Top 10 Kid-Friendly Things that Opened in Houston in 2021
In 2021, Houston saw some exciting openings for new activities, restaurants, and things to do for kids all over the city. Whether your kids love entertainment centers, art, nature, science, or just a great donut, we have the list of the 10 best new kid-friendly things and places that opened or upgraded in 2021 in Houston.
Best New Family Entertainment in Houston
Palace Social has entertainment and food for the whole family. Photo courtesy of Palace Social
This Bellaire indoor family-fun spot opened its doors this summer to provide up-to-the-minute indoor activities! Palace Social sits on the site of a former bowling alley, not too far from Houston’s medical center. The new venue brings bowling back to the area and adds many great new attractions like a video game arcade, virtual technology experiences, and sports simulators. Hungry or thirsty? It also houses a restaurant, two bars, a dessert bar, and more.
2. POST Houston
Formerly the city’s massive Barbara Jordan Post Office, this venue opened in November 2021 after years of development. The space houses a food hall with a wide variety of options (open Wed-Sun), rooftop garden, and live music venue. The family will love lounging on the sky lawn with an impressive view of the Houston skyline and an organic farm. If your kids have a sweet tooth, make sure you check out Sweets with L&L, which serves cotton candy on glow sticks.
Best New Museum Exhibitions in Houston
NASA's Mars Perseverance rover acquired this image using its Left Mastcam-Z camera, it was voted photo of the week for Dec. 12 - 18, 2021. Photo courtesy of nasa.gov
In 2021, NASA has been working on its two space exploration programs: Artemis, aiming to land the first woman on the moon in 2024, and Orion, seeking to explore Mars in the 2030s. In October 2021, the kid-friendly Mission to Mars exhibit opened, looking at what it is like to visit Mars and how humans may eventually live there. You can experience a virtual Martian sunset, climb into a simulated Orion capsule, and touch a real piece of Mars! Using simulations, you can also launch a rocket and pilot a spaceship. It’s a tremendous new child-friendly addition to an exciting day out, including the moon-landing mission control refurbishment, rocket park, and the Angry Birds area. Another recent addition is the SpaceX Falcon 9 booster rocket donated by Elon Musk from commercial space flights.
Once you are on-site, don’t forget to book your tram tour time slot through the app, a great innovation that saves the long lines of previous years. Please note that masks are still required at NASA as of December 2021 because it is a government facility.
4. Houston Museum of Natural Science’s Egyptian and Body Worlds exhibits
Ramses the Great & The Gold of the Pharaohs
Kids are often fascinated by the mummies and pyramids of ancient Egypt. Recently opened and running till May 2022, this exhibition transports you back 2,300 years to the heartbeat of Ancient Egypt ruled by the most celebrated builder in the country's storied history—Ramses the Great. Come and wonder at 181 priceless Egyptian artifacts, including sarcophagi, animal mummies, and more! Houston is the first stop of a multi-city tour for this exhibition, so catch this one while you can.
BODY WORLDS & The Cycle of Life
Learn more about the inner workings of your body! BODY WORLDS & The Cycle of Life delivers a breathtaking encounter with the human body and shows the effects of poor health, good health, and lifestyle choices. The 100+ preserved real-life human specimens give an honest overview of how the body works. There are no age restrictions on attending the exhibit, so you should research if it is appropriate for your child.
Best New Light Installations in Houston
Photo courtesy of the Houston Botanic Garden
5. Lightscape at Houston Botanic Garden
Houston Botanic Garden has a magnificent light show on display for the first time in 2021! Come and visit a mile pathway through the garden sparkling with millions of lights in artistic installations and colors accompanied by sound designed to lift holiday spirits. One of the most striking installments is the Winter Cathedral Tunnel, a towering arch sparkling with 100,000 twinkling lights. Lightscape runs through January 2.
Big Rivers Waterpark & Adventure – the Houston area’s newest water and attraction park – has continued to add to its offerings in 2021. This December has seen the launch of its first Christmas at Big Rivers, with free weekend excitement including lights, pictures with Santa, arts and crafts, the Petting Zoo, Sand Hill, and Hay Pavilion. You can also buy s’more kits, cookie decorating, and a variety of food. There are plans for a fairground opening in March 2022, so there will be more fun along with the waterpark and aerial adventures next year.
Best New Art Experiences in Houston
Seismique, the technology-fueled experiential art museum features over 40 unique galaxies. Photo courtesy of the museum
You no longer need to drag your child around a dull display of pictures on a white wall for them to experience art. This technology-fueled experiential art museum features over 40 unique galaxies (galleries) spanning 40,000 square feet, complete with 9 million LED lights. You will find extra-terrestrial beings, artificial intelligence, immersive experiences, gamification, and dazzling displays of light, color, sound, and natural elements. The galaxies are designed to stimulate imagination, heighten curiosity, inspire wonder, and - above all - be fun! There is no set path to take, so your family can wander wherever they like, enjoying the interactive and immersive art.
Another excellent art experience is the Immersive Van Gogh experience, hosted by MFAH, which has been extended until February 6, 2022. Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience is a 20,000 square foot light and sound spectacular featuring two-story projections of the artist’s most compelling works. Encounter the brilliance of one of history’s greatest artists all around you. The pictures magically move and change in time to a musical extravaganza. Catch it before it's gone!
Best New Kid-Friendly Restaurants in Houston
Dave's Hot Chicken has two locations in Houston. Photo courtesy of Dave’s Hot Chicken
Houston is increasingly making top foodie city lists, and it’s fun to check out the new kid-friendly restaurants and bakeries in town. Take your chicken basket to a whole new level by visiting Dave’s Hot Chicken, with two recently opened Houston locations in Midtown and on Westheimer. However, don’t worry if your kids don’t like spicy chicken; you can order it with no spice as well. With generous portions and other menu items including Mac and Cheese, Cheesy Fries, and Milkshakes, you’re sure to have happy kids.
Voodoo Doughnut opened its Monroe location in 2021, the second in the bakery’s Houston spots. With its vast, fun, colorful, and wild-flavored donut selection (bubblegum flavor, anyone?), this bakery is a special food destination for kids. Watch out in 2022 for another new location in Cypress! Yummy!