Top 12 Attractions in Houston

Last Updated on February 22, 2024 by Emily Johnson

Houston is the largest city in Texas and the fourth largest city in the United States. With a population of over 2.3 million people, Houston is a major metropolitan area with a diverse culture and vibrant economy. The city has a lot to offer visitors, from museums and performing arts to historic sites and outdoor activities.

AttractionDescription
Space Center HoustonNASA’s official visitor center with space artifacts and exhibits.
The Museum DistrictFeatures 19 museums including the Museum of Fine Arts and Houston Museum of Natural Science.
The Houston Livestock Show and RodeoA major event with live music, carnival rides, and rodeo events.
Downtown AquariumAn entertainment complex with an aquarium and amusement park rides.
The GalleriaTexas’ largest shopping mall with over 400 stores and restaurants.
Discovery GreenA 12-acre urban park with free seasonal programs and interactive art.
Houston ZooHome to over 6,000 exotic animals in Hermann Park.
iFLY HoustonIndoor skydiving venue offering the thrill of flying without a plane.
The Orange ShowA folk art environment celebrating the creator’s vision of health and nutrition.
Memorial ParkA 1,500-acre park with recreation facilities and a nature center.
Buffalo Bayou ParkA 160-acre greenspace with nature trails, boat rentals, and art installations.
Beer Can HouseAn art installation covered with over 50,000 flattened beer cans.

Houston attracts over 22 million tourists annually who come to experience the unique attractions around the city. From space-themed attractions to historic sites, family-friendly museums and beautiful parks, Houston has something for everyone. Here is a list of the top 12 attractions in Houston that you must visit on your next trip.

1. Space Center Houston

Name and Location: Space Center Houston is located at 1601 NASA Parkway, Houston, TX. It is adjacent to NASA’s Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center.

History and Significance: Space Center Houston opened in 1992 as the official visitor center of NASA’s Johnson Space Center. It allows visitors to learn about the history and future of human spaceflight through interactive exhibits and displays.

What to Expect: Visitors can tour NASA facilities, see space artifacts and rocket displays, interact with astronauts, and participate in space-themed activities. There are films and presentations at the IMAX theater.

Visitor Information: Space Center Houston is open daily except Thanksgiving and Christmas. Tickets start at $29.95 for adults and $24.95 for children. Extended tours and educational programs are available.

Space Center Houston is one of the most popular attractions in the city, drawing over 1 million visitors every year. It is the official visitor center of NASA’s Johnson Space Center and provides an educational and entertaining experience for visitors of all ages. The center features more than 400 space artifacts, hands-on exhibits, and interactive simulations that allow you to learn about NASA’s space exploration programs. You can touch a real piece of the moon, climb aboard a shuttle replica, or watch an IMAX film on the giant screen. Don’t miss the tram tour of the NASA grounds to see the historic Mission Control Center and get a behind-the-scenes look at the space program.

2. The Museum District

Name and Location: The Museum District is located in the Montrose neighborhood of Houston, southwest of downtown. It contains 19 museums, galleries, cultural centers and institutions.

History and Significance: The Museum District has been a hub of arts and culture since the 1900s. Its anchor institutions include the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston Museum of Natural Science and Houston Zoo. It continues to expand and attract visitors.

What to Expect: Visitors can explore art, history, culture and science exhibits across the district’s museums. Public artworks and sculptures are on display outdoors. Cafes, boutiques and green spaces provide places to relax.

Visitor Information: Most museums are closed Mondays but open Tuesdays through Sundays. Hours vary by museum. Admission prices range from free to $25 per museum. City Passes offer discounted bundled tickets.

Houston’s museum district located south of downtown contains 19 museums, art galleries, cultural centers and community organizations. The Museum of Fine Arts Houston is one of the largest art museums in the country with an impressive collection of over 65,000 works from ancient times to the present. At the Houston Museum of Natural Science, you can journey through time in the Morian Hall of Paleontology and see dinosaur fossils. The Children’s Museum features interactive hands-on exhibits for kids to learn through play. Other notable museums include the Rothko Chapel, Menil Collection, Houston Zoo, and Houston Center for Photography. You could easily spend a whole day marveling at the varied museums and galleries in the district.

