Houston with Teens: A Perfect Family Day

Houston with Teens: A Family Vacation


Having lived my entire life up to age 18 in Houston, Texas, here's a day I would recommend to help you entertain those peculiar creatures called teenagers. These are a few things you might want to indulge in when you visit Houston with your teens.


Start off by lining up in the Fourth Ward outside Baby Barnaby's Cafe for the kind of quality breakfast apparently only available from shack-sized establishments. Make sure to sign in on the clipboard by the door before helping yourselves to water (free) or coffee. After 15 to 30 minutes (which is the average wait time in my experience, sometimes longer during peak weekend breakfast hours), you'll take a seat in the colorfully decorated and cozily crammed dining room. Order some bottomless fresh-squeezed orange or grapefruit juice while you skim the menu, giving serious consideration to the $8 green eggs, which with spinach, artichoke hearts and jack cheese put Dr. Seuss' version to shame. If you're feeling Southwestern and want to start the day with a taste of Tex-Mex, get the migas, a common dish down here, done by scrambling eggs, tortilla strips, chiles, onions, tomatoes and cheese. It's served with salsa and some of the best breakfast potatoes around for $6.50. Those hungry teenagers ought to be impressed with the food and the non-stereotypical Texans who frequent this place. Baby Barnaby's Cafe is located at 604 Fairview Street; call 713-522-0106 or go to www.barnabyscafe.com for more information.

Now mosey on over to the Beer Can House, once featured on "Ripley's Believe it or Not" and decked out with an estimated 50,000 beer cans. Admission to the grounds is $1 per person or $5 for a guided tour. Head inside to see all the ways cans can be used as home decor. The kids will appreciate the crazy creativity and the unreal amount of beer the original homeowner and his wife must have downed to make this wacky place. The Beer Can House is found at 222 Malone Street (www.beercanhouse.org).

Next, head on to the Health Museum in Houston with your teens. This is the most fun and educational museum in town. It stands out among other museums for its interactivity and creative ways of teaching kids about their bodies. The Amazing Body Pavilion is a larger-than-life visit to our insides, sort of reminiscent of the "Magic School Bus" book where they go on a field trip through a student's body. You: The Exhibit is a recent addition, and uses technology and multimedia to individualize the experience for each individual. Those self-conscious and self-centered teens will nervously jump at the chance to learn how their outward appearance affects how others react to them in the Who Are You? video experience, and in the Age-O-Matic they'll get a peek at themselves in 30 years. Parents will also appreciate the Age-O-Matic's ability to add in the effects of smoking or overeating to that image. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9AM to 5PM CT and Sunday from noon to 5PM CT. Admission costs $8 for adults and is an absolute bargain to see this underappreciated treasure. The Health Museum is located at 1515 Hermann Drive; call 713-521-1515 or go to www.thehealthmuseum.org for more information.


Getting hungry? Time for that mandatory Texas barbeque experience. I've found that the best barbecue joints in the Houston area set up shop in old barns or buildings shaped like barns, and Goode Company Bar-B-Q is no exception. If you ask locals where to go for the best stuff, many will direct you here. So walk in and examine the posted menu. For a true tour de Texas, try a three-meat plate and make sure it includes links and brisket. As a teen in Houston, Texas, the links were one of my favorite foods. The cafeteria-style line and old, almost dirty feel of the place are fairly typical of genuine barbeque restaurants around the South, so let that go. Expect to pay $10 to $12 a person, less if someone gets a BBQ sandwich or baked potato. Once you've got your food, some of the free jalapeno-cheese bread and perhaps some sweet iced tea, find a seat inside or at one of the shaded picnic tables on the patio and enjoy. Goode Company Bar-B-Q is at 5109 Kirby Drive; for more information call 713-522-2530 or go to www.goodecompany.com.

With your belt a notch looser, leave and lead your teens to nearby Hermann Park, where you can hike, stroll through the rose and Japanese gardens, and paddleboat on the lake. Right off of the park are the Houston Zoo and Museum of Natural Science, both of which I've frequented for years and never tired of either. As a teen I fell in love with the zoo's Wortham World of Primates, where you can observe remarkably intelligent orangutans, siamangs, baboons and monkeys. I actually sponsor a young orangutan, Solaris. He's really funny because he's still sort of a kid/teenager himself. Hermann Park is at 6201 A-Hermann Park Dirve; for more information call 713-524-5876 or go to www.hermannpark.org. The zoo is at 6200 Hermann Park Drive; for more information go to www.houstonzoo.org.

The Museum of Natural Science attracts the fourth-most visitors annually of any museum in the country, and it's easy to understand why. Though admission to the permanent exhibits is pricey at $15, the museum also frequently hosts enthralling special exhibits, such as Body Worlds or the corpse flower, which are worth whatever they charge (it varies). The Cockrell Butterfly Center, around since I was a kid, is also worth seeing. For $8, you can hang out in a glass-enclosed jungle-like area with hundreds of butterflies of many species fluttering around. Different parts of the museum close at times ranging from 4PM to 8PM CT, so check the hours online before you go. Also take a look at the IMAX showtimes as the films being shown there are always a kid favorite, even if they are teenagers. The museum is at 5555 Hermann Park Drive; for more information call 713-639-4629 or go to www.hmns.org.


All that fun should have you good and tired and ready for some queso at Pappasito's Cantina, where I worked my first job. They just don't make Tex-Mex like this in other states, and that's why I bring every out-of-towner to eat here. I strongly encourage newbies to get the sizzlin' fajitas, which are legendary. If not the fajitas, then an appetizer like quesadillas or nachos made with fajita meat. The salads are super fresh, crisp and unlike many you may have had in Texas. The atmosphere is fun and vibrant, and there are plenty of cute young servers and hostesses for your teen to stare at and flirt with. Pappasito's Cantina is at 2536 Richmond Avenue. Reservations are not needed, but for information call 713-520-5066 or go to www.pappasitos.com.

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