NOW FULL: BigKidSmallCity Meet Up: Bayou Wildlife Park, August 1, 2014, 10:00am

Bayou Wildlife Park
**UPDATE: NOW FULL.  To get an email announcing future Meet-Ups, go HERE.***

Take a safari ride, right outside Houston! BigKidSmallCity will meet-up at the Bayou Wildlife Park for an exotic animal tram ride, a petting zoo and pony ride! You can see (and feed!) Banteng Cattle, White Rhinoceroses, Gaur Cattle, Barasingha Deer, Ring-Tailed Lemurs, Bactrian Camels, Pere David’s Deer, Addaxes, Scimitar-Horned Oryx, Hog Deer and Nile Lechwe!

We will meet on Friday, August 1, 2014, at 10:00am. Everyone will get a discounted price of $7 plus tax, which must be paid by cash or check (no credit cards!) on arrival. (Kids under 2 are free.)  Bayou Wildlife Park is located at  5050 FM 517 Road, Alvin, TX 77511-1828.

If you want to join us on Friday, August 1, 2014, you must:

1. Fill out the form below.
2. Be one of the first 45 to respond. Spaces are limited! You will receive an email saying you have a spot or you are on the waiting list.
3. If you get a spot, bring your kids to Bayou Wildlife Park (5050 FM 517 Road, Alvin, TX 77511-1828) on Friday, August 1 by 10:00am.
4.  You will need to pay your own way once you arrive.  BRING CASH or CHECK!  (No credit cards!) Tickets are $7+tax per person.  Kids under 2 are free. It includes the tram ride, petting zoo and pony rides (for kids under 90 pounds).
5.  We will need to arrive at the same time.  Before the event I will send out a reminder with details of where to park.
6. Make every effort to attend. Since spaces are limited and we want as many kids to get a chance as possible. If you need to cancel, email me at Jill @ BigKidSmallCity.com.
7.  You can stay for a picnic in the picnic area.  Bring your own lunch, just no watermelon!



BigKidSmallCity Meet Up: Pippi Longstocking, The Family Musical – July 26, 2014 – 1:35pm (Kids 3 and Older)

Pippi of Pippi at Main Street Theater
Grab your Pippi Longstocking tickets and meet us on Saturday, July 26, 2014, for the 2:00pm show. The BigKidSmallCity group will have the opportunity for a special meet and greet session with the actors before the performance!  (Kids must be 3 or older to enter the theater!)

We’ll meet at 1:35pm outside the main entrance to Main Street Theater (4617 Montrose Blvd, Houston, TX 77006). Instead of entering the main doors, we’ll slip in the back entrance to meet Pippi and friends!

After taking pictures with the actors, we’ll go find our seats in the theater.

This show is great for kids and their parents.   We saw the production on opening day and my kids were bent over, heads on their knees, laughing.

Pippi is about 1.5 hours, including a 15 minute intermission.  After the show, all the kids can line up for autographs.

If you want to join us on July 26, 2014 at 1:35pm, you must:
1. First go HERE to purchase tickets at Main Street Theater. They start at $13 each and kids must be 3 or older.  Pick whatever seats you want.  (We will not sit in a block of seats, but rather, all over the theater.)
2. Next, fill out the form below to be part of the VIP meet & greet!  This session does not cost extra.  You just need to be on the list!
3. Be one of the first 40 to respond. You will receive a confirmation email.
4. If you get tickets and a spot on the tour, bring your kids to Main Street Theater, at 1:35pm. Main Street Theater is located at:  4617 Montrose Blvd, Houston, TX 77006.  We’ll meet outside the main entry but slip in the back entrance.



Dolce Vita – Our Search for Houston’s Best Restaurants for Kids

Location: 500 Westheimer Rd, Houston TX 77006
Age Appropriate: All ages!
Price: $-$$

Hi, I’m Juliette! My husband, my 6-year-old and I love going out to eat and we are sharing our restaurant finds with you.

This week’s pick is a good symbol of what our summer feels like: the Sweet Life or as they say in Italian: Dolce Vita – Authentic Neapolitan Pizzeria Enoteca. It is located on Westheimer just east of Montrose.