3. The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo

Name and Location: The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is an annual event held at NRG Park in Houston, Texas, lasting over 2 weeks.

History and Significance: The rodeo started in 1932 to promote the state’s livestock industry. Over decades, it has become the largest rodeo event globally, with concerts, carnivals and livestock exhibitions.

What to Expect: Events include bull riding, livestock shows, carnival rides and games. Musical acts like George Strait perform nightly concerts. Visitors enjoy Texan cuisine and shopping.

Visitor Information: The 2023 rodeo runs February 28 to March 19. Grounds open at 8 AM on weekdays or 9 AM on weekends. Ticket prices start around $20. Parking passes are available.

For true Texas-sized entertainment, attend the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo held every year between February and March. This massive event attracts over 2.5 million visitors during its 20-day run. People from all walks of life gather here to experience live music, carnival rides, livestock exhibitions, shopping and of course, the rodeo events like bull riding and bronc riding. The rodeo has been an important part of the city’s culture since 1932 and draws some of the biggest names in music each year for live concerts after the rodeo events.

4. Downtown Aquarium

Name and Location: The Downtown Aquarium in Houston, Texas covers 6 acres on 410 Bagby St, Houston, TX 77002.

History and Significance: The 130,000-square-foot entertainment complex opened in 2003. It offers family-friendly attractions with an aquatic theme combined with dining and shopping.

What to Expect: Guests can view 400+ species of aquatic life in World Aquarium galleries and exhibits. Other attractions include amusement rides, marine shows and animal encounters.

Visitor Information: The aquarium is open daily except Thanksgiving and Christmas. Prices start at $12 for Aquarium Adventure tickets. Combination and CityPASS tickets include more attractions.

The Downtown Aquarium is a huge entertainment complex that combines an aquarium, rainforest-themed restaurant, amusement park rides and games all under one roof. It houses over 200 species of aquatic animals in 500,000 gallons of water. Visitors can observe sharks, stingrays, fish and turtles in both indoor and outdoor exhibits. The onsite restaurant provides underwater views while you dine. The amusement park section called the Aquarium Adventure has rides like a Ferris wheel, carousel and an exciting roller coaster above a 150,000-gallon tank filled with exotic fish.

5. The Galleria

Name and Location: The Galleria is a large upscale shopping mall located at 5085 Westheimer Rd, Houston, TX 77056 in the Uptown District.

History and Significance: Opening in 1970, The Galleria pioneered the modern mixed-use shopping complex with retail, restaurants, offices and a hotel all connected. It continues to draw visitors today.

What to Expect: Shoppers will find over 375 stores and restaurants, an indoor ice rink, and distinctive architecture including a dramatic atrium. Luxury brands and high-end fashion draw well-heeled visitors.

Visitor Information: The Galleria is open daily. Weekday hours are 10 AM to 9 PM, weekends 11 AM to 7 PM. The complex is accessible from Westheimer Road with ample paid parking in garages and lots.

The Galleria is the largest shopping mall in Texas with over 400 stores and restaurants, an ice rink and expansive glass atriums. This upscale shopping center contains many high-end retailers and luxury brands like Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Tiffany & Co., Burberry and more. You can find fashion, jewelry, electronics, shoes, accessories and home goods. There are two Westin hotels connected to the mall for convenient shopping getaways. With so many dining options like The Cheesecake Factory and Peli Peli, you’ll never go hungry while you shop. Indulge in a little retail therapy at one of Houston’s finest shopping destinations.

6. Discovery Green

Name and Location: Discovery Green is a 12-acre public park located at 1500 McKinney St, Houston, TX 77010 across from the George R. Brown Convention Center.

History and Significance: Opened in 2008, Discovery Green was a transformative city project which helped launch downtown revitalization. Its amenities and events make it a popular gathering place.

What to Expect: Visitors enjoy free activities like concerts, films, fitness classes and public art. Other features include a playground, dog runs, restaurants, outdoor games and ice skating.

Visitor Information: The park is open daily from 6 AM to 11 PM. Discovery Green hosts public and private events year-round. Some areas may close for events. Parking garages nearby offer paid parking.

