What to give Houston Moms & Families for Christmas… that they can actually use and enjoy all year long!

Houston City Hall as seen from Buffalo Bayou
It happens each year… my mother-in-law wants to know what we want for Christmas.  She really wants to give us a nice gift and I really can’t think of anything we really need…  And frankly, lots of things I’d like to pick out myself so we get the right size or right model or right color.

You know we like to go on adventures around Houston and for those that can’t organize these gifts, we ask for something just as fun… but a whole lot easier!  If you are searching for a gift for Houston Moms or Families, here are my suggestions that will make 2015 great!

Houston Zoo Membership – A family membership gets you in all year!

Children’s Museum of Houston - A membership lets you drop by this popular museum for a short time, have your fun, and leave without worrying about getting your “money’s worth”.

Houston Fire Museum – This small museum has a kids play room with a fireman pole, real fire truck cab and fire safety house.  It’s easy to supervise and the kids love this place to play.

Hermann Park Membership – A family membership comes with many benefits, including free unlimited train rides on the second Saturday or each month!

Houston Museum of Natural Science – A family membership gets you in to the main halls for free, all year long.  Swing by for a quick tour of the Paleo Hall, Chemistry Hall, Energy Hall and more!

Main Street Theater, Youth Theater Season Tickets – Great productions based on popular books, for kids 3 and older.

Museum of Fine Arts Houston - Believe it or not, this “grown up” museum has a lot of family friendly activities.  Each Sunday there is a family workshop… plus other events throughout the year.

Bayou City Mamas - This is for Houston Moms!  It includes one free event ticket of your choice (up to a $35 value), free monthly stroller fitness classes with Fit4Mom Houston, discounts on future events, Mamas Club only events and early notification and registration, discounts with our event partners and preferred vendors and an upgraded gift bag at your first event after joining the Mamas Club!  This is a great way to meet other Houston moms.

BigKidSmallCity Members Club – Sign up today and get ready for an insider’s view of Houston!  Each time we venture out into Houston with our kids, we come home with wild imaginations, dinnertime conversation, ideas for our next adventure and an even greater appreciation for our city. BigKidSmallCity Meet-Ups are opportunities to explore Houston with our kids and other families. All Meet-Ups are unique to our city and all are small in scale. We have visited several fire stations, city hall, a youth theater and a couple wildlife parks.

The Meet-Ups are designed so that instead of sitting and watching kids play, we are actively exploring with them. In addition to this, the venues we visit are something we can only experience in our great city. Because of this, the size of the Meet-Ups is always limited to what the venue can hold and what is enjoyable for the attendees supervising (chasing) young kids.

For those people that are tired of missing out on the opportunities and want Meet-Ups added just for them, they can join the BKSC Members Club.  Go HERE to give this gift to your favorite Houston family.

 

 

If you are looking for things to do in Houston for the holidays, go HERE!



Give the Gift of Adventure! Skip the Toy Aisle and Create a Memorable Houston Experience for the Kids!

Mounted Patrol Feeding Horses Noah
Do you know those little games at the arcade where you put in a quarter and then move the claw to pick up a toy? That is what my house looks like. And the claw doesn’t work very well.

The last thing we need is more little toys, that no one actually plays with, but still seem to get spread all over the floor and forget to pick up.

My kids will most certainly get a few great toys at Christmas, but what they will get more of.. and certainly remember for a lot longer, are Houston family adventures!

My kids still think hanging out with me is pretty great (except for when I kiss my 7 year old at school), and they think our Houston adventures are awesome. They talk about their train trips, fire station visits, urban scavenger hunts and park hunts for weeks and months.  And these adventures make no mess on my family room floor!

Through Christmas, we’ll work through the Houston Holiday Event List and on Christmas morning, the kids will “open” adventures!  These are little packages with a few little items, like a conductor hat or a tutu, and a note hinting at the adventure!  We’ll do part at home on Christmas, and finish up in Houston after the holiday.

You can easily do the same!  Below are some ideas!

