Texas is, without a doubt, the largest state in the continental USA. Austin and Dallas are two places with a lifetime of things to do, but if you like to do it big, there’s no better place to visit than Houston.
15 Best Things to Do in Houston, Texas
The city has over 150 libraries, a hardcore sporting culture, craft breweries, world-class art exhibitions, mouthwatering barbeque, and massive outdoor spaces to satisfy even the most enthusiastic nature lover.
In truth, there’s just so much to do in H-Town that it would take multiple lifetimes to cross half the attractions off your bucket list. If you’d like to savor the best experiences, these are the 15 best things to do in Houston.
1. Houston Museum of Natural of Natural Science
Houston has one of the largest concentrations of museums in the USA, and it’s no surprise the Houston Museum of Natural Science starts up on this list. This museum is one of the most famous in the US.
It features state-of-the-art facilities like the Burke Baker Planetarium and Wortham Giant Screen Theatre, including the Hall of Ancient Egypt. You probably may have had your fill of museums, but the Museum of Natural Science should leave your jaws hanging.
While the museum opens to visitors from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., the other facilities like the theater and planetarium have separate opening and closing hours. Exploring some of the best facilities like the Cockrell Butterfly Center may cost an additional fee, but it’s worth it.
Purchase a CityPASS if you’d like to save funds on Houston’s top destinations, and you could stop by the Houston Zoo, that’s 10 minutes away.
2. Houston Zoo
The Houston Zoo is all of 55 acres of fun with an eclectic selection of animals from various ecosystems, including bats, giraffes, elephants, and cheetahs. Kids will love the amphibian and reptile house, including a closed-off area to see the elephants in full view.
You can feed the giraffes or visit the kiddies’ interactive area if you’re visiting with young ones. The Houston Zoo fosters a connection between animals and the community to help species in the wild.
Some of the more majestic animals at the zoo include African Lions, Sea Lions, Pythons, and Crocodiles. Besides, there are other activities like a water park and movies in 4D. However, you’d have to pay extra to experience the zoo’s carousel.
The Houston Zoo is a fantastic destination for families with children. More than 2.4 million guests stop by to partake in this beautiful experience with over 6,000 animals to give you the experience of a lifetime.
The Houston Zoo is available for visitors from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Even though there isn’t a parking space open, you can find free parking at Hermann Park nearby.
3. Hermann Park
Situated in Houston’s downtown, Hermann Park is a great option for vacationers who want to blend in with the residents. Within its 445 acres are an outdoor theater, an incredible rose garden, designated picnic spaces, a museum, butterfly exhibits, and a golf course.
The park shares borders with multiple neighborhoods, local institutions, places of interest, and universities, which means there’s a lot to see and do for people of all ages.
Meanwhile, the McGovern Centennial Gardens features over 50 exotic tree species and an abundance of flower varieties, from greenery to shrubs and everything in between. Transit travelers will find Hermann Park a calming distraction from the city’s bustle.
The green spaces will offer you a time to relax, and it’s incredibly roomy for those who’d like to hike. You can use designated parking slots for free. Besides, you don’t have to pay a dime to enjoy the excellent facilities.
4. Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo
A Texas trip isn’t a trip to Texas without stopping by a rodeo. It could be any rodeo, for that matter, in Dallas or Austin. Still, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo are arguably the best you can find in the entire South and are the largest worldwide.
Competition season at the HLSR starts around February. The crowds fill up the NRG Stadium to feast their eyes on the various shows, including bull riding, steer wrestling, bareback riding, and barrel roping.
Kids will love the hilarious calf scramble where young adults and teens compete to catch as many calves as possible. The livestock show is one of the richest globally and consists of live auctions for the priciest animals.
The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo have a dress code. With temperatures hovering between 50 F and 70 F, you’re sure to have a comfortable experience with all that cowboy gear.
5. The Menil Collection
Visitors with a more refined taste will enjoy this $21 million art museum built by John and Domenique Menil. The Menil Collection consists of 10,000 art pieces and 17,000 paintings, rare books, drawings, sculptures, and photographs.
