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Fantastically Free Family Fun: Summer Adventures

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“If you want your children to turn out well, spend twice as much time with them and half as much money.” -Abigail Van Buren

In the spirit of spending quality time together – with a price tag that will make everyone’s wallets cheer – here are some summer adventures and hidden gems the whole family can enjoy for free. 

Where's Waldo?

Join Brazos Bookstore in finding Waldo who’s hiding in 22 local stores in central Houston through July 31. Have fun searching for him in air-conditioned locations. Win a prize when you collect 10 stamps. Finale Party Aug. 3.

Find Waldo around Houston through July 31 
Saturday, Aug. 3, 3 p.m. Finale Party
Waldo HQ - Brazos Bookstore
2421 Bissonnet St., Houston, TX 77005
The world-famous Waldo is in Houston until July 31 and hiding in 22 local businesses. Drop into any of the locations to pick up your Find Waldo Passport and get it stamped every time you find Waldo’s hiding place in a store. Collect 10 stamps and go to Brazos Bookstore for an “I Found Waldo!” button and a $1 off coupon for Where’s Waldo books. Attend the Find Waldo Local Finale Party on Aug. 3 to win great prizes donated by the Waldo locations. Must attend party to win.

Bingo at Tomfoolery Toys & Books
July 25, 1 p.m. 
4844 Beechnut St., Houston, Texas 77096
Tomfoolery is one of the local places where you can find Waldo hiding. They also have free Summer Bingo July 25 at 1 p.m. Come play a few rounds of Bingo! There are prizes for winners and door prizes for participation. Adults are invited to play too!

Ryan Auwarter

Ryan Auwarter, a second grader at Condit Elementary, has fun conquering the climbing structure at Loftin Park, which is located by the Bellaire Aquatic Center and the Bellaire Rec Center, two of the stops for the July 25 Picnic Scavenger Hunt punch card.

Bellaire Parks and Rec’s Picnic in the Park 
July 25, 5:30-7 p.m. Lafayette Park, 4337 Lafayette St., Bellaire, TX 77401
This month, Bellaire Parks & Rec celebrates Parks & Recs month. Pick up a punch card at the Bellaire Recreation Center and visit all of the locations listed on the card (Nature Discovery Center, Evelyn's Park, Bellaire Aquatic Center and Evergreen Pool) before July 25. Bring your completed card to the Picnic in the Park event, which includes hot dogs, games and music, on July 25, 5:30-7 p.m. at Lafayette Park to receive a prize.

Jack Heemer

Jack Heemer carefully feeds one of the horses at the Houston Police Department Mounted Patrol Barn. Make the horses happy by bringing some apples and carrots to feed them during their lunch break.

Houston Police Mounted Horses Stables
Monday-Friday, 12-2 p.m. 
5005 Little York Rd., Houston, TX 77016-2547
Visit and feed the police horses, fun for kids and adults. No appointment necessary during the week; call for weekend appointments (832-394-0399). Bring apples, carrots and peppermints to feed the horses. All ages welcome. 

Fish Gallery Summer Reading Program 
Thursdays 3:30-4:30 p.m. through Aug. 15
2909 Fountain View Dr., Houston, TX 77057
This summer reading program includes a book reading, craft time and discovering some cool stuff in the touch tank! See more on summer reading here.

Waugh Street Bridge Bats 
Every evening
Between Allen Parkway and Memorial Drive 
Watch the Waugh Bridge Bat Colony emerge every evening, all year round, 15-30 minutes before sunset.

Downtown Houston Tunnel System 
Monday-Friday, 6 a.m.-6:30 p.m.
Have an adventure 20 feet beneath downtown exploring air-conditioned tunnels with some stores and restaurants. Direct public entry only from Wells Fargo Plaza and McKinney Garage on Main. Note: This can include lots of walking so wear comfortable shoes and map route before your trip. See the map here.  

Caroline Benitez

It’s fun to watch, hear and feel the waterfall rushing down the 64-foot fountain Gerald D. Hines Waterwall located near The Galleria. Caroline Benitez, a West U Elementary School student, says, “The waterfall is so big and fun to get splashed on a hot day.”

Gerald D. Hines Waterwall Park 
Every day, 8 a.m.-9 p.m.
2800 Post Oak Blvd., Houston, TX 77056
Visit this sixty-four-foot fountain that cascades and re-circulates 11,000 gallons of water per minute. It’s fun to cool off from its spray and breeze and offers agreat photo op. 

Kids Meals Houston – Decorating Paper Lunch Bags for Children 
Weekdays, 9 a.m.-12 p.m.
330 Garden Oaks Blvd., Houston, TX 77018
Kids Meals packs and delivers 2,500-5,000 lunches a day. Adults and kids 8+ can volunteer to make sandwiches weekdays, 9 a.m.-12 p.m.
All ages can help from home by decorating brown paper lunch bags and help put a smile on a child’s face. Contact: Kelsey@kidsmealhouston.org or 713-695-5437. See other volunteer opportunities for kids and teens here.  

Free Movies and Performances

Levy Park Family Movie Night Featuring Trolls
July 26, 8 p.m.
3801 Eastside St, Houston, TX 77098
Enjoy this family-friendly movie at the park. 

