The fall season seems to mean one thing: pumpkin. And if there’s anything that’s possibly more ubiquitous than the PSL, it’s the pumpkin patch — especially for the non-latte-drinking youngsters.
Don’t get us wrong. We love it all, and a pumpkin patch (or three) should definitely be on your to-do list with your little ones — or your friends’ kids. But, there’s so much more to the season than the orange squash.
So, we put together a list of ideas that are perfect for a fall day with the fam and kids — no patches allowed. Even if you don’t have children, you may find some fun things to do here, too. Adulting is overrated, anyway.
Take a walk on the wild side at Houston Museum of Natural Science
Where: 5555 Hermann Park Dr.
Check out the prehistoric creatures while learning about Texas wildlife, communing with butterflies, and so much more. The giant screen IMAX theater is also at the museum and it takes a day at the movies to a whole new 4D level. With screenings like “Oceans: Our Blue Planet” and “Pandas,” the flicks are educational, too.
Have a sweet day at Hugs & Donuts
Where: 1901 N. Shepherd Dr., Ste. 4
This adorably yummy, gourmet shop is made for an extra-special donut day — and the flavors are super-fun for little ones. They’ll love the strawberry shortcake, fluffer nutter, s’mores, and fruity pebble crunch. And, there’s a chocolate toffee latte (and a real latte) with your name on it, too.
Go for a ride at Pleasure Pier
Where: 2501 Seawall Blvd., Galveston Island
It’s an adrenaline rush waiting to happen — and a fun little getaway to Galveston, especially since the temps are a bit cooler. Pleasure Pier is one of the few places in the world that has so many rides over water. Of course, there are Midway games, too, along with fun food and even a nostalgic candy shop. Special events like the Halloween Party on October 27 with trick-or-treating and discounted rides along with December holiday movie screenings every week are worth the trip, too.
Meet the animals at the Houston Zoo
Where: 6200 Hermann Park Dr.
Lions, tigers, and bears barely scratch the surface of the animal kingdom you’ll find here. Definitely feed the Masai giraffe family, though, and stop by the Wildlife Carousel and Explore the wild nature play area. On Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays in October, Zoo Boo is an extra-festive way to explore — and, costumes are encouraged! Or, wait a few weeks and hit up Zoo Lights for an after-dark wonderland of two million holiday lights along with an enchanted forest and train village. The zoo gets lit, beginning November 17.
Chill out at Bebidas
Where: 2606 Edloe St.
This little place is so cute for a casual juice, snack, or smoothie — with indoor seating and an outdoor area for any, ahem, energetic kids to run around a bit. There’s even a snowball stand with rainbow stripes for an impromptu fall photo shoot.
Make learning fun at the Children’s Museum of Houston
Where: 1500 Binz St.
It’s called a playground for the mind — and it is. Innovative (and fun!) learning experiences and adventures are around every turn at this Museum District destination that’s perfect for a rainy or cold weekend. Kids of all ages will love the gadgets and gizmos along with exhibits like Invention Convention, Dragons & Fairies, and the Challenge Course. What’s more, science gets spooky in October, with the museum’s Halloween Monster Mayhem that’s hosted daily through October 31. Goblins, goodies, and goo all come out to play with trick-or-treating, spirited activities, and other slime-filled entertainment.
Take a field trip to Kemah Boardwalk
Where: 215 Kipp Ave., Kemah
It’s all fun and games at this coastal theme park and it’s worth the short road trip for the kitschy, old-school amusement park rides — and the cotton candy and carnival food. The Dungeon of Doom Haunted House runs through October, too.
Hop the train at Hermann Park Railroad
Where: 6102 Hermann Park Dr.
Riding the train at Hermann Park is a fun activity once fall’s cooler temps hit. But, take it a step further for your young crew with the “Engineer for a Day” program that’s a behind-the-scenes experience on the rails.
Fly to the moon and back at Space Center Houston
Where: 1601 E. NASA Pkwy.
Play astronaut for the day — no moon suit required — at this gateway to the NASA Johnson Space Center. From Mission Control to Mission Mars and so much more, this place inspires wonder in space with more than 400 things to see and do. What’s more, the Space Center offers fall Explorer Camps for kids ages 4 to 11 that focus on science, technology, engineering and math activities along with space exploration.
See a movie under the stars at Historic Market Square Park
Where: 301 Milam
The historic park hosts a monthly movie night with family-friendly faves at the right price: free! Pack a picnic and BYOB (bring your own blanket, not beer). But, parents, you can buy a beer onsite.
Get a sugar rush at The Chocolate Bar
Where: River Oaks, 1835 W. Alabama; Rice Village, 2521 University Blvd.
Have your cake and eat it, too, at this decadent “bar” where you certainly don’t have to be 21 to enter. The slices are enormous here — and it’s such a sweet place for an after-school treat. We can’t be held responsible for any hyper behavior. It will turn into a sugar coma in no time, though.
Skate and slide at The Galleria
Where: 5085 Westheimer Rd.
