona :: Desert Chica Ramblings
Colorado Springs, Colorado :: The Greenbacks Gal
Denver, Colorado :: Bargain Blessings
Helena, Montana :: The WiC Project
Omaha, Nebraska :: Mom Endeavors
Reno, Nevada – Lake Tahoe (Northern Nevada) :: Saving in Nevada


Fresno, California (Central Valley) :: NerdFamily Blog
Los Angeles, California :: Savings.com
San Diego, California :: Good Cheap Eats
San Diego, California :: Life as MOM
Portland, Oregon :: Frugal Living NW
Seattle, Washington :: Thrifty NW Mom

South Atlantic

Arkansas :: Discovering Arkansas
Washington, DC :: Kidventurous
Clearwater Beach, Florida :: Bargain Briana
Jacksonville, Florida :: Saving The Family Money
Southwest Florida (Ft. Myers area) :: Chaos Is Bliss
St. Augustine, Florida :: Simply St. Augustine
Tallahassee, Florida :: SwagGrabber
Atlanta, Georgia (metro area) :: Hodgepodge
Atlanta, Georgia (metro area) :: The Couponing Couple
Annapolis, Maryland :: The Happy Housewife
Hagerstown, Maryland :: Cheryl Pitt
Asheville, North Carolina :: Paradise Praises
Charlotte, North Carolina :: from our front porch lookin’ in…
Raleigh/Southeastern, North Carolina :: Upside Down Homeschooling
Upstate South Carolina :: The Tween & Me
Charlottesville, Virginia :: How to Have it All
Richmond, Virginia :: Teachers of Good Things
Smithfield, Virginia :: Walking in High Cotton
Virginia Beach, Virginia :: The Coupon Challenge

South Central

Coastal Alabama :: Meet Penny
Huntsville, Alabama :: The Traveling Praters
Northern Kentucky :: Simply Sherryl
Chattanooga, Tennessee :: Living Chic on the Cheap
East Tennessee (Smoky Mountains, Knoxville) :: Finding Joy on the Journey
Nashville, Tennessee :: Montessori Tidbits
Arlington, Texas :: Grocery Shop For FREE
Austin, Texas (Hill Country) :: Ponder the Path
College Station, Texas :: How to Homeschool My Child
Dallas, Texas :: Surviving The Stores
East Dallas, Texas :: Funky Faith Girl
Fort Worth, Texas :: Coupons & Freebies Mom
Houston, Texas :: MomsToolbox
Houston, Texas :: MyLitter
Katy, Texas :: Moms Confession
McAllen, Texas (Rio Grande Valley) :: iLoveMy5Kids
San Antonio, Texas :: Melissa’s Bargains