Raising Readers: Parent Resource Library – Children’s Museum of Houston

Houston Childrens Museum Ceiling
Address: Children’s Museum, 1500 Binz, Houston, Texas 77004

This week’s Houston Public Library is inside the Houston Children’s Museum!  It’s a real deal Houston Library where you can check out books and FlipKits!

Houston Childrens Museum Public Library Play Table
This small library has books for the kids, resources for parents, puzzles and more.  Storytimes happen several times a day and the books can be checked out, just like at any other Houston Public Library.

Houston Childrens Museum Public Library Gorilla
Of course, this library is in the museum, so before or after your visit, you can run wild through the award winning Children’s Museum!

Houston Childrens Library Public Library FlipKit
This library is open every day except Monday.  Parking is available in the paid lot or metered street parking.

Houston Childrens Library Public Library Parent Resource

Baseball Lovers & Fun Seekers, Makes Plans Now to Watch the Astros at Minute Maid Park

Astros Dugout
Baseball lover or not, you will have a great time at Minute Maid Park. Watch the game, watch the people or play at the stadium, here’s what’s to love about Astros games:

1. Cheap tickets. Sit up high for not much money.
2. Baseball! We love to watch the game.
3. It’s air conditioned. On warm days, the roof is closed and the baseball game is nice and cool.
4. Dance your way onto the jumbo-tron. Really. Your moves might make it on the big screen.
5. Minute Maid Squeeze. There is a playground IN THE STADIUM!
6. Run the bases. After Sunday games, kids 5 and older can run on the field!
7. Be a Buddy! For $20, kids can get a membership that gets you 4 free tickets, a backpack, baseball cap, VIP access to running the bases, autograph sessions and a press conference. It’s a really really good deal.
8. See the train! After each home run, the train heads down track!
9. Be a part of the excitement. Being in the stadium on game day is exciting. Baseball, music, food vendors, competitions and more. Pull up a (stadium) chair and watch all the fun.

Whether you love baseball or just the fun of the adventure, be sure to visit Minute Maid Park this season! Opening day is April 6, 2015 and you can find (often discounted) tickets HERE.  The season goes through September, so you’ll have a chance to visit many times.

If you want to get your own season tickets, contact Gordon Bowen, Houston Astros. 713.259.8788, gbowen@astros.com.  If you are serious about the tickets, he might just give you a VIP tour.  Tell him Jill at BigKidSmallCity sent you.

Tomball Train Depot Plaza – Visiting Houston Area Parks, One Week at a Time

Depot Plaza in Tomball
Address:  201 S Elm, Tomball, TX 77375

This week’s park is just north of Houston, in one of the quaintest little towns around.  Old Town Tomball is full of little shops, restaurants, old buildings and an old train depot!

Tomball Train Depot by Caboose
The Tomball Train Depot Plaza has a train depot, caboose, gazebo, turtle pond, lots of grass for running and restrooms.  Right across the street is the cutest soda fountain I ever saw.

Real Train at Tomball Train Depot
The Depot has train memorabilia, antiques, and a model railroad and is open just a couple days a week.  The latest information can be found HERE.  The caboose is always available for play!

Caboose at Tomball Train Depot
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Tips for DisneyLAND with Kids – Where to Stay, What to Do & How to Make the Most of your Trip!

Disneyland Mickey and Minnie from The Mouse Trip
No long ago, Emily gave us 7 easy steps for making the most of our trip to DisneyWORLD… but what about DisneyLAND? Many of the tips, like the best age for a first visit, still apply… but Disneyland is a very different place and what do we need to know before making the long trip and spending the money?

Lucky for us, Houston Mom and Disney Travel Agent, Amanda, has the tips we need!  She works for TMC Travel – The Mouse Connection and plans Disney trips for FREE.

Look below for the 6 Steps to a great DisneyLAND vacation!

Disneyland Castle from The Mouse Trip
1.  Know Where You’re Going:
Disneyland resort in Anaheim, California is made up of two theme parks. Disneyland Park is the first Disney park ever built and is home to the iconic Cinderella’s Castle as well as 8 themed lands for you to explore. You’ll find MainStreet U.S.A, Tomorrowland, Fantasyland, Mickey’s Toontown, Frontierland, Critter Country, New Orleans Square,and Adventureland.