Modify these to fit your interests and budget. Most classes/events can be replaced with a free alternative… just be creative and get out and have some fun!

For the Crime Fighter:
Wrap up a play badge and handcuffs or even a police uniform.  Take your little police man down to the Houston Police Museum in Downtown Houston.  Next, grab your carrots and apples and head to the Mounted Patrol Stables to feed the horses!

For the Fire Fighter:
Wrap up a fire chief helmet. Set up an obstacle course in your yard and create some “flames” out of poster board. Have your young firefighter climb through the course and then put the flames with the garden hose. Next grab some cookies and head to the local fire station. If they are available, the fireman will often let the kids “drive” the truck. After feeding the firemen, head to the fire museum for an afternoon of playing or to Firehouse Subs for lunch.

For the Train Conductor:
Wrap up a train conductor hat and some train tickets, listing all your stops for the day (or week!). If your train conductor is at least 7 years old, he or she can be a Engineer for a Day at Hermann Park.   If not, you can still find plenty of trains in Houston. You can ride METRORail, the Hermann Park train or go out to Hockley for the monthly free train ride. You can also visit Old Town Spring, watch the freight trains go by and eat at the Loose Caboose (a real caboose) or at Puffabelly’s (an old train depot).

For the Pilot:
Wrap up some aviator glasses and make some plane tickets. Take your plane lover to the 1940 Air Terminal Museum near Hobby Airport. Take a picnic lunch with you and eat it at the Hobby Airport Plane Viewing area. Park next to the runway and watch the planes take off and land. (The parking lot, located at the end of Paul B. Koonce Dr., is accessible from Braniff Street by way of Telephone Road or Monroe Street.)  Find more airplane viewing spots HERE.

For the Chef:
Wrap up a chef hat and apron and make a menu with your big plans. Enroll your young chef in cooking school at Rice Epicurean Market. After cooking school, allow your child to host a “dinner party” for a small party (or maybe your family). Be sure to get out a table cloth and make a big deal over the dinner.

For the Actress and Actor:
Take your young movie star to Snip-Its for a pedicure, manicure, facial, haircut and/or up-do. At home, make your own photo studio with a sheet backdrop and some props, and have your very own photo shoot. Afterwards, take your star to a youth theater performance at Main Street Theater or to a movie. Or, if your child is old enough, consider signing up for theater classes at Main Street Theater.

For the Rock Star:
Wrap up something rockstar-like… bandanas, microphones, etc.  Does your young rock star play an instrument? If so, arrange for a local preschool to watch him perform. Or, host a party and have all the kids perform. Then plan a trip to Hard Rock Cafe in Downtown Houston.

For the Pet Lover:
Call the local vet clinics and see if they will allow your child to shadow them for an hour. Offer to pay them or make a donation to their favorite charity. Consider also buying a plaque at the Discovery Green Dog Park and taking your child to find his or her name.  Or, if are extra brave, connect with a local rescue group, like Operation Pets Alive, and get your kids involved in fostering dogs before adoption.

For the Treasure Hunter:
Plan a scavenger hunt for around your house or neighborhood. Create 5 or 10 clues that take your treasure hunter to different locations. At the last stop, hide a box full of Chuck E Cheese tokens. Head to Chuck E Cheese for lunch and games.

For the Parents that Want Some Help:
An adventure can be created around any interest. If you want BigKidSmallCity to customize a Houston adventure for you, you can become a BKSC Member!  With this annual membership, we’ll organize outings so your kids can have great adventures… and you don’t have to plan them!  Go HERE to learn more.



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

Schott Park Humble Monkey Bars
Address:  8510 Will Clayton Pkwy, Humble, TX 77396

As we were driving through Humble last weekend we spotted Schott Park and it looked so inviting that we decided to stop there for a picnic lunch. I’m so glad we did because it turned out to be a great park!

Schott Park Humble Picnic Table
There are several covered picnic tables available, as well as a large covered pavilion. We chose a table, quickly finished our lunch, and then we were off to explore!

