Looking for all the best attractions in the Bayou City? Our guide with all the best things to do in Houston is all you need!
Most famous for the Space Center Houston, you’ll soon discover that Texas’ largest city has more to its story than just launching folks into space.
Houston has a fantastic collection of local parks, a rich assortment of museums and a great balance between adult and family fun.
When you aren’t making the most of the beautiful outdoor spaces, you can escape the Texan sun at captivating galleries, vibrant malls or any of the city’s renowned restaurants.
At night, you can turn your attention to the arts, live performances, sports and festivals.
Those wondering what to do in Houston soon realise that a wide range of events are at at their disposal, which means there’s always something exciting to complement your time exploring the city.
Read Next: Want to know how to combine all of these great activities into a long weekend in Houston? Check out our post on the best Houston itinerary!
As one of the biggest cities in the United States, travelers to Houston will find a lovely spread of recreation, culture and the arts.
From the iconic Space Center Houston to the amazing museums and parks, there is lots to do in this vibrant Texan city.
If you want to save a bit of money while enjoying all the best things to do in Houston, consider getting the CityPASS. It combines some of the top attractions for a discounted price.
With the Houston CityPASS, you can get access to the following places for up to 50% off:
Whether you love your history and art museums or simply need something to do on a rainy day, you’ll quickly come to adore Houston’s Museum District.
The district is one of the city’s greatest contributions to local culture, boasting almost 20 museums, of which 11 are free to visit.
Three of the most popular museums include the Museum of Fine Arts, the Children’s Museum and the Museum of Natural Science, which we discuss more below.
But others you should check out include the Holocaust Museum, the Menil Collection and the Houston Museum of African American Culture. The last two are free to visit.
Also within the Museum District is the beautiful Hermann Park, home to the Miller Outdoor Theater and the Houston Zoo. Thankfully, with all the museums being within walking distance, you can explore multiple in a single day.
Traveling around Texas? Check out this list of the best things to do in Austin.
Spanning 160 acres, spending a day at Buffalo Bayou Park is one of the best things to do in Houston. The trickly stream of Buffalo Bayou cuts through the park which is found in downtown Houston.
The urban park is a vibrant escape from the inner-city bustle and is teeming with trails of both the walking and biking variety along with water adventures and plenty of public art.
Aside from walking and enjoying a picnic, you can rent watercraft and get out onto the bayou. After a scenic paddle, head to the Cistern, an early 20th-century water reservoir that is now a place of ever-changing creative exhibitions.
Just off the western end of the park is the Bayou Bend Collection. Here, you’ll find a historic home filled with decorative arts and surrounded by a lush, landscaped garden.
The words, ‘Houston, we have a problem’ have transcended history to become a part of the everyday lexicon.
So it’s no shock that a visit to Houston isn’t complete without exploring the enthralling NASA Space Center Houston.
For first-time visitors, the Space Center Houston is usually at the top of the list, and why wouldn’t it be?
The enormous complex is the best way to experience life as an astronaut without ever leaving the ground.
If you have already purchased your CityPASS, your entrance to the centre is covered and you’ll save a bit of money. Otherwise we have another option for you below which is fantastic.
You can easily spend a whole day here, starting at the Visitor Center. From there, jump on a tram to Mission Control, then Rocket Park, home to real space rockets.
You can also explore Skylab, America’s original space station and touch a real rock brought back from the moon.
Even if you’re not super interested in outer space, this is one of the most classic things to do in Houston.
You can even book a Houston city tour combined with your entry ticket to the Space Center.
Your local guide will show you all the best things to see in Houston, and your sightseeing tour will include transport to and from the Space Center.
As you explore Houston’s Museum District, take some time to enjoy the fresh air in the city’s beloved Hermann Park.
This park wears a lot of hats, not too dissimilar from San Diego’s Balboa Park. You’ll find wide-open green spaces, cultural attractions, the zoo, theaters and themed gardens.
For a chill afternoon, this park is a great spot for some yard games and time with your traveling crew.
But if you’re up for some exploring, you can jump onboard the Hermann Park Railroad and slowly make your way around the expansive urban oasis.
You’ll soon be guided by a small lake and jump off to enjoy a pedal boat journey. As the sun starts to fall, wander over to the Miller Outdoor Theatre for movie nights, concerts or live plays.
Like an amusement park for cowboys and cowgirls, the Houston Livestock Show is one of the top Houston attractions. More than just a local experience, the show is a classic Texan time.
The Livestock Show has daily rodeos in front of packed crowds at NRG Stadium. Some competitions include thrilling bull riding and exciting barrel racing along with roping and bareback riding.
Since the show remains steeped in tradition, you’ll find horse shows and livestock auctions alongside other annual events.
Even if rodeos aren’t your scene, the atmosphere alone is worth the price of admission.
You’ll find adrenalin-stoking rides, some top-shelf musicians entertaining the massive crowds, and plenty of fun for the young folks, including animal petting and trail rides.
The highlight of the Museum District is the Museum of Fine Arts. Spread across two buildings and a stunning exterior sculpture garden, the gallery features 6,000 years of history with art spanning the entire globe.