The collection is one of the most extensive privately-held collections globally. It features masterworks from the Medieval and Byzantine Eras. The collection is historically vast but still provides a different and more unique experience than what you’d find in a conventional museum.
You can find various African exhibits, artifacts from the Pacific Northwest, and even Native American masterpieces. Today, The Menil Collection is free for all. You can find the campus in the Museum District with free parking available for visitors.
If you’re going to stay awhile in Houston, consider a day trip to Galveston. Galveston Bay has some of the best attractions in Texas. The barrier island gives your trip that change of scene, allowing you to relax on the sand or bask in the warm ocean.
Galveston is about 50 miles from Houston, with beaches that stretch for endless miles. There are various beaches to choose from depending on what you need.
For instance, couples and adult groups will find the East Beach ideal, with alcohol allowed on the beach. Families often drift towards Stewart Beach due to its diverse amenities, including a picnic area, concession stands, playground, and alcohol restrictions.
If you’d like to give the kids the thrill of their life, head towards the Historic Pleasure Pier at the Seawall Boulevard. Don’t let its small size fool you. The pier is filled with many thrill rides, including a Ferris wheel, rollercoaster, water slide, and carousel.
You’ll also enjoy the numerous arcade games. Galveston also has other places of interest like the Moody Gardens, where you’ll find a world-class golf course and aquarium for some aquatic fun.
Transportation is easy, courtesy of a trolley network connecting most of the attractions on the island. Once you get tired out of the outdoors, there’s no better place to refill that energy than The Strand for some food, drinks, and shopping.
7. Gerald D. Hines Waterwall Park
The Gerald D. Hines Waterwall Park consists of a Waterwall that is more than sixty feet tall and lets out 11,000 gallons of water each minute. The cascading water creates a fantastic backdrop for selfies and is one of the best places on a hot Houston day.
The Waterwall is the most visited attraction in the park, but you can find spaces for picnics. You won’t find a playground in this park, but there’s ample green space for kids to run free. The only drawback is the limited parking spaces available.
8. Minute Maid Park
Minute Maid Park is another must-see destination when you’re in Houston. The park is the home turf of the Houston Astros and offers so much more than a ballgame.
Minute Maid Park is unique for its retractable roof that keeps the noise inside and creates a more exciting atmosphere. Another reason the roof stays closed for most games is to keep the air-conditioned air in because of the withering Texas heat.
However, a 50,000 sq ft partitioned glass makes the sky visible. You can watch a game on Friday to experience the electrifying atmosphere firsthand.
Besides, you’ll also find unique eats around the grounds with a large food selection ranging from classic hot dogs to uber salad specials. The park sits over 40,000 fans, and even when the Astros aren’t taking to the field, you can still catch some high-quality concerts.
Minute Maid Park is child-friendly, and the replica train that lights up and kicks into motion after a homerun is one sight that will live long in the memory of your kid.
9. The Galleria
The Galleria epitomizes every woman’s dream, a shop-till-you-drop style mall with over 400 stores featuring the most popular brands. It’s the 6th largest mall in the United States at 2.4 million sq ft.
You can find upscale brands such as Gucci, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Versace, and Prada. No worries if these stores are beyond your budget, you can still find excellent value in the Gap and Forever21 stores at this Texas-sized mall.
You’ll also enjoy dining at the snazziest restaurants, including The Cheesecake Factory, Oceanaire Seafood Room, and the Rainforest Café. Kids will love the ice-skating rink, the first of its kind to be built in a mall, a pretty incredible feat by itself.
There are two swimming pools for those who’d like a dip and a well-planned play area for kids. You can sign off with class by staying at the Hyatt Regency close by or The Westin Galleria. Make sure you put on comfortable clothing and shoes if you plan to go shopping spree.
10. Buffalo Bayou
Buffalo Bayou is a 52-mile-long waterway that stretches from Katy, TX, to the River Oaks area in Houston. The channel is a hub for water-based activities like boat tours and fishing.