I remember when it opened a few years ago now, one of my friend fell in love with their pizza and mostly with their oven! It is an actual wood-burning oven imported from Italia. What it means is that your pizza is going to be delicious, thin crusted and it will come quickly! Always a plus with children or if you want to enjoy a first-class meal in a short time. And since we wanted to catch the Frozen sing-along at Miller Outdoor theater, (with a few other thousands people!) it was perfect for us!

Dolce Vita Houston
They offer valet parking so you don’t have to worry about where to park on busy Westheimer. The decor is old world charming with wooden floors and earthy color scheme and a nice covered patio that makes eating al fresco ideal in the summer and winter. We appreciated the effort of the staff who wore soccer jerseys of countries playing in the World Cup. Their bathroom was clean and spacious.

Salsiccia E Friarielli at Dolce Vita
The chef has created a wonderful menu of specialty pizzas but you might want to check out their antipasti. They have cured meats and cheeses that are delicious. We went straight to the pizza menu though: my husband picked the pizza Salsiccia E Friarielli (sausage, rapini and pecorino cheese). It was everything he wished for!

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Beyond the Beltway: Sea Center Texas and Surfside Beach

Crab at Sea Center Texas
Sea Center Texas: 300 Medical Drive, Lake Jackson, Texas
Surfside Beach: 3312 Bluewater Hwy, Surfside, Texas

This week we traveled south down 288 to visit Sea Center Texas. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department operates three fish hatcheries, but Sea Center Texas is the only one visitors are allowed to tour! We reserved our tour spot by calling the number on this page.

We arrived at the Sea Center about 45 minutes before our tour and were able to go through the visitor center during that time. The first things that grabbed our attention were the large stuffed fish hanging on the walls. Those things are huge! Each has a nameplate beside it, so we were able to identify them. I didn’t need to read the plate to know what the hammerhead shark was, but I didn’t know how massive they were!

Sea Center Texas
Immediately after that the kids had to go check out the touch tank. Here they were able to touch live hermit crabs, anemones, and a few other kinds of crabs! There were even small fish flitting around in the water and a volunteer was available to answer any questions we had about the animals in the tank. This was definitely our favorite part of the visitor center.

Across the room from the touch tank was an area where the kids could make rubbings of eight different sea creatures. The plastic forms had raised ridges, so the kids were able to place sheets of paper over them and rub crayons along the paper to create the impression.

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Playground, Monkeys, Birds & Lunch at Gallery Furniture – Visiting Houston’s Playgrounds, One Week at a Time

Brooke at Gallery Furniture Playground
Address: 6006 North Fwy, Houston, TX 77076
Cost: Free

Once again this week, the “park” of the week is a little different. Since it’s hot in Houston and we haven’t gotten our days started early enough, we are reviewing a very unique (and free) indoor playground.

Not only does Gallery Furniture‘s I45 location have a giant indoor playground, but it also has exotic birds, monkeys and free lunch, cookies and ice cream.

And guess what? You don’t even have to pretend like you are shopping. Gallery Furniture is happy to have you bring the kids, play, eat and go home!

Monkeys at Gallery Furniture
The kids and I went to do just this. In fact, we walked in, and immediately ran in to Mattress Mack who told the kids that he was the head monkey at Gallery Furniture and we should go see the other monkeys! (Apparently he’s seen the moms-and-kids-just-coming-to-play-and-eat types before!)

So, that is what we did. We went to watch the monkeys jumping and swinging in the middle of the store. We all giggled as they dribbled basketballs and put on a show for their audience. And did you know they wear diapers? (This may have been my 5 year old’s favorite part.)

Gallery Furniture
From here we could spot the huge slides in a corner of the store. In the play area there are beds (I guess for jumping?), a wall sized chalk board, mini rock wall, personal trampolines, 2 twisty slides and an extra wide slide meant for 3 kids to race to the bottom.

Right in the play area is a small restroom for the kids and it was clean and well maintained. The playground area was just a little damp, but not much different than most fast food playplaces.

The playground is closed off from the rest of the store, so I was able to sit and relax while the kids went crazy.

