Spend your day exploring Houston’s hotspots, while saving big with a well-edited list of the city’s most-loved free things to do. Fortunately, for locals and visitors alike, several of Houston’s most memorable attractions won’t break the bank, in fact they won’t even cost a dime. In Houston, it’s easy to enjoy budget-friendly sights that make cents.
Miller Outdoor Theatre might be one of the best reasons to visit (and live in!) Houston. Open from March through November, the venue hosts a range of performances including classical music, ballet, dance, film, Shakespeare and more. The theater, set inside Hermann Park, also allows patrons to BYOB (no glass containers, please!), so pack a picnic and settle in for the show.
Catch movie screenings and other free events at Market Square Park. Bring a blanket or chair and enjoy a summer night at the movies!
Downtown's 12-acre Discovery Green park has something going on all the time. In the spring and fall, spend happy hour listening to local musicians perform live on stage, browse and buy from local craftsmen at monthly markets and, in the winter, enjoy ice skating on Kinder Lake (for a small fee).
Dubbed the Garage Mahal, the Art Car Museum is unlike anything you've ever imagined. It's the only place you'll find the antennae and wing-cloaked Roachster or the Honda motorcycle that has been transformed into a shiny red rolling stiletto art car.
Tucked on the west side of Memorial park is the Houston Arboretum and Nature Center, a 155-acre nature sanctuary that educates visitors on how to protect native plants and animals in the city. Walk the center's five miles of trails and visit the sanctuary's interactive exhibits free of charge. Dogs on leashes are welcome.
Designed by architect Philip Johnson more than 20 years ago, the Galleria-area Water Wall offers a refreshing respite for visitors seeking a mid-afternoon break. The 64-foot-tall fountain - built to look like a "horseshoe of running water" - sits among 1,118 oak trees at the base of the 64-story Williams Tower.
Set sail on a free, 90-minute boat tour of the Port of Houston. While on board the 90-passenger boat, you'll learn about the history of the seaport and be able to watch ocean freighters and barges navigate the 50-mile channel. The tour is free, but reservations are required.
Spend Saturday at Urban Harvest Farmers Market. Stroll through the market for a lazy day people watching. While you'll have to purchase produce, there are always plenty of free samples to try!
Find Houston's history at Glenwood Cemetery. Situated on 84 acres along the Washington Corridor, Glenwood Cemetery serves as a serene resting place for some of Houston's most iconic residents. Among the ornate headstones are those of more than 20 mayors, past governors, oil tycoons and Howard Hughes-the famous aviator, engineer and movie director.
Catch a sunset light show at James Turrell's "Twilight Epiphany" Skyspace on Rice Campus. At sunrise and sunset, the grass covered pyramid illuminates and changes color as the natural light reflects off the structure. The show is free, though reservations are required.
Witness 250,000 bats emerge at dusk from under the Waugh Drive Bridge, located over Buffalo Bayou between Allen Parkway and Memorial Drive.
Like planes? Head to the 1940 Air Terminal Museum for all things aviation, located on the west side of Hobby Airport.
For once, we're giving you permission to press the red button. Seriously. We won't tell you what happens, since it's best experienced first-hand, but venture behind downtown's Wortham Theatre-where Preston Street crosses Buffalo Bayou-and look for the non-descript red button, inset in the staircase, that leads down to the water. You can thank us later.
The Menil Collection - a local treasure, global destination and one of the top free attractions in Houston - opened to the public in June 1987 to house the art collection of philanthropists John and Dominique de Menil. Widely considered one of the greatest of the twentieth century, the collection consists of more than 16,000 works dating from the Paleolithic era to the present day. Although historically vast, it uniquely resists the conventional museum model of the encyclopedia. Instead, within the four areas that largely define the collection - Antiquity, Byzantine and Medieval, Tribal, and Twentieth-Century Art (with a concentration in Surrealism) - one finds a selective - and even wonderfully eccentric - approach to collecting and displaying art.
Houston's Contemporary Arts Museum focuses on showing new work from national and international artists. In addition to hosting exhibits, the CAMH also offers lectures, special programs and a stellar shop chock-full of unique books and gifts.
See the work of local and national artists who focus on using materials like fiber, metal, glass, clay and wood at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft. Located next door to Lawndale Art Center, the HCCC has innovative exhibits and unique gifts in the Asher Gallery. Admission is always free.
Located in the Museum District, the Lawndale Art Center is a staple of Houston's art scene. Four galleries are contained in the art deco structure, which serves as a backdrop for annually changing exhibits and events like Dia de los Muertos and The Big Show.
Blaffer Art Museum serves as a catalyst for creative innovation, experimentation, and scholarship in contemporary art. As the gateway between the University of Houston and the City of Houston, Blaffer Art Museum fosters engagement and exchange by and among artists, curators, scholars, and the museum's diverse audiences through exhibitions and public programs that are free and open to everyone.
Situated inside downtown's Sam Houston Park, the Heritage Society Museum is the city's only interactive, outdoor museum. The site features structures dating back to the 1820s, including a 4th-ward cottage and a Greek revival house build for Rice University founder William Marsh Rice. The museum itself is free, but guided tours are $10.
Set in Houston's Third Ward, Project Row Houses is a nonprofit art initiative aimed at creating a positive place for local artists to work. Some of the shotgun-style houses are dedicated to art and photography, while others are devoted to the literary and performing arts.
Rothko Chapel is a serene place to meditate in the middle of Houston's Museum District. Founded by John and Dominque de Menil (of Menil Collection fame), Rothko is a non-denominational chapel and exhibit space for modern art that draws thousands of visitors each year.
Tour the city with the help of a personal Houston Greeter. The program, made up of local volunteers, provides two-to-four hour hosts that are able to show newcomers or visitors local attractions that might be of interest to them. The service is free, and METRORail provides free passes for visitors and greeters. www.houstongreeters.org
Bike along the Buffalo Bayou. Winding from Shepherd through parts of the East End, the Buffalo Bayou's hike and bike trails are one of the best ways to take in the city. Don't have a bike? For a minimal fee, B-Cycle's are available for rent.
The Lee and Joe Jamail Skatepark is the creme de la creme of the grinding and boarding world. The $2.2 million, state-of-the-art facility - thought to contain the largest cradle in the world - is located close to downtown, near Eleanor Tinsley Park.
Museum/Attraction Free Days
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