You’ll have your work cut out trying to admire each of the 60,000-plus creative works at the Museum of Fine Arts.
But whatever you do come across, it’s bound to capture your attention.
Highlights include decorative arts from Europe and across the United States. You’ll also find Impressionist Renaissance works and historic pieces from the pre-Colombian era and across the African continent.
Wandering between both buildings will guide you through the opulent sculpture garden for a different museum experience.
If you like your history, then you’ll know the San Jacinto Monument is one of the best Houston attractions. The monument marks the spot of one of the state’s most important battles.
The Battle of San Jacinto changed the course of US and Mexican history. In 1836, Sam Houston (who the city was named after) caught the Mexican army by surprise and turned the tide of a war that was, at the time, going the Mexican’s way. Houston was then able to force Mexico’s hand in declaring Texas independence.
Today, you can learn all about this battle and others at the San Jacinto Monument while admiring the stunning 567-foot column.
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Visiting the Houston Museum of Natural Science is another one of the best Houston activities.
The expansive museum covers a mind-boggling array of topics from dinosaurs to modern-day marvels and the stars that twinkle above our heads.
The museum’s amazing collection of dinosaurs helps set it apart from other similar attractions in Houston.
There are 60 massive dinosaurs skeletons including everyone’s favorite, T-Rex (there are four!).
Visitors to the Museum of Natural Science can also explore replicas of several space stations and learn about tiny mineral specimens before checking out the Cockrell Butterfly Conservatory.
Finish up with a visit to the Planetarium, where you can explore the night sky under a massive theater screen.
Get your cameras ready for arguably the most photographed attraction in the city. The Water Wall is an iconic sight that boasts a 64-foot semi-circular wall. But it’s the water streaming down that makes it such a beautiful sight.
Over the course of three and a half hours, the wall uses just shy of 80,000 gallons of water that is then recycled and sent back to the top. The stream of water is mesmerizing and creates a wonderful atmosphere that extends across the wider park.
The soft roar of the waterfall and the rising mist are the perfect complements to your time lazing on the grass with friends and family.
As you admire the architectural gem, you can also appreciate the park’s 150-plus towering oak trees which provide plenty of respite from the Texan sun.
Since opening in 1998, the Art Car Museum has been one of the more intriguing things to do in Houston. The name may give some of the highlights away, but it remains a unique take on art.
Travelers can leave behind the Renaissance and abstract art and enjoy dozens of cars reshaped to create often head-scratching pieces of art.
The works are thought-provoking and captivating and when complemented by your standard artwork (which features cars, of course) it’s an art museum not to be missed.
If you’ve visited before, you’ll be happy to know the exhibits change regularly with new additions ready to change up the entire experience. Check the website to see what’s on when you’re in town.
For a change of pace while traveling through Houston, trade the parks and museums for the oldest craft brewery in the state of Texas.
Saint Arnold Brewing Company specializes in full-flavored beers, brewed and bottled on-site.
The small company does it all on-site, with their passion for excellent craft beer leading the way.
Visitors will find a range of permanent beers, seasonal creations and special releases. You can see and taste it all on a behind-the-scenes Barrel Room Tour that will peel back the curtain on the company’s delicious barrel-aged beers.
Alongside your chosen pint, you can enjoy the delicious menu in the spacious beer garden. If you’re a real fan of beer, this is easily one of the best things to do in Houston.
Another option for beer lovers is booking a 2-hour brewery tour. With a local guide, travel the city center by electric cart and stop at all the best breweries in town.
In Houston’s Theater District, the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts is the city’s go-to spot for live shows, including hit Broadway productions and touring musicians.
The nonprofit Hobby Center opened in 2002 with the aim of expanding arts and culture in Houston focusing strongly on musical theater.
The center replaced the old Sam Houston Coliseum and Music Hall to create a purpose-built theater that would attract the best shows from around the United States.
It’s fair to say that the theater has lived up to its goals with a rich variety of events and performances.
But the Hobby Center also features an Arts Education department, a program that provides the community with a pathway into the performing arts.
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One of the best things to do in Houston with kids is a visit to the Children’s Museum of Houston.
It’s both a great choice on a rainy day or when you just want to get the family out of the searing sun.
But whatever the weather is like outside, the vibrant, energetic complex will quickly become the focus.
This museum is quite like many others around the country with lessons learned and themes explored in a fun and insightful.
The kids can go nuts as they experience the interactive exhibits while discovering how the world works.
One of the highlights of the Children’s Museum of Houston is the SECRETS Spy Game. Here, the little ones can put their detective hats on to decipher codes and follow the clues.
In the city center, Minute Maid Park is the home of America’s favorite pastime in Houston.
From March until October, the Houston Astros play their home games right here, providing locals and travelers alike with over 80 opportunities to catch a live game.
With a strong local following and a consistently competitive team (except for the banging of trash cans) it’s a great place to watch a game of baseball.
Plus, with a retractable roof, you know you’ll avoid the rain or be able to get out of the sun at the height of summer.
