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From museums to restaurants to natural landscapes, there’s an almost endless list of world-class things to do in Houston.
Planning your trip to Houston at the last minute?
Below are some of the top tours, hotels, and more!
Top tours in Houston:
⇒ Space Center Houston Admission Ticket (from $25/pp)
⇒ Houston CityPASS (from $64/pp)
⇒ Brewery Tour (from $53/pp)
⇒ Houston Museum of Natural Science General Admission (from $14/pp)
⇒ Mural Instagram Tour (from $60/pp)
⇒ Astroville Underground Tunnel Tour of Downtown (from $26/pp)
Top accommodation and lodging in Houston:
Best hotels in Houston: Best Western Plus Downtown Inn & Suites (3-star with a great location), Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites (3-star in the heart of the city), Cambria Hotel Houston (4-star with perfectly decorated interior), JW Marriott (5-star with top-notch amenities)
Best hostel in Houston: Dorm room for the budget traveler (in Wanderstay).
As the fourth largest city in the US and the biggest city in the Lone Star State, Houston is a hub for arts, culture, sports, nightlife, dining, and more. Of course, this guarantees an easily packed itinerary but also makes it difficult to narrow down your options.
On this list, we’re breaking down the must-see attractions that any traveler should hit while visiting Houston.
Whether you ground yourself in nature at one of the city’s green spaces or go to infinity and beyond at NASA’s spaceflight center, there’s a little something for everyone.
Keep reading to learn more about the best and brightest of Houston destinations, including important know-before-you-go info like entrance fees, locations, and unmissable events!
Lots to see but too little time? No worries. We’ve got you covered with our comprehensive weekend in Houston itinerary. It breaks down exactly what to do in the city if you’re only around for a couple of days.
12 Fun Things to Do in Houston, Texas
Southern comfort and urban excitement come together perfectly in this bustling American city.
Mix and match the activities below to find your perfect balance of relaxation, learning, and sightseeing (and don’t forget to grab some delicious Texan cooking!).
Here are a few of our favorite things to see and do when traveling to Houston. Enjoy!
Enjoy an Urban Oasis at Hermann Park
New York City has Central Park, Austin has Zilker, but Houston gives these famous spots a run for their money.
The 445-acre Hermann Park is located just outside downtown, and it’s overflowing with attractions and activities perfect for all ages.
Practice your swing on one of Houston’s oldest golf courses, go for a scenic ride on the Hermann Park Railroad, or find your zen in the gorgeous Japanese garden.
During the warmer months, you can stick to the shores of McGovern Lake, complete with shady picnic areas and a fountain installment where children (and adults) can splash the afternoon away. You can also take to the waters in a pedal boat. For more things to do in Houston with kids, check out our article.
Meanwhile, Miller Outdoor Theatre runs free, family-friendly concerts, film screenings, and cultural performances throughout the year. Check the schedule before you go for ballet, opera, live music, and more.
Read next: 33 Best Things to Do in Texas
Explore Houston’s Waterways at Buffalo Bayou Park
Stretching out from Downtown Houston for 160-acres, Buffalo Bayou Park is a one-stop shop for all kinds of outdoor fun–it has biking trails, a dog park, sculptures, and more!
One of the most popular features is a play area and picnic pavilion that includes a boulder rock scramble, a stream and waterfall, climbing logs and stones, a 33-foot slide, and an incredible three-level treehouse with a climbing net.
To keep your heart rate up, check out the 30,000 square-foot Lee & Joe Jamail Skatepark or enjoy a walk/ride on the 15-mile Sandy Memorial Trail, which meanders along one of Houston’s beautiful bayous and passes through plenty of green space as well as a historic cemetery.
Guests can also enjoy the scenery from the water. Bicycles, canoes, and kayaks are available for rent on site.
Bonus! For a unique look at Houston’s history, take a guided tour of the Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern, one of the city’s first underground drinking-water reservoirs built in 1926.
Pssst: Celebrating Christmas in Houston? Don’t miss the massive Xmas tree in front of the City Hall.
Visit Mars at Space Center Houston
Sure, humans haven’t made it to Mars yet, but you can still explore our distant neighbor at one of Space Center Houston’s coolest interactive exhibits.
Witness a virtual Martian sunset, feel the texture of an authentic Mars rock, and even ride in a life-size capsule simulator that mimics the experience of an astronaut traveling to the red planet.
The museum also includes a vast collection of spacesuits, retired spacecraft, and other artifacts from decades of space travel.
