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20 Awesome Free Things to do in Houston

Houston Skyline

Houston has a history dating back to 1836, and it is now the most populous city in Texas. This city is also a tourist destination as it has many landmarks, activities, and attractions that appeal to people taking a vacation. Regardless of whether you live in Houston or you are simply visiting the city, you will find a vast array of things to enjoy, with activities to suit all ages, preferences, and budgets. You will even find plenty of things to keep yourself entertained if you have a limited budget as there are lots of things that you can do for free. Here are 20 awesome free things to do in Houston, Texas, during your next visit.

1. Browse the Contemporary Arts Museum

A top Houston destination that you should visit if you love art is the Contemporary Arts Museum. This attraction is located on Montrose Boulevard, just one block away from the Houston Museum of Fine Art. The museum is made up of two floors of exhibitions with work from local, regional, and international artists. There are both permanent and temporary exhibitions on display that feature many different styles of art that use different mediums. In addition to the displays, this museum holds art workshops and hosts various events throughout the year.

2. Enjoy an Outdoor Concert at The Miller Outdoor Theater

During the warmer months, you should try to catch one of the city’s outdoor plays, musical concerts, or movies. These are held at various venues across the city. The most popular option is the Miller Outdoor Theater. This venue is located within Hermann Park along Hermann Park Drive, and it has been open for over 80 years. There is a fantastic range of performance put on at the theatre, ranging from cultural experiences to things that make you want to get up and dance. This outdoor amphitheater also hosts many other events throughout the year.

3. View the Famous Menil Collection

Art enthusiasts will enjoy a visit to the Menil Collection. There are many beautiful pieces in the Menil Collection, but some of the highlights include its rare collection of antiquities and examples of both Medieval and Byzantine art. There are examples of historical pieces from across the globe and from various eras. Even if you have been to this venue before, it is worth making a second or third visit because they often host rotating exhibitions. In the past, these have included exhibitions of the work of famous artists including Picasso and Andy Warhol.

4. Go Bat Spotting at Waugh Drive Bridge

One of the more unusual free activities you can enjoy in Houston is a visit to the Waugh Drive Bridge to see the bats, says The bridge is home to more than 250,000 Mexican Free-Tailed Bats. Each night, the bats emerge from the bridge and it is a fascinating sight. This is one of the few colonies in Texas that does not migrate as they remain in Houston throughout the year. A great place to watch the bats emerge is at the bat observation deck, which is located in Buffalo Bayou Park.

5. Cycle the Buffalo Bayou

Cycling is a fantastic way to get out and about to see the city from a different perspective. Although there are miles of bikes trails around Houston, one of the best is the Buffalo Bayou, which goes through Eleanor Tinsley Park. This gives you a good overview of the city as it goes over old-fashioned bridges, through downtown, and along curvy hill trails. Along the way, you can enjoy a spectacular view of the Houston skyline.

6. Meditate at Rothko Chapel

Sometimes it is nice to get away from the stresses and strains of daily life, and you might just want to sit and relax or spend some time alone. The best place to go for this is the Rothko Chapel. This is a non-denominational chapel where people go to meditate. However, there is more to this chapel than simply meditation, as it also has a museum that features artwork. This chapel has even been voted one of the coolest places to view art in the United States.

7. Take a Free Boat Cruise

In most cities, you need to pay to take a boat trip. In Houston, you can climb aboard the Port of Houston authority’s public charter boat to enjoy a Sam Houston Boat Tour that is completely free. The vessel holds 100 passengers and the boat tour lasts 90-minutes. Travelers can sit indoors or outdoors to enjoy the tour of the port, which shows you the daily working of this busy port. You can also see many of the most famous landmarks in Houston from the boat. The boat tour starts at Port Houston’s Sam Houston Landing and you need to book 24 hours in advance to makes sure you get one of the limited spaces.

8. Stroll in Memorial Park

Not only is Memorial Park the largest urban park in Texas, but it is also one of the largest urban parks in the United States. There is an 18-hole golf course and tennis courts in this park, but you must pay to use these facilities. For a free day out, take advantage of the workout stations, the play areas, and the biking paths. Alternatively, get some exercise by jogging along the three-mile running trail that encloses the park.

9. Go to Houston Arboretum & Nature Center

The Houston Arboretum & Nature Center is a 155-acre nature sanctuary within the heart of Space City. There is a total of five miles of scenic trails in this sanctuary, which are lined with oak, pine, and sycamore trees. A section of the sanctuary is shallow wetlands, and you may see fish and turtles. The park is large enough to spend a whole day there, and it is a good place to enjoy a picnic if the weather is good.

