Things to Do in Houston, with Kids, in One Afternoon – Market Square Park, Niko Nikos, Bubble in the Bayou, Downtown Aquarium

Houston MuralDo you have a few extra hours in Houston?  Make the most of them with a mini Downtown Adventure.

Three hours is enough time to grab lunch at Market Square Park, find the Big Bubble on Buffalo Bayou, explore the Bayou Trail and visit the Downtown Aquarium.  For a map of Downtown Houston, go HERE.

To start, drive or take MERTORail to the Preston Street Station.  Walk a few blocks west(ish) from the train tracks, on Preston Street, and you will run in to Market Square Park.  Just before the park, stop to take your picture on this huge Houston mural.

Market Square ParkOnce at Market Square Park, order lunch at Niko Nikos and let the kids run wild in the grass.  This park has a fantastic patio, with huge fans to keep you cool on a hot Houston day.  It is kid and dog friendly with big open space and a dog run.  There are also several fountains and many benches.

After lunch, gather up your crew and walk a couple more blocks west(ish) towards the Buffalo Bayou.  On the same side of the street as James BakerMarket Square Park, you will walk right by Baker Common.  This is a big open green space with access to the Bayou Trail.  Stop to roll down the hill or sit on the benches.

Instead of heading down to the bayou from here, head back to street level and walk to the Preston Street Bridge.  On this bridge is one of the most unexpected things in Downtown Houston.  On the brick pillar on the southeast(ish) corner of the bridge (the closest pillar, but across the street from Market Square Park), is a mysterious red button.

Peeking at Big Bubble at Buffalo BayouThere is no sign above this little button.  It is just a mysterious red button in the middle of Downtown Houston.  You don’t know whether you should press it or not.  And if you do press it, what will happen?  Where should you look?  And say you see or hear the bubbles, what is causing it?  Did you wake a bayou monster?  And if a boat is traveling down the river, what would happen if you time the bubbles just right?

For best results, on your walk, tell your kids you hear there is a mysterious red button in Downtown Houston and you need to find out what it does. Get them close to the pillar and see if they can find it.  Once you find it, ask for ideas on what it might do and see who is brave enough to push it.  Once pressed, try to find the bubbles and ask what could be causing them.  Finish up with several minutes of pressing the Buffalo Bayou Trailbutton, running to the side of the bridge, watching the bubbles and giggling with delight.

When you have had enough, walk across the bridge to the other side of the bayou.  You could cross Bagby Street to get to the Downtown Aquarium, but instead, find the stroller/handicap ramp down to the Buffalo Bayou Trail.  It is on the same side of Preston as the red button.

Walk down the long ramp and continue straight along side the water.  Aquarium Splash PadFeed the ducks and watch out for the many cyclist riding along the path.  The sidewalk will take you under the overpass and you will find the back entrance to the Downtown Aquarium on your right hand side.

Once you are at the Downtown Aquarium, decide how much you want to do.  If you want the full adventure pass, be sure to look on the website HERE because there are often Buy One Get One Free coupons.  This allows you to walk through the aquarium and ride all of the rides.  Another option is to just visit the aquarium for about half of the price.  Or, my favorite option, is to splash in the splash pad for free.

There is no cost to visit the big patio and the bathrooms are open to everyone.  There is a DJ, splash pad and free trainer shows throughout Trail Entrancethe day.  Without spending any money, you can have a great time at the Downtown Aquarium.

When you are out of time, walk back to your car or the METRORail.  If you don’t feel like walking, look for the horse and carriage the swings by the Downtown Aquarium.

On your way home, pat yourself on the back because this was a few hours very well spent.  You toured Houston like a local and made some memories with your kids.

Are you looking more ideas for exploring Downtown Houston with kids?  Go HERE to learn more!


Have one free day in Houston? Here are things to do in Houston, with kids, to make for one big gigantic day of fun!

My kids and I recently planned one jam packed, big, gigantic, perfect day in Houston. We fit all of this fun into one day, but if you are more sane than the BigKidSmallCity crew, feel free to drop an item or two.

For us, a perfect day usually includes visiting the Museum District and Downtown. Lucky for us, this means parking once and riding our favorite METRORail.

We always have good intentions for starting early, but 10:00am seems to be the magic time for us getting out the door. We drive over to Natachee’s and park in the lot just north (across Berry) of the restaurant. Here there is free parking for Natachee’s but since we’re heading out for the day, we put our $3 in the slot.

You may know that the BigKidSmallCity crew likes to eat, and with this being the case, we head to Natachee’s for an early lunch. Natachee’s has a patio, with a sandbox, right next to the METRORail tracks. What could be better than eating, playing and watching the trains go by?

After our lunch we go right outside the restaurant to the METRORail station. Here we buy $1.25 tickets from the machine. Cash and credit cards are accepted. (Kids under 5 are free.) When the northbound train arrives, we jump on.

In a couple of minutes we arrive at the Main Street Square Station. Here we jump off the train, Purell 6 little hands and waive at the driver. Sometimes we even get the train whistle blown for us.

Downtown is one of our favorite Houston destinations. There is the JP Morgan Chase Observation Deck, 60 floors in the air, there are the miles of tunnels underground, there are restaurants, trains and parks. For a list of things to do Downtown, go HERE. We’ve decided to go to Discovery Green, just 5 blocks east(ish) of the Main Street Square Station.

I have Brooke in the small stroller with our diaper bag, spare clothes and water in the bottom pocket. James is still in the BABYBJÖRN
and Joe walks next to me. We look like a small parade making our way through the city streets.

At Discovery Green, the kids play on the playground and then cool off at the splash pad. There is so much to do that we could spend all day, but instead we change clothes quickly and continue on our adventure.

On the way back to the train station, we stop at Phoenicia Specialty Foods to grab a quick snack for the road. We take our cookies and nuts and walk the 5 blocks back to the Main Street Square Station. Here we buy another one way ticket for $1.25 and jump on the southbound train.

We ride the train past our car parked next to the HCC/Ensemble station and jump out at Hermann Park. Here we walk over to the Houston Museum of Natural Science.

Inside the museum we visit the awesome new Paleontology Hall, Joe’s favorite Energy Hall and Cockrell Butterfly Center. If you want to visit but are not a member, you might want to skip the general admission ticket and just visit the butterflies. The Butterfly Center ($8) is loads of fun for the kids.

Not ready to finish our adventure yet, we walk across the street to the Hermann Park Train Station. At these mini stations, no ticket is required. When the train arrives, we jump on and ride it around the park, over to Kinder Station.

Here we must decide if we will feed the ducks, rent a pedal boat ($9/boat) or visit the Houston Zoo. My kids pick the Zoo and we head inside.

Already hot, we head over to the 4D Movie Theater. Here we catch the Dora and Diego Movie and spend 10 minutes in the air conditioning and get blasted by air and splashed with water.

Feeling better, we go further into the African Forest, past the rhinos, giraffes and splash pad to the Wildlife Carousel. We buy tickets for the big kids and I ride (supervise) for free. After a quick stop at the playground in the Children’s Zoo, we decide to head out of zoo.

For dinner, we stop at Pinewood Cafe, inside Hermann Park, and eat grilled cheese sandwiches. After some people watching through the floor to ceiling windows, we head out.

Instead of buying train tickets at Kinder Station ($3 each), we make the walk through Hermann Park. We feed the ducks with our grilled cheese crusts and then go to the Hermann Park METRORail Station.

We buy more one way tickets ($1.25 each) and jump on the next northbound train. At the HCC/Ensemble Station, we hop off and cross the street to our car.

On the way home we talk about our adventure until 3 kids doze off. What a great big gigantic day!