Houston's hot, humid climate can make it difficult for families to find a fun playground for their kids to explore year-round. But if you know where to look, there are some real gems scattered throughout the town and its surrounding areas. Some help beat the heat, others have elements of inclusivity for parents nervous to bring their children into public parks, and still others might bring you to explore a new area of town. Here are five parks with unique features and a variety of locations to accommodate everyone from Downtown to the Grand Parkway and beyond.
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Starting close to the center of town, Discovery Green near Downtown Houston is home to the John P. McGovern Playground. The bird-themed play area and surrounding 12 acres of non-profit Discovery Green is considered somewhat of an urban paradise in a part of town with very little green space.
The playground is accompanied by a large splash pad and a pond that is turned into an ice rink during the winter. Outside the actual play space, Discovery Green houses many other kid-friendly activities, such as interactive art exhibits, movie screenings in the evenings and yoga classes. The park was developed by local philanthropists in an area that was previously a series of large parking lots. See a map of the park here.
Parking can be tricky, as there is little dedicated specifically to the park. Small lots and metered street parking are scattered around the area, as well as parking garages used for other downtown destinations as well. Don’t expect to park for free.
Tip: Check online before... going to Discovery Green, especially if you’re driving a considerable distance to get there, as sometimes events at the park close parts of it to the public or add an entrance fee.
Houston, Texas 77002
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If the weather feels unbearable or you don’t feel like warding off mosquitoes, massive furniture store IKEA may actually be a good option.
Located off I-10 just west of the I-610 Loop, IKEA has an indoor children’s area called Småland. It includes a massive ball pit and other playground equipment. There are staff there supervising, so adults can browse the maze-like store for up to 90 minutes without having to keep a constant eye on their little ones (or worrying about them overheating outside on a playground). Entrance to the playground is free, but going at a less-trafficked shopping time is ideal because wait times for the play area are sometimes hours long. Children must be 37”- 54” tall to play, and must be fully potty-trained.
The play area is open Monday - Saturday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. An extra kid-friendly note: IKEA’s cafe upstairs has kids’ menu items for under $3, and IKEA often runs deals for kids to eat free with adult meal purchase.
78...10 Katy Freeway
Houston, Texas 77024
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Jerry Matheson Park
Further out of town, Jerry Matheson Park in Tomball is a park that might send waves of nostalgia through parents bringing their kids. The 10-acre park’s huge playground is made completely of wood and includes small zip lines, numerous tire swings and a sandbox.
The park is quieter and less urban in the smaller and still-wooded Tomball area. Overcrowding will likely never be a problem at the large and little-populated area, and neither will parking. Shade, a rare commodity for Houston playgrounds, is plentiful here, provided both by trees and picnic table coverings. Across the parking lot is a free city swimming pool, open seasonally (no snack bar, so bring your own).
Tip: If you visit Jerry Matheson Park on a Saturday, the Tomball farmer’s market will be open as well in the main area of town.
1240 Ulrich Road
Tomball, Texas 77375
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These playgrounds are open to everyone and include sensory-processing and adaptive equipment like zip lines, special slides, netted trampolines and hammock swings. A small store is in each location that sells these kinds of adaptive and sensory-specialized toys as well.
There are small rooms with low lighting and calm music for the situation that things get overwhelming for a child, and there are limits placed on how many kids can play at once to keep stress levels low. At some locations, seating for supervising adults is sparse.
We Rock the Spectrum does cost admission — typically $12 per child and $10 for siblings. There are membership options available and Groupon deals that offer different kinds of monthly discounts. Check websites for specific pricing and hours. We Rock the Spectrum will host parties for children as well.
387 C Sawdust Road
The Woodlands, Texas 77380
2020 Katy Hockley Cut Off Rd #2d
Katy, Texas 77493
12916 Malcomson Road
Houston, Texas 77070Continue to 5 of 5 below.
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This park is on the west side of town in the Energy Corridor. It includes two expansive playgrounds aimed at different ages, as well as a splash pad. All play areas are fully fenced in, allowing supervising adults to breathe a little easier while kids play. There are picnic tables covered by shade, but the playgrounds themselves are not — so be wary of the weather and if you have sunscreen when going to this park. There are also tennis courts, a disc golf area, walking paths and fitness areas for both kids and adults.
Tip: If you’re making a day of it, Nottingham Park is near large shopping centers and is also right near George Bush Park and Bear Creek Pioneers Park, which have ample green space but little playground space.
14205 Kimberley Lane
Houston, Texas 77079