Schott Park Humble Playground
The first place we went was to the large play structure that had caught our eye from the road. Unfortunately it was closed for maintenance, but it looked like it would be a lot of fun with several slides and lots of places to climb. The kids were disappointed that they couldn’t play on the equipment, but quickly got over it as we continued our exploration of this large park.

Schott Park Humble Balance Beam
Near the pavilion on the other side of the park are more swings and another, smaller, play structure. The most unique feature of this one is a… Well, I’m not really sure what to call it, but think of lumberjacks trying to balance as they walk on a log that is rolling as it floats down a river. Got it? It was amusing to watch the kids start out slowly then speed up as they tried to stay balanced. Eventually they couldn’t keep up and ended up giggling as they fell off.

Schott Park Map
From there we went on to the jogging path. Schott Park has lots of gravel paths with distances helpfully labelled. Most of the winding path in the main area of the park is in the sunshine, but there is another mile-long trail that is nicely shaded behind a chain link fence near the pavilion.

Schott Park Humble Texas
During our wandering we passed a basket court, but the best find of the entire park was the fitness course in the far south west corner. There are several stations and each has a physical challenge to be completed. Best of all, there are signs saying how the equipment should be used! Most of the equipment is fairly self-explanatory and we tend to do our own thing anyway, but some of those signs would be very helpful if we were attempting to exercise instead of just having fun!

Schott Park Humble Slide
The park also has a few water fountains and two restrooms. We didn’t go into the one near the pavilion, but when I took a quick look into the one by the basketball court it seemed clean. There weren’t any doors on the stalls though, so you might want to use other one instead.

Schott Park Humble Climbing in Park
One final neat thing about Schott Park is that it is located near George Bush Intercontinental Airport. On the day we were there the planes were flying low directly above us as they prepared to land!

Airplane Above Schott Park
If you or your kids love watching the planes and want a closer view, the official airplane observation parking lot is less than three miles away! Go here to learn more about it.



BigKidSmallCity Meet Up: Be a Doctor for a Day! November 22, 2014, 12:30pm

Doctor Brooke
Do you have a little doctor? Do you have a lot of dolly check ups at your house? If so, be sure to get a spot at our next Meet-Up!

On November 22, 2014 at 12:30pm, we will meet at West University Wellness to learn what a Chiropractor does! Bring your doll or stuffed animal to do your own check up!  Just be quick, because the spots are very very limited for this extra special meet-up!

If you want to join us on November 22, 2014 at 12:30pm, you must:
1. Fill out the form below.
2. Be one of the first 12 to respond. Spaces are very limited! The last events filled very 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 doctors to West U Wellness on November 22 at 12:30pm.  (5180 Buffalo Speedway, Houston, TX 77005)
4. Make every effort to attend. Since spaces are so limited, we want as many little doctors to get a chance as possible. If you need to cancel, email me at Jill @ BigKidSmallCity.com right away.



Japanese Garden at Hermann Park – Visiting Houston’s Parks, One Week at a Time

Hermann Park Japanese Garden Bridge
Address: Hermann Park, 6100 Hermann Park Dr, Houston, TX 77030

We’ve written a lot about Hermann Park, but it has come to my attention that the weekly Houston park series is missing Hermann Park’s hidden gem… the Japanese Garden!

The garden is next to the Hermann Park reflecting pool and many people walk by and don’t even know it is there!

Hermann Park Japanese Garden 6
This fenced-in garden is right in the middle of the park and free to enter. Walk right in to be amazed by the waterfalls, bridges, paths and trees.

Take a stroll through the lush gardens and let the kids run through the paths and play on the bridges.

Hermann Park Japanese Garden Small Bridge
Take some time to relax on the shaded benches or take a quick walk through. Stop back each season to see how the gardens change and how the cherry blossoms light up the Japanese Garden.

Before you leave the park, be sure to visit Boogie Woogie next door, splash in the water by the reflecting pool, rent a pedal boat, ride the train or visit the zoo!



