Best of 2022 - Houston Kid Edition: Top Openings, Happenings and Other Awesome Stuff We Loved

Moon 2 Mars opened in 2022 at Space Center Houston. Photo courtesy of Space Center Houston
Moon 2 Mars opened in 2022 at Space Center Houston. Photo courtesy of Space Center Houston

There are so many great attractions in Houston, but if your kids are easily bored or complain they've seen it all before, you might want to read on! If you’re wondering what’s new for kids in Houston, we have rounded up some 2022 openings that have family appeal. Whether you want to visit a new park, a new exhibition, or a new restaurant, we have the list of the 10 best new kid-friendly things and places that opened or upgraded in 2022 in Houston.

New Kid-Friendly Openings in Houston in 2022

Department of Wonder in Houston 
Photo courtesy of the Department of Wonder

1. Department of Wonder - Sugar Land - South Houston

This exciting new immersive experience is like nothing else and particularly suitable for younger kids. Department of Wonder transforms into a discoverable play world that is ideal for tiny explorers. Little ones climb, build, hide, seek, and wander through a fantastical forest. Make Believe at Department of Wonder allows parents to play alongside their young children, allowing them to think outside the box, practice critical thinking, and experiment with new ideas.

2. King Tut’s Tomb Discovery Experience - Houston Museum of Natural Science - Downtown

Transport your kids back to 1922 as they explore the world premier exhibition, King Tut’s Tomb Discovery Experience. Travel to Egypt’s fabled Valley of the Kings to accompany famed Egyptologist Howard Carter as he sets eyes on King Tut’s Tomb for the first time. Experience the dark tunnels that led to Tutankhamen’s burial chambers, explore the fantastic golden treasures he took with him into the afterworld, and enjoy the brightly colored, floor-to-ceiling hieroglyphs that detail his life and offer prayers to the gods to ensure a blessed life after death. King Tut's Tomb Discovery is one of the best museum exhibitions in Houston.

3. Outbreak: Epidemics in a Connected World - The Health Museum - Downtown

Particularly interesting in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, this fascinating new exhibit from the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C. opened in October 2022 and explores infectious diseases and their spread, including how outbreaks have affected the Greater Houston Area. You and your kids can play games that challenge you to identify and contain an outbreak.

4. Moon to Mars - NASA Johnson Space Center - South Houston

After celebrating a three-day Moon2Mars festival in June 2022, NASA launched its new Artemis exhibit. This interactive exhibit highlights NASA’s Artemis program, which will return humans to the Moon for the first time in over 50 years. Your kids will learn about why we will explore and where we’ll go on the Moon. This new permanent exhibition is included with general admission, so you can also go on the amazing tram tour and learn the latest about the Mars missions.

Solstice in downtown Houston 
Photo courtesy of Studio Iregular

5. Solstice, by Studio Iregular - Discovery Green - Downtown

This new art installation on Brown Promenade in Discovery Green places the audience in a space of ever-changing colors and soundscapes created by frames, mirrors, and a central sun. Open 6 a.m. – 11 p.m. until February 14, Solstice comprises a series of mirrored and LED arches that reflect the transformation of Earth when the sun is at its closest and furthest from the equator. Your kids can experience the longest day of the year to the shortest in an explorative and interactive format. Solstice is our favorite new art experience in Houston.

6. Trebly Park - Downtown

Trebly Park will celebrate its official opening in early 2023. Still, you will find some activity right now since the fencing is down and holiday installations are up, including giant gingerbread people and candy canes. The park, located at the corner of Leeland and Fannin Streets near Toyota Center, is an L-shaped green space, including lush garden zones and a central lawn that will be used for events.

7. Bear Branch Park Playground - The Woodlands - North Houston

Bear Branch park in The Woodlands, north of Houston, has had a complete overhaul in 2022 to make it one of the best accessible playgrounds in the city. Fun for children with or without disabilities, the park has a wide range of equipment, including swings and slides. Bear Branch park also boasts shaded basketball courts, a dog park, a seasonally operated swimming pool, tennis courts, and a skate park.

8. The Lyric Market - Downtown

Even the fussiest eater will enjoy this new food hall in Houston’s Theater District. The nine food stalls will make it easy for the whole family to find a dining option. A 7,500-square-foot deck means there is plenty of space as well! Family-friendly favorites are available, such as burgers, chicken, and waffles.

Daddy's Chicken Shack in Houston 
Photo courtesy of Daddy's Chicken Shack 

9. Daddy’s Chicken Shack - The Heights

This Southern California-based fast-casual fried chicken sandwich concept opened its first location in Houston in 2022. This fun and bright fast-food restaurant offers breakfast items as well as a range of family-pleasing chicken options.

10. Sugar Factory Express - The Galleria

Once you’ve finished shopping or a turn on the ice rink, head to the Sugar Factory’s new second location in the Houston Galleria shopping center, which is just completing its final touches and will be open very soon. The Express model of the celebrity-endorsed hotspot serves some colorful sweet eats and treats. Head with your kids to the dining pavilion and sample Insane Milkshakes, Rainbow Sliders, Chicken Sandwiches, and Smoking Goblets.

Dig World TX near Houston 
Driving a skid steer at Dig World. Photo by Jessica Stautberg

11. Dig World TX — Katy

This construction-themed adventure park opened this year near Houston. Here kids can operate the equipment instead of just watching: drive skid steers, dig dirt with excavators, and more. Dig World TX is one of just a few construction-themed parks in the country.

*Not yet open, but coming up for kids in Houston in 2023 - the Galapagos exhibit at Houston Zoo and a unique golf fun-center at Puttshack!