Miller Outdoor Theatre
See the full schedule of performances here.
6000 Hermann Park Dr, Houston, TX 77030
Miller Outdoor Theatre offers family-friendly performances such as Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves, an original hip-hop musical based on the classic One Thousand and One Nights, Weds., July 24., 11 a.m. and Let’s Make a Play Together, Thurs., July 25, 11 a.m. Taking suggestions from the audience, the Express Improv Players will create a spontaneous 45-minute children’s play. See the full schedule here

Circus Night at the Lawn
Saturday, July 27, 7-8:30 p.m.
303 Memorial City Way, Houston, TX 77024
Cirque La Vie brings their amazing acrobatic performance to the Lawn at Memorial City. 

MFAH

Enjoy free kids' crafts and activities at The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Admission is free for everyone on Thursdays, 10 a.m. – 9 p.m. If you are under 12 years old, admission is free every day. If you are under 18, get free admission on Saturday and Sunday by showing a Texas library card. (Photo by Trish Badger, courtesy of The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston)

Museums

Houston is home to lots of incredible museums. See a list of dates/times when museums are free here

Murals and Signs around Town 
There are tons of colorful murals to check out around town. See these lists compiled by Buzz interns last summer for a starting place: Murals in Montrose and Heights and Downtown.  

We Heart Houston

A favorite Houston photo op is in front of the We Heart Houston sculpture just south of downtown. Pictured: Cousins Kate and Thomas Fuller showing some love for Houston. Space City continues to have more and more great locations to take pictures including an ever growing number of murals and public art around H-Town. 

We Heart Houston Sign 
2305 Polk Street, Houston, 77003
If you’re wondering what happened to the 28-foot sign that used to be on I-10 near Yale Street, it’s been relocated east of downtown to a much safer place to take pictures. Great photo op for locals and visitors.

Parks and Splash Pads 
Many local parks offer free, family-friendly activities and events. Check their websites to see what’s going on. Cool off in splash pads, such as the one at Discovery Green (open 9 a.m.-7 p.m.) and Levy Park (open 8 a.m.-8 p.m.). See more on splash pads here.

Nature & Trails

Explore and discover nature in the middle of the city at spots like Nature Discovery Center or Houston Arboretum.

Libraries

Check out your local library for lots of air-conditioned activities and books. See Houston Public Library  and Harris County Public Library and Bellaire Library.  

Easy Day Trips

Here are some ideas for quick field trips from Houston. (Note: Some may require parking fees).

Sandcastle Days
Saturdays, 8 a.m.-3 p.m. until Aug. 17
Stewart Beach
201 Seawall Blvd. Galveston, TX 77550 
Galveston is hosting free, family-friendly events with pros sharing tips for creating spectacular sandcastles. 

Bolivar Ferry

These kids are getting ready for an adventure riding on the Bolivar Ferry and hopefully spotting some dolphins. The boat runs between Galveston Island and the Bolivar Peninsula. (Photo courtesy of Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT))

Bolivar Ferry
Galveston Ferry Landing
1000 Ferry Road North, Galveston, TX 77550
The Galveston-Port Bolivar ferry takes visitors on SH 87 between Galveston Island and the Bolivar Peninsula. The ferry is about 15 minutes each way. You can drive your car on, but if you’re just going for the round-trip ferry ride, it’s probably a shorter wait if you park and walk on. Enjoy spotting dolphins. Bathroom and A/C sitting area.
Find ferry locations and schedule here.

Sea Center Texas

Sea Center Texas visitors enjoy the touch tank and aquariums full of a wide variety of Texas coastal fish. The center, operated by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, also has a marsh boardwalk to take nature walks. (Photo courtesy of Sea Center Texas)

Sea Center Texas
Tuesday-Saturday, 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Sunday 1-4 p.m.  
302 Medical Drive, Lake Jackson, Texas 77566
Visit this marine aquarium, fish hatchery and education center located on 75 acres in Lake Jackson, TX.

Rangers

Junior Ranger programs offered at national and state parks are a great way for the parks to come alive as kids actively discover history, nature and have lots of fun during their visit. Parents and older siblings just might learn something too! (Photo courtesy Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Copyright 2006)

Junior Ranger at State or National Parks 
When you visit a state or national park, pick up a free Junior Ranger Journal for your child. Complete activities to earn a Junior Ranger pin. See: Junior Ranger Youth Explorer Program and find Houston-area state park locations and Texas national parks locations.

Now after researching and doing all those free family activities, are you ready for a nap?! Happy summer. 

  • Bingo

    These kids are enjoying some cool summer fun yelling, “Bingo!’ and winning prizes at Tomfoolery Toys and Books in Meyerland. Join in the fun Thursdays at 1 p.m. through August. Adults are welcome to play too!

  • Cade Voelte

    Cade Voelte and his family agree that a great way to beat the Texas heat is getting sprayed with water at splash pads around Houston like Levy Park and Hermann Park. 

  • Katelyn Voelte

    Katelyn Voelte loves cooling off in the Splash Pad at Discovery Green.

  • Bingo
  • Cade Voelte
  • Katelyn Voelte

More photos

Bingo

These kids are enjoying some cool summer fun yelling, “Bingo!’ and winning prizes at Tomfoolery Toys and Books in Meyerland. Join in the fun Thursdays at 1 p.m. through August. Adults are welcome to play too!

Cade Voelte

Cade Voelte and his family agree that a great way to beat the Texas heat is getting sprayed with water at splash pads around Houston like Levy Park and Hermann Park. 

Katelyn Voelte

Katelyn Voelte loves cooling off in the Splash Pad at Discovery Green.

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