In addition, the water has a thriving diversity of ecosystems, having stayed in its natural form since its inception. The Bayou is home to the first paddling trail stretching for 26 miles across the waterway.
The trail length makes it nigh on impossible to paddle in a day, and the water levels change on a whim. Buffalo Bayou has numerous varieties of fish, including catfish, sunfish, and bass. You can use smaller lures like spinnerbaits, plastic worms, jigs, and lite lines.
However, it’s not advisable to consume the fish due to the current state of the water. Ensure you consult the Department of State Health Services before consuming any catch from the water.
In addition to fish, the Bayou plays host to a diversity of fauna, including various bird species like Hawks, egrets, and herons. Reptiles and mammals around the waterway include snakes, turtles, rabbits, and the occasional alligator.
That said, Buffalo Bayou isn’t all water. The Buffalo Bayou Park is an even more popular attraction as a place for outdoor events. Some of the attractions in this park include a dog park, skateboarding grounds, designated picnic areas, and a playground.
11. Space Center Houston
If you’d like an educational experience that’s literally out of this world, look no further than Space Center Houston. The space center was established in 1963.
The 250,000 sq ft is still one of NASA’s primary space centers for research and personnel training. You can also have an interactive experience learning about the advancement of the human spaceflight program.
Some significant attractions worth mentioning are the “Mission Mars Exhibit” and a life-size replica of the Space Shuttle Independence. You can enter for a fantastic experience. You’ll also find the largest moon rock collections and the chance to see what a Martian sunset looks like.
The curious visitor can fly in a simulated Orion capsule and get a firsthand feel of the rock cliff textures of Mars. The Space Center is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays, and 10 am to 6 pm on the weekend.
12. Houston Children’s Museum
The Children’s Museum in Houston is suitable for families with younger kids who’d love to have a fun and educational experience. The museum has various thrilling activities and events for kids, including interactive galleries, performances, and live demonstrations.
The museum allows kids to explore science, arts, and math discoveries. Older kids will love the Invention Convention that helps the children to engage at the EcoStation or engineering shop.
The unique thing about this museum is the ability to provide lots of cool features and facilities kids of all ages can have fun interacting with.
The Kidtropolis is a miniature city entirely run by kids and teaches your child responsibility by letting them get a job and earn a paycheck or shop for groceries.
The only drawback is many exhibits target older kids. The FlowWorks section is the highlight of this museum and allows kids to play various water games.
13. Houston Murals
Houston has no better place for the perfect selfie than Houston Murals. The kaleidoscope of colors makes for the perfect Instagram shot. Houston Murals isn’t one place – it’s all around you, from restaurants to parking lots, boutiques, and yoga studios.
The colorful wall arts make an excellent backdrop for that photoshoot. The diversity and vibrance stand the Houston Mural away from so many others. Mural messages range from political to global and everything in between.
These wall art are the works of local and international artists, and there’s no better place to begin this artistic journey than downtown Houston. The Houston Graffiti Building has a significant collection with lots of eye-catching murals.
Some famous murals include the Biscuit Paint Wall, Love, and Greetings from Houston. Houston Murals are free to enjoy, and you can view them any time of the day or night.
14. Memorial Park
Houston may have the concrete jungle vibe, but the Memorial Park gives you the chance to lose yourself in nature’s wilderness within the city’s confines. Memorial Park may have more minor features compared to Hermann Park.
Still, it’s a vaster ground, with the fauna and flora the main subjects of attraction. You wouldn’t believe there are 30 miles of biking, hiking, and camping trails. The park has over 1,400 acres to explore.
Its facilities include a fitness center, swimming pool, playing fields, and standard tennis courts. Golf enthusiasts will feel at home at the Memorial Park Golf Course, a 300-acre course among the best municipal golf facilities in the US.
The Eastern Glades have many food trucks stationed at the entrance if you’d like a bite to eat. The park is free to visit and open daily as early as 5 am to 11 pm.