One of the most popular attractions is a tram tour through the NASA Johnson Space Center, during which you’ll snag a unique behind-the-scenes look at human space exploration, including Mission Control, astronaut training facilities, and more.
Last but not least, step inside the world’s only replica space shuttle mounted on a massive shuttle carrier aircraft.
There’s no wonder this is ranked number one of all the things to do in Houston.
Tickets start at $25 and the experience is well worth the money.
Watch a Batty Ballet at Waugh Drive Bridge
Of all the things to see in Houston, this is certainly one of the more unusual, but it’s a spectacle nonetheless.
At sundown, as many as 250,000 Mexican free-tailed bats emerge from under the Waugh Drive Bridge and out into the night air.
It’s a stunning sight, with the cloud of bats heading out over the bayou and in between the city’s skyscrapers.
The same phenomenon occurs in other parts of the state like Austin and Waco, but only in Houston do the bats remain year-round instead of flying South for winter.
The bat populations peak in the summer and early fall, although you still have a decent chance of catching the ballet on warmer winter evenings.
It’s entirely free to watch the show; Just make sure to show up early if you want decent parking and a good view.
Read next: Best Day Trips from Houston
Admire the Skyline at Discovery Green
Want to have some fun in the sun while also soaking up stunning views of downtown? Discovery Green is the place to be!
This urban park is in the heart of Houston, and it’s a great place to spend an afternoon or grab dinner following a day of sightseeing.
At the center of the park, you’ll find a promenade that features postcard-worthy, 360-degree perspectives of the city’s most iconic buildings.
For food, sample the rustic American menu of urban, upscale dining destination The Grove, or keep things casual with burgers and hotdogs at The Lake House.
There are an abundance of activities to be enjoyed throughout the year, including music, dance, film, and theater performances, as well as exercise classes, children’s events, and a market.
Don’t forget to visit the year-round attractions as well, like public art installations and an interactive waterscape for hot days.
Indulge Your Senses in the Museum District
So many of the best things to do in Houston can be found neatly condensed into this one spot.
A staggering 19 institutions make up Houston’s Museum District, all sprawling along gorgeous, live-oak-lined neighborhood streets.
Some unmissable highlights include the stainless steel Contemporary Arts Museum, which features a rotating series of exhibits that push the boundaries of sight, sound, and texture made by local, regional, and international artists. Admission is free!
You’ll also want to spend some time at the Museum of Fine Arts, the sixth-largest art museum in the US and home to 6,000 years of history and more than 70,000 masterpieces from all around the world.
General admission is free for everyone on Thursdays and free for children under 12 every day. For the rest of the week, tickets cost $19 for adults.
To switch things up, head to the Houston Museum of Natural Science. There, you can experience an otherworldly three-story glass cone butterfly center home to more than 50 species.
Don’t miss the interactive energy and chemistry halls and the incredible Foucault Pendulum (first displayed at the 1851 World’s Fair in Paris!) that allows you to see the Earth’s rotation with your own eyes.
Tickets are $25 for adults and $16 for children.
Eat a Fajita at the Restaurant that Invented Them
This is a total fan favorite of all the things to do in Houston. Legend has it that, all the way back in 1973, The Original Ninfa’s on Navigation invented that flavorful dish that we all know and love–the fajita.
While the exact history is unclear, one thing is for sure: Ninfa’s makes a mean fajita…and many other mouth-watering creations. As they say, it’s “The Best Mexican Food in Texas Since Texas was in Mexico!”
The menu also boasts handmade traditional tamales, enchiladas, build-your-own tacos, and the equally worth celebrating Ninfarita (their spin on the classic marg).
Ninfa’s has played a huge role in popularizing TexMex in the US, and TexMex is a massive part of Southern cuisine, so it only makes sense that you indulge while visiting Houston.
See the City’s Artsy Side in Montrose District
The quirky, offbeat Montrose district located just outside downtown is known for its art galleries, gay bars, and excellent vintage shops.
If you’re looking for a fun and fresh take on Houston’s urban metropolis, this neighborhood is the place to be.
Treasure hunt for antiques and thrift goods galore on Westheimer Curve, then visit Anvil Bar & Refuge to sample a few drinks from their impressive menu, which features over 100 specialty cocktails.
Stop by Rothko Chapel, the non-denominational religious space that simultaneously functions as a work of modern art.
Influential mid-century American artist Mark Rothko created this architectural wonder in 1971 and today welcomes locals and visitors alike to gather, meditate, and practice their faith.
For even more art, there’s the Menil Collection, a museum with rotating exhibits that is free to the public all year round.
However you spend a day in Montrose, it’s sure to be eventful.
Get Active at Memorial Park
Texas’ largest urban park should definitely be high up on any list of what to do in Houston.
There are trails for mountain biking, running, and hiking, as well as facilities for tennis, softball, swimming, croquet, golf, volleyball, in-line skating, and more. You name it, they’ve got it.
If you stop by in the spring, check out the Bayou City Art Festival, an event dedicated to all things artistic (fine arts, culinary arts, music, and more!) that also raises money for local non-profits and artists.
With so many activities, you’ll definitely need fuel. Luckily, Memorial Park is full of some of Houston’s best food trucks, serving up drinks and cuisines from all corners of the globe.
Reconnect With Nature at the Houston Arboretum
When you need a refresher from city life, head for the greenery and gardens of the Houston Arboretum & Nature Center.
Take a peaceful stroll through five miles of walking trails that traverse multiple habitats, and offer learning stations, insect houses, and other points of interest throughout.
Explore the Discovery Center to learn more about native species, landscapes, and more.
Catch their yoga classes every third Sunday of the month or join a weekly mindfulness lesson complete with guided meditation, solo trail walk, and group reflection. Both experiences are just $15 per person.
The Arboretum also has dozens of other special programs running throughout the year, like after-dark activities (get up close with nocturnal animals while enjoying adult beverages) and family-friendly festivities. Check their website for schedules and pricing.
Otherwise, the center is open daily and admission is free!
Grab a Drink at Houston’s Oldest Commercial Building
Candlelight, cheap drinks, and deep conversations with locals and travelers alike await in Houston’s oldest building and likely the city’s oldest bar as well.
The red brick building that houses La Carafe is full of character, which makes perfect sense given its more than a century and a half of history.
It was first constructed in 1847 and has since lived through multiple wars and served as a bakery, Pony Express station, and more.
Now, La Carafe at Congress Street across Market Square Park is a beloved evening watering hole that offers a lively but intimate atmosphere and lovely park views from the second floor balcony.
They serve a selection of wines and beers, and are known for having the best jukebox tunes in town. (Head’s up, payment is cash only).
It’s the perfect place to wind down after a busy day of sightseeing. Cheers!
Take a Foodie Tour in Chinatown
Because the city is such a renowned culinary destination, one of the best things to do in Houston is, of course, a self-guided food tour.
Houston is home to the second-largest Chinese population in the US after Los Angeles, making its Chinatown a prime spot for delicious food and lots of fun.
Kick things off at the Hong Kong Food Market, where you’ll find row after row of tempting Chinese snacks and beverages and lots of fresh produce to boot.
If you’re staying somewhere with a kitchen, pick up some ingredients and use them for dinner!
And that’s just the beginning of the culinary journey. Dim sum at Fung’s Kitchen is a must-try, and you can’t leave without sampling the spicy dishes of Mala Sichuan.
Then, if you’ve still got energy, Yes KTV has private rooms for rent and more than 10,000 songs to choose from so you can sing your heart out all night long.
More Cool Things to Do in Houston and Surrounding Area
Here are some cool ideas of what you can do around the space city.
- Hit the beach: Get away from the busy city and visit Galveston, one of the best beach towns in Texas. Galveston Island boasts not only some of the most enjoyable beaches near Houston but also great hiking trails worth checking out.
- Visit a photography mecca: Featuring exhibitions, events, workshops, & a state-of-the-art digital darkroom, the Houston Center for Photography is an excellent place to appreciate the art of incredibly talented photographers.
- Go for a hike around a historic college: Rice University is located next to the Houston Museum District and is a favorite outdoor space for many Houstonians. If you want to go for an easy hike in Houston, this is a place you will want to check out.
- Discover Houston’s street art: One mural worth checking out is the bright and funky Houston is Inspired by local graffiti legend Gonzo247 near Market Square Park.
- Experience a lush oasis: The 132-acre Houston Botanic Garden is worth visiting for the sheer range of plants that reflect various Texas Gulf Coast habitats, from coastal prairie to woodland glades.
- Explore Houston from below: With 7.5 miles of tunnels twisting beneath the city’s surface, there’s an underground expanse to explore—but that’s one excursion that’s worth taking.
- Marvel at a multi-story sculptural fountain: Gerald D. Hines Waterwall Park in Uptown Houston showcases a breathtaking fountain that sees tons of water cascading over concrete walls.
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