Iron Cross Gymnastics equips children with the ability to safely leap and tumble through a variety of encouraging gymnastics classes and summer camps. Split by age level and gender, weekly gymnastics classes train youth to perform gravity-defying physical feats on tumbling mats and aboveground apparati without previous experience or flying carpets. Children ages 2 to 5 learn to follow direction and share during preschool classes, which focus on enhancing basic motor function and agility as students climb and roll through obstacle courses. For more advanced acrobatic maneuvers, 70-minute boys' and girls' recreational programs help kids ages 6 and up build strength and coordination with routines on trampolines and the tumble track. Girls hone balance and agility with special practice on the uneven bars and beam, and boys receive special instruction in the rings, parallel bars, and beard trimmer.
George Ranch Historical Park, only half an hour southwest of Houston, is more than a representation of Texas history—it’s the hundred-year story of a ranching family who lived their lives on the park’s very soil. The attractions tell their story, beginning with the Jones Stock Farm—a cattle operation circa 1830—where interpreters demonstrate old-fashioned skills amidst a traditional dog-trot log cabin. The Ryon Prairie Home unveils an 1860s image of a Texas Ranch home in the golden age of the cattle drive, and the Davis Mansion contains artifacts from Victorian-era Texas enjoyed by the wealthiest citizens of the 1890s. The final site, the George Ranch Complex, demonstrates ranching life as it happened in the 1930s, including barn structures and daily cattle demonstrations. Guides show off each building and era with historic tours, demonstrations, and living history exhibits such as a working blacksmith shop.
The park’s directors breathe life back into this history with interactive events, as well. They also schedule an array of yearly events such as military reenactments, and holiday-themed history lessons.
Aromas of grilled Black Angus burgers waft through All Stars Family Grill, where play spaces for toddlers to 12-year-olds are as much of an attraction as the hearty American fare. Entrees, sandwiches, and kid-size meals appear at the pickup counter with complimentary soft-serve ice cream, which incentivizes alfresco dining at picnic benches on the large, concrete patios. A pair of playgrounds, one designed for toddlers and the other for ages 5–12, entertains kids with slides, tunnels, and an accountant offering tax advice. Inside, wooden tables sprawl out under a checkerboard ceiling, which also decorates three private rooms ready to party with 50-inch plasma high-definition TVs and AV equipment. An arcade buzzes with games including Madden and Target Terror, and flat-screen TVs sprinkled throughout the restaurant display sports or breaking news on cartoon cancellations.
Tank's Paintball Park has hosted chromatic combatants in the Houston area for more than 17 years. It recently added a Sugarland paintball complex, which covers 29 acres of woodland. There's even a central creek, which can act as a strategic border or a place for cheaters looking to wash paint from their clothes. Casual players can take advantage of rental equipment for open games, and there are buckets of field paint to help keep veteran players' markers topped off. The field also offers SplatMaster games, which employ special, low-impact markers so kids up to the age of 12 can explore the sport.
Seven days a week, the Houston Museum of Natural Science cultivates knowledge with interactive exhibits that shuttle minds into such far-flung realms as tropical rainforests and outer space. Permanent exhibits house everything from the skeletons of brachiosauruses in the recently expanded Hall of Paleontology to a diverse set of artifacts spanning 6,000 years of history in the Hall Of Ancient Egypt. Housed inside three stories of glass, the museum's Butterfly Center teems with more than 1,500 winged wonders from around the globe, which frolic around a 50-foot waterfall, flutter through exotic plants, and—most amazingly—pull nickels from behind children’s ears. Visitors can also gaze skyward in the Burke Baker Planetarium, which casts more than 10 daily shows with curve-mirror projection technology. Eyes marvel at the planetarium's 30'x18' full-dome digital theater, capable of transporting families to the aurora borealis in the Arctic Circle or to the nougat-flavored center of a black hole.
Stomping Grounds Playland is many things at once. Part play center, coffee bar, and restaurant, its target demographic spans generations, all of whom should find plenty to do within its 2,000-square-foot facility. A play structure delights kids with obstacles and colorful tunnels, and an expanded toddler area keeps the youngest visitors occupied. To fuel this fun, the onsite Brewster's Café serves up kid favorites such as hot dogs and mac and cheese.
However, the café has even more options for adults—not to mention a dining area with free WiFi. Baristas pour cappuccino, organic chai tea, and specialty espresso drinks such as white-chocolate mochas. These caffeinated treats complement an array of signature sandwiches and salads. Stomping Grounds Playland also caters to parents with comprehensive party packages; party planners take care of everything, including food, activities, and all the paperwork required to receive a birthday wish.