Discovery Green is a 12-acre urban park located right downtown across from the George R. Brown Convention Center. This public green space features lawns, trees, walking paths and a lake with fountains. The park hosts free seasonal programs like yoga, zumba, live music, movie nights and ice skating in the winter. Discovery Green has colorful interactive art installations, a kid’s play area, restaurants and a performance stage. Special events and festivals are held here throughout the year. Visitors can rent kayaks and pedal boats for the lake. This beautiful park is the perfect place for a stroll when you need a break from the city.

7. Houston Zoo

Name and Location: The Houston Zoo is located at 6200 Hermann Park Dr, Houston, TX 77030 inside Hermann Park.

History and Significance: Founded in 1922, the 55-acre Houston Zoo is one of the oldest zoos in the country. It is a leader in wildlife conservation efforts, education programs and visitor amenities.

What to Expect: Visitors can get up-close views of over 6,000 exotic, endangered and native animals in naturalistic habitats. Exhibits, feedings and talks educate guests further.

Visitor Information: The zoo is open daily except Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Standard admission is $22.95 for adults and $17.95 for kids 3-11 years old.

The Houston Zoo located in Hermann Park is home to over 6,000 exotic animals from around the world. Visitors can see big cats, gorillas, rhinos, reptiles, tropical birds and many other unique species. Educational shows and feeding times allow you to learn more about the animals. The zoo has seven main sections – Wortham World of Primates, African Forest, Children’s Zoo, McNair Asian Elephant Habitat, Natural Encounters, Pantanal and the Texas Wetlands. Go for a ride on the Wildlife Carousel, train or treetop ropes course for more family fun at the zoo.

8. iFLY Houston

Name and Location: iFLY Houston is an indoor skydiving entertainment center located at 9550 Spring Green Blvd Suite 400, Katy, TX 77494.

History and Significance: Open since 2013, iFLY uses vertical wind tunnels to simulate true freefall skydiving without having to jump from a plane. It provides fun recreational experiences.

What to Expect: After a training session, visitors don body flight suits, goggles and helmets then step into the 10’ wide vertical wind tunnel to “fly” while instructors assist. Packages allow 1-2 flights.

Visitor Information: iFLY is open daily from 9 AM to 9 PM except major holidays. First time flyer packages start at $74.99 per person. Reservations are recommended especially on weekends.

At iFLY Houston get ready to experience the thrill of skydiving without having to jump out of an airplane. This indoor skydiving venue uses a vertical wind tunnel to let people safely float and fly within the glass chamber. The feeling of free fall as you soar on the smooth cushion of air is exhilarating. No experience is required and after a quick training session, expert instructors accompany you in the wind chamber to ensure your safety. With wind speeds of 120 mph, you’ll be flying high above the ground in no time. It’s fun for all ages making it a popular attraction in Houston.

9. The Orange Show Center for Visionary Art

Name and Location: The Orange Show Center for Visionary Art is located at 2401 Munger St, Houston, TX 77023 in the East End neighborhood.

History and Significance: Created by visionary artist Jeff McKissack over decades, the Orange Show is an expansive folk art environment with mosaic structures, dozens of found object assemblages and more.

What to Expect: Visitors take self-guided tours of the Orange Show’s installations, including the Fruit Wall, Eye Car and Root-beer Can House. The Beer Can House nearby offers more artwork to explore.

Visitor Information: The Orange Show is open Wednesday-Sunday 9 AM to 3 PM with free admission Wednesday-Saturday. Tours cost $5 on “Paid Sundays”. Group tours can be arranged in advance.

The Orange Show is one of Houston’s most unique and quirky attractions. Created by visionary Jeff McKissack over a period of 20 years, this folk art site is made up of colorful mosaics, found objects, sculptures and eccentric designs. McKissack used various everyday items like tiles, mannequins, tractor seats and metal wheels to construct a 3,000 foot labyrinth of outbuildings, sculptures and outdoor art. He created the Orange Show to represent his vision of a health food theme park. Today this monumental artwork is preserved by the Orange Show Center for Visionary Art which works to promote folk and visionary art.

10. Memorial Park

Name and Location: Memorial Park is a 1,500 acre urban park located at 6501 Memorial Dr, Houston, TX 77007 near downtown.

History and Significance: Dedicated in 1924, Memorial Park is Houston’s largest public green space. It serves recreation needs while preserving forests and ecosystems, including the Piney