The second of the two parks is Disney California Adventure Park which also has 8 unique lands! You’ll find Buena Vista Street, Cars Land, Grizzly Peak, Grizzly Peak Airfield, Paradise Pier, Pacific Wharf, “a bug’s land”, and Hollywood Land.

2.  Stay Close:
The three Disneyland Resort Hotels (the Disneyland Hotel, Paradise Pier, the Grand Californian Hotel and Spa) are all the most conveniently located and put you right inside the magic! There are also some great “Good Neighbor” hotels that are within blocks of Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park. There is a property for every budget and plenty of suite options for larger families!

3.  Get There Early:
Arrive just prior to park opening and get your day started out right! Less crowds in the early morning means your family can see and do more in less time. Also take advantage of the Magic Morning hours that can get you into the parks even earlier if you are a guest of a Disneyland resort hotel or Good Neighbor property!

The current* fastpass system for the Disneyland Resort parks consists of machines that give you a paper “ticket” with a return time. You return to the designated ride during your assigned timeframe and enjoy the benefit of skipping the regular (standby) line. This is a great way to save time and not spend your whole day standing in line!

5.  Take a Break:
I always suggest taking an afternoon break to swim, rest, and just get refreshed before heading back out for some evening magic! If you’ve purchased park hopper tickets you can start your day at one park and then head to another after your mid day recharge!

6.  My #1 Disneyland Tip…..BE PREPARED
When people ask me what I do as a travel agent that specializes in Disney Vacations I tell them “I help people do Disney the prepared way”! I assist my clients in building the perfect vacation package, guide them through dining and fastpass choices, and make sure they have the latest and greatest Disney information.

Things are always changing and there is a LOT of outdated information on the internet. My clients are given the most updated information to make sure they save time and money while making memories!

Find me at MouseTrip and email me at amanda@goTMCtravel.com!

*The fastpass system mentioned as a tip above is slated to change over to the new Fastpass+ system (currently at Disneyworld in Florida). No date has been set for these changes, but they are coming.
Head over to MouseTrip to keep up to date on the latest and greatest Disney information and let me help you save time and money by doing Disney the prepared way!

Raising Readers: McGovern-Stella Link Neighborhood Library

McGovern Stell Link Houston Library
Address: 7405 Stella Link, Houston, Texas 77025

This Houston Library is bright, clean, sleek and right next to Houston’s secret park and the Stella Link YMCA… It’s McGovern-Stella Link Neighborhood Library!

McGovern Stella Link Houston Library Kid Area
If you visit this Stella Link library, you’re probably going to wish it was your “home” library.  It has a big children’s section with several kids-only computers and places to sit.  It’s sunny and welcoming and just about perfect.

There is a teens section, adult section and lots of places to sit or meet with your group.  There are many free classes, including baby music classes that can be found HERE.

McGovern Stella Link Houston Library Computer Stations
Parking is free and the lot can be accessed from Aberdeen Way, just south of the library.  At the time of this post, the library is open Monday through Saturday.  Check the hours HERE.

Helens Park Path and Water
This library is a great place to read with your kids.  After your visit, stop by Helen’s Park or swing by the YMCA!

Houston Printing Museum – Kids Help with Hands-On Printing… Just Like Ben Franklin Did It!

Houston Printing Museum Equipment
Address:  1324 W Clay St, Houston, TX 77019
Hours: 10:00am-5:00pm, Tuesday-Saturday
Admission: $8 (of $10 with a tour), 12 and under are free. Parking is free.

Encouraged by our no-crowds, very educational visit to the Maritime Museum, we set off to explore all of Houston’s small museums.  Next in line was the Printing Museum.

Now what I’m going to tell you next will make sense if your kids have seen Liberty’s Kids approximately 5,000 times.  This is an AWESOME series about the revolutionary war and my kids know more US history at age 5 and 7 than I do right now.  In this story, the kids work at Ben Franklin’s print shop on the “Pennsylvania Gazette”.  We love the story so much, that my son was Ben Franklin for the last school project and the last 2 Halloweens.

