summer 2019

A family-friendly guide to artsy and outdoor summer fun in Houston

A family-friendly guide to artsy and outdoor summer fun in Houston

Levy Park Houston oak tree park child
Family fun abounds at Levy Park.  Photo by Midway Companies
Houston Arboretum boardwalk
Hike the ravine at the Houston Arboretum.  Photo by Anthony Rathbun
The Orange Show Center for Visionary Art
Things get colorful at the Orange Show.  Photo courtesy of The Orange Show Center for Visionary Art
Levy Park Houston oak tree park child
Houston Arboretum boardwalk
The Orange Show Center for Visionary Art

Summer in Houston means school is out, and kids are buried in their phones, laptops, or gaming systems. With long, scorching days full of complaints of, "I'm bored," parents yearn for events and distractions to keep young minds stimulated.

For those looking for a little more than pool, water park, or theme park entertainment, here is a rundown of some fun, often free, summer activities. What better way to combat all that screen time than with some art, music, story time, and nature?

Artful days

The Art Car Museum
Houston's car valhalla continues to be a free spot for those who love seeing the souped-up, blinged-out automobiles that roll around this city when the Houston Art Car Parade happens every April. Currently, a decades-spanning exhibit called THEN and NOW is on display. Open Wednesday through Sunday, 11 am to 6 pm.

The Houston Museum District 
Here, myriad museums square away free days and times during these summer months. For example, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the Houston Museum of Natural Science; the Children's Museum of Houston; and the Health Museum always have free hours on Thursdays. Check site for dates and times.

The Orange Show
The colorful show has several on-the-cheap spots that are worth checking out, like the Beer Can House (made of over 50,000 used beer cans) and the Orange Show Monument. Admission for both is $5 (free for children under 12), but the creative urban space Smither Park is always free. Open from dawn until dusk.

Musical merriment 

Cactus Music
The legendary record store continues to be a spot where young music lovers can learn about the coolest vinyl. Families can also catch indie performers, either local or national, do small live shows right there in the store. Added value for parents: The fine folks at Saint Arnold hooks the place up with free beer. Check site for dates and times.

Discovery Green
Downtown's bustling green park will continues its Thursday concerts (presented by UH-Downtown) all through June. On the 27th, Bruce Robison and Kelly Willis (aka Americana's favorite couple) will perform. 7-9:30 pm.

The Houston Symphony 
The symphony keeps the summer properly classy with its ExxonMobil Summer Symphony Nights over at Miller Outdoor Theatre. Among the shows: Tchaikovsky’s Romeo & Juliet on June 22, Dvorak’s “New World” Symphony on June 28 and a Star-Spangled Salute on the Fourth of July. Check site for dates and times.

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
The MFAH will host its Music on the Plaza summer series over at the Brown Foundation, Inc. Plaza. On June 28, dancer/choreographer Genene McGrath will perform with the Two Star Symphony quartet and, on August 30, poet Zachary Caballero and Handsomebeast will perform. 6-9 pm.

The great outdoors

Houston Arboretum & Nature Center
The charming green space has plenty of events geared for the summer (we're most curious about this Possums and Popsicles event). It's also home to a 155-acre, urban nature preserve, featuring five miles of trails — a must for those who like hiking, walking, or just exploring. 7 am to 7 pm.

Jesse H. Jones Park & Nature Center
This park is where you can enjoy bicycling, T'ai Chi, bug walks, canoe trips, and more. Also, every second Saturday finds Second Saturday Settlers, where staff and volunteers demonstrate the various activities of early Texas settlers at Redbud Hill Homestead. Open from dawn to dusk.

Midtown Park
The local park has a bevy of free, outdoor fun: Zumba classes, samba classes, a pet-friendly happy hour called Yappy Hour, and more. A favorite is the Midtown Houston's Farmers Market. Shop from local farms and vendors without leaving the Loop. Visit Elizabeth Baldwin Park every Saturday to browse a fresh assortment of produce and prepared foods from a curated selection of Houston’s best farmers, bakers, and chefs. 10 am to 2 pm.

Story time
Blue Willow Bookshop
Thursday mornings are for storytime. Toddlers and preschoolers will be able to check out stories, sing songs, and enjoy an art activity. The themes change weekly, and special-guest authors might come by to read for the kiddies. 10 am.

Houston Public Library
HPL offers a summer reading program, complete with various story times going on at branches all over the city. Also look for the summer reading programs and story times over at Brazoria County, Fort Bend County, Harris County, and Montgomery County. Check sites for dates and times.

Levy Park
Along with having great outdoor activities, Levy Park also has Thursday mornings open for literature-loving families, with its one-hour Family Storytime. Held in the Children’s Pavilion, this cross-generational literacy experience is followed by a facilitated activity or craft for the whole family to enjoy. 10-11 am.

The Nature Discovery Center
Nature Story Time here happens every Wednesday afternoon. Each week, a book on a different nature topic is featured. Then, kids are invited to dabble in a fun craft or go on a nature walk. There are also live animal demonstrations, specimens to observe and touch, and more. 4 pm.