Playground at Houston Children’s Zoo – Visiting Houston’s Parks, One Week at a Time

Otter Ropes at Houston Zoo
Address: 6200 Hermann Park Drive, Houston, TX 77030

Okay, okay, I know this is not our usual weekly park review.  Instead of a public park, this week the review of the playground at the Houston Zoo’s Children’s Zoo.  The thing is, I used to do all I could to avoid this place.  When the zoo is busy, the Children’s Zoo is insanely busy.  I may have told my kids it was being remodeled for the last few years.

BUT… I recently discovered on a weekday afternoon when the zoo is not very crowded, the Children’s Zoo is really quite enjoyable.

Playground Tube at Houston Zoo
Now, if you don’t have a Zoo Membership, I’d probably opt for another Houston park.  If you do have a membership, you can drop in and out of the zoo any time, making this a great hour long adventure.

Climbing Wall at Playground at Houston Zoo
In the Children’s Zoo, there is a playground, a rope climbing area, and a super secret rope climbing area.

Hippo at Playground at Houston Zoo
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Top 6 Favorite Kid Friendly Houston Restaurants of 2014!

Hi everyone! My husband, my 7-year-old and I want to wish you a very happy new year and we hope that you will follow us in 2015 as we visit new restaurants each week.

We have tried to think of all the places we went to last year and which ones were our favorites. We came up with a list that I hope will make you want to go out and eat!!

(To see the all time top 10 favorite kid friendly restaurants in Houston, go HERE!)

Ruggles Green Kids Chicken and Fries

  • Ruggles Green at City Center is a wonderful kid-friendly restaurant. I love their food and my child and his friends love the grass area where they get to play as we visit with friends. We have been several times and have never been disappointed.

Kids Meal at Punks Simple Southern Foods

  • Punk’s in Rice Village was also a great find for us. Once again, the grassy area was a hit with our son and the southern food was absolutely delicious! The staff was very friendly and the cookies served with the kid menu were some of the best in Houston.

Jerry Built Chalkboard

  • Jerry Built Burgers on Holcombe Blvd won my heart when we reviewed it last year and we went back several times for their organic burgers and the casual atmosphere. My son’s hands are never cleaner than when we go there thanks to their great hand-washing machine!

Buffalo Grille Patio

  • Buffalo Grille on Bissonnet Blvd is a great neighborhood restaurant with a nice outdoor patio and a kid-friendly attitude that serves some of the best comfort food that you and your children will enjoy.

Phoenicia MKT Bar Pizza

  • MKT Bar next to Discovery Green is also one of our favorite because their food is fresh and delicious and the kid menu comes with a free gelato that is homemade and oh so good!!! We love going to the park, playing and walking an appetite and then eat at MKT Bar to finish the day perfectly!

Snowblock Shavery Salted Caramel with MMs

  • Snowblock Shavery is our favorite ice cream place that we discovered this year. It is so good, so fun, so unique and so decadent that all you can think about as you are eating is what you are going to choose next time! We are so grateful that Houston has so many hot months…

Here are some of the wonderful places we reviewed for you this year, please let me know if you liked them as much as us and what other restaurants are your family’s favorites!

On a sad note, Natachee’s doesn’t have their sand pit and play area anymore. You can still enjoy their laid-back atmosphere and delicious food but no more running around for the kiddos!

See you in a couple of weeks for our next culinary adventure!

Super Saturdays in January 2015, Buy One Get One Free Admission to Downtown Aquarium

Downtown Aquarium
Super Saturdays are back at the Downtown Aquarium in January! You can print a coupon to get Buy-One-Get-One-Free Admission on Saturdays in the month of January!

Print a coupon for every 2 people in your group… and print a few extra for friends you meet in line

Lawrence Park – Visiting Houston’s Parks, One Week at a Time!

Lawrence Park Tire Swing and Playground
Address: 725 Lawrence Street, Houston, TX 77007

Lawrence Park is not the fanciest park that we’ve visited, but is a great find for families that love to play sports!

Lawrence Park Picnic
The park is located on the western end of the Heights Bike Trail so is a great starting place for a bike ride or a walk. It also has a full, covered basketball court and a baseball diamond with a backstop. Although I’m not positive they work, there are lights at both of these locations so an early sunset doesn’t mean you have to go home early! There is also plenty of open space if you feel like just tossing or kicking a ball around.

