Table of Contents[Hide][Show]
- 1. Visit The Menil Collection
- 2. Play at Discovery Green Park
- 3. Listen to a Concert at Miller Outdoor Theatre
- 4. Go Skating at the Lee and Joe Jamail Skatepark
- 5. Hug a Tree at the Houston Arboretum and Nature Center
- 6. Take a Break at the Water Wall
- 7. Sail Around the Port of Houston
- 8. Enjoy Some Contemporary Art
- 9. Get a Free Tour Guide from the Houston Greeter Program
- 10. Check Out Buffalo Bayou Park
- 11. The Art Car Museum
- 12. Lawndale Arts Center
- 13. Catch a Sunrise or Sunset Light Show
- 14. Rest at Rothko Chapel
- 15. The Japanese Gardens
- 16. Free Things to Do with Kids On Thursdays
- Bonus: How to Save Money on Other Fun Things to do in the Houston Area
Everything is bigger in Texas, including the free things to do in Houston! It’s the largest city in Texas, and one of the fastest growing cities in the USA. Houston has plenty of large scale attractions for family fun.
Houston, we have a problem. There may be TOO many fun things to do here. The city boasts the Johnson Space Center, NASA’s base for Mission Control, a Museum District with world class art, great parks and restaurants to fit an budget or palate. There are rodeos, professional sports from major league baseball (the Houston Astros) to football (Houston Texans) and basketball (Houston Rockets).
Those are fun, but pricey, things to do in Houston. Save the family vacation budget by sprinkling in some of these free family-friendly things to do.
TravelingMom Tip: Always check the website for an attraction before planning your trip. Opening dates and hours can change without notice.
1. Visit The Menil Collection
The Menil Collection, a private art collection by John and Dominique de Menil, has more than 15,000 paintings, sculptures, photos and books, including works by Jackson Pollock, Max Ernst, Pablo Picasso and Andy Warhol. It stresses making art accessible, so the museum is always free. There is also free street parking nearby. The art work includes Surrealist and modern European painting and sculpture, medieval art and artifacts; African, Pacific Islands, and Pacific Northwest Native art, and art of the ancient Americas and the ancient Mediterranean and Near East. Kids are welcome to run around outside after checking out the art indoors – there’s even a big swing.
2. Play at Discovery Green Park
This is a 12-acre green space in downtown Houston. In the spring and fall, listen to local musicians perform in the amphitheater. There are also family friendly movies, fitness classes, arts and crafts and water features. In the winter, ice skate on Kinder Lake.
TravelingMom Tip: In summer, Houston can be extremely hot. Be sure to carry a water bottle and a hat. I speak from experience; I collapsed at the Houston Zoo when I was pregnant with my third child. It was over 100 degrees and humid but I had promised my kids that we would visit. Be sure some of the hot weather things to do involve sitting in the shade or strolling through a cool museum.
3. Listen to a Concert at Miller Outdoor Theatre
Miller Outdoor Theatre hosts a range of performances including classical music, ballet, dance, film, and Shakespeare from March through November. The theater, set inside Hermann Park, also allows picnicking. And you can BYOB – except no glass bottles. Bring your own cans. Or boxed wine.
4. Go Skating at the Lee and Joe Jamail Skatepark
This $2.2 million state-of-the-art skatepark contains one of the largest cradles in the world. The 30,000 square-foot skatepark is near the Sabine Street Bridge in Buffalo Bayou Park. Helmets are required.
5. Hug a Tree at the Houston Arboretum and Nature Center
Trees are on display across this 155-acre nature sanctuary. Find five miles of trails and interactive exhibits. There is a Discovery Center and free guided nature hikes. Dogs on leashes are welcome.
6. Take a Break at the Water Wall
A 64-foot-tall fountain built to look like a “horseshoe of running water,” the Water Wall sits among several oak trees at the base of the 64-story Williams Tower. The landmark tower is near the Galleria.
7. Sail Around the Port of Houston
The Port of Houston Sail is a free, 90-minute tour of the Port of Houston about the Sam Houston. Learn about the history of the seaport as you watch ocean freighters and barges navigate the 50-mile channel. The tour is free, but reservations are required.
8. Enjoy Some Contemporary Art
The Houston Center for Contemporary Craft showcases the work of local and national artists who use fiber, metal, glass, clay and wood.
9. Get a Free Tour Guide from the Houston Greeter Program
The Houston Greeter Program provides volunteer hosts for up to four hours to introduce visitors to local attractions. The service is free, and METRORail provides free passes for visitors and greeters.
10. Check Out Buffalo Bayou Park
Buffalo Bayou Park includes biking and hiking trails, a huge dog park and Lost Lake wetland gardens. The Kitchen at The Dunlavy is a great place to eat an inexpensive breakfast or lunch. Be sure to cool off at the Gus S. Wortham Memorial Fountain, a large fountain that sprays water in a starburst pattern.
11. The Art Car Museum
The Art Car Museum includes contemporary art and a specialty in art cars, fantastically decorated vehicles. The museum is open by appointment only.
12. Lawndale Arts Center
Located in the Museum District, the Lawndale Art Center specializes in exhibitions of contemporary works of art, including many regional artists
13. Catch a Sunrise or Sunset Light Show
James Turrell’s “Twilight Epiphany” Skyspace on the Rice University campus has free lights shows at sunrise and sunset, Wednesdays through Mondays. This is one case where it’s useful if your kids are early risers! The LED light sequence projects on the ceiling and lasts about 40 minutes.
14. Rest at Rothko Chapel
Rothko Chapel is a serene place to meditate. The non-denominational chapel exhibits modern art, including 14 paintings by Mark Rothko.
15. The Japanese Gardens
The Japanese Gardens in Hermann Park, a symbol of friendship between the U.S. and Japan, provide a quiet place to sit, meditate and watch the Koi fish swimming in the pond. There is a teahouse and traditional Japanese plants.
16. Free Things to Do with Kids On Thursdays
On Thursdays, many of the museum in the Houston area waive admission fees. You can plan a whole day and hit three of these at once. Or plan another trip to Huston!
- Children’s Museum of Houston: The Children’s Museum of Houston has a huge water play area, a low ropes agility course, a native plant garden and plenty of interactive exhibits. It is free on Thursdays from 5-8 pm.
- Buffalo Soldiers National Museum: The Buffalo Soldiers National Museum is the only museum in the U.S. dedicated to African-American soldiers. It is free on Thursdays, from 1-5 pm.
- The Health Museum: The Health Museum, in the Museum District, has amazing science exhibits. Don’t miss the walk-through brain and giant heart. The museum, great for the whole family, is free on Thursdays from 2-5 pm.
- Holocaust Museum Houston: Holocaust education center and memorial is free on Thursdays, from 2-5 pm, and always free for children 18 and under and college students with IDs.
- Houston Museum of Natural Science: The Houston Museum of Natural Science has a planetarium, dinosaur exhibits, The Cockrell Butterfly Center and giant Foucault Pendulum. Entrance to permanent exhibitions is free on Thursdays from 2-5 pm.
- Museum of Fine Arts, Houston: The comprehensive Museum of Fine Arts, Houston has art from the ancient Mediterranean to present day. The MFAH is free all day on Thursdays, from 10 am-9 pm. And on weekdays, if you buy lunch at the cafe or from the museum’s food truck, you get free admission.
Bonus: How to Save Money on Other Fun Things to do in the Houston Area
CityPASS packages five of the more expensive things to do in the Houston area in a discount coupon book. But it only saves you money if you have the time and inclination to visit all five attractions. You have nine days to use the passes, which include:
- Space Center Houston
- Downtown Aquarium
- Houston Museum of Natural Science
- Houston Zoo (see summer warning, above) OR Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
- Kemah Boardwalk OR Children’s Museum of Houston
TravelingMom Tip: Take advantage of a free attraction on Thursday, above, and use the CityPASS for the other options.