We recently spent a quick few days in Houston, Texas, before boarding a ship in nearby Galveston. It was our first time to this sprawling city, and when I say, “sprawling,” I mean it. Houston is a BIG city – the sixth largest in the country, spreading over 8,788 square miles. We had a car, which was necessary, to get around. Despite Houston being known as a popular U.S. city, I had no idea it had so much to offer tourists – from museums to restaurants to its proximity to the port, it has a lot to offer families on vacation.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t in Houston long enough to make a top 10 list, which I often love to do, but I was there to capture a few highlights that my family and I truly appreciated for you to put on your list for your next trip to this Texan city.
Where to Stay
We spent one night at Omni Houston in the Galleria, a very central location. If you aren’t familiar with the hotel, it’s a more luxurious chain than your standard hotel that caters to a diverse group of travelers. While we where there, the hotel was hosting a big wedding, a few conferences and it was bustling. The room, with two double beds, was comfortable and plush, with features such as a marble bath, plush robes, turndown service, feather pillows, a coffeemaker (always a necessity for this tired traveler), a complimentary newspaper and free self-parking.
We went to Four Seasons Houston the next day. What is there NOT to say about a Four Seasons Hotel? From the minute we stepped in, we felt welcome. As elegant as it is, you feel as though you’ve somehow home away from home. I’ve always felt like that and love this chain. I used to stay at the Four Seasons Chicago often for work, and I just loved the bedding, the gym, and the coffee – needless to say, I was excited about this stay!
To add to my own excitement, it’s equally as great for kids. For example, when we got there, they were given lemonade and beanie babies. Once we were in our room, they had space snacks (pivotal as we had just come from NASA’s Johnson Space Center), as well as space suits hanging in the closet to play astronaut dress-up during our stay. The hotel boasts a lovely pool, athletic center, complimentary coffee in the lobby and ultra-comfort. We had a suite, which may have been larger than our house, with two rooms, large bay windows with a gorgeous view and a spacious living space with kitchen where we could hang out as a family. The hotel is easy going about late checkouts and very understanding towards the needs of a family. if we needed anything, it was brought quickly. I’ll be writing more about Four Seasons Houston elsewhere, so stay tuned.
When we first arrived, my kids had been riding in the car all day (we were coming from Austin), and I wanted to get them up and out. We were armed with the Houston CityPASS and had so many cool options. If you are not familiar with the CityPASS, you should be. It gives you a huge discount on attractions and really helps lower ticket costs in all the major U.S. cities. I’ve used it in San Francisco and New York City, and I can honestly say that it also cuts time in lines, which gives you a peace of mind while traveling in a group.
I instantly glanced at our options in the book and chose the Children’s Museum of Houston in the Museum District. At this point, we really had no idea how big Houston was, but I found out in the car! Once we got there, we were escorted to the front of the line, thanks to our tickets, and for several hours, my kids conducted science experiments, invented things, climbed a three-story tower and used fake ATM machines. The museum pushes education, technology and science, so we felt really good about our time there.
Wait a minute! Before I continue, guess what else the Four Seasons did for my kids? They wrote them personalized post cards, wishing them a good stay. Okay, to be honest, they wrote me one, too. That’s the kind of consideration they give guests.
What to Do
We spent most of the next day at Space Center Houston, the official visitors center of NASA’s Johnson Space Center. The center features a multitude of permanent exhibits, attractions and theatres, as well as a tram ride through the actual offices where astronauts are trained and to see the actual space shuttle and rockets used the past 50 years. The kids went for a virtual flight and my husband was pretty mesmerized by the whole thing. Total bucket list experience, you have to do it once in your life.
Where to Eat
Molina’s on Washington Avenue was our choice for dinner, and what an excellent choice it was! It’s really good, inexpensive Tex Mex food, and this 75-year old restaurant really knows how to treat a family. They offer specialty dishes such as enchiladas, tamales, fish tacos, chalupas, pollo con mole, tilapia, redfish and more. My kids loved the food, we loved the food. It was such a surprise, given that it’s a chain. It’s actually the oldest operating Tex-Mex restaurant in the city. Raul Molina Sr. and his wife Mary have been operating it with great success for over three generations. They understand the importance of close family relations and the culture here reflects these values, and so does their staff. We had outstanding service, and our waitress looked like she really loves her job (maybe I’m not used to it – been living in NYC too long?) While the kids drank water, I opted to have one of the
ir renowned margaritas, known for its proper blend of fresh lime juice, Triple Sec and 100% agave tequila. It was beyond delicious. I’m dreaming of it now as I write this. While waiting for the food, we munched on tortilla chips with their famous dip made out of chile con queso and spicy taco meat (and also plain queso for this vegetarian).
Dessert was out of control! We shared the Tres Leches Cake (Spanish for “three milks cake”), an enormous sponge cake soaked in various milks. It was out of control, and after I posted it on Instagram, an Instagramer told me it was #KitchenAssassinApproved – which it was!
Another restaurant that I’d like to point out that was extremely family-friendly is called Sweet Paris Creperie and Cafe. Founded by young entrepreneurs, Allison Young Chavez and Ivan Chavez, who are on a mission to revive the art of eating crêpes, this is the perfect place for breakfast or lunch. My son had been dreaming about our visit up until the day – he loves chocolate crepes. There are a few locations and they all have the look and feel of a true Parisian cafe. The crêpes are street-style, created in the kitchen – everything from savory to sweet, as well as omelets, Panini’s and salads for the non-crêpe customers. I had smoked salmon in mine, which was sublime, but I won’t under-estimate the smile on my son’s face as he devoured a Nutella filled crêpe. I also relished my cafe latte, probably the best cup of coffee I had in Texas.
All in all, we had a great, quick visit in Houston, but it was different. From the museums to the food, I have to say we were impressed. If you’re headed there with kids in the future, take advantage of my recommendations and let me know where you end up.
Disclosure: I worked closely the folks at Visit Houston to help coordinate our travels in Houston, as well as the teams at the Four Seasons and the Omni Houston, where I was given a media rate and complimentary rate respectively, to aid this review and others, but as always, all opinions are my own.