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Half Day in Houston: Ride 2 trains, Aerate the Bayou & Pet a Stingray in Downtown

Having fun with the family and exploring Houston can be easy!  If you have a few hours, we have ideas on how to spend them with the kids.

In this Half Day in Houston series, find a place to park, play, explore and eat… all in one spot.  Pick what you like or combine with another Half Day post!

White Tiger at Downtown Aquarium
In this adventure, ride two trains, aerate the bayou and pet a stingray. Take METRORail to the mysterious red button, Buffalo Bayou and the Downtown Aquarium!

Look below for a map of the walking route.  Just make the stops listed below, or add in more from this (very close) adventure.

Park and Ride:  

For this urban Downtown adventure, take the METRORail to add to the fun.  You can park anywhere along the line… the museum district can be congested but has several $5 lots along Binz.

If you don’t have time for the METRORail today, just drive and park at Market Square Park.  Metered street parking is available.


METRORail by Hermann Park and Museum District
1.  METRORail – $1.25 for anyone older than 5

Take the train!  It runs through the middle of Downtown Houston and is easy to navigate.  Watch the video HERE to see how to find a station, purchase tickets at the station and get where you need to go.

Jump off at the Preston Station and walk west(ish) on Preston Street.  (This is away from Discovery Green and towards the Downtown Aquarium, the Theater District and City Hall… See the maps below.)  All of this adventure is on this side of the tracks!

Button on Preston Street Bridge from Wortham Theater
2.  Mysterious Red Button – Preston Street Bridge, Preston and Smith, Downtown Houston – Free (12/30/19 Update: The bubble hasn’t been working every day, but there are plenty of other fun things to do!)

Whenever you are on Preston Street, you need to Burp the Bayou.

From the train station, walk on Preston past Market Square Park, past the Houston Ballet and just past the back of Wortham Theater, you’ll be at the bridge over the bayou.

In the middle of the brick column on the south(ish) side of the Preston Street Bridge, is a little red button.  When you press it, the water it bayou will bubble for several seconds.

Button on Preston Street Bridge
There is no sign above this little button…  It is just a mysterious red button in the middle of Downtown Houston… And you have to see who is brave enough to push it!  See the video HERE!

Just note that sometimes people have trouble with the button working… the water levels could be too high or the mysterious button could mysteriously stop working.  It’s been working each time we’ve gone, just like the video…  but please don’t send hate mail if it doesn’t!  (Seriously, please don’t.)

Downtown Aquarium
3. Downtown Aquarium –  410 Bagby Street, Houston, TX 77002 – Find hours & prices HERE.

From the Preston Street bridge, walk across the bayou.  You could cross Bagby Street to get to the Downtown Aquarium, but instead, find the stroller/handicap ramp down to the Buffalo Bayou Trail. It is on the same side of Preston as the red button.

Walk down the long ramp and continue straight along side the water.  Feed the ducks and watch out for the many cyclist riding along the path.

The sidewalk will take you under the overpass and you will find the “super secret” back entrance to the Downtown Aquarium on your right hand side.

Once you are at the Downtown Aquarium, decide how much you want to do. If you want the full adventure pass, be sure to look on the website HERE because there are often Buy One Get One Free coupons. This allows you to walk through the aquarium and ride the shark train, carousel, ferris wheel and pet the stringrays!

Another option is to splash in the splash pad for free.  There is no cost to visit the big patio and the bathrooms are open to everyone. There is a DJ, splash pad and free trainer shows throughout the day. Without spending any money, you can have a great time at the Downtown Aquarium.

When you are finished, walk back to Market Square Park, near the red button.

Niko Nikos Patio
4.  Niko Nikos at Market Square Park – 301 Milam Houston, Texas 77002 (Milam and Preston) 

On Preston, between red button and METRORail, stop by Downtown’s chillest park.  Market Square has beautiful landscaping, room to run in the grass, dog park and a Niko Niko’s restaurant.  This is the spot I recommend for lunch!

Downtown Walking Map:

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