Our Spring Break Road Trip is already seeming like a distant memory in some respects, but I’m so glad we did it. It was the first time it was just my son and I on a trip, so I was a little nervous. We managed to pack more in four days than might have been necessary, but it gave us a great chance to experience a few things which Houston has to offer, and to give us a reason to head back again.
For those of you looking for a quick road trip this spring, though, you could actually head to Houston for a weekend trip, or make it more relaxed and drive there for a long weekend. Whatever way you do it, Houston is a fun place to visit. When I was trying to plan our trip, I consulted FOLM (Friend of LiveMom) and travel blogger Rebecca from R We There Yet Mom? and Round the Rock, and as usual, she was a great resource for family-friendly out of town fun.
Day One of our Spring Break adventure to Houston started with sleeping in a whole extra 30 minutes (because it was Spring Break, y’all!) and a frantic dash to get on the road as close to 8am as I could muster. Alas, we pulled out of the driveway at 8:22am, when Google Maps on my phone informed me that the trip would take 2 hours and 45 minutes, a bit longer than what I found the night before.
Anywho, we were off! Library books, plenty of snacks, a few Garfield DVDs and my second cup of coffee. Certainly sounds like a day ripe for adventure, doesn’t it?
After a non-eventful drive, with some scattered raindrops along the way, we arrived at the Children’s Museum of Houston at about 11:15am. Originally, I had planned to attempt the Zoo that day, but the weather was looking iffy, s0 an indoor venue was preferable. Parking was easy — the Museum has its own garage across the street. I also noticed that there was street parking available nearby. I had my Houston CityPASS voucher ready, which allowed us to get into the Museum, the Space Center Houston, the Museum of Natural Science and the Zoo for a discount.
We decided to have lunch first. The museum was decorated for Spring Break and there were extra activities planned, which was a nice bonus of visiting when we did. The food was definitely nothing to write home about. I found myself wishing I had done more research so that we could have eaten something more exciting, but considering my son was so excited to dive right in to the exhibits, lunch was one of the shorter meals in recent memory.
We ended up starting in Power Tower, a three-story climbing enclosure which was a great place for my son to get excited about the museum. I can only imagine if you had multiple kids, or a smaller kid who is prone to getting anxious/sensitive/pushed around, this would be a super stressful place to be. Having an almost 8-year-old, I had a much easier time allowing him to climb and play and just following him to get some photos of his progress. There were other exhibits nearby emphasizing physical activity which my son enjoyed as well.
From there, we went into the Cyberchase exhibit. Although my son isn’t familiar with the show, he enjoyed the numbers and math-themed games, many of which involved thwarting Hacker’s evil plans. A lot of the activities were right on his level, and so we spent a good deal of time here. Not surprisingly, he gravitated towards some building and fractions games. I asked a few times if he was ready to move on before he was.
Next we moved on to the Invention Convention. I had read about this area and expected my son to absolutely love it, but we spent less time here than I expected. First, we built cars out of LEGO bricks to see if they would survive going down a steep ramp (most did not, which became frustrating quickly for my kid). Then, we created a larger-than-life magnetic marble-maze type set of tubes and almost-golf ball sized wooden balls, which was set up along a long stretch of wall. We also made rockets to launch into a large netted area and paper airplanes which flew from a mechanized stand.
After a short snack outside (no outside food is permitted), we ended up outside at FlowWorks. My kid lucked into taking a free spin in a Human Hamster Wheel and doing some (also free) bungee jumping, thanks to expanded Spring Break offerings. FlowWorks was pretty cool, but it was just a little too chilly to really get into it (remember how Spring Break weather can be chilly sometimes? I’m sure getting sprinkled during the summer is a welcome treat!) I think that at almost 8 years old, the water exhibits were a little less interesting to my partner in crime; this feature would be more of a hit with kids a bit younger (there were plenty of kids under 7 having a blast there, plus a few older ones). We also spend some time at the EcoStation. There was a cool sandbox with different animal tracks you could make and there was a teeny pond with turtles (and a baby one, too!) Inside the small house was a few chicks and even an egg with a small hole and a little beak peeking out! I probably could have stayed there for hours squeeing, but my son demanded we press on.
Inside again, we went to the Kidtropolis, which is a huge city made for kids. You receive a “Fast Pass” when you arrive to help manage the crowds, but by the time we arrived, it was a madhouse, and my son quickly became overwhelmed. This area would have been a preschooler’s nirvana, with its pretend restaurant, grocery store, vet’s office and other parts of city life. We walked into City Hall and a few of the exhibits were broken or not working, so before my kid totally lost it we made the decision to exit the exhibit. I have read that this is a highlight for many kids, so perhaps it would have been best to head there right when we arrived.
From there, we made our way to the Think Tank and then the How Does it Work? exhibit. This seemed to be a catch-all of lots of different things, but by now our energy was running low and so we hurried through this section, although it might have been our favorite. My son summoned some hidden energy since he knew the Holy Grail was at the end of our trip: a visit to the museum gift shop to spend some of his not-so-hard-earned money. Despite our pace, we enjoyed all the hands-on activities and left feeling satisfied, knowing there’s always next time! And there will definitely be a next time for us — this may have been the best children’s museum we have visited thus far.
After what turned into a pretty long day for us (we left the Museum at 3:30pm), we headed to our hotel. Of course, kids love exploring hotels and seeing what free stuff they can get (pads! pens! shampoo!) For me, I was relieved to rest my head on a very comfortable pillow and bed and know that I wasn’t going to need to do dishes or laundry for a few days. The Omni where were stayed is close to the Galleria, so it is very convenient to many of the tourist destinations. In a town like Houston, where traffic can be an issue, knowing that driving time would be minimal was really nice. When we walked into the lobby, I was greeted and asked if I would like some champagne — I’m not sure if that was a normal Saturday afternoon question, but I definitely would have taken the employee up on his offer were I not solo parenting.
It’s nice that the Omni provides a backpack for kids upon check-in with an activity book and other fun things to do. After my son had the chance to test out each bed, look at the view out of the window, unpack his bags and examine the contents of the backpack, I was able to pry him away for some dinner.
There is a ton of great food to choose from in Houston, but we settled on a Greek restaurant nearby (in deference to our heritage and since the restaurant is named after my son’s middle namesake) and settled in for a nice rest before our next adventure the following day: the Johnson Space Center. More on that in our next Road Trip installment…Full speed ahead!
What’s your favorite thing to do in Houston?
Disclosure: The Omni provided my son and I with a reduced rate to stay at their Houston Galleria Hotel. LiveMom will not receive compensation for any mention of our stay and any opinions expressed about our road trip are my own.
[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://www.livemom.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Nicole-Basham-Sara-Marzani-Photography-livemom.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]A native Austinite and soccer-playing mom, Nicole uses her 7-year-old son as an excuse to rediscover her hometown through his eyes. In Thoreau’s words, her mission is to “suck out all the marrow of life”, or in her son’s words, to cultivate in him a love of “advenchers”.[/author_info] [/author]