Well, at the Printing Museum, there is a room with a bust of Ben Fran, framed copies of the “Pennsylvania Gazette” and big, old and working printing presses.  When we saw this, we almost fell over.  No joke.  It made our day.

Houston Printing Museum Pennsylvania Gazette
I know this picture doesn’t look like much… but it’s the  “Pennsylvania Gazette”.  THE “Pennsylvania Gazette”!

Are we a little goofy?  Absolutely.  Do my kids want to print a paper the same exact way that Ben Franklin did?  You better believe it.

Houston Printing Museum Print Press
So, let me tell you what we learned about the Printing Museum…. Their mission is to “promote, preserve, and share the knowledge of printed communication and art as the greatest contributors to the development of the civilized world and the continuing advancement of freedom and literacy”.

Houston Printing Museum Scavenger Hunt
Visitors can take self-guided tours (and pick-up a scavenger hunt list if available), or come for a guided tour.  The guided tour is the way to go, because you get to help with the hands-on printing of a copy of the Declaration of Independence (and more).  These are available on Wednesdays at 10:00am, Saturdays at 2:00pm or can be scheduled for your group.  (Get the latest information HERE.)

So even if you don’t fall over at the sight of the “Pennsylvania Gazette”, your kids might just fall over at the chance to help print using giant equipment and messy ink.

Houston Printing Museum Entry
The museum has lots of little rooms that weave you through the small building. Each one is full of old equipment… and the walls are lined with prints. Scavenger hunt sheets were available on our visit, and we searched for each item as we made our way.

Houston Printing Museum Outside
We learned a lot… and we got even more excited about learning more. I’d say this easy, no-big-crowd outing was a success.

Houston Maritime Museum – Guided Tours, Kid’s Playroom & All You Need to Know About Maritime

Outside Houston Maritime Museum
Address: 2204 Dorrington Street, Houston, TX 77030 (And someday it will be at the Port of Houston)
Hours: Tuesday – Saturday: 9:00am – 5:00pm
Admission: $5 for adults and $3 for kids 3+, Parking is free

It was a day when we got a late start, missed the event we had been planning on and were debating fighting crowds at another venue or just heading home. It was at this moment that we drove by the Maritime Museum sign, made a quick turn, and had our day saved.

Our trip to the Houston Maritime Museum was AWESOME. No crowds to fight, a guided tour that was customized just for us and a play room for the kids.

Houston Maritime Museum Ship Wheel
The museum is currently in a remodeled house, near Holcombe and Greenbriar. There are over 150 model ships and the history that goes with them. The self-guided, audio, or guided tours take you from Columbus to modern times, military vessels and the Port of Houston.

>Houston Maritime Museum
When we arrived on a weekday, we were greeted warmly and were offered a guided tour, just for us. This was perfect because they were willing to customize the tour for a 7 and 5 year old, while I kept the 3 year old from being too curious. (The rule is to do lots of looking, but no touching!)

James Looking at Ships at Maritime Museum
The tour guide told the kids about Columbus and the Mayflower and about the changes in ship technology. They saw lots of ships and learned about their historical significance. The guide answered every question we asked and complimented the kids on their observations… like the rocks used to weigh down old ships!

Houston Maritime Museum Sails of Ship
The tour guide then took the kids through the Port of Houston exhibit and we learned about the history and significance. The last stop was to see the military vessels.

Brooke at Houston Maritime Museum
Lots of questions and answers later, we finished our tour and headed to Kids Cove!

Houston Maritime Museum Kids Cove
This playroom has costumes, games, ship wheel, books and more. Kids can learn Morse code, decode messages with signal flags and steer the ship.

Playing Navy Officer at Houston Maritime Museum
This playroom is not as wild as the Fire Museum’s playroom (after all, that has a fire truck and pole) but we played for a long time. I had a Naval Officer, Construction Worker and Mermaid, playing games and decoding messages.