Even Toddlers can Skate at Discovery Green ICE! November 25, 2014 – February 8, 2015

Skates at the Ice at Discovery Green
I LOVE the ICE at Discovery Green!  For years I took my young kids to skate at the toddler rink, while I stood on dry land.  Last season I was brave enough to teach myself to skate… and now the entire family cannot wait to get on the ice.

Each November, Kinder Lake is drained and replaced by the ice.  There is a large rink for all to enjoy, as well as a toddler rink for the littlest ones to practice.  Parents can hold the little hands from the edge… so you only have to wear skates if you want to!

Also, some of the toddler sized skates come with double blades, making it easier for kids to balance.  (And even on single blades, the kids seem to balance better than the parents!)

Ice skating at Discovery Green will be open November 25, 2014 through February 8, 2015.  Look for weekly events, including Cheap Skate Nights, Flicks on Ice and Skate with Santa, on the BigKidSmallCity Events List, HERE, or get them in your inbox, HERE!

BigKidSmallCity will be at the rink at the weekly Skate with Santa event, on Saturdays, 4:00-5:00pm.  Come to skate and stop by our table for an activity!  Also, to celebrate the season, Discovery Green is giving our readers a chance to win a family 4 pack of tickets each week until winter break!  Enter for a chance to win!

Skate with Santa, November 29
Skate with Santa, December 6
Skate with Santa, December 13
Skate with Santa, December 20

ICE Rink Admission is $13 and includes skate rental and tax.  Skating time limited to 1.5 hours all school holidays and weekends. A portion of tickets sales goes to support Discovery Green Conservancy’s free year-round programming.  Note that on Fridays at 11:00am or other weekdays, right at the 4:00pm opening, the crowds are smaller!

CJ and James at the Ice at Discovery Green



Visit the Houston Police Department Mounted Patrol Stables

Mounted Patrol Stables
Address:  5005 Little York Road, Houston, Texas 77016
Cost:  Free
Hours:
Weekdays, 8:00am-4:00pm, Excluding Holidays
Appropriate Age: Any Age

Visiting the Houston Police Departments Mounted Patrol Stables might just be the coolest free thing to do in Houston. You know I love the mysterious red button in Downtown, but feeding the 38 HPD horses at the stables ranks just as high.

Mounted Patrol Feeding Horse Apple
Bring your own carrots, quartered apples and peppermints, and you can stop in to visit the horses, any work day.  No appointment or group needed… just grab the kids and go!

Mounted Patrol Petting Horse
If you do have a group and want a formal tour, you can set that up for free as well.  Details are on the HPD website HERE.

Mounted Patrol Horse
BigKidSmallCity had a Meet Up here in the Fall.  We met on a Friday morning with for a demonstration and to feed the horses.

Mounted Patrol Feeding Horses Noah
A HPD officer was our guide and taught us all about the Mounted Patrol.  Kids and parents learned all about the division.  One interesting fact is that the horses are good for public relations. In Downtown Houston or Memorial Park, people are generally happy to be confronted by a police officer on a horse… when they might be angry to be confronted by just a police officer.

Mounted Patrol Demonstration
We also learned that the Houston Mounted Patrol practices natural horsemanship and they feed the animals a natural diet and they don’t use horse shoes!

Mounted Patrol Police Officer
After sitting on the bleachers and learning about the horses, we went back in the stables to feed all the horses.  There were 38 hungry horses that gobbled up everything we gave them!

Mounted Patrol Feeding Horses
Carrots, apples and peppermints are all allowed, but big carrots were the most popular.  This way the kids could feed the horses without getting their hands in their mouths.  Also, big carrots are better than than the little baby carrots… because horses don’t know the difference between a baby carrot and a little finger!

Mounted Patrol Walking Through Stables
The stables are very clean and the horses all stick out their heads to greet your kids.

I highly recommend this outing to all Houstonians. It is very unique adventure for your family!



Things to Do in Houston During the Holidays + Christmas Activities in November and December 2014

The Ice at Discovery Green
It’s holiday time in Houston!  Find the events below and get to celebrating!

For the shows and fairs, I included some that may be best for bigger kids, just click the links to decide for yourself.

