As the holidays approach, so do the annual family reunions. And even if you have a good relationship with your relatives, spending entire days with them might be a little taxing. If you're hosting the family gathering here in Houston this year, you naturally have to come up with things to do, ways to show off the city to your relatives in order to keep everybody calm, happy and on their best behavior when it comes to talking about politics.
Yet many of the most obvious and famous places in Houston actually aren't as enjoyable for family visits as you might initially imagine. They might be more appealing to children than an adult family, or present practical difficulties that destroy any of the fun you might have gotten out of the visit. Below, we've assembled a list of attractions and places that seem like they'd be a good idea to visit with your family from out of town – until you get there.
Space Center Houston
It feels a little sacrilegious to say this so soon after the death of John Glenn, the first American to orbit the earth, but it's still true: Visiting Space Center Houston is a little, well, boring. While the tours of the NASA Johnson Space Center and the work that the organization does there are very cool, the actual Space Center Houston building simply doesn't have much going for it when it comes to a family visit. Most of the information contained in its exhibits is information you and your family likely already know, if you've ever watched Apollo 13 or The Right Stuff, while the rest of Space Center Houston consists primarily of gift shops and activities oriented toward kids. After you take the tram tour to the Johnson Space Center and check out Rocket Park, you and your family will likely be out of things to do – and at $29.95 per adult head, it's a pretty expensive way to kill time.
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The Museum District's Rothko Chapel is lovely, tranquil, relaxing – when you're alone. When you've got a pack of family members to entertain, you're much more likely to spend your time in the chapel trying to explain that, no, the canvases adorning the walls are not all the same, instead of sitting and reflecting peacefully. And even if your relatives are modern-art lovers, chances are they'll likely sit for a few minutes to take it in, then ask when you want to leave. (We speak from personal experience.) You've only got a short amount of time to spend together, so why waste it sitting in silence?
Ice skating at Discovery Green
Sure, ice skating in Texas sounds like a fun, novel idea. You can show your visiting relatives how Texans do winter, and you don't even have to put on a coat. But it turns out that ice skating in balmy Houston just doesn't have the same charm as ice skating in, you know, actual cold. When it's 60 degrees out, nobody wants to drink hot chocolate no matter how many marshmallows you put in it; after a few listless laps around the rink, you're more likely to want a lemonade instead of anything steaming. Plus, if you haven't yet had the pleasure, falling on ice while wearing shorts is not the most enjoyable experience.
As a kid, visiting the aquarium with your family might have been the highlight of your week. You got to touch sea animals and see clown fishes, just like in Finding Nemo. But for an adult, the magic is gone. While riding a train through a shark tank on the Shark Voyage is exciting, the rest of the aquarium is simply not memorable enough to merit taking up some of your limited time with your family. And yes, the aquarium has white tigers – the question of why is one we'll leave to another reporter – but because the cage they're housed in is dismal and depressing, it doesn't really redeem the experience.
The Galleria is an iconic mall, accommodating more than 30 million visitors each year to its 400 stores and restaurants, according to its website. But between finding parking, walking to and from the stores you actually want to visit and then trying to locate your car again – after you inevitably lose it in one of The Galleria's six parking garages – you and your family will likely spend more time getting to and from the mall than actually shopping inside it. Plus, the longer you and your family wander aimlessly in an attempt to find the car, the higher tensions will rise and the better the chances of an argument. Better to just leave the shopping for a day when your relatives aren't in town.