Most people ring in the New Year from its first seconds -- and then spend much of the actual day sleeping off those festivities. Though many businesses and attractions are closed on New Year's Day, there are some exceptions in Houston, Texas that provide family-friendly activities and venues where parents and kids can kick off the New Year together, while spending quality time together.
When the rest of Houston takes a collective nap on New Year's Day, you can take your children to the Houston Zoo, which is one of the few places that will be open. The zoo is open free of charge on New Year's Day. Explore all the zoo's exhibits, including an aquarium, African forest, elephants, primates, sea lions and more.
The Houston Museum of Natural Science is also open on New Year's Day, but you won't get free admission. You can explore ancient fossils, colorful gems and minerals, and ancient civilizations. Kids will also enjoy playing with the hands-on exhibits, such as the workstations that explore the earth's climate and geography. Other attractions include a live butterfly habitat, a rain forest conservatory, and a planetarium.
Temperatures in Houston are relatively mild on New Year's Day, providing opportunity to enjoy some fresh air on the first day of the year. The Armand Bayou Nature Center in Pasadena, just 15 miles outside of Houston, includes over 5 miles of hiking trails that you and your kids can walk to spot white-tailed deer, native reptiles and amphibians, and all kinds of birds. You can also take a canoe ride or pontoon boat tour.
At Hermann Park in Houston -- one of the city's first parks and one of the most visited -- there is something for the whole family to enjoy. Kids will love a ride on the mini train, playing on the large playground equipment or taking a ride on the paddle boats. The park is also right next to the zoo if you want to combine your outings.
On New Year's Eve, Discovery Green is home to Houston's official New Year's Even celebration. The next day, it is still home to ice skating for the whole family. The Ice at Discovery Green also has a dedicated toddler rink, giving the little ones a safe place to play. The rink only stays open a couple of more weeks after the start of the new year, so New Year's Day is a great time to go enjoy it before it closes.
If Discovery Green is too crowded -- or if it's just too cold outside -- you can head over to the Ice at the Galleria. The Houston Galleria Mall is the home to this rink, and it provides a covered and more temperature-controlled way to enjoy some ice skating.
Lunch and Shopping
Not many restaurants and shops are open on New Year's Day, but there are a few possibilities. Reginelli's Pizzeria is a great place to take kids for a casual lunch to refuel from the day's activities. Whether you're out playing at the park or getting ready to go shopping, you can stop in for a crowd-pleasing meal that the whole family will love.
When you're done with lunch, head over to the Houston Galleria Mall for shopping and play time. The mall has a Little Galleria play area for kids that includes soft foam equipment and mini-versions of the mall's major stores, like Neiman-Marcus and Nordstrom.