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Dynamic Variation:

Free Things to Do in Houston 

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!
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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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.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Catch movie screenings and other free events at Market Square Park. Bring a blanket or chair and enjoy a summer night at the movies!

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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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).

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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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.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Four rockets used in the 1960s and 70s NASA missions are on display at Rocket Park from 9 a.m. - 6 p.m. daily. Visitors looking for something uniquely Houston and historical can explore the park and the rockets or take part in the tram tour.

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.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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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!

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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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.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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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. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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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.
 

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.
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Open and free to the public, the Moody Center is dedicated to trans-disciplinary collaboration in the arts, sciences and humanities, and establishes a new arts district on the campus as it stands close by the distinguished Shepherd School of Music and the permanent James Turrell Twilight Epiphany Skyspace. The $30 million, 50,000-square-foot center serves as an experimental platform for creating and presenting works in all disciplines, a flexible teaching space and a forum for creative partnerships with visiting national and international artists.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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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.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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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.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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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. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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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.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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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.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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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!
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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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. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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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

 

Miller Outdoor Theatre

Miller Outdoor Theatre is Houston's premier outdoor theater for the performing arts. Free performances run March through October....

Market Square Park

Nestled in Houston's Historic District, Market Square Park actually sits on the site of the original City Hall (and the three...

Niko Niko's - Market Square

Gyro lovers on the go have a place to snag savory kabobs, hummus and authentic Greek fare at Niko Niko’s Market Square outpost....

Discovery Green

Discovery Green, a 12-acre park located in downtown Houston, is designed as an engaging and active place with programming to serve all...

Art Car Museum

The Art Car Museum is a private institution dedicated to contemporary art with an emphasis on art cars, other fine arts, and artists...

Houston Arboretum & Nature Center

Located on the western edge of Memorial Park (4 miles from Downtown Houston), the Houston Arboretum & Nature Center offers an escape...

Water Wall

Houston’s most photographed site, this dramatic 64-foot U-shaped fountain has water rushing down its inside and outside walls. Designed...

Port Houston Boat Tour

Port Houston offers free, 90-minute round-trip, educational cruises along the Houston Ship Channel. Embarking from the port's Sam...

Buffalo Bayou Boat Tours

The Buffalo Bayou Partnership offers canoe and pontoon boat tours along Buffalo Bayou, near downtown Houston. Buffalo Bayou Boat Tours...

Houston Party Boats

Looking for some fun on the water? Houston Party Boats & The Spirit of Texas Paddlewheeler offer affordable rates on a multitude of...

Urban Harvest Farmers Market

Urban Harvest Farmers Market, the largest of Houston's weekly markets, takes place every Saturday on Eastside Drive and offers a...

Glenwood Cemetery

Situated on 84 acres along the Washington Corridor, Glenwood Cemetery serves as a serene resting place for some of Houston’s most...

James Turrell “Twilight Epiphany” Skyspace at Rice University

Rice University revealed its newest on-campus art installation, James Turrell’s “Twilight Epiphany” Skyspace, in mid-June 2012. It is...

The 1940 Air Terminal Museum

The 1940 Air Terminal Museum is the only educational institution in Houston dedicated to promoting the city's significant civil...

The Menil Collection

The Menil Collection opened to the public in June 1987 as the primary repository of John and Dominique de Menil’s private collection....

Menil Bookstore

Following a two-month renovation, The Menil Bookstore is back in business with expanded offerings and a well-respected new Bookstore...

Contemporary Arts Museum Houston

The Contemporary Arts Museum Houston is a non-collecting institution dedicated to presenting the best and most exciting international,...

Houston Center for Contemporary Craft

Houston Center for Contemporary Craft (HCCC) is one of the few venues in the country dedicated exclusively to craft at the highest...

Lawndale Art Center

Lawndale Art Center develops local contemporary artists and the audience for their art. Lawndale is dedicated to the presentation of...

Blaffer Art Museum

Blaffer Art Museum, the University of Houston's laboratory for the visual arts and contemporary culture, provides a top-of-the line...

Project Row Houses

Project Row Houses is a highly acclaimed art and cultural community center consisting of 22 renovated shotgun-style homes. With the...

The Rothko Chapel

Note* Rothko Chapel is temporarily closed for renovations beginning March 4, 2019. The Rothko Chapel functions as chapel, a museum and...

Houston Greeters

Houston Greeters are enthusiastic locals who offer visitors a unique look at their favorite parts of Houston. Local Greeters host...

Buffalo Bayou

Buffalo Bayou, the 52-mile slow-moving waterway that was the site of Houston's founding in 1836, has become a destination for outdoor...

Lee and Joe Jamail Skatepark

If you dream of riding bowls, grinding rails, or cutting and sweeping through the largest cradle in the world, you can fulfill your...

Eleanor Tinsley Park

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...