Coolest Kid-Friendly Openings in 2022 Around the Rest of the Country

If you’re visiting friends or family, or just taking a family trip to other parts of the country, there are some other new openings well worth seeking out and putting on your next itinerary. Don’t forget, we’ve got whole sites dedicated to the best things to do with kids in most major US cities you can check when you travel, including reviews of all the newest attractions and local calendars packed with events. Here are a few of the coolest things to open across the country this past year.

1. Mommy Poppins Launched in San Francisco and Miami

Our little family grew this year as we added San Francisco and Miami to the world of Mommy Poppins. Our two new sites join NYC, Long Island, New Jersey, Westchester, Connecticut, DC, Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Houston, Orlando, and Atlanta. Also expanding: the cool things you can do on our site. We recently redesigned our search pages with a cleaner, easier-to-use design and new functionality. You can now find camps and classes on your local calendar of events and even buy tickets directly from our website — if an event has a red "Book It" tag, you can purchase tickets immediately, with no added fees. Oh yeah, in our spare time, we also created a new Earth Kids Guide and newsletter. Since the environment is one of the most critical issues facing our children’s futures, we wanted to think and talk about new meaningful and fun activities to engage children and families with sustainability each month.

Sloomoo in Chicago 
Photo by Lauren LaRoche

2. Sloomoo Institute  — NYC, Atlanta, and Chicago

The Sloomoo Institute is a slime lover's paradise and an over-the-top sensory experience. After starting life as a pop-up in NYC, it’s now a permanent 8,000-square-foot space your kids will want to visit again and again. No worries if you can’t make it to New York, as Sloomoo opened in Atlanta and Chicago before the year ended. With the massive popularity of the idea (we’ve had editors visit in all three locations, and all their kids agree this is fun to the 9th degree), we suspect there will soon be outposts everywhere.

3. Rise NY — NYC

A brand new experience has opened close to Times Square that takes visitors on a breathtaking simulated aerial tour of New York City. With your feet dangling from the full-motion seats, you soar and swoop through the city, its landmarks, and all its seasons in RiseNY’s awe-inspiring love letter to the Big Apple. Hit all the tourist destinations at once…

4. Retro Roller Skating Rink at Rockefeller Center — NYC

Think you can only strap on skates at Rockefeller Center at Christmas? That's no longer the case, and we got the scoop on summer skating at Rockefeller Center. (Also, here are the best restaurants near Rockefeller Center, so your family won't wander into a tourist trap and can get some actually tasty eats.)

5. There's a Brand New Sesame Place — San Diego

One of our LA writers visited the park before it opened and got the inside story on what kids love about the country's newest theme park. There's a water park element to the place, too, which is open year-round, and it's definitely one of the best amusement parks in the US for kids under 5.

6. Gateway: The Deep Space Launch Complex — Kennedy Space Center, Merritt Island, FL

This new, 50,000-square-foot, multi-level attraction at Kennedy Space Center opened in March. It gives space fanatics of all ages first-hand views of modern-day spacecrafts such as a SpaceX Falcon 9 booster and Orion Crew vehicle. The main concourse features a 4D motion theater offering four different journeys. It's as close to outer space as you can get without paying for a ride on a tech billionaire's rocket.

7. Stranger Things Experience — Atlanta and Los Angeles

Any teen parent will tell you that finding the outings that they will not only agree to go on (with parents, not friends), but will rave about afterward, are few and far between. Well, this is one outing tweens and teens love. It consists of a walking adventure with an interactive storyline told by the cast of the TV show, a 3D VR adventure that just might make you scream, and a trip to the Starcourt Mall, where you can enjoy Scoops Ahoy ice cream and very cool photo ops.

Harry Potter 
Photo by Jennifer Marino Walters 

8. Harry Potter: A Forbidden Forest Experience — Westchester and DC

Harry Potter fans, rejoice! Harry Potter: A Forbidden Forest Experience is a magical walk-through that takes guests along a nighttime woodland trail filled with creatures, characters, and scenes from the Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts films. Spectacular lighting and sound effects, mist, and interactive elements make visitors feel like they've truly stepped into the Wizarding World.

9. Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser Experience  — Walt Disney World Resort, Orlando

At this one-of-a-kind hotel experience, guests stay aboard a starship for a two-night adventure. The journey begins on a launchpad with a simulated blast off into space. The launch paddocks at the Halcyon starcruiser, where guests have their own passenger cabin complete with bunk beds and a galactic view. Young Jedis can get a sneak peek of the inner workings of the ship, encounter stormtroopers in the ship's atrium, wield a lightsaber, and navigate the ship with the crew's help. Cheap? No. An incredible once-in-a-lifetime experience? Yep.

10. The Dr. Seuss Experience — Traveling show

This traveling show is one our Houston editor caught when it was there, and she said it’s as if the books have come to life. The show moved to Colorado and will continue touring the US from there. The experience gives kids a chance to see, hear, feel, and experience their favorite settings from nine of Dr. Seuss’ stories as they go from room to room to interact with each installation.

Did we miss any of your favorite new openings? Let us know on Facebook!

 

Monster Jam at NRG Stadium
NRG Stadium - various times Pick
HTX Market at Evelyn's Park
Evelyn's Park Conservancy - 12:00 PM
Family Zone at MFAH
Beck Building at MFAH - 1:00 PM
Sunday Sounds at City Place
City Place Plaza - 2:00 PM
The Escape Game Houston
The Escape Game Houston (in CityCentre) - various times
Neighborhood Guides
Activity Guides