One of the biggest perks of living in Houston is the weather. Though it does get hot and sticky in the summertime, Houston stays warm throughout the year. That doesn’t mean you’ll never never go outside without a jacket, but it does mean that even on school nights in wintertime, you can find family-friendly activities to do with your family.
Weekends are usually the best times for family activities, but weekends tend to fill up quickly. With birthday parties and sporting events, it can feel that you spend your weekends shuttling back and forth between activities. And when everyone is home, they all want to watch their own shows or play their own video games because there hasn’t been any time for anyone to relax and have some personal time.
Personal time matters, but so does time spent with your family members. These memories last a lifetime, and your children will remember the times they spent out as a family more than the time they spent on the couch watching TV.
If you’re tired of sitting around watching TV every night and want to get your kids out of the house and away from screens, then check out these fun family activities around Houston that won’t break the bank or get you home well past bedtime.
How to find free family events in your area
Houston is an enormous city, and like many other big cities, there’s always something cool happening — even on weekdays. You may not find music or food festivals on your typical Tuesday night, but you can still find events at art galleries, playgrounds and other businesses around the city.
But of course, each neighborhood is different. Here’s how to find free family activities happening in your neighborhood every day of the week.
- Log onto visitHouston.com: The tourism website keeps a running catalog of activities happening in Houston every day. Use the website’s search function to choose a day and neighborhood and see what’s available. Businesses and organizations all over the city send in their events to the site, so you’ll get a good variety of activities.
- Neighborhood community websites: Many neighborhoods such as Midtown have their own community websites, which post helpful information about crime, trash pickup and local meetings. Most will keep a running list of activities and events going on in the area.
- Coffee shop bulletins: Almost every neighborhood in Houston has one, though it’s not always a coffee shop. It’s a centrally located business that everyone seems to pass through at one point or another, and its community bulletin board is a hub of activity. Get into the habit of checking these bulletin boards — usually in coffee shops or diners — for upcoming events. Other local businesses will usually post flyers about family events they’re planning, so start checking these boards regularly to see what’s happening in your area.
- Social media groups: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram can be great resources for finding activities happening around your neighborhood. Make sure you’re following your local businesses, galleries, churches and studios because they’ll often post their events to social media first.
Even if you don’t find an event on a weekend night as you’re looking through these bulletins and websites, start adding events you’d like to attend to your family’s calendar and get some feedback from them. What sounds interesting to them? What would they like to do with an evening free? Feedback will help you plan events that everyone is bound to enjoy.
Okay, the whole point of family activities is to get away from TV screens, and going to see a movie is the exact opposite. But taking your kids to an impromptu movie can be a fun treat for them, and you’ll enjoy seeing their excitement when they find out that they’re going to see a movie instead of just going home.
Nowadays, you have to purchase tickets and choose seats ahead of time, so look for movie times before you swing by to pick up the kids. Grab a snack at the movie theater and pick up something quick and easy, such as sub sandwiches, on the way home. You won’t have to cook, and clean-up will be quick and easy once you get home.
If you go to the Houston Zoo on a weekend, chances are you won’t see as many animals as you’d like. You will, however, see the backs of heads of all the other parents and children crowding the exhibit. Weekends at the zoo can be torture, especially in the hot summer months where all the kids are out of school and crowding every exhibit in the zoo.
So skip all of that and head to the Houston Zoo on a weekday after school. The park is open until 7 p.m., which still gives you and your family plenty of time to leisurely tour the zoo and check out all the animals. Without the big crowd, you’ll be able to move quickly around the park, and you can stop and watch your favorite animals for a while without blocking the view for other families.
The Houston Zoo hosts events almost all year round, so make sure you check the zoo’s calendar on their website to see what’s coming up. Members also get special perks, so if you’re family is especially animal crazy, a membership could save you money in the long run.
When’s the last time you ate on a blanket in the grass? Sometimes, the best family activities don’t cost anything at all — just a little change of scenery.
If you have a big enough backyard, take dinner to the outdoors. Grab a large blanket and get your plastic dishes and silverware out for a meal served outdoors. Have your kids set down the blankets and get everything set up while you prepare the meal.