Get along to a game, grab an ice-cold beverage and chow down on one too many hot dogs and join in on the fun.
For other sports, you can watch the Houston Rockets (NBA) at the Toyota Center in downtown Houston. The Houston Texans (NFL) also play at NRG Stadium.
Among the best things to do in Houston are all the fantastic museums and parks around the city center.
But on the western edge of Memorial Park is one of the most beautiful locations in the Space City.
The Houston Arboretum and Nature Center is a non-profit sanctuary spread across 155 acres.
It first opened in 1967 and became one of the earliest nature education complexes in the state, with an emphasis on getting our young ones into the outdoors.
The arboretum features a variety of ecosystems that you can discover on the five miles of hiking trails. Find the full trails map on their website.
These include riparian, savanna, prairie and wetland habitats. The Nature Center also provides visitors with exhibits in the hands-on Discovery Room and a great setting for education programs.
You’ve been to natural history museums and art galleries, but have you ever been to a museum focused on the human body?
Houston’s Health Museum is a unique experience and one that allows you to learn about your body, and even step inside of it.
“How?” you might ask. Well, many of the exhibits feature enlarged organs, such as the brain and heart.
There are over 10 feet tall, and in the case of the heart, you’ll be able to discover each function of the vital organ.
Other highlights include an enlarged eyeball, and a display that shows the number of calories you’ll need to burn for different foods.
After realizing how much walking you need to burn off that Tex-Mex dinner, it’s time to check out the beautiful Discovery Green.
This urban park covers almost 12 acres in the heart of downtown Houston. The public space is great for kids as there are playgrounds and open-air reading rooms, where you can also get your hands on some fun games.
Discovery Green is quite community-oriented. You’ll find regular free yoga classes, reading sessions for the youngest folks, movie nights in the summer and live music.
But ultimately, it’s a place to come together. After a few hectic days exploring Houston, take some time to relax with your traveling crew and enjoy the lush scenery.
Check the website to see what events, classes, and performances are on. For a fun day enjoying the outdoors, this is one of the best things to do in Houston.
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Houston has some fantastic art galleries. But there’s much more to the city than just Renaissance pieces and contemporary works. Embarking on an adventure through the streets in search of art is one of the best things to do in Houston.
Beyond just your regular graffiti, dozens of walls around the city are adorned with amazing murals that have their finger on the pulse.
While some are colorful and captivating, others are thought-provoking and will get you thinking about current events, and local and national culture.
One artist who stands out more than most is Houston’s own Gonzo247. The prolific street artist is famous for his Houston is Inspired mural on the corner of Preston and Travis streets.
If you’d rather have a local show you around, book a mural tour of downtown Houston. Travel by electric cart around the city and enjoy an incredible day of art spotting and Houston sightseeing.
Set within the Houston Museum of Natural Science, the Cockrell Butterfly Center is one worth paying extra for.
The museum may be known for its recreation of long gone humans and animals. The Butterfly Center is nothing but life.
In a rainforest setting, the exhibits are a far cry from the cool air-conditioned museum halls.
But the humidity is the perfect environment for almost 1,500 butterflies to take the skies.
As you wander around, do so slowly and one of the 1000-plus butterflies may just think your shoulder is the perfect landing pad.
If not, you can still enjoy the magical colors and the beautiful swarm of rainbow-like wings.
Another one of the best things to do is visit the Houston Zoo, set in Hermann Park.
The Houston Zoo is spread across 55 fun-filled acres home to over 6,000 native animals and wildlife from around the globe.
As the number of animals suggests, there’s so much to see at the Houston Zoo.
You’ll find vast sections dedicated to Texan wildlife, animals from the African continent, like cheetahs and giraffes, plus a large amphibian house and a dedicated section for everyone’s favorite giants, elephants.
There is even a small children’s zoo, a water play park and the opportunity to feed the towering giraffes.
After walking around all day, finish up with a 4D movie experience.
Rounding out our guide to the best things to do in Houston is the Downtown Aquarium.
As the name suggests, it’s in the heart of the city, making it not just easy to get to but a great stepping stone to further attractions.
Home to 200 marine animals, the Downtown Aquarium is a trip around the world, albeit beneath the surface.
There is fun for the whole family here with specific themed experiences such as the Aquatic Carousel and the Shark Voyage.
But after getting up close to a range of marine life, the wider complex features shopping, restaurants and a great bar for an afternoon drink.
Now that you know what to do in Houston, let’s explore the best places to stay. Here are some options for all different budget ranges.
Wanderstay Houston is a highly rated hostel that won’t blow a hole in your budget. There are themed rooms (hello Beyonce!), modern living and dining areas plus guests won’t be far from live sport, parks and museums.
The Cambria Hotel puts you in the heart of downtown, minutes from top attractions. With a private bathroom, cozy linens and cable TV, you can enjoy an upscale experience at an affordable price.
With an outdoor swimming pool, Victorian-era decor and on-site dining, La Colombe d’Or is a memorable experience. When you aren’t laying in the lap of luxury, wander down to Hermann Park and the Museum District.
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