In my long tenure of reviewing parks and playgrounds for Houston New Moms, West U has never disappointed either me or chief playground tester Lana. This week, I’ll be taking you on a little tour of my latest discovery in the neighborhood: Colonial Park.

Colonial Park has a truly impressive number of different play structures / areas to explore. Its other claims to fame include being fully fenced and proximity to an awesome, kid-friendly pool (alas, open only to West U residents and their guests – so make some local friends and maybe you can check it out one day!)  This park is partially shaded, but there will definitely be  some sun on a sunny day. (You will see evidence of aforementioned sun in my photos — apologies in advance for the questionable photo quality!)

Here’s the little-kid play structure. It’s definitely geared toward older toddlers, with challenging climbing routes and several places to fall. We did see a couple of families with pre-walkers exploring this structure, but they definitely had to stay close to the babies at all times!

The big kid play structure also offers climbing, sliding, and running, on a bigger scale and located at a good distance from the the little kid area, which I always like to see.

While the main play structures are nice, you could spend your entire visit here without approaching either of them, instead choosing among a half-dozen other entertainments. Three of our favorites were the swings for babies and big kids, a sandbox, and little wooden houses to explore, which even pre-walkers can access. We also loved the various ride-on toys scattered throughout:

The set of musical instruments in the corner provided some amusement as well:

And, finally, we enjoyed jumping and climbing on these little hills in the ground – it the first time we’d seen this kind of playground feature!

One final note: in case you haven’t figured it out from the photos, this park is totally covered in wood chips, so watch out if you have a little  wood-chip eater! If not, definitely come check out this park – with so much to choose from, you’re sure to find something to entertain the kiddos!

If You Go

  • Address: 4130 Byron St, Houston, TX 77005
  • Parking: Small lot or free street parking
In this sponsored post, H Town Limos offers some ideas for a taking a break with your mommy friends!

It can be hard to manage your time as a busy mom. With schedules that are constantly filled, work, and the never ending cycle of household tasks, sometimes it seems nearly impossible to set aside time for yourself. If you ask any of your friends in the same situation, they’ll likely agree! In this day and age, it’s especially tempting to spend your free time on the couch with Netflix running. However, you’re local to a unique scene of restaurants, activities, and celebrations in Houston. You deserve a night out with friends that ends with great memories without breaking the bank.

With all of the different options for enjoying nightlife in Houston, you have a task at hand when it comes to planning an itinerary. Thinking outside of the box can lead you to some awesome choices! Consider starting the night off enjoying a calming session of aerial yoga at Aerial Yoga Houston. You’ll be instructed to complete simple stretches guided by silk fabrics hanging from the ceiling. It’s a great way to get some exercise and meditation in!

 

If your group wants to enjoy a quiet night out, you can’t go wrong enjoying the atmosphere of a local lounge with live jazz music like Khon’s Wine Darts Coffee Art. They’re known for their warm atmosphere, delicious craw fish boils and affordable drink selection. Another great option is to head to a paint-and-wine destination like Art Class & Wine Glass. Here, a local artist will guide you through the steps of a painting while you sip on your favorite beverage. You get to take your creation home at the end of the night, it’s a great way to make memories!

 

Using a party bus or limousine to enjoy a night out in Houston hopping to and from any of these destinations is the best way to make sure everybody is safe and having a great time while enjoying drinks. If the cost is split between everybody attending, it works out to be around the same cost as your favorite ride share service – with triple the features to enjoy! There’s a ton of space to socialize in, counter tops and cup holders for your drinks, multicolored lights, television screens and amazing sound systems with custom playlist capabilities. In the end, you’ll be so glad you set aside the time to let loose while enjoying all of the fun destinations that Houston has to offer. If you’re looking to take advantage of professional transportation, click here for more information.

