The Hidden Lake and Other Small Places for Big Fun in the Houston Area

By Cynthia Marple

The strong heat has settled in and the heavy rains have abated for now. School has been out for nearly three weeks so now you ask “What to do in Houston to avoid crowds and stay safe from heat?”

There are lots of Houston attractions that are family friendly and smaller in scale.

The Hidden Lake in Katy, Texas


When I was growing up in New York, my father’s cousin had a farm with a swimming pond. I have fond memories of swimming there off of a wooden dock. With grass along the sides instead of sand and large trees for shade, it was a quiet way to cool down in the summer.

The Hidden Lake is a man-made lake designed to feel like an old fashioned swimming hole. Faith West Academy is a private school in the Harris County section of Katy. Retention ponds are required by Harris County to help maintain drainage. So, the folks at Faith West looked at options for making a proper retention pond. As it turns out, the Texas Department of Transportation needed dirt in the area so that agency offered to dig the pond and set up a water pumping station in exchange for all the dirt. Faith West agreed and, as a result, The Hidden Lake was created.

Here is some more local trivia – when you drive down the Katy Freeway, aka I-10, toward San Antonio, all the dirt used to build the Pin Oak overpass came from digging the lake.

Since this is a man-made lake, the water is kept fresh from the pumping station and is treated for algae. Safety is important so all swimmers are required to wear a life vest – these are provided. New this year, the school has built a covered gazebo that private groups can rent.

Camp West Activity.jpg In the lake are inflated slides and other structures to climb on, slide off and rest on. Separate from the inflatables is a tower with a zip line and long slide. The place is open to the public on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday evenings in the summer. A snack bar is available and admission on Thursdays and Fridays include a hot dog, chips and a drink.

Train Museums

Believe it or not, there are some train museums in the area. Most kids find trains fascinating whether they watch Thomas the Tank Engine or not. Learn some local railroad history while having a fun outing.

The Rosenberg Railroad Museum is a fun place alongside active railroad tracks. Despite the recent flooding, it is open normal hours. There are exhibits inside and outside the museum. In June and July there is a Wig Wag Learning series on Wednesday mornings for preschoolers. Other classes for Boy Scout Merit badges and other educational events happen on a regular basis.

A great option for after the museum visit is to have lunch at the Another Time Soda Fountain. It is across the street from the museum. The “soda jerks” make homemade fountain drinks and milkshakes. A full menu is available in addition to the old fashioned sweets.

The MKT Railroad Park and Tourist Center in Katy Texas calls itself a “pocket park.” The MKT depot has been converted into a visitor’s center with railroad exhibits maintained by the Katy Heritage Society. Nearby this park is a contemporary arts museum.

Add the above to your list of places to visit in Houston this summer.

Find or Create Your Own Small Place


Your backyard can be transformed into a fun “pocket park” of your own. Simple water sprinklers set around the yard can make a water obstacle course. Use a soccer goal or posts and a bedsheet to create more obstacles to hide behind. Fill a plastic pool with sand for a quick “sand pit” for building castles.

Set up a pop up shade with a tarp for a floor to use for a picnic lunch. After lunch, use that area for messy experiments or art work creation. Use sticks to build sculptures to decorate the backyard.

Look for small parks or green spaces near you to explore. It is amazing how easy it is to pass by a small green space or museum when rushing between appointments or grocery shopping.

Take advantage of the more relaxed summer schedules to find a new, small place to explore with your children. In the alternative, use your imagination or follow the lead of your child’s imagination to create a special space in your backyard.

If you are still planning summer activities for your child, check out the summer youth programs on There are lots of categories for all ages and summer camps are available through August. For example, here are some unique finds:

Recipe for Success Foundation –

Crossing Borders –

Nutty Scientists Fort Bend –

What events in Houston today are hidden finds that others would love to discover? Tell us about it in the comments below.

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