10. Visit Discovery Green

There are a variety of ways that you can spend your time during a visit to Discovery Green, says Tour Texas. If you wish, you can simply take a stroll. However, other options include listening to live musicians, watching an outdoor concert, or test out the Unique Listening Vessels. The latter is a pair of stone sculptures with concave interiors that allow you to have a conversation with someone at the other end because they focus the sound waves.

11. Enjoy the History of The Heritage Society

Although Houston is now a large city, it was once a developing town established on the Texas frontier. A trip to The Heritage Society gives you the chance to learn more about the history of the city at its interactive outdoor museum. Within this museum space, there are nine structures, including a church and homes from the 1820s. You will find the museum on the west side of downtown Houston.

12. Explore the Wildlife of Galveston Island

There are many reasons to take a day trip out to Galveston Island, not least to enjoy the natural beauty of the surroundings away from the urban buzz. The beach is one of the biggest attractions on the island, and many people also go there to camp. The park is an oasis of undeveloped barrier island habitats, so it is a fantastic spot to visit for those who love nature and wildlife. People can also enjoy fishing and hiking.

13. Take a Walking Tour of Rice University

According to Tour Texas, a great place to visit for those who love architecture is Rice University. This historic and eye-catching college is located close to the Houston Museum District. It is possible to explore the campus for free, either by taking a guided walking tour or by jogging along a running track on the perimeters of the university’s grounds. You will pass traditional brick homes and exquisite mansions along the way.

14. Go to the Shri Swaminarayan Mandir

Shri Swaminarayan Mandir is a Hindu temple. It represents the diversity of Houston and it is an architecturally interesting landmark to visit. The building is crafted from Turkish limestone and features distinctive arches. It is free to visit, but there are guidelines you need to follow inside the temple.

15. Kayak the Armand Bayou Paddling Trail

If you want to take in the splendor of Texas Gulf Coast, then one of the best ways is to kayak on Clear Lake. You will need to follow the Armand Bayou Paddling Trail. Along the way, you will see an array of wildlife, such as alligators, pelicans, ospreys, and egrets. You will also pass through the beautiful coastal woods.

16. View the Waterwall

The Waterwall is a significant landmark in Houston and recommends this in their list of free places to visit during a trip to the city. Located in the Gerald D. Hines Waterwall Park, this is a horseshoe-shaped structure that is 64-feet high and features a rushing water fountain. At night time, it is lit up to create a spectacular sight. The structure is surrounded by 2.77-acres of parkland.

17. Visit the Art Car Museum

There are lots of museums in Houston, and each of these has a different focus. If you want a free visit to a museum that exhibits something a little different, then the Art Car Museum offers something different to the norm. The focus of the exhibition is creative and unusual cars. This is something that will interest both art lovers and car enthusiasts, as the elaborately designed cars will appeal to both groups of people.

18. Go to the Houston Zoo

For the most part, the Houston Zoo is an attraction with an entrance fee. However, the zoo offers free admission one day per month. This is a great day out for all the family with lots of things to see and do during the visit. This fun, educational, and interactive day out allows visitors to view more than 6,000 animals from over 900 species. The attraction is divided into 15 areas, including the African forest, an elephant habitat, a bear habitat, a sea lion habitat, and much more.

19. Spend the Day at Hermann Park

If you have a full day to fill, then one of the best places to visit is Hermann Park. This is an amazing place to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city to enjoy beautiful and peaceful surroundings. It is also filled with great activities that you can enjoy for free. These include watching the miniature railway, strolling around the Japanese gardens, and taking a ride in the fun pedal boats. If you take along a little money, you can also enjoy a ride on the miniature railway. There are various events held at the park throughout the year, so check out what is on before visiting the park.

20. Visit the Police Horses and Museum

Taking a trip to the local police station may sound like something you should avoid while on vacation, but the Houston Police Department has made their work interesting for visitors. They keep a stable of 40 horses next to their station and it is possible to visit and feed the horses. Therefore, this is a wonderful venue for those with equestrian interests. After a trip to the stables, enter the police station for a visit to the police museum, which features various police-related memorabilia. This is open on weekdays and admission is free.

Liz Flynn

Written by Liz Flynn

Liz Flynn has worked as a full-time writer since 2010 after leaving a career in education. She finds almost all topics she writes about interesting, but her favorite subjects are travel and food. Liz loves the process of researching information, learning new things, and putting into words what others who share her interests might like to read. Although she spends most of her time writing, she also enjoys spending time with her husband and four children, watching films, cooking, dining out, reading, motorsports, gaming, and walking along the beach next to her house with her dog.

Read more posts by Liz Flynn

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