Birds at Gallery Furniture
I eventually had to bribe my baby with ice cream to get him to leave the play area. We still had the birds and cafe to see, and he was determined to race down the slide for the 5,000th time.

We finally did go see the exotic birds and made our way to the cafe. Here we were able to grab drinks, all the food we wanted from the buffet line and ice cream.

Ice Cream at Gallery Furniture
It was really great (free) fun. Not once did we get pitched on buying furniture…. and I didn’t feel at all bad about using their store for our fun. Next time I need furniture, guess of the first place I’m going to visit? (Pretty smart, huh?  Everyone wins!)



NOW FULL – BigKidSmallCity & Houston Mother’s Blog Meet Up: Horses, Monkeys, Birds & Ice Cream (Oh My!) – July 15, 2014 – 10:00am – At Gallery Furniture

Birds at Gallery Furniture
**UPDATE: NOW FULL.  To get an email announcing future Meet-Ups, go HERE.***

Do you know any little friends that would like a horse and carriage ride, an up close introduction to monkeys and exotic birds, and to have unlimited lunch, cookies and ice cream?  Gallery Furniture is hosting this giant Meet-Up for the BigKidSmallCity & HoustonMothersBlog communities.  AND IT’S FREE!

Grab your kids and meet us at Mattress Mack’s I45 Gallery Furniture location, at 6006 North Fwy, Houston, TX 77076, on Tuesday, July 15, 2014 at 10:00am.  Families with a confirmed spot will get to:

1.  Meet the famous Gallery Furniture monkeys and their keeper!
2.  Meet the many exotic birds and their keeper!
3.  Ride in an Amish buggy behind Franze the horse!
4.  Play on the giant indoor playground with a mini-rock wall, twisting tubes and slides for racing!
5.  Get their hands dirty at the craft station!
6.  Show us their best pose at the Gallery Furniture Selfie Wall!
7.  Eat as much lunch, ice cream and cookies as their parents allow!
8.  Meet the man they’ve seen on TV and heard on the radio: Mattress Mack!

I am so excited for this meet up! Not only is it unique, air conditioned and full of fun, but we get to take over the giant Gallery Furniture store, for FREE! If you want to join us on July 15, 2014 at 10:00am, you must:

1. Fill out the form below.
2. Be one of the first 50 to respond. Spaces are limited! You will receive an email saying you have a spot or you are on the waiting list.
3. If you get a spot, bring your kids to Gallery Furniture on Tuesday, July 15, 2014, at 10:00am. Gallery Furniture is at 6006 North Fwy, Houston, TX 77076.   The event is FREE.
4. Make every effort to attend. Since spaces are limited and we want as many kids to get a chance as possible. If you need to cancel, email me at Jill @ BigKidSmallCity.com.



Beyond the Beltway: George Ranch Historical Park

Address:  10215 FM 762, Richmond, TX 77469

It’s Shanna! This week we travel Beyond the Beltway to George Ranch Historical Park and had a great time! In fact, we stayed much longer than I had planned!

I really didn’t know anything about it before we arrived, but decided to go check it out anyway. What we found out is that it is a working ranch and living history site where visitors follow the story of four generations of a Texas family, starting in the 1820s when the land was first settled.

Now, you may be wondering what the park being called a “living history” site means. The answer is that everything is kept as true to the time period as possible. All of the guides/interpreters dress in costume for the time period that they represent and remain in character. The homes on the property are authentic as well (with some small exceptions like air conditioning to preserve antiques in two of the houses). This gave us a wonderful feeling of being immersed in the history that we were learning.

3 Jones cabin at George Ranch Historical Park
The park has four primary areas, each of which focuses on a different generation of the family. Because the property was passed through the female side of the family, each location is known by last name of the generation being represented.

1 Jones cabin at George Ranch Historical Park
We started out at the 1830s log cabin of the Jones family. Henry and Nancy Jones were the original settlers of the land and moved here in 1824 when the land was still a part of Mexico. We were able to explore their small cabin and get a glimpse of what their lives must have been like. Mr. Henry Jones was the interpreter and explained in detail anything that we had questions about.