15. San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site
The San Jacinto Battleground is the first Texas state park, opening in 1907. Today, the State Historic Site serves as a reminder of the liberation of Texas from Mexico under General Sam Houston – from where the city derived its name.
The highlight of the historic site is the San Jacinto Monument, which holds the record as the tallest stone-built memorial structure worldwide.
At 570 ft, the San Jacinto Monument dwarfs the Washington Monument and within its confines, you’ll find artifacts and exhibits spanning the earliest history of Texas.
Things to Consider in Houston
Fantastic architecture, sprawling landscape, finger-licking food, and a diehard sporting culture explain why Houston is among the most visited cities. The following things are worth keeping in mind when you stop by H-Town.
It’s almost impossible to appreciate the authenticity of Tex-Mex cuisine until you eat it in Houston. If Texas is the home of Tex-Mex, then Houston is the heart where it happens. Historically, Tex-Mex is the creation of the Tejano, an indigenous people from Texas.
While the cuisine has spread across the far reaches of the US, you can find original queso and steak fajitas in this city. Salsa with free chips is the teaser to a unique cuisine that’s authentic Houston.
Houston locals are known for their polite mannerisms, extending to the entire South. So be prepared to say “bless you” when you hear a sneeze and practice your “no sirs” and “yes ma’am” when you visit this city.
You’d have to learn to hold your horses if you talk fast. Houston locals are known for their slow speech, and patience is a virtue you’ll have to earn if you’re talking to a resident. Additionally, you’ll need to listen closely to understand what a typical local is saying.
Pro tip: You can say howdy as a greeting anywhere in Houston!
Cool Cucumber Culture
Houston has that country flavor with a bit of “cool” mixed in. You can meet a cowboy as easy as you’d meet a celebrity and the city’s vastness gives room for everyone to make roots here and thrive.
It doesn’t matter your preference; there’s something for you in Houston. Whether you want to be down with the hipsters at the Heights or go bar hopping through the expensive bars downtown, there are many options to accommodate even the most diverse tastes.
Cultural events like the Polish, Japanese and Caribbean Festivals are worth attending. They could be your chance to try different foods and meet interesting people worldwide.
If this is your first time in Houston, you may feel the city is always in a constant state of repair. Worry not because there’s always construction going on, whether repairs or expansion.
It’s common to see construction workers hard at their jobs in the daytime. This means roadblocks and taking detours to beat the traffic. Pro tip: the Houston Star gives daily updates on construction schedules across the city.
Attractions and Events
Houston is one city that boasts the year events and attractions. You can visit this city at any time to enjoy various events that will keep you coming back for more.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you still have questions about the best things to do in Houston, here are the answers to a few FAQs!
What are the best attractions in Houston?
The best outdoor activities in Houston include:
- The Houston Show and Live Rodeo
- Houston Space Center
- Houston Zoo
- Buffalo Bayou Park
- The Galleria
What is Houston known for?
Houston is known for space exploration and was the first word spoken from the moon. It is also the location for the Johnson Space Center.
What food is famous in Houston?
The city is known for its authentic Tex-Mex cuisine. The main difference being between Mexican food and Tex Mex is the specific ingredients used such as white cheese being used in Mexican food while yellow cheddar is preferred in Tex Mex.
What is the coldest month in Houston?
Houston’s coldest Month is January when median temperatures hover between 47 F to 64 F.
Does Houston have a beach?
Houston doesn’t have a beach, but you can head to nearby Galveston for some seaside fun.
So What’s the Best Thing to Do in Houston?
Houston has so many inherent advantages as a city. It’s no surprise the increasing number of people who throng in annually. The cost of living is affordable compared to many other big cities like New York or San Francisco.
There are many job opportunities across multiple sectors, including health, finance, and tech. The vast selection of premium schools makes it a suitable place to raise a family.
Most importantly, the city is a fun hub with much to occupy your free time. All the places above are guaranteed to give you the experience to last you a lifetime.