Lawrence Park Tire Swing
The park does have some playground equipment too. The equipment seems to be older and a bit sun-faded, but the slides, monkey bars, swings, tire swing, and spring riders all work fine. There is some graffiti, but it was just names and I don’t think the kids even noticed it.

Lawrence Park Playground1
Nearby are a couple of covered picnic tables, and there are other tables scattered around the park. There are also some benches so you can sit to watch the kids play. There are water fountains too, but instead of restrooms there is just a porta-potty. The park isn’t fenced, but it is in a very low traffic area.

Lawrence Park Playground
The next time we want to visit a park that is a bit off the beaten path, we’ll come here and bring our sports equipment too!

Kind Days: For kids that are too young to volunteer in Houston… How can we still teach compassion?

James Helping the Police Man
My littlest little kids are too young to volunteer around Houston.  At the Houston Food Bank, for example, kids must be 6 years old to volunteer.   Even so, I want even my youngest kids to know what it feels like to be compassionate and to help others.  To help design our own “kind days”, I asked the BigKidSmallCity community for ideas… and this is what Houston parents suggested!

  • Take cookies, cards, or goody bags to a senior living facility. They love young guests!
  • Sing carols for your elderly neighbors or get a list of home bound people from your church and make a special trip to sing for them.
  • Organize a neighborhood food drive and drop off the food at a donation center.
  • Bake something for the firehouse or the police station and deliver it.
  • Send Christmas cards to those serving in the armed forces over seas.
  • Make homemade Christmas cards with words of hope and inspiration to give to those who need cheering during the holidays!
  • Most churches will deliver meals on holidays. Take the family and deliver a meal.
  • Take toys to the Operation Stocking Stuffer at the fire stations.
  • See what kind of items are needed at the a women’s and children’s shelter, then collect those.
  • Make a Christmas tree for the birds with popcorn garland and birdseed ornaments.
  • Candy cane bomb a school parking lot where the teachers park.
  • Donate cookie decorating bags to a food pantry to distribute (include cookie dough mix, icing, sprinkles, a few cookie cutters, and a small gift card to a grocery store to cover perishable items).
  • Little Lights is an organization for young kids.
  • Put quarters on machines at laundromat.
  • Assemble blessing bags and make a trip to deliver them.
  • The Food Bank has family night once per month. Kids as young as 6 can volunteer, and siblings as young as 4 can come and work on crafts.
  • Sponsor a pet at a local shelter. Help with food and perhaps take the pet for a walk if the shelter allows.
  • Clean up parks with the kids.

What other ideas do you have?

Shady Grove Plaza in Buffalo Bayou Park – Visiting Houston’s Parks, One Week at a Time!

Shady Grove Plaza View of Downtown
Address:  Allen Parkway, Houston, Texas 77019

This week’s Houston park does not have a playground, but it does have trails, art, bayou, parking and the MOST AMAZING view of the Downtown SKYLINE!

Shandy Grove Plaza is park of Buffalo Bayou Park, between Allen Parkway and Memorial Drive.  If you are on Allen Parkway, coming from Downtown, you can turn right into a small parking lot, not far from I45 and Sabine Street.  (I’m trying to find a better address… but not luck yet!)

Here you will find parking, the Shady Grove Plaza, in honor of all victims of crime, and a picture perfect view of the skyline.

Shady Grove Art
In late afternoon on a weekday, we had no trouble finding parking and wondering through the trails. The Shady Grove area is an oval spot of land, with a few dirt paths around public artwork. Along the trails are benches, bushes, trees… and a little traffic noise from Allen Parkway.

Buffalo Bayou from Shady Grove Plaza
From this plaza, you can see the bayou and the running/biking trails. It would be a good starting point for your own bike ride.

Buffalo Bayou Park is huge and this is just one small spot. It also includes the Waugh Bridge Bat Colony, Spotts Park, Eleanor Tinsley Park, and much more.  See the map HERE.

From the parking lot next to Shady Grove Plaza, we saw a News Station getting ready for the evening news.  The skyline in the background is just that perfect.  So perfect that I highly recommend it for anyone looking for a great view or a spot for family photos!

Winter Break 2014: Things to Do in Houston, with Kids!

Houston Zoo Lights Giraffe
Want to have the best Winter Break ever?  Here are the Houston resources you need!

A list of Houston Events is published each week, HERE.  To get it delivered to your email inbox each Thursday, so you know what is happening over the weekend for families, go HERE.  For daily reminders, be sure to “like” BigKidSmallCity on Facebook, HERE.

