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Houston for Free

It's easy to enjoy budget-friendly sights that make cents.

 

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. Be sure to check out Houston's free daily events as well!

Miller Outdoor Theatre
 

Get Out!

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.

Engagement Ideas Waterwall

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 186 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. 

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 Theater-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.

Menil Collection Ground Display

Get Culture!

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 $15.


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.

Lee and Joe Jamail Skate Park with Skyline

Get Moving!

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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  • GHCVB Member
    (713) 454-1940
    8325 Travelair Street | Houston, TX 77061
    Hobby Airport/Third Ward
    The 1940 Air Terminal Museum is the only educational institution in Houston dedicated to promoting the city's significant civil aviation...
  • 713-861-5526
    140 Heights Blvd. | Houston, TX 77007
    Memorial Park/Washington Corridor
    TripAdvisor Rating Based on 102 reviews
    The Art Car Museum is a private institution dedicated to contemporary art with an emphasis on art cars, other fine arts, and artists who are...
  • GHCVB Member
    (713) 743-9530
    4173 Elgin Street | Houston, TX 77004
    Hobby Airport/Third Ward
    Blaffer Art Museum, the University of Houston's laboratory for the visual arts and contemporary culture, provides a top-of-the line...
  • (713) 752-0314
    | Houston, TX 77002
    Downtown
    The Buffalo Bayou Partnership offers canoe, kayak, and pontoon boat tours along Buffalo Bayou, near downtown Houston. Buffalo Bayou Boat...
  • GHCVB Member
    (713) 752-0314
    | Houston
    Downtown
    Buffalo Bayou , the 52-mile slow-moving waterway that was the site of Houston's founding in 1836, has become a destination for outdoor...
  • GHCVB Member
    (713) 284-8250
    5216 Montrose Blvd. | Houston, TX 77006
    Museum District
    TripAdvisor Rating Based on 52 reviews
    The Contemporary Arts Museum Houston is a non-collecting institution dedicated to presenting the best and most exciting international,...
  • GHCVB Member
    (713) 400-7336
    1500 McKinney Street | Houston, TX 77010
    Downtown
    TripAdvisor Rating Based on 419 reviews
    Discovery Green , a 12-acre park located in downtown Houston, is designed as an engaging and active place with programming to serve all ages...
  • 500 Allen Parkway | Houston, TX 77002
    With its sloping hills and lush trees, this park is a great place to relax. Picnic tables are sunken into some of the hills to make for a...
  • (713) 864-7886
    2525 Washington Avenue | Houston, TX 77007
    Memorial Park/Washington Corridor
    TripAdvisor Rating Based on 71 reviews
    Situated on 84 acres along the Washington Corridor, Glenwood Cemetery serves as a serene resting place for some of Houston’s most iconic...
  • GHCVB Member
    (713) 655-1912
    1100 Bagby Street | Houston, TX 77002
    Downtown
    TripAdvisor Rating Based on 29 reviews
    The Heritage Society is the city's only outdoor, interactive historic museum and park. Nestled in 10 acres of beautiful green parkland in...
  • GHCVB Member
    (713) 681-8433
    4501 Woodway Drive | Houston, TX 77024
    Memorial Park/Washington Corridor
    TripAdvisor Rating Based on 131 reviews
    Located on the western edge of Memorial Park (4 miles from Downtown Houston), the Houston Arboretum & Nature Center offers an escape from...
  • GHCVB Member
    (713) 529-4848
    4848 Main Street | Houston, TX 77002
    Museum District
    TripAdvisor Rating Based on 23 reviews
    Houston Center for Contemporary Craft (HCCC) is one of the few venues in the country dedicated exclusively to craft at the highest level,...
  • (713) 473-3837
    901 Bagby, Suite 100 | Houston, TX 77002
    Houston Greeters is a free visitor service that offers a unique look at Houston through the eyes and hearts of its residents. Local...
  • (281) 334-3400
    2500 South Shore Blvd | League City, TX 77586
    Clear Lake/Bay Area Houston
    Looking for some fun on the water? Houston Party Boats & The Spirit of Texas Paddlewheeler offer affordable rates on a multitude of...
  • (713) 348-4758
    6100 Main Street | Adjacenet Shepherd School of Music | Houston, TX 77005
    Museum District
    Rice University revealed its newest on-campus art installation, James Turrell’s “Twilight Epiphany” Skyspace , in mid-June 2012. It is the...
  • GHCVB Member
    713-528-5858
    4912 Main Street | Houston, TX 77002
    Museum District
    TripAdvisor Rating Based on 7 reviews
    Lawndale Art Center develops local contemporary artists and the audience for their art. Lawndale is dedicated to the presentation of...
  • 103 Sabine Street | Houston, TX 77007
    Downtown
    If you dream of riding bowls, grinding rails, or cutting and sweeping through the largest cradle in the world, you can fulfill your desire...
  • 301 Milam | Houston, TX 77002
    Downtown
    Nestled in Houston's Historic District, Market Square Park actually sits on the site of the original City Hall (and the three iterations...
  • (713) 525-9400
    1515 Sul Ross | Houston, TX 77006
    Montrose
    Following a two-month renovation, The Menil Bookstore is back in business with expanded offerings and a well-respected new Bookstore...
  • GHCVB Member
    (713) 525-9400
    1515 Sul Ross Street | Houston, TX 77006
    Museum District
    TripAdvisor Rating Based on 530 reviews
    The Menil Collection opened to the public in June 1987 as the primary repository of John and Dominique de Menil’s private collection. One of...
  • GHCVB Member
    (832) 487-7102
    6000 Hermann Park Drive | Houston, TX 77030
    Museum District
    Miller Outdoor Theatre is Houston's premier outdoor theater for the performing arts. Free performances run March through October. Miller...
  • 713-528-4976
    301 Milam | Houston, TX 77002
    Downtown
    Gyro lovers on the go have a place to snag savory kabobs, hummus and authentic Greek fare at Niko Niko’s Market Square outpost. The local...
  • GHCVB Member
    (713) 526-7662
    2521 Holman | Houston, TX 77004
    Hobby Airport/Third Ward
    Project Row Houses is a highly acclaimed art and cultural community center consisting of 22 renovated shotgun-style homes. With the...
  • GHCVB Member
    (713) 524-9839
    1409 Sul Ross Street | Houston, TX 77006
    Montrose
    TripAdvisor Rating Based on 217 reviews
    The Rothko Chapel functions as chapel, a museum and a forum. It is a place where religion, art and architecture intermingle. The Rothko...
  • GHCVB Member
    (713) 670-2416
    7300 Clinton Drive | Gate 8 | Houston, TX 77020
    Clear Lake/Bay Area Houston
    The Port of Houston Authority offers free leisurely 90-minute round-trip cruises along the Houston Ship Channel. Embarking from the port's...
  • 713-880-5540
    3000 Richmond | Houston, TX 77098
    Urban Harvest Farmers Market, the largest of Houston's weekly markets, takes place every Saturday on Eastside Drive and offers a variety of...
  • 713-850-8841
    2800 Post Oak Blvd | Houston, TX 77056
    Galleria/Uptown
    TripAdvisor Rating Based on 645 reviews
    Houston’s most photographed site, this dramatic 64-foot U-shaped fountain has water rushing down its inside and outside walls. Designed and...
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