4 Jones cabin at George Ranch Historical Park
He showed my daughter how to work the large loom, let both kids hold one of his chickens, explained about the natural medicines available there, told us what expectations he had of his children, and much more. We also saw a couple of girls making corn husk dolls and cleaning and carding cotton. Then Mr. Jones demonstrated how the cotton was spun into thread. The kids and I found all of this to be fascinating!

2 Jones cabin at George Ranch Historical Park
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Local Foods – Our Search for Houston’s Best Restaurants for Kids

Location: 2555 Kirby Dr, Houston, TX 77019
Age Appropriate: All ages!
Price: $-$$

Hi, I’m Juliette! My husband, my 6-year-old and I love going out to eat and we are sharing our restaurant finds with you.

I am really excited about today’s review because I have been driving by Local Foods on Westheimer and Kirby for months now, waiting for them to finish their outdoor patio so I could do the review!

Local Foods Patio
We had been to their other location in the Rice Village and liked it too but that was before we wrote reviews! Their new location is great for us and I love the style of their decor, urban chic with an industrial feel. They took over the old Taco Milagro location and they really transformed it .

Local Foods Kirby
The main dining room is spacious and offers booth seating, big family size tables and even counter seats by the window. The kitchen is wide open and there is a nice bar by the back wall. Their patio is definitively an added bonus, it is fenced in, with lots of seating and a bit of artificial grass. Their restrooms continue the theme of modern and well thought-out.

So obviously I liked their decor but what about their food, you wonder? Well, it is as fresh, good and satisfying as their decor!

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Tour your local Houston Fire Station! It’s a free & unique thing to do in Houston!

Houston Fire Station 8 Garage
Visiting Houston Fire Stations has long been one of our favorite things to do.  This summer we’ve set up a series of meet-ups at local fire stations and they have been very very popular.

Just last week, we toured Houston’s biggest station: Fire Station 8 in Downtown.  And it was amazing.

Houston Fire Station 8 Jacket
Fire Station 8  is the biggest station in Houston, and I’m told it’s also one of the biggest in the United States.  It takes up a full city block and is buzzing with activity.

While we were there, lunch was being made, official visitors kept stopping by and fire engines kept coming and going.

Houston Fire Station 8 Trucks
Not only are there fire engines and ambulances, but there is a mass casualty ambulance, the size of a city bus, and a rehab truck, for fire fighters to recuperate while fighting a big fire.

Houston Fire Station 8 Kitchen Family Room
This new fire station is all on one level because 2 story fire stations and fireman poles are dangerous and outdated.  We got to tour through the great room, with the living room, giant dining table and kitchen, the exercise room, the offices and the sleeping quarters.  We also got to walk through the garage, see the trucks and spray a fire hose!

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Need an excuse for mischief and giggles? Surprise your friends with a flamingo flock!

Brooke and Flamingo Flock
I was scrolling through the Houston events list looking for an easy and fun outing for the kids.  We needed to get out of house but didn’t want to commit to a complicated adventure.  Glancing at the flock of tacky yard flamingos from our last party, it dawned on me that we could just make our own fun.

We grabbed our flamboyance of flamingos and sneaked over to our friend’s yard.  We did our best to be quiet as we made their lawn the tackiest on the block, but it’s hard to not giggle while installing a dozen flamingos.

Once the job was done (and I’m certain we were spotted out the window) we sprinted back to our car and laughed all the way home.  The kids talked about our shenanigans for days and we decided to do this again and again!

Do you want to help us spread the flamingo fun?  Here’s what you need:

1.  Print out THIS sheet!

2.  Find your own flamingos (or pass on the ones you found in your yard)!  You can find some HERE.

3.  Sneak over to your friends house, install flamingos, laugh and run.  For safety, only pass them to people you know well.  You can even call the parents ahead of time to approve your sneaky plan!

4.  Post your pictures to BigKidSmallCity’s Facebook page or email them to me (Jill @BigKidSmallCity.com)!

If you found flamingos in your yard, you can be certain someone loves you and considers you the type of friend that won’t mind a temporarily tacky yard!  You do not have to pass on the flamingos but do it if you think it might be fun!

BigKidSmallCity Flamingo Sheet