Also, each Tuesday I post a list of events for the week.  Go HERE to check the latest.  You can also get updates to your inbox HERE.

Do you know of other family friendly events in the Houston area?  Email me!  Jill @ BigKidSmallCity . com.

Festivals/Family Fun:
Home for the Holidays – November 9th – December 21st – Old Town Spring – The local shops in this old railroad town are dressed up for the holidays and the street is alive with performers and Santa’s Workshop.

Nutcracker Market – November 13-16 – NRG Stadium – This isn’t really a kid event… but it’s a fun shopping/people watching event for moms.

Polar Express Train Ride – November 14-December 30 – Palestine, Texas

Santa’s Workshop – November 14-January 4 – College Station

Photo with Santa – November 15-December 24 – Bass Pro Shops

Festival of Lights – November 15 – January 3 – Moody Gardens – Find 1 million lights, an ice skating rink and Arctic Ice Slide.

Ice Land Ice Sculptures with Sponge Bob Squarepants - November 15-January 4 – Moody Gardens

Zoo Lights – November 19-January 4 – Houston Zoo – Find 2 million lights, lighting up the Houston Zoo!

 Yuletide: Holiday Time at Bayou Bend – November 20- January 4 – Bayou Bend House Museum (Festive Family Friday on December 19)

Holiday Market & Talent Showcase – November 22 – Project Row Houses

Lighting of the Doves – November 22 – Town Green Park at The Woodlands Waterway – This festival has snow, sledding, shopping, entertainment, fireworks… and Santa arriving on the water!  See the Doves light up along The Woodlands Waterway!

Field of Light – November 22-February 8 – Discovery Green – An art installation by Bruce Munro that will be illuminated at dusk each day.  4,500 glass spheres on slender stems along the Brown Promenade.

 ICE at Discovery Green - November 25-February 8 – Discovery Green – All ages are invited to skate at Discovery Green.  There is a small toddler rink for the littlest ones to practice.

Turkey Trot – November 27 – Galleria – The largest Thanksgiving Race in Houston and it takes place in the Galleria area. The event benefits children and seniors Neighborhood Centers serves every year. There’s opportunity to participate as a walker, runner and also volunteer.

Thanksgiving Day Parade - November 27 – Downtown Houston

Uptown Houston Holiday Lighting – November 27 – Post Oak Boulevard

Pop Shop Houston – November 28, 29, 30 – Silver Street Studios

Classic Christmas Story Hour – November 29, December 6, 13 – Brazos Bookstore

Teddy Bear Tea – November 29 & 30, December 6 & 7, 13 & 14, 20 & 21 – St. Regis – Tea time 2:00-4:00pm every weekend.  Puppet show, balloons, face painting & a magic show.

Skate with Santa – November 29, December 6, 13, 20 – Discovery Green ICE - Join BigKidSmallCity at the ice!

Holiday Train – December 1 – January 4 – Hermann Park Train – After dark each night, the train is lit up for the season!

Story Time in Candy Land – December 1-4 – St. Luke’s Day School

Sugar Land Tree Lighting – December 4 – Sugar Land Town Square

Mayor’s Holiday Celebration – December 5 – City Hall – Tree lighting, music, Santa and family fun in Downtown Houston!

Dickens on the Strand – December 5-7 – Galveston - Victorian holiday festival!  Six stages, strolling carolers, musicians, bagpipers, jugglers and  even more entertainers. Costumed vendors peddle their wares from street stalls and rolling carts laden with holiday food and drink, Victorian-inspired gifts.

Christmas Train – December 5-23 – Alvin, Texas

Jingle on the Boardwalk – December 6 – Kemah – Welcome the season with holiday music, a toy drive and parade.

Paint with Santa – December 6 – Young Artist Art Studio 

Christmas in the Park & Campfire Christmas - December 6-31 – George Ranch Historic Park

Tomball German Christmas Market & Festival – December 12-14 – Tomball Train Depot – Great family festival just outside Houston.