Dress Up in Kids Cove at Houston Maritime Museum
We had a really really good time at this small museum. And did I mention that we got a personal tour, there were no big crowds, we learned a lot and it saved our day? My kids keep talking about it and want to return with dad and the grandparents.

Ship Flags at Houston Maritime Museum
When we walked in and just saw a small museum full of model ships, I had no idea how exciting this museum could be. So if you go, be sure to take the guided tour to make the models come to life.  This was a really (unexpectedly) fun visit.

Joe at Houston Maritime Museum

Houston Maritime Museum Chinese Ship

James at Wheel at Houston Maritime Museum

Houston Police Officer Memorial at Buffalo Bayou Park – Visiting Houston’s Parks, One Week at a Time!

Downtown Houston Skyline from Houston Police Officer Memorial
Address:  1400 Memorial Drive, Bayou Park

This week we went back to explore more of Buffalo Bayou Park.  This time we visited the Houston Police Officer Memorial, on the north side of Memorial Drive.  A small free parking lot is available.

The memorial is to honor Houston’s police force and the officers who have lost their lives in the line of duty.

Downtown Houston Skyline from the Houston Police Officer Memorial with Water
The memorial was designed to be a gathering spot and has includes steps that lead you down 12 feet before heading up 24.5 feet.   At the top, there is a small reflecting pool, surrounded by inscriptions of the names of the officers that died in the line of duty.

Climbing Up the Houston Police Officer Memorial
People can climb on the memorial, play near it or, as we saw one family do, picnic on the edge.

My kids enjoyed climbing up the steps and learning about the significance of the memorial.  I also liked this “bigger” (or “more meaningful”) park visit.

To make it even better, the memorial is guarded 24 hours a day by on-duty police officers, making the sunken park feel safer.

Bridge over Bayou at Houston Police Memorial
At the same place, there is a long bridge crossing the bayou and connecting the walking and biking trails.

Running Across Bridge at Houston Police Officer Memorial
We ran across the bridge, played in the grass, climbed the memorial and had a great visit.

Houston Police Officer Memorial Sign

Raising Readers: Freed-Montrose Neighborhood Library

Montrose Library Front Door
Address: 4100 Montrose, Houston, Texas 77006

This week’s Houston library is in a quaint little brick building with Eatsie Boyz and the Black Lab Pub… It’s the Freed-Montrose Neighborhood Library.  This means that after your trip to the library, you can eat some of the craziest flavors of ice cream (like sweet corn, black pepper, curry or donut) and play a game of giant chess next door!

Rows of Books at Houston Public Library
The Montrose Library has a children’s section on the first floor, where only families can sit in the chairs, lay on the bean bags and enjoy the books.

Reading at Montrose Library
This library also seems to have the best FlipKit collection.  The bags we’ve checked out have all been in great condition and the selection is great.

One thing I can’t leave out is that this library often has patrons that are homeless and need a place to use the computer or hang out.  This is usually no problem, but one time we visited and there was a minor altercation and the police were called.  So, this is why I mention that only families can sit in the kid area.

This hasn’t kept us away… it’s just something to keep in mind.

Houston Public Library Flip Bags
At the time of this posting, the library is open Tuesday through Saturday. The hours vary, so check them HERE. There are weekly classes, like storytime and baby time, that can be found HERE.

Freed Montrose Library Sign
Free parking is available in the TINY lot in front of the building.  There is free street parking on all surrounding streets (but no parking on Montrose) but it is tight on weekdays. There is a paid parking garage attached to the building and can be validated with restaurant purchases… just read the signs.

Reading at University of St Thomas Houston
The University of St. Thomas is just a block away (which is why parking can be tight), but it’s a great place to read and run around.

Ducks, Ducks, Ducks (and Pigeons and Nutria) at Hermann Park!

Address: Hermann Park, 6100 Hermann Park Drive, Houston, TX 77030

Our new favorite thing to do in Houston is super easy, super fun and super free…  For a change to the weekly park review, let me show you the ducks at Hermann Park‘s McGovern Lake (instead of writing about them)!  Take a look!