Things To Do In Houston, Texas
Everything is bigger in Texas, including the amount of things to see and do. As the fourth largest city in the United States, there’s no shortage of attractions in Houston. Whether you’re into arts and culture, history or the outdoors, Houston’s got you covered.
To help you plan your trip, here are our recommendations for the 15 best things to do in Houston. And once you are done exploring the town and looking for destinations a short drive away, we recommend exploring these 15 best day trips from Houston, Texas.
1. Space Center Houston
When in Space City, a visit to Space Center Houston is a must.. Take a behind-the-scenes tram tour through NASA’s Johnson Space Center. See the historic Control Center used during the Apollo missions.
Wander around through a replica of the Shuttle Independence as well as the massive carrier it’s mounted on. Experience a simulation of a zero-g environment. See actual rockets in Rocket Park. Touch a rock from the moon. See where astronauts train and maybe even meet an astronaut.
With so much to see and do here, make sure you leave yourself enough time. You can even combine a Houston sightseeing tour with a visit to the Space Center Houston.
2. Museum District
Getting cultured in the Museum District is one of the best things to do in Houston.
Located near downtown, the district is the cultural heart of the city. It’s home to 19 different museums, galleries and cultural centers across four walkable zones. Highlights include the Museum of Fine Arts, the Museum of Natural Science, the Health Museum, the Holocaust Museum, the Children’s Museum of Houston and the Menil Collection.
The best part is, 11 of those museums offer free admission all the time, while many others offer free admission days. So there’s no reason not to spend a few hours exploring the arts, culture, science and more.
3. Hermann Park
Home to a number of popular attractions, chances are you will spend some time in Hermann Park while in Houston.
Located at the southern end of the Museum District, the park is home to several museums. In addition, find landmarks such as the Sam Houston Monument and the Mecom Fountain. There are several pretty gardens in the park. Highlights include the McGovern Centennial Gardens, the pretty and zen Japanese Garden and the interactive Family Garden.
Plenty of trails are available for more active visitors. Enjoy a pedal boat ride in McGovern Lake when the weather is nice. For families with kids, a ride on the miniature Hermann Park Railroad is bound to be a hit. In the evening, catch a free show at the Miller Outdoor Theatre.
4. Museum of Natural Science
Explore the natural world at the Museum of Natural Science, one of the most popular museums in Houston. Located in Hermann Park, the world-class museum has a wide range of exhibits that will interest kids and adults alike.
The paleontology hall is excellent and features many fossils of all sizes, including dinosaurs. Don’t miss the fossils in action series, where fossils are arranged in scenarios that might have occurred millions of years ago.
Another highlight is the jewelry vault and all its colorful gems. The butterfly pavilion, set in an indoor rainforest, is a must-see and worth the extra cost. Also extra are the planetarium shows on a big screen.
5. Menil Collection
The Menil Collection is one of the best things to do in Houston for art lovers. The private collection of the late John and Dominique de Menil includes more than 17,000 pieces of art.
The impressive collection spans antiquities, Byzantine, tribal, and modern and contemporary art. The main building was designed by Renzo Piano and features a light and airy space perfect for artistic appreciation and contemplation.
Several other buildings can be found on the 30-acre campus, including the Cy Twombly Gallery, the Rothko Chapel, the Byzantine Chapel and the Menil Drawing Institute. And it’s all free to visit.
6. Buffalo Bayou Park
Enjoy the outdoors and stunning city views at Buffalo Bayou Park, one of the best things to do in Houston for nature lovers.
The park spans 160 acres of beautiful green space, with the Buffalo Bayou running through it. Numerous trails make it a popular spot to walk, run and ride a bike. Or explore the bayou by kayak, canoe or stand-up paddle board. Additional facilities include a skateboard park, playground, dog park and picnic pavilions.
Find food trucks, performances and events at the restored Water Works building. Don’t miss the Cistern, an old underground reservoir which now hosts art installations. The park is also home to a large colony of bats. See them take flight each evening at the Waugh Drive Bridge.
7. Houston Zoo
Located in Hermann Park, the Houston Zoo is one of the best things to do in Houston for families and animal lovers. Spanning 55 acres, the zoo is home to more than 6,000 animals and several hundred different species.
It’s one of the most popular zoos in the country. See everything from giraffes to gorillas to giant anteaters. In addition to numerous animal exhibits, the zoo also offers a range of special activities. Feed a giraffe. Watch a 4-D movie. Or play around in the water play park, with more than 30 water features.
Kids will also enjoy rides on the wildlife carousel, meeting animals in the petting zoo and the interactive children’s area.
8. Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo
The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is the biggest event in Houston. It’s definitely one of the best things to do in Houston if you happen to be in town in late February or early March.
The event goes on for 19 to 20 days, and there are a whole lot of events and activities to enjoy. Watch daily rodeo shows featuring different events, such as bull riding and steer wrestling. See an incredible array of animals on display at the livestock shows.