For picnics, remember that simple meals work best. You don’t want to carry too many plates of food outside, so consider grilling hot dogs or hamburgers on your porch and then moving the party to the grass. Grab a few bags of chips and set out a veggie tray so everyone has something to munch on.
When you’re outside and away from screens, your family will have time to talk and engage with one another. You all might still go back to your screens after dinner, but for now at least, you have a little time together with no distractions.
No matter what your skill level is, scrimmage games can take the competitive pressure off that some kids feel during school games and focus on the fun of the game itself. Whatever game your family likes to play — basketball, softball, tennis — there’s always time for a friendly game in the backyard or down the street at a park.
Both you and your children probably spend most of the day in chairs, whether in school or at the office, so getting some physical activity at the end of the day is important for everyone. You’ll find that you and your children will sleep better at night, and you’ll have more energy the next day.
Even if your child is already involved in a sport through their school or a local organization, don’t make this scrimmage game about practice. This should be a fun time for everyone to enjoy the game itself and not worry so much about who’s winning. Too much practice can sometimes make kids forget why they love a sport in the first place, so take this time to make the game fun.
Even if your family is small, you can still organize scrimmage games at your house or a nearby park. Invite neighborhood kids to come over or meet at the park for a pick-up game of basketball or soccer.
Better board games
When you think of board games, you probably think of the classics like Clue, Monopoly and Parchesi. It’s hard to get kids excited about some of these games, especially after they’ve played them so many times. So now it’s time to pick out something new.
Head to your local Target or Walmart and see what’s new in the world of board games. While adult board and card games have taken off in recent years with games like Cards Against Humanity, there are also a number of new games for kids. Not only will you find new updates on the classic games, but you’ll also find other cool games such as Telestrations and Unstable Unicorns.
While you’re at the store, pick up a frozen pizza or some popcorn for the night and have a family game night. Your kids will be excited to try something new, and you’ll have a new game to play with them on other slow nights.
You can also teach your kids to play different card games. If you like Rummy or even Poker, teaching your kids something new can be fun for both of you. You can even gamble with pennies or even cookies for fun. Before you know it, you might have a card shark or two on your hands.
You don’t need to leave your kitchen to create your own family weekday activity. Baking and cooking can be a lot of fun for kids when their parents try to make it fun, so even if things get a little messy, the payoff will be worth it.
Start by choosing a recipe together, one that’s fairly simple and not too time consuming. Then have your children gather the ingredients while you and your spouse handle the oven, if needed, and heavy equipment such as stand mixers. Once everything is out, divide up the ingredients and work together to put everything together. You and your spouse can supervise as your children measure out flour and crack eggs into bowls.
Doing these activities can help in several ways. First, your kids have fun learning the ins and outs of your kitchen and enjoy spending some quality time with their parents. Years later, they’ll remember how their parents taught them to cook and got them interested in learning how to do it well. Second, they also start helping out around the kitchen. Now you shouldn’t let a 7-year-old cook over a hot stove or use sharp knives, but as they get better about being around the kitchen, you can ask your children for help washing vegetables and measuring out ingredients.
And finally, your children are learning a lot all while having fun. Baking and cooking can teach math skills such as measurements and life skills such as patience. Your children don’t have to master measurements before they’ve reached kindergarten, but exposing them to measurements, and by extension fractions, at an earlier age will make learning in the classroom a little easier on them.
We at Advantage Pro Services know how valuable a free weeknight can be. Between homework and after-school activities, it can feel like you’re just shuttling your kids from one activity to the next and then putting them to bed. When you do have a Tuesday or Wednesday free together, you might feel pressured to go all-out and plan something extravagant, but that in itself can get stressful.
When it comes to family weekday activities, remember not to overthink the activity. You don’t have to spend a lot of money or drive more than 30 minutes away from your home and get a little extra time with your family. Sometimes, the simple activities have the biggest impact on children down the line. Your kids will fondly remember the times their parents carved out a little extra time to spend with them and have a little fun.
So share with us: What are some of your favorite family weekday activities? We want to hear your thoughts, so share with us in the comments — and let us know how our gutter cleaning services can help you save time so you spend more of it with your family and less of it on your gutters.