Indoor recreational fun for them; retail therapy for you. Texas’ largest shopping center has 2.4 million square feet, but you’ll probably spending the most time with your posse at the ice rink as well as the Little Galleria area with its 2,000 square feet of soft foam, slides, and climbing structures, all designed to look like a miniature version of the mall.
Be enchanted at Donovan Park
Where: 700 Heights Blvd.
The fantasy place-space at this Heights neighborhood park is a little hidden gem with its castle-like jungle gym and a wooden train.
Find out what you’re made of at The Health Museum
Where: 1515 Hermann Dr.
It’s kind of cool and kind of crazy at this museum that’s dedicated to an in-depth exploration of the human body while fostering wonder and curiosity about health and medical science. Free Family Thursdays from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. are an extra-good time to go.
Go natural at the Houston Arboretum & Nature Center
Where: 4501 Woodway Dr.
The pretty fall colors and changing leaves are reason enough to bring your kids to the Arboretum. But, the 155-acre urban sanctuary also has entertaining seasonal activities like “ArBOOretum!” on October 20 with a petting zoo, pony rides, pumpkin decorating, and trick-or-treat trails. Their children’s programs are also a great way to get your kids back to nature with hands-on activities and educational exploration — everything from Tyke Hikes for the young ones aged 18 months to 3 years, to options for the slightly older kid set, too.
Bake cookies at home with the help of Tinys Milk & Cookies
Where: 3636 Rice Blvd.
Get your kids in the kitchen — without any of the hassle — with Tinys ready-made dough that makes cookie-baking a breeze. Plus, Tinys cookies really are the best. Or, you could always just stay at the adorable Milk and Cookies shop for the ready-made treats, too.
Have a slam-dunk night at Toyota Center
Where: 1510 Polk St.
Fall means basketball season is in full swing. So, if you have some little sports fans in the house, why not spend an evening in the home of the Houston Rockets for some game-time fun.
Park it at Discovery Green
Where: 1500 McKinney St.
The beautiful urban greenspace always has something to do, even if you’re just hanging out with the little ones on the lush lawns or under the canopies of trees. But, daily fall activities like Toddler Tuesdays with arts and crafts and special character appearances, Young Writers Workshops, and STEM Saturdays (thematic, hands-on science, tech, engineering and math programs for kids), make the park all the more a must-go. Save the date, too, for the park’s three outdoor movies this season: "Goosebumps" on October 20; "E.T." on October 26; and "Black Panther" on November 3.
See the fishies at the Downtown Aquarium
Where: 410 Bagby St. at Memorial Dr.
Truly an underwater adventure, this is no ordinary aquarium — it’s a 500,000-gallon aquatic wonderland. Plus, there’s a Ferris wheel, merry-go-round, rain forest, temple of white tigers, eateries, and more on site at this six-acre entertainment and dining complex.
Get creative at The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
Where: 1001 Bissonnet
From storybook circle to art studio time, and a Sunday family zone with games, activities, and mini-tours, MFAH is an ideal destination for kids of any age (they even have parent-supervised play dates and programs for little ones under 3!) — especially during a cold, rainy day in the fall.
Jump around at Urban Air Adventure Park
Where: 20502 Hempstead Rd., Ste. 110
Help them channel that pent-up energy at Urban Air, where the large-scale indoor trampoline park will have them jumping for hours. The play place also has climbing walls, a warrior obstacle course, a tubes playground, and special dodgeball and family pizza nights.
Go biking (and more!) through Buffalo Bayou Park
Where: Shepherd Drive to Sabine Street between Allen Parkway and Memorial Drive
Bring your squad (and their bikes) to Buffalo Bayou Park to ride the friendly trails. If biking’s not your thing, there’s plenty more to do. The Barbara Fish Daniel Nature Play Area designed for kids is magical in its own right. And, at night, the free Bayou City Music Series is also back in action this fall with jazz, blues and zydeco musicians.
Make a wish at River Oaks Park
Where: 3600 Locke Ln.
This adorable neighborhood park is also called “Pumpkin Park” because of its enchanting pumpkin carriage that’s so perfect for the season (without being a pumpkin patch!). Along with the swings and playground, there are also enchanting wishing trees where you and your kids can write down wishes and hang them on the branches.
Have a Wonder-ful time at Wonderwild
Where: 767 N. Shepherd Drive, Ste. 400
Let imaginations run wild at this safe indoor play space that’s even appropriate for the younger set under 8 years old. The three-story playscape features climbing structures, jumping pillows, a toddler-sized ball pit, and a giant crocodile slide. For bigger kids ages 5-11, there’s a Wonderwild(er) section that has an indoor ropes course and a go-kart pedal track.
Go back in time at Texas Renaissance Festival
Where: 21778 Farm to Market 1774, Todd Mission
Walk into a fairytale at this fall festival featuring Renaissance-inspired royalty, knights jousting on their mighty steeds, a faery court, clowns, jugglers, acrobats, magicians, and so much more. It runs every weekend through November 25 and there’s a different theme each time — think Barbarian Invasion, Pirate Adventure, and Heroes and Villains. Costumes are encouraged (and common!). And, on Sundays, kids 12 and under are free.