Free Things to Do in Houston
In Houston, it's easy to enjoy budget-friendly attractions that make cents!
Spend your day exploring Houston’s greatest hotspots, while saving big with our list of the city’s most-loved free things to do. Luckily, for locals and visitors alike, several of Houston's most memorable attractions won’t cost a dime. And since you are saving money on activities, why not upgrade your hotel with these deals; you can also find amazing savings on these unique Houston experiences.
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.
Calling all film buffs! The historic Market Square Park holds free screenings of different movies (take that AMC!) and hosts other free events. Before the event, tour the multitude of bars and restaurants that border this downtown park.
Nestled in the heart of Downton is Discovery Green, a 12-acre, multi-use park that always has something exciting happening. 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). There is also an array of ever-changing art installations scattered around this luscious oasis.
Feast your eyes on some of the greatest works of art on four wheels. 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. Don’t let this museum pass you by!
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. Stroll the center's five miles of trails and visit the sanctuary's free interactive exhibits. Don’t leave your furry friends out, but please make sure they are on a leash.
Designed by architect Philip Johnson more than 20 years ago, the Galleria-area Water Wall offers a refreshing moment of Zen for visitors. 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. It is a popular location for lovers to snap that perfect Instagram photo.
Set sail on a 90-minute boat tour of the Port of Houston. While onboard the 90-passenger boat, you'll learn the history of the seaport and be able to watch massive ocean freighters and barges navigate the 50-mile channel. Open Tuesday through Saturday, the tour is free but reservations are required.
Spend a relaxing Saturday morning at the Urban Harvest Farmers Market. Stroll the market for a lazy day of people watching, buying local produce, or just munching on any of the free samples! It’s like a healthier Costco in that way.
Who says cemeteries have to be spooky? Discover 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 and sculptures are those of more than 20 mayors, past governors, oil tycoons and Howard Hughes, the famous aviator, engineer and movie director.
Catch a sunset or sunrise (if you’re an early bird) LED-light show at James Turrell's "Twilight Epiphany" Skyspace on Rice campus. The grass covered pyramid illuminates and changes colors as the natural light reflects off the structure and is a 40-minute wonder for the eyes. The show is free and is only closed on Tuesdays.
Who’s afraid of the big, bad... bats? Witness 250,000 bats emerge at dusk from under the Waugh Drive Bridge, located over Buffalo Bayou between Allen Parkway and Memorial Drive, if you dare.
And finally, discover a Houston secret. Venture behind downtown's Wortham Theater – where Preston Street crosses Buffalo Bayou – and look for the non-descript red button near a staircase that leads to the water. We won’t tell you what happens but it’s a fun, little secret that only Houstonians know about.
The Menil Collection, widely considered one of the greatest of the twentieth century, consists of more than 16,000 works dating from the Paleolithic era to the present day. You could spend a whole day taking in the art, but don’t worry, the chic Bistro Menil is a great place to recharge and grab a bite to eat.
Open and free to the public, the Moody Center For the Arts is dedicated to trans-disciplinary collaboration in the arts, sciences and humanities, and is located on the Rice campus. The Moody Center houses facilities including an art gallery space, a 150-seat black box theater, a gallery for experimental performance and a café. It’s open to the public Tuesday through Saturday.
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, gifts and souvenirs.
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. With a focus on contemporary art, the Lawndale Art Center is free to the public with a gallery appointment.
Blaffer Art Museum is a contemporary art museum located on the University of Houston campus. Their vision is to foster engagement and exchange by and among artists, curators, scholars, and the museum's diverse audiences through exhibitions and public programs. It is free and open to the public Wednesday through Sunday.
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. Ten of the 22 row houses are dedicated to art, photography and literary projects, which are installed on a rotating six-month basis.
Looking to take your mind off things? The Rothko Chapel is a serene sanctuary to meditate in the middle of Houston's Museum District. The Rothko Chapel is a non-denominational chapel and exhibit space for modern art that draws thousands of visitors each year.
After undergoing a $58 million project in 2015, Buffalo Bayou is now an outdoor haven for hiking, biking, art and the best views of the Houston skyline. Winding from Shepherd Drive 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.
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