Noah’s Ark at Quillian Center has been on my radar for quite some time, and this week I finally made the trek outside of the Loop to this magical water park outfitted with animals like bears, lions, and the quintessential Noah’s ark animal: a whale. My toddler didn’t notice the inconsistencies with the Noah’s ark story, and the water-spewing whale and frog were a lot of fun. As for logistics with more than one child: I was able to leave my crawling baby at home and spend some quality time with just my toddler, but I saw many warrior moms wearing their babies and hanging with their toddler. You don’t have to get soaked—or even wear a bathing suit—which is great if you want to wear baby, but you will definitely get splashed here and there. And I have to give a shout out to these baby-wearing warrior moms, because I know how hard it is to juggle two small children in this type of environment: you guys rock.

Now back to the fun stuff. This place is really perfect for small children: it’s completely gated, the water is six inches deep, there are two different types of slides to suit toddlers and their older counterparts, lifeguards abound to keep the kids in check, and coolers with outside food are allowed. My two year old had an absolute blast and readers might think my use of the word “perfect” throughout this review is redundant, but it’s the most accurate word to describe this heavenly toddler waterpark/pool (no pun intended, Noah).

If you’ve read any of my previous posts, you know my kid loves slides. This place was no exception. There is a foam type slide that is perfect for her age and I didn’t have to worry about her going up the stairs on her own or sliding down too quickly. She loved being able to just sit and splash in the water, and sit on the whale, too. She braved the big slide which is more like a waterpark slide, and you have to climb up a rope ladder hooked to get up. This seems a bit dangerous as kids are scrambling up this fairly steep rope ladder to get to the top, and she was knocked by a bigger kid once and slid down a bit. I would make sure to help your young child get up or else prohibit it altogether. But once she was up, she had a blast coming down the big slide, which empties right in front of a lifeguard.

Splashing in the sun makes for a hungry kid, and since this mama didn’t think ahead to pack a lunch, we took advantage of the 11:30 am pizza delivery. It was a huge treat for her and I think she had one of the best days of her life, all kidding aside.
If the water park doesn’t wear your kids out, there’s also a big, traditional pool in a separately gated area (gotta appreciate all the gates when your toddler who has a hard time perceiving risk is on the loose!) with a neat slide and a huge floating alligator. And if your little ones need even more activity, there is a fun playground within yet another gated area! My girl was worn out after her splashing and sliding, so we didn’t get a chance to visit the other areas, but we will be back!

  • Admission: There is a $7.50 entrance fee for everyone above the age of one.
  • Parking: Free and easy parking at the Quillian Center parking lot on Westcenter Drive
  • Address: 10570 Westpark Dr, Houston, TX 77042
  • Website: http://www.quilliancenter.org/index.php/events/swimming-pools
  • Weekday Hours:
    • May 26 – August 25, 2017: 10am – 4pm (Both Pools)
    • August 28 – September 1, 2017: 10am – 2pm (Noah’s Ark Only)
    • June 6 – August 22: Twilight Tuesdays Theme Nights, 6:30pm – 9:00pm (Both Pools)

What play area offers water, sand, drums, and sun? Not a beach scene from Jamaica, as one might think, but the Barbara Fish Daniel Nature Play Area! Whether your little one loves climbing or sliding or playing in the sand, the Fish Play Area has you covered. Its location is pretty amazing, too. It’s located on the bank of the Buffalo Bayou and below an open green space with fantastic views of the downtown skyline. The play area opens to a walking/running trail, so you can stop by before or after a family jog or enjoy the play area on its own. What I found really neat was that you can “enter” the play area by sliding down the slide. There is also a ramp, but the cool kids use the slide to make their entrance.


According to the official website, the play area was “designed to inspire a love of nature within children,” and “features of the play area include: a boulder rock scramble, a rolling lawn, a stream and waterfall, climbing logs and stones, and a 33-foot slide.” If that’s not enough to pique your interest, the site goes on to describe “the most compelling component” of the play area: “a tri-level tree house/boat deck with climbing net.” Can adults play, too? I’d be lying if I said I didn’t climb that net to reach the boat deck.


We visited on a picture perfect Sunday morning and there were several food trucks offering breakfast tacos, lunch tacos, coffee, popsicles, and even dog treats! I really liked how most of the play structures were integrated into the natural landscape. For instance, tree stumps replace a ladder leading to the slide and provide a way to practice your coordination and tolerance for letting your kids get dirty. There is also a stone water table, but it was on the fritz. During our visit, my toddler enjoyed playing in the sand, water features, and climbing a rope ladder of sorts, but she really, really enjoyed the super high slide. She was barely two when we visited, so I was unsure if it she would want to try it, but she did and she loved it. It is 33 feet high after all!

There is a covered pavilion with nice benches next to one of the sand pits perfect for cooling off and enjoying a picnic, as well as a covered area with tables and chairs next to the open green space nearby.

 

This is one of our favorite parks because of the natural elements and location, but it gets really hot during the summer. There isn’t a ton of shade in the main play areas, so you’re better off going on a cloudy day or when the summer heat passes. Overall, this is a one of a kind play area that offers so many ways to play, just make sure to pack sunscreen and water!

  • How to get there: I recommend parking at the Water Works in Buffalo Bayou Park (105 Sabine St., Houston, TX 77007) and walking through the lawn and past the Lee and Joe Jamail skate park to get to the play area.
  • Official website: http://buffalobayou.org/visit/destination/buffalo-bayou-park/

I’m always surprised by how many visitors to Hermann Park walk right past this secret garden without even realizing its there. If you’re one of them, here’s what you’ve been missing: little paths for toddlers to explore, mini fountains and waterfalls, bridges overlooking golden koi fish, towering pine trees, and cute gazebos. And, at this time of year, gorgeous blooms of flowers.

One of my favorite things to do in Hermann Park these days is to take Lana to the Japanese Garden and just let her loose. It’s fenced, so I know she’ll stay inside. (Of course, I still follow close behind to make sure she doesn’t fall into any of the ponds and streams!) Here’s a peek of some of the spots she’s led me to:

The pines at sunset: 

A peaceful oasis:

View from a bridge: (you can’t see the koi, but they’re there!)

Wishing well: 

Gorgeous flowers:

Even more flowers: (See them while you still can!)

Little shrine: 

Shrine #2: 

The whole park is nicely shaded, so it’s a good refuge from the sun on hot days. Parking is the only challenge – it is a ~10 minute walk from either of the major Hermann Park lots. But, the paths in Hermann Park are stroller-friendly, and you can uses your stroller on most of the Japanese Garden paths as well.

If You Go: 

  • Hours: 9:00AM-6:00PM.
  • Public Transit: The garden is very close to the Rice U light rail stop if you’re in the mood to take public transit.
  • Parking: I recommend parking at the Centennial Gardens lot (put in 1700 Hermann Drive on your GPS).
  • How to get there: From the Centennial Gardens lot, walk north past Centennial Gardens, across the street and train tracks, past Miller Outdoor Theatre, and past the plaza with the obelisk and the fountains. Look for the entrance to the garden just to your right after you cross the plaza. If you park elsewhere, use this park map to figure out your way to the garden!

This week, we are exploring beautiful Edith Moore Nature Sanctuary in West Houston. Lana, who’s almost two, is largely over playgrounds these days. Instead, she prefers to roam parks and green spaces, getting up close and personal with nature. So, the winding trails at Edith Moore were a toddler dream come true:

We explored most of the trails and found them to be flat, largely shaded, and even partially paved. There is also a little cabin to explore, as well as a set of stairsteps down to a creek, where rain boot-wearing toddlers can stomp in the water.

“Horseback” riding also available on request!

And just look at that sky.

If You Go:

  • Address: 440 Wilchester Blvd. Houston, TX 77079
  • Hours: 7AM-7PM, 7 days a week
  • Parking: It’s easiest to find parking at Memorial Drive United Methodist Church, and there is actually a gate leading into the sanctuary right off the church parking lot. Church address: 12955 Memorial Dr, Houston, TX 77079

This past weekend, we got to visit a new playground for a birthday party; as soon as I saw it, I knew it was worthy of a “park of the week” post. Jaycee Park is a favorite with Heights families, and has quite a few features to keep toddlers entertained.

Let’s start with the play structure. There’s just one, and it’s big, with slides, drums, a net to walk on, and much more. Because big and little kids all play together, and due to the size of the various features, it’s better for older toddlers. The two-year-olds and nearly-two-year-olds at our party certainly enjoyed it!

As far as shade, you can see in the photo below that much of the playground is shaded in the morning, though as the day wears on, that shade recedes. Nevertheless, the large green umbrellas and surrounding trees make sure you’re never in playing in full sun.

In addition to the main play structure, there are a few smaller features, like this spinning seat, a ride-on, a seesaw, and a little rock wall.

Then we have the splash pad. It’s a fun one, with various fountains unexpectedly erupting at different times. It’s mostly in the sun but there is a bit of shade.

Another thing I really loved about this park – tons and tons of green space around the playground and splash pad. This means plenty of room to run or lay out a blanket for a baby playdate. It also makes for a large buffer zone between kids and cars (see how far they are in the below photo?) I did see a number of puddles, so watch out for mosquitoes after it’s been raining.  (Also – how adorable is that party table?)

Between the play structure, the seesaw, the splash pad and the green areas, we really enjoyed our time at Jaycee Park. We will definitely be coming back!

If You Go:

  • Address: 1300 Seamist Dr, Houston, TX 77008
  • Parking: Free street parking, 1-minute walk to playground

Lana and I visited Memorial City Mall recently…but shopping wasn’t on our agenda! Instead, we checked out the new green space at the mall –  The Square. We loved this baby-and-toddler-friendly park!

We had a little bit of trouble locating The Square, leading us to circle the parking lots for a few minutes. Don’t be like me; take a minute to figure out where it is before you go. (You can find it here, between the Cheesecake Factory and Maggiano’s). Once we arrived, Lana was very impressed by the water feature at the entrance. I barely managed to usher her forward into the actual park!

The main part of The Square is a large green space. As you can see, there is still a bit of construction residue (though I didn’t see or hear any active construction happening while we visited). A group of moms was in the midst of a stroller fitness class when we stopped by, and cartoons were playing on a giant TV screen. Overall the space felt safe and clean, with very few ways for a wily toddler to escape. We liked that it was shaded (at least in the morning!) and covered with astroturf.

While the main space was fun, we spent most of our time in a little toddler corner, which beckoned Lana with brightly-colored logs and tunnels and animals:

She climbed through the tunnels and on top of the stump, petted the animals, and had a blast!

I’m not sure whether this was supposed to be a slide, but Lana definitely turned it into one!

We spent about an hour here and could have stayed longer if I didn’t have errands to run. I found it easy to sit back and enjoy a book while Lana played – with such a small, open space, I had no trouble keeping an eye on her. We’re so excited to have a place to play outside next time we’re stopping by the mall!

If You Go:

  • Address: 303 Memorial City Way, Houston, TX 77024
  • Parking: Free in the Memorial City Mall parking lots

This post is brought to you by Abby Gorlach.

We all have days where we are just plain tired. Maybe one of our precious offspring was up all night, or our toddler is helping us hone our hostage negotiation skills and we’re playing the hostage. On these days, convenience rules, so I head to the little park that rules. It’s an easy walk from our house and my kids are more obliged to get into their stroller than their car seats. Plus, anything beats loading kids into the car in the Houston heat.

The playground at the Church of the Apostles is a little oasis of fully-fenced, AstroTurf-ed, and partially shaded playground fun. If you read my last post on park adventures with a crawling baby and a running toddler, you know that AstroTurf reigns supreme in my book. My baby would be bored to tears (read: screaming) if she had to be held or strapped into her stroller while big sister ran around.

At this playground, the play structure is perfect for toddlers, complete with a variety of toddler-sized slides, steps, and features like a “Country Store” stand where you can all share a meaningful lesson in capitalism. There is only one space on the play structure that is not enclosed (meaning your daredevil child may feel compelled to jump off), and it leads to a fun climbing structure. This is better than most structures which usually contain several random drop off points, so I was very pleased.

Before my youngest was crawling, I would spread out a blanket in the shade and she would enjoy staring at the sky or flowers, or rolling onto her tummy and watching her counterpart rip and run. Now she enjoys roaming the AstroTurf and pulling up onto the stairs and slides. She burns some energy alongside the toddler and I don’t have to worry what she is putting into her mouth or whether the toddler is about to catapult herself off the play structure (or onto the street, thanks to the locking gates).


We also enjoy smelling the pretty flowers in the rock garden next to the playground on our way home. All in all, this is a perfectly simple playground for a variety of ages. I love the locking gates to keep baby in (or out), the deck area complete with tables and chairs, and the beautiful garden next to the playground. The big drawback is, of course, related to heat: the slides and turf can get very hot during some parts of the day, depending on cloud coverage, since only half of the play structure is shaded. There are no swings here, either, but they were not missed by us. My brood much prefers sliding and climbing stairs.


The Church of the Apostles has been generous enough to leave this little park open to the public, but since we are the public using a private park, it is our duty to keep it clean. Please keep this in mind when visiting. I would hate for the church to feel compelled to lock the gates one day due to too much unruly traffic.

If You Go:
Parking: You are spoiled for choice with parking; there is a huge lot next to the playground.
Address: 1111 West 14th Street, Houston, TX 77008

This week’s park review is brought to you by Natasha Lee (and little Audrey!)

Today I want to review one of our favorite parks – Exploration park in Katy. It’s a very well designed and thought out park for kids of all ages, with some features that I haven’t seen anywhere else. And, it’s fully fenced fir kids’ safety and parents’ peace of mind!

Right off the entrance there is a brand new area with some kind of Montessori blocks you can move around.

We also love their selection of swings. Besides regular baby and big kids’ swings they have a long rope swing where multiple kids can stand or sit. Audrey and her friend Sasha had a blast facing each other (can’t you tell by Audrey’s face?).

The most popular swing is the round one, it’s pretty much impossible to get on it on a weekend with tons of kids hanging off it. Good thing we were there during the week at 9 am so we were the only ones interested in it.

There is also a very interesting swing for bigger kids which is probably a new generation of seesaw (it’s on the background of my picture) where two kids sit on the opposite sides and bounce each other.

This playground also has a small slide with rollers and an impressive 3-floor-high covered slide. The stairs for this slide might be a little dangerous for toddlers, as they are steep and have openings in between but Audrey managed to climb it on the sliding surface from the bottom to the very top. I normally don’t allow this so she doesn’t get hit by sliding kids but since there were no other kids it was an interesting exercise and she actually amazed me with her skills!

But Audrey’s favourite part is under the slide. She is obsessed with the colourful plastic pieces she can spin like crazy for 20 minutes easy!

The park in general focuses on nature exploration. It has a big trail filled with big rocks you can climb and small rocks that are great for sensory stimulation for kids’ hands.

There is also an amazing interactive water feature. When you push a button the water starts running down from the clouds and going into rivers (little cracks in the ground – not seen in my picture). It’s not too much water but it’s educational and can help to cool off in the heat.

There is also a big green hill which is great for crawlers and new walkers. When you get on the top you can roll or run down or roll balls and cars.

They have a big picnic area so it can be a perfect place for a birthday party. But beware it can get very crowded on the weekends so get here early to reserve tables.

The parking lot is across the street and can be a 2-3 minute walk. There were also several car break-ins reported in the spring as the cars are generally out of sight so be sure to lock your car and take all your valuables with you.

If you go:
Address: 15020 Cinco Park Rd, Katy, TX 77450
Parking: Free on a parking lot