Houston is a large city in southeastern Texas, and it’s the fourth-most populous city in the United States. The city is known for its energy industry, medical research, and NASA’s Johnson Space Center.
It also has an abundance of parks, hiking trails, and general green spaces. There are cultural events, artistic displays, and outdoor adventures aplenty.
This big and diverse city has a lot to offer, and much of it is free! Which is fantastic news for those trying to travel on a budget. Here are some of our top picks for free things to do in “Space City.”
This city is so diverse in its offerings and attractions, and amazingly there are plenty of free fun things to do in Houston.
From lush green parks and beaches for those typical sunny days to mesmerizing museums and galleries for the odd rainy day, you’ll find something free to do here.
You could spend a weekend in the city and pay for nothing but your hotel room and food.
Sure, if you have a bit of cash to spend, you could do even more — but this is one city where your funds won’t limit your fun. It’s safe to say Houston can be a cheap US vacation spot.
Here’s a list of free things to do in Houston this weekend (or whenever you plan on visiting).
1. Take the 90-Minute Sam Houston Boat Tour
The Sam Houston Boat Tour is a free tour that departs twice a day from the downtown docks. The tour takes you along Buffalo Bayou and gives a great history of Houston.
You’ll learn about the city’s founding, see some of the most important landmarks, and hear tales of famous Houstonians.
The tour is led by volunteer guides who know their way around – and it’s a great way to see the city from the water. Tipping the volunteer guides is highly recommended.
Reservations can only be made online on the first day of the month, so make sure to plan ahead!
2. Spend a Few Hours at Hermann Park
Hermann Park is one of Houston’s most beloved green spaces. The 445-acre park is home to the Houston Zoo, the Miller Outdoor Theater, the Hermann Park Golf Course, and much more.
The outdoor theater is a must-see if you’re visiting Houston from March to October. It offers a variety of free performances, ranging from concerts to Shakespearean plays.
The park is immense, and there is plenty to do, so you could easily spend an entire day here and not get bored.
3. Stop in at The ArtCar Museum
The ArtCar Museum is a must-see for anyone interested in cars or art (or both!).
The museum displays the works of over 150 artists from around the world who have transformed regular cars into works of art. The museum is open every day except Monday, and you won’t pay to enter.
4. Admire the Gerald D. Hines Waterwall Park
The Gerald D. Hines Waterwall Park is a 64-foot tall U-shaped fountain that sits in a 3-acre park. The fountain recycles 11,000 gallons of water per minute and is truly a sight to behold.
The park is located in the Uptown Houston district and is free to enter. It’s a great place to take a break from shopping or sightseeing and just relax for a while.
5. See the Waugh Bridge Bats
Every evening around sunset, watch as thousands of bats fly out from under the Waugh Bridge to go hunting for their dinner. This is a free and unique experience that you can’t find in many other places.
The best place to view the bats is from Allen’s Landing on Buffalo Bayou. You can get there by taking a short walk from downtown Houston.
There is also a Bat Colony Trail if you’d like to take a stroll and see the bats up close (just make sure to bring your mosquito repellent).
6. Browse One of the Many Museums
Houston’s Museum District is one of the largest in the country and is home to 19 museums, all offering different exhibitions and displays.
The museums cover a wide range of topics, including art, history, science, and nature. Many of the museums offer free admission, including the Museum of Fine Arts, the Children’s Museum of Houston, and the Holocaust Museum of Houston.
7. Take a Self-Guided Tour of Sam Houston Park
Sam Houston Park is a 10-acre park located in downtown Houston. The park is home to several historic buildings that have been preserved and relocated to the site, including the 1891 Bartlett Cocke House and the 1847 Kellum-Noble House.
The park also has a life-size statue of Sam Houston, a playground, a gazebo, and picnic tables. You can take a self-guided tour to learn more about the history of Houston and see some of its most important landmarks.
8. Find the City’s Street Art
Houston is home to some incredible street art, and you can find it all around the city. Take a walk or drive around and see if you can spot some of the murals and graffiti art.