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation – December 13 – Market Square Park

Breakfast with Santa – December 13 – Pappasito’s Cantina – Fort Bend Theatre hosts Breakfast with Santa in Storybook Land, with your favorite storybook characters, including Frozen’s Elsa.

Candlelight Tour – December 13-14 – Heritage Society 

Yuletide Nights: Spirits of Holidays Past – December 16 – Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens 

Bayou Bend Family Day:  Seasons of Joy – December 21 – Bayou Bend Family Day – This is a great family event.  Activities, music, demonstrations, performances, craft workshops, giveaways, and more abound throughout the home and gardens.

Chanukah On Ice – December 21 – Discovery Green

Participate in the Stock the Shelves Challenge at Wesley House!

Find holiday lights all around town.  See a list HERE

 Find Gingerbread Building workshops HERE!

Make your own FREE Reindeer Feed at Keeli’s Cupcakes!

 

Shows/Concerts:
Madeline’s Christmas - November 13-December 20 – Main Street Theater (at Talento Bilingue de Houston) – This is a professional production for families!  Kids need to be 3 or older.

Little Scrooge – November 22-20 – Express Children’s Theatre – This show is for families!

A Christmas Carol – A Ghost Story of Christmas - November 26 – December 24 – Alley Theatre 

The Nutcracker – November 28-December 28 – Wortham Theater 

A Christmas Carol – December 3-20 – InterActive Theater – This show specifically for families!

A Christmas Carol – December 5-21 – Wortham Theater

Radio City Christmas Spectacular – December 5-28 – Hobby Center

Houston Symphony’s The Night Before Christmas - December 13 – Jones Hall – This performance is for families!  Kids of all ages are welcome.

Houston Children’s Chorus – December 19, 20, 21 – Houston and Galveston 

Really Really Big Christmas Show – December 19-22 – Second Baptist

 

Looking for more holiday ideas?
Go HERE for Ideas on Houston Adventures to give your kids for Christmas!
Go HERE for Ideas on what to Give Houston Moms and Families this Christmas!
Go HERE for the list of items to order now so you are ready to relax in December!



Gerald D. Hines Waterwall Park at Williams Tower – Visiting Houston’s Parks, One Week at a Time

Williams Tower Water Wall
Address: 2800 S. Post Oak Boulevard in the Galleria

In the middle of the busy Galleria is a 64 foot tall wall of water. Across from the Galleria’s tallest building, William’s Tower, is Gerald D. Hines Waterwall Park.

Williams Tower Houston Galleria
The park has a big green space, framed with Texas Live Oaks and benches.  The waterwall is the star attraction and kids can stand in the semicircle and feel like they’re at the bottom of a waterfall.  If there is a breeze, the kids get a little shower as they enjoy their surroundings.

Williams Tower Water Wall Back
This park does not have a playground, but is a great place for a picnic.  The kids can run through the grass and let their imaginations run wild at the waterwall.

Williams Tower Parking Garage
The only thing tricky with this park is parking.  The Galleria Mall Nordstrom parking garage is a block away and is free.  A closer option is the Williams Tower parking garage, with starts at $3 for 30 minutes (yikes!).  If you know of a trick for Waterwall Park parking, tell us please!

Still, if you haven’t been to the park, make the trip to see it.  Bring the stroller so you can park a little distance away, and enjoy Houston’s 64 foot water wall!



Flash Giveaway: 4 Symphony Tickets, African Safari with Music from the Lion King, 11/1/14 10:00am

Jones Hall for the Performing Arts
Go on an African Safari on Saturday as the Houston Symphony performs songs from the Lion King for Houston families.  All ages are invited and BigKidSmallCity has 4 tickets to give away to a lucky family!

African Safari, 10:00am, November 1, 2014
Jones Hall
615 Louisiana St.
Houston, TX 77002

UPDATE: Congratulations to Laura D! 

To win, you must:
1.  Be sure you can actually attend if you win.
2.  Fill out the form below.

Giveaway closes on October 30, 2014 at 10:00pm.
For November 1, 2014, 10:00am show only. No substitutions!
Official Rules: http://wp.me/P2efXF-5P2