To help you plan ahead, here are lots of things to do!

NOW FULL – BigKidSmallCity Meet Up: HPD Mounted Patrol Stables – 10:30am – December 22, 2014

Mounted Patrol Feeding Horses
Visiting the Houston Police Departments Mounted Patrol Stables is one of the coolest free things to do in Houston. In October, we had the most amazing time feeding the horses and learning about the Mounted Patrol at the BigKidSmallCity Meet-Up.  Over Winter Break, we’re going to do it again!

On Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:30am, you can bring your kids, carrots, apples and peppermints and join us as we talk to Houston’s Mounted Patrol Officers, feed the horses and learn about their jobs!

December 22 is a HoustonISD school holiday.  Check your calendars before signing up to be sure you will be in town for this event!  The stables are at 5005 Little York Rd. Houston,Tx. 77016 (off of I59, NOT off of 290).

UPDATE: This Meet-Up is now FULL.  To be notified about future meet ups, go HERE!

If you want to join us on Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:30am, you must:

1. Fill out the form below.
2. Be one of the first 25 to respond. Spaces are very limited and the last tours filled very quickly.  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 the Houston Mounted Patrol Stables on December 22, 2014 at 10:30am. (5005 Little York Rd. Houston,Tx. 77016)
4.  The tour will be about 1 hour.
5.  The event is FREE. Feel free to bring carrots, apples or peppermints for the horses.  Apples need to be quartered (but seeds are fine).
6. Check your calendar before signing up and make every effort to attend. Since spaces are so limited, we want as many little police men and women to get a chance as possible. If you need to cancel, email me at Jill @ right away.

Meyer Park in Spring – Visiting Houston’s Parks, One Week at a Time!

Meyer Park Playground
Address: 7700 Cypresswood Drive, Spring, Texas 77379

Do your kids play soccer in Spring? If so, you probably know about Meyer Park! It’s connected to the fabulous Collins Park by walking path, and has a great playground of its own!

Meyer Park Creek
Meyer Park is a 180 acres with 2 playgrounds, 26 soccer fields, 2 softball fields, a basketball court, restrooms, paved trails, fishing and 15 exercise stations.

The playground areas for big and little kids. The equipment is well maintained and has a lot of great features. There are ladders, bridges and “lilly pads” for leaping.

Meyer Park Playground 3
The play area is pretty easy to watch, unless the kids are determine to all play on different equipment. The only trick is to make sure they stay away from the creek until you are ready to explore together. It’s not a huge concern, but I did help one mom that was in a panic looking for her son.

Meyer Park Playground and Path
Overall, the is a great park with a lot of space to explore. Take the kids to play on the equipment, ride their bikes or play soccer!

Party at the Train Station… Get VIP Access All Year Long… Saturday, December 13, 2014

Hermann Park Train in the Trees
This Saturday, bring your little conductors to the Hermann Park Holiday Party for free face painting, crafts and activities… AND, you can have the opportunity to ride the train for free, as many times as you want, without waiting in line, on THIS Saturday, and EVERY Saturday for a year.

On Saturday, December 13, 2014 from 10:00-2:00pm, join me at the Holiday Party.  No reservations are required… just stop by for some fun!  While you are there, you can purchase train tickets for the family ($3.25 each)… or you can purchase an Annual Membership for $50.

A family membership is $50 and pays for itself in less than 2 months.  Membership includes:

  • 4 Free Train Tickets ($13.00 Value)
  • 1 Pedal Boat Ticket ($10 Value)
  • Free Monthly Train Rides ($156 for a family of 4.  Bigger savings for bigger families!)

This is a value of $179 and it doesn’t even capture the value of being able to skip to the front of the line and select the seats you want!  You get to ride for free once a month, and have this fast pass every singe busy day, including summer, holidays and weekends!

More membership benefits include:

  • Access to the Member Express Line for the train at Kinder Station
  • 10% off merchandise in the Conservancy Gift Shop
  • 10% off orders in Pinewood Cafe

AND your membership supports a fine Houston park.  Your $50 keeps the park running smoothly (and keeps it clean and fixes what’s broken and provides the perfect urban oasis for Houston).

If you get your family membership at the December 13 (or online), you will get to:

  • Skip the line on December 13 and every busy day of the week
  • Ride all day for free on December 13 and every Second Saturday of the month.

Join me at the park on December 13.  The activities are free for the kids and I’d love to meet you.  Be sure to come see me to say “hello” and grab a little treat for the kids!