Besides the main events, there are also all sorts of carnival rides and games, food stalls and food competitions and parades. In the evening, enjoy live performances from some of the top names in country and pop music.
9. Eat Your Way Around Town
The food options in Houston are incredible and eating well is one of the best things to do here. There’s a reason Houston is considered the culinary capital of the south. Being Texas, there’s definitely some great barbecue to be had.
Some of the top rated BBQ joints are here, including Corkscrew BBQ, Tejas Chocolate + Barbecue and Killen’s Barbecue. Houston is also known for its great Tex-Mex. You can’t go wrong with the original Ninfa’s on Navigation or Molina’s Cantina, with a history dating back to 1941.
Beyond barbecue and Tex-Mex, you can find just about every cuisine under the sun here. It’s a reflection of Houston’s rich diversity. And food tours are a great way to sample the flavors.
10. Houston Downtown Tunnels
Escape the Houston heat and discover an entire underground world in the Houston Downtown Tunnels. The tunnels span around 7 miles, or 95 city blocks.
Originally built in the 1930s and expanded in the 1950s and 1960s, the tunnels connected various points downtown and allowed workers to get from one place to another without having to go out in the hot Texas sun. Besides connecting office buildings, you access various restaurants and shops.
In addition, the tunnels are home to a number of small specialty shops like newsstands, drug stores and flower shops. Guided tunnel tours are available and they are a unique way to explore Houston.
11. Kemah Boardwalk
Located only 20 miles away from Houston, the Kemah Boardwalk offers all sorts of family friendly fun. It’s a large entertainment complex with amusement park rides, arcades, midway games and more.
It’s free to walk the boardwalk. You just pay for each attraction that you want to ride or play. You can also enjoy a thrilling ride on the water with the Boardwalk Beast. Or for a more leisurely cruise, try the Boardwalk FantaSea instead.
To get some exercise while enjoying the water, you can also paddle out on a kayak or a stand-up paddleboard. There are also plenty of dining options here to suit all tastes. For a hassle-free day, combine a guided tour of Houston with a trip to Kemah.
12. San Jacinto Battleground Historic Site
See where one of the most important battles for the independence of Texas from Mexico took place at the San Jacinto Battleground Historic Site.
The battle was led by General Sam Houston, for whom Houston was named. Wander the grounds and look for markers denoting key events of the battle. Learn more about the battle and the war at the on-site museum, a treasure trove of information.
Afterwards, take an elevator to the top of the San Jacinto Monument for sweeping panoramic views. At 570 feet tall, the monument is the tallest war memorial in America. It’s even taller than the Washington Monument by 15 feet. It’s free to visit the battleground, but there is a fee to take the elevator to the top of the monument.
13. Sports Game
Houston takes its sports seriously. Get into the action by cheering for the home team at a sports game. For major league baseball action, watch the Astros play at Minute Maid Park.
Located downtown, you can watch the game in air conditioned comfort. Try to time your visit for fireworks night if possible Even if you can’t make a game, you can take a tour of the stadium. Multiple options are available. Basketball fans can watch the Rockets play at Toyota Center downtown.
If football is more your thing, watch a Texans game at the NRG Stadium. Soccer fans have the Dynamo and the Dash, who both play at the BBVA Compass Stadium. And with several universities located in Houston, college sports are also popular options.
14. Shop Until You Drop
Indulge in some retail therapy while you are in Houston. For a wide range of options under one roof, head to the Galleria shopping mall.
Featuring a massive 2.4 million square feet of space, the Galleria offers more than 400 stores and 50 dining options. There’s a large number of high-end stores, though casual outlets can be found here as well. The Gerald D. Hines Waterwall Park is also across the street and worth a stop. Or head to nearby Highland VIllage for all sorts of specialty shops.
For the best in designer names, try the upscale River Oaks District. For something hip and different, walk around 19th Street in the Heights.
This pretty Victorian neighborhood is home to an eclectic assortment of boutiques, antique shops, galleries, vintage stores and more.
15. Twilight Epiphany Skyspace
See art and nature interact in a beautiful way at Twilight Epiphany Skyspace. Designed by American artist James Turrell, the innovative art installation can be found on the campus of Rice University.
The futuristic-looking pyramid-like structure is made of concrete, grass, composite steel and stone. The structure also features LED lights that project onto the ceiling and through the opening in the roof during sunrise and sunsets 6 days a week. An incredible experience, the light shows are free and must be booked in advance.
The two levels to the structure can accommodate up to 120 visitors. Musical performances are also held here from time to time.
Travel Tips : If you plan on sightseeing in Houston, a CityPASS is recommended, as it provides free or discounted admission to multiple attractions. Hop-on hop-off bus tours help you sightsee with ease. And for a truly hassle-free Houston sightseeing experience, opt for a guided tour. Short tours area available for those short on time.