Houston Music

Houston's 10 Best All-Ages Music Venues

We can all remember back to a time when we were under 21 years of age, ready to go out on a Friday night with friends. But where to go? Long ago, back when the Earth was flat, there was not much to do besides driving around all night or hanging out in your local parking lot.

Luckily for today's young people, some places in Houston offer live music to those still under the legal drinking age; truthfully, some venues listed here have been open to young people for quite some time, though we didn't always know about them back in the old days. Besides being places where young people can venture out on their own, parents can take their younger kids here to introduce them to the wonderful world of live music as well.

Note: We didn't list some of the obvious bigger venues like Toyota Center, Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, NRG Stadium, and others that are open to all ages as well. Numbers, the legendary Montrose nightclub, was excluded because although it is an all-ages venue for shows and special events, club nights are 18 and up.

10. MILLER OUTDOOR THEATRE Opened in 1923, Miller Outdoor Theater is unique in that it offers live music, musicals, plays, movies, dance and other artistic performances free during its eight-month season. For families, Miller offers performances that are geared towards young children, often during the day, or take the kids along some evening to see some classical music, jazz or popular artists perform. The new season starts up again in March, with the Spencer Davis Group and Los Lobos among some of the prominent musical acts scheduled to play.

6000 Hermann Park Dr., milleroutdoortheatre.com

9. MKT BAR Moms and Dads can introduce their kids to live music at MKT during a shopping trip to the Phoenicia Specialty Foods grocery store downtown if they so desire. In addition to the live performances from local musicians, the bar schedules several DJ sets throughout the week including Wednesday Vinyl Nights, where guest DJs from various walks of Houston life play their favorite records provided by Cactus Music. MKT Bar has a nice selection of cocktails, craft beers and wines as well as upscale bar food, including a kids' menu, so stick around a bit and make an evening out of it with the whole family.

1001 Austin, phoeniciafoods.com/mkt-bar

8. LAST CONCERT CAFE Last Concert Café serves tasty Tex-Mex cuisine and you can surely take the whole family out for that; you can also stick around later in the evening for the live music that often sounds like some 1960s jam-band session. Hang out with some hippies and bohemians of all ages and you might feel as though you have been transplanted back to a commune in the Summer of Love.

Seriously, this is a cool place, and if you bring you kids they are sure to enjoy the glow-in-the-dark hula hoops and tethered objects the regular patrons will be dancing with in the beach sand out in front of the stage. Stop by late Wednesday night for the drum circle or Sundays starting at 10:30 a.m. for the weekly acoustic jam, with all skill levels welcome.

1403 Nance, lastconcert.com

7. WHITE SWAN This DIY East End staple hosts some of the most extreme, brutal death-metal and black metal shows in town, and it wouldn't be quite fair if only those among us of legal drinking age could enjoy them now, would it? Of course not, which is why the White Swan opens up its doors to younger headbangers, many of whom encounter their first mosh pit upon entrance. Older metal fans may choose to bring along their kids to a show here and introduce them to the exciting world of corpse paint and guttural growls.

4419 Navigation Blvd., whiteswanlive.com

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6. MANGO'S With its final farewell show scheduled for the end of March, now would be a good time to go and visit Mango's in Montrose before the last waltz; this DIY venue has made a name for itself hosting indie-rock, noise, metal, punk and hardcore shows since the days after Hurricane Ike in September of 2008.

It should be noted that Mango's has never done anything the conventional way, and its Web site currently lists shows scheduled up until past mid-April, after the scheduled farewell show. Mango's Facebook page says the doors will be shut for good in May. Take your younger kids to a show here before it's gone forever, they'll thank you for it later.

403 Westheimer, mangoshtx.com

5. SUPER HAPPY FUN LAND This East End DIY venue books acts that often can be described as being out on the fringe; if you would like to go see some music that is unconventional, not part of the mainstream, and sometimes extreme, this is the place for you. Super Happy also supports the local art scene and has an art gallery on site; young kids will be fascinated by the giant Cabbage Patch Kids, stuffed animals and other interesting knick-knacks lying about.

Owners Brian Arthur and Olivia Dvorak treat all of the touring bands who come through as family, and during next month's SXSW Overflow Festival will offer bands who are traveling through the area to Austin for South by Southwest a place to play, as well as food and a place to sleep and shower if they like.

3801 Polk, superhappyfunland.com

4. DISCOVERY GREEN When Discovery Green opened in 2008, the 12-acre park replaced concrete parking lots and helped spark the revitalization of Downtown Houston as a leisure destination and not just a place to work, which continues to this day. There is a lot to go do and see here: live music and music festivals, art installations, an ice skating rink, a flea market, and a dog show are just a few of the fun things scheduled throughout the year. Discovery Green also stays true to its name, as it continues to utilize sustainable, environmentally friendly, "green" building and operations methods.

1500 McKinney, discoverygreen.com

3. CACTUS MUSIC Yes, Cactus Music is one of the few remaining record stores in Houston, but it is also a live-music venue that hosts lots of great bands and artists for in-store performances that are always free. Many of the musicians who perform at Cactus during an afternoon show will also have a gig at another venue in the city on the same night, so Cactus provides a rare opportunity for Houstonians to see their favorites perform twice in one day.

Parents can bring their younger kids along with them to see bands perform live here and introduce them to the joys of live music and buying vinyl records and CDs; the kids will also find some of the fun and unusual toys sold here appealing.

2110 Portsmouth, cactusmusictx.com

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2. WALTERS DOWNTOWN With all of the visiting bands who play punk, hardcore, metal, indie-rock, rap and related subgenres at Walter's Downtown, it's great that the place is an all-ages venue; it would be a shame if the under-21 crowd to whom this music appeals could not get in. Luckily they can get in, as Walter's owner Zack Palmer continues on the tradition of providing a venue for both national touring acts and up-and-coming Houston bands started by his mother Pam Robinson, the much-beloved founder of Walters who passed away last October after a long battle with cancer. Walters remains a place with a sense of community and camaraderie, where music lovers of all ages can come and enjoy themselves.

1120 Naylor, waltersdowntown.com

1. FITZGERALD'S Open since 1977, Fitzgerald's is a Heights musical staple; this two-story venue is the place throughout the decades where many Houston teenagers and young people have ventured out to see their first live-music show on their own. So many great bands and artists have played at Fitzgerald's, from prominent national acts to local bands just starting out; we would love to see a compiled list of everyone who has. Being an all-ages venue, Fitzgerald's is also a place where parents can bring their kids along and share with them their love of live music without spending a fortune on tickets at a big stadium show.

2706 White Oak, fitzlivemusic.com

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David Rozycki
Contact: David Rozycki