Some of the most popular places to find street art are in the Heights, Midtown, and Montrose. There is a website that will help you find the closest street murals to where you are in the city.
Alternatively, you could take this private tour that takes you to all the most impressive Insta-worthy murals, many of them not even commonly known among locals.
9. Visit Rothko Chapel
The Rothko Chapel is a non-denominational chapel founded by Houston philanthropists Dominique and John de Menil. The chapel is home to 14 large-scale paintings by American artist Mark Rothko.
The chapel is open to the public and is free of charge. Visitors can explore the art and architecture of the space or take part in one of the many events and programs offered throughout the year.
10. Track Down an Art Installation (or Three)
If you’re walking around Houston and see a bizarre sculpture or installation, chances are it’s part of the city’s public art collection. The city has over 300 pieces of public art on display, ranging from sculptures to murals to installations.
Some of these are permanent features, while others are just temporary. You can find them all over the city, so keep your eyes peeled.
Here are some installations we think you should check out:
11. Check Out the Local Farmers Markets
Houston has several farmers’ markets where you can buy locally grown produce, flowers, and other goods. But they’re also nice places to meet locals and delight in sights and smells (and samples if you’re lucky) for free.
The markets are a wonderful way to support local businesses and find fresh, seasonal ingredients for cooking.
Some of the most popular farmers’ markets in Houston include Memorial Villages Farmers Market, the Urban Harvest Farmers Market, and The Houston Farmers Market.
12. Take a Hike or Bike Ride in Memorial Park
Memorial Park is a 1,500-acre park located in west Houston. There are hiking and biking trails, a golf course, a tennis center, a swimming pool, and much more.
It’s a great place to go jogging if you like staying active or just taking a slow stroll to admire the beauty.
Visitors can also take part in ranger-led programs, such as bird watching tours and nature walks. Get outside and explore the natural beauty of Houston at this park.
13. Immerse Into Nature at the Houston Arboretum and Nature Center
The Houston Arboretum and Nature Center has 5 miles of hiking trails, a native plant garden, and a butterfly garden. This is a 155-acre nature preserve in west Houston.
Visitors can also choose to take part in educational programs, such as bird watching tours and nature walks. This is a splendid place to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city and connect with nature.
14. Book a Houston Greeter Tour
If you want to learn more about Houston’s history, culture, and attractions, book a free tour with the Houston Greeter program.
The program matches visitors with a local volunteer who will show them around the city and share their insider knowledge.
Tours are available in different languages, and they’re completely free of charge. Just take a look at their website for available tours and guides, and book an authentic trip across the city.
Note: While there is no cost for these tours, they are done in the personal time and capacity of the volunteers. Because of this, donations are allowed and appreciated.
15. Get Lost in the Houston Public Library
The Houston Public Library is a great resource for locals and visitors alike. It’s one of the most obvious free places to go in Houston, but by no means is it boring.
You can find books, movies, music, and more. You can also take advantage of the free Wi-Fi, use the computers, or attend one of the many events and programs offered.
There’s Plenty of Free Stuff to Do in Houston
When you really explore Houston, it’s amazing how much the city offers not only the local residents but visitors too.
And on top of the everyday fun, free things to do in Houston, there’s a list of annual events and activities that you may just be lucky enough to catch while visiting.
Also, while not free, make sure to not miss the Houston Space Center.
It is one of the must-do activities while in the city. Whether you’re a history geek, space aficionado, or a kid wishing to be an astronaut, this behind-the-scenes tour of the NASA Johnson Space Center is one that will impress you.
Whether you’re an art lover, a cultural enthusiast, or an outdoor junkie, there are endless free activities in Houston.
When you’re done taking advantage of these things to do for free in Houston, check out even more wallet-friendly things to do in Denver.
LET ME HELP YOU TRAVEL MORE BY GETTING ADDITIONAL TIPS AND INSPIRATION VIA THE MONTHLY NEWSLETTER.
Plus, receive a short e-book with 15 Beginner Tips and Tricks to Start Travel Hacking!