Summer Guide

There are numerous museums, parks and exhibits in the Houston metro area worth a trip for those staying close to home this summer. All destinations are family friendly. If you are looking to stay in Katy, Top Golf, Main Event, Time Square Entertainment and the recently opened Santikos Palladium IMAX Theatre just south of FM 1093 on the Grand Parkway are great options.

Alvin

The Nolan Ryan Exhibit Center

With interactive exhibits, the Nolan Ryan Exhibit Center is a showcase of the legend's career from little league baseball to the majors. Exhibits include a theater with videos, exclusive photos, an interactive pitch and catch simulation and a Rawlings Hall of Records. 9 a.m.–4 p.m. Mon.–Fri. $5 (adults), $2.50 (seniors and students), Free (children under 6). 2925 S. Bypass 35, Alvin. 281-388-1134, www.nolanryanfoundation.org

Bayou Wildlife Park

Travelers experience an African safari at Bayou Wildlife Park. A tram ride with experienced wildlife guides covers more than 80 acres of natural habitat, including alligator ponds and three monkey islands. See and feed animals and birds from Africa, India, Asia, Australia, and North and South America. Pony rides and a petting zoo are also available, as well as a souvenir shop. 10 a.m.–4 p.m. (March–August), 10 a.m.–3 p.m., closed Mondays (August–February). $18 (adults), $9 (age 2–11), Free (children under 2). 5050 FM 517, Alvin, 281-337-6376, www.bayouwildlifepark.com

Baytown

Pirate's Bay Water Park

This large and colorful pirate-themed water play center features a large dumping bucket and an array of spray nozzles, tot slides, water guns, a 671-foot-long lazy river and two large slide towers. Tower activities include run-out slides and racing tubes. The main attraction is the Flowrider surfing machine, which creates an endless moving mountain of water to simulate ocean surfing. Surfers can ride the waves with an audience, as two covered bleachers flank the machine. 11 a.m.–7 p.m. $17 (48 inches or taller), $12 (under 48 inches tall). 5300 E. Road, Baytown. 281-422-1150, www.baytown.org/piratesbay

Baytown Historical Museum

The Baytown Historical Museum is in the old Baytown Post Office. The origin of the museum dates back to May 14, 1970, when the City of Baytown formed a historical committee to look into establishing a historical museum in Baytown. The museum features artifacts pertaining to local and pioneer history. 10 a.m.–2 p.m. (Tues.–Sat.). Free. 220 W. Defee St., Baytown. 281-427-8768

Brenham

Blue Bell Creameries

Tours at the creamery last 45 minutes on Monday–Friday and include a serving of Blue Bell ice cream. During the tour, visitors learn how the dozens of Blue Bell flavors, ranging from peaches and homemade vanilla to butter crunch, are made. Visitors can also stop in the creamery's country store, which offers Blue Bell merchandise and other gifts. 8:30 a.m.–3 p.m. $6 (general admission), $4 (senior citizens and children). 1101 S. Blue Bell Road, Brenham. 800-327-8135, www.bluebell.com

Windy Winery

Visitors get the chance to tour the winery and sample various wines made on-site at Windy Winery. More than 10 types of wine are available at Windy Winery, ranging from Red Sunset to Tejas Port to Desert Rose. The winery also hosts live music Saturday evenings. Noon–5 p.m. (Wed.–Fri.), 11 a.m.–6 p.m. (Sat.), Noon–5 p.m. (Sun.). 4232 Clover Road, Brenham. 979-836-3252, www.windywinery.com

Galveston

Moody Gardens

The theme park features more than nine different attractions, including the newly revitalized Palm Beach and Rainforest Pyramid exhibits. The entire complex offers everything from a 4D movie theater to a Caribbean-inspired aquarium with more than one million gallons of water. Galveston's nearby Palm Beach opens on weekends starting May 11 and daily starting June 1. 10 a.m.–6 p.m. $49.95 (includes admission to all attractions), costs vary for individual attractions. 1 Hope Blvd., Galveston. 800-582-4673,www.moodygardens.com

Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary

This premier diving destination provides divers with the chance to view the northernmost coral reefs in the continental United States. Star and Brain coral, manta rays, hammerhead sharks, and loggerhead sea turtles are all on display. Whale shark can also be seen around July, August and September. This experience is best suited for intermediate or advanced divers. Costs vary. 4700 Avenue U, Bldg.

