Spring Day Trips

Finding Family-Friendly Fun In Kemah

The Kemah Boardwalk and Lighthouse District are perfect for toddlers and their parents.

By Timothy Malcolm February 25, 2019 Published in the March 2019 issue of Houstonia Magazine

I hold onto my 2-year-old daughter, Evie, and bring the safety bar over our laps. We’re trying the Rockin’ Rocket ride at the Kemah Boardwalk. After a few seconds, it kicks into gear, then speeds up, jerking us backward and forward. I catch a glimpse of Evie, who’s trying to keep her eyes open while waving to Mommy and smiling. She’s loving it.

Earlier Evie rode a zebra on the Double-Decker Carousel and tried both the Wonder Wheel and the taller Century Wheel, which soars above Galveston Bay. My wife, Sarah, and I are thrilled. “I’ve never seen her like this!” I tell her.

We walk the boardwalk, amusing ourselves by ranking the best days of Evie’s life. We decide that this sun-splashed afternoon in Kemah has to be top-five. That’s when our daughter spies the attraction that just might vault this adventure above the day she discovered French fries: “Choo-choo!” she cries, pointing at the C.P. Huntington Train, a replica of an 1863 steam locomotive.

Evie adores trains, and luckily this is one of the five rides our 2-year-old can experience (most attractions on the Boardwalk are made for kids 36 inches and taller). It lasts about 25 minutes, including time spent waiting in line, and it winds through the entire boardwalk—a quick tour, without the walking. We make note of a gated playground as Evie takes it all in.

We decide to spend some time exploring town, walking the nearby Lighthouse District, where stores selling soaps, homemade jams, and jewelry sit alongside fudge shops and bars, before making a stop at the iconic Tookie’s Burgers, which has been serving up its tasty creations since 1975, although it moved into a new location in 2017. We get a seat on the packed patio overlooking the marina. Evie colors with the kids’-menu crayons, while we munch on burgers under the sun. I get the #99, whose beef patty is mixed with onions, cheddar, and wine. A burger that tastes like meatloaf? On this day of firsts, why not?

Back at the boardwalk, Evie and I get wet on a splash pad, then visit the playground, which is teeming with kids, a good number of them older than her. Still, one girl decides to make Evie her wing woman, escorting her to each slide before they go down together. We’ve never seen our daughter so eager to have a friend.

My wife and I trade off watching her, and when I’m free I post up at the Landry’s Seafood House outdoor bar for a quick frozen daiquiri. I slurp the frosty concoction, basking in the beautiful weather. Best day ever? It’s up there. 

What to Instagram

  • If you’re visiting at night, capture the gorgeous neon lights of the Century Wheel.
  • Of course, get a photo of Galveston Bay from the Boardwalk Tower ride on the Kemah Boardwalk.
  • Pose in front of the blue-and-white Kemah Lighthouse or the town’s iconic water tower/lighthouse (9th Street at Harris Ave.).

If You Spend the Night

  • You don’t have to leave the Kemah Boardwalk when staying at the Boardwalk Inn, which offers spacious accommodations, bay views, and, on weekends, live entertainment.
  • The quieter Kemah Escape, just four blocks away from the boardwalk, offers suites with private living rooms and kitchens.

Where to Eat

  • Grab a cup of joe and a Danish at the cozy Art of Coffee (281-532-6371).
  • Family-friendly Tookie’s Burgers has been a favorite for decades.
  • Bakkhus Taverna offers reliable Greek fare including souvlaki and gyros.
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