free in Texas

Houston’s parks are inviting for all ages. Credit: Discovery Green

Houston is the largest city in Texas and the fourth largest city in the United States. It is home to the Texas Medical Center, the largest concentration of healthcare and research institutions in the world, and the Johnson Space Center, NASA’s base for Mission Control.

These free, family-friendly things to do will help make a family vacation more affordable.

1. Visit a museum. The Menil Collection

free in Texas

The Menil Collection. Credit: The Menil Collection

contains approximately 15,000 paintings, sculptures, photos and books, including works by Jackson Pollock, Max Ernst, Pablo Picasso and Andy Warhol. The Art Car Museum is the only place in town to find an antennae and wing-cloaked Roachster or the Honda motorcycle that has been transformed into a shiny red rolling stiletto art car. Heritage Society Museum inside Sam Houston Park is Houston’s only interactive, outdoor museum. The Holocaust Museum is dedicated to remembering victims of the Holocaust and honoring the survivors.

2. Play at a park. Discovery Green Park is a 12-acre park downtown. In the spring and fall, listen to local musicians perform in the amphitheater. In the winter, ice skate on Kinder Lake.

3. Listen to a concert. 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 patrons to bring in picnics – BYOB.

4. Go skating. The Lee and Joe Jamail Skatepark is a $2.2 million state-of-the-art skate park that contains one of the largest cradles in the world.

5. Hug a tree. The Houston Arboretum and Nature Center is a 155-acre nature sanctuary with five miles of trails and interactive exhibits. Dogs on leashes are welcome.

6. Take a break. The Water Wall, a 64-foot-tall fountain–built to look like a “horseshoe of running water”—sits among several oak trees at the base of the 64-story Williams Tower. Rothko Chapel is a serene place to meditate. The non-denominational chapel exhibits modern art. 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. Main Street and Sunset Boulevard.

7. Go sailing. The Port of Houston Sail is a free, 90-minute tour of the Port of 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 art. Houston Center for Contemporary Craft shows the work of local and national artists who use fiber, metal, glass, clay and wood. Lawndale Arts Center has four galleries with annually changing exhibits.

9. Get a guide. 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.