216, Galveston. 409-621-5151, www.flowergarden.noaa.gov

Houston

Museum District

Nineteen museums within walking distance from the Mecom Fountain in Hermann Park make up what is known as the Houston Museum District. The Houston Zoo, Rothko Chapel, Houston Center for Photography and the Houston Museum of Natural Science are just several of the nearly 20 museums open year-round in the area. Admission prices vary between museums. www.houstonmuseumdistrict.org

Splash Town

Various family and raft rides, several pools and slides make up the Splash Town waterpark north of Houston. The family rides range from Crocodile Isle to the Guadalupe River Adventure, while the raft rides include the 95-foot Zoom Flumes, the Thunder Run and Space Rapids. The water park can also host birthday parties, large groups and company outings. Hours vary by day. Prices vary.

21300 I-45 N., Spring. 281-355-3300, www.splashtownpark.com

Huntsville

Sam Houston Memorial Museum

The museum features photographs and other historical and educational memorabilia relevant to the life of Sam Houston. Patrons can go on guided tours of the museum to see the Steamboat House, where the Houstons lived when Sam was governor, and his Woodland home. 9 a.m.–4:30 p.m., Tue.–Sat.; 12–4:30 p.m., Sun.; closed Mondays. $4 (adults), $3 (seniors over 65), $2 (ages 6–18), free (members, SHSU students). 1836 Sam Houston Ave., Huntsville, 936-294-1832,

www.samhoustonmemorialmuseum.com

Huntsville State Park

This heavily wooded park adjoins the Sam Houston National Forest and encloses the 210-acre Lake Raven. The park offers camping, hiking, biking, boating, fishing, swimming and guided horseback trail rides with horses provided by 2E Stables. Canoe and paddle boat rentals are also available. Gates open 7 a.m.–10 p.m. $5 (adult) free (children 12 and under). 40 Park Road, Huntsville,

936-295-5644, www.tpwd.state.tx.us/state-parks/huntsville

La Porte

Battleship Texas

The last of the battleships to participate in World War I and II, Battleship Texas became the first battleship memorial museum in the U.S. in 1948. That same year, on the anniversary of Texas Independence, the ship was presented to the State of Texas and commissioned as the flagship of the Texas Navy. She was launched on May 18, 1912 from Newport News, Virginia. When the USS Texas was commissioned on March 12,1914, she was the most powerful weapon in the world. In 1983, the Texas was placed under the stewardship of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and is anchored on the Buffalo Bayou and the Houston Ship Channel. 10 a.m.–5 p.m. $12 (adult), Free (children 12 and under). 3523 Independence Parkway, La Porte. 281-479-2431,

www.battleshiptexas.org

San Jacinto Monument and Battlegrounds

The San Jacinto Monument is dedicated to the heroes of the Battle of San Jacinto and all others who contributed to the independence of Texas. The monument is a 570-foot shaft topped by a 34-foot star symbolizing the Lone Star Republic. The building incorporates a number of innovative engineering features not common during the period of its construction. The monument is listed as the tallest stone column memorial structure in the world, 15 feet taller than the Washington Monument in Washington, DC. 9 a.m.–6 p.m. (battleground, monument and museum), 9 a.m.–5:30 p.m. (monument observation floor). Free. 3523 Independence Parkway, La Porte. 281-479-2431, www.sanjacinto-museum.org

Lake Jackson

Sea Center Texas

A marine development, aquarium and education center in Lake Jackson, Sea Center can produce 20 million fingerlings annually—primarily red drum and spotted sea trout—for release into Texas coastal waters. In addition to aquariums, displays and 24-foot touch-tank, the complex also has a saltwater marsh demonstration boardwalk and a freshwater marsh ideal for birding. 9 a.m.–4 p.m., Tue.–Sat.; 1–4 p.m., Sun.; closed Mondays. Free admission (donations appreciated). 300 Medical Drive, Lake Jackson. 979-292-0100, www.tpwd.state.tx.us/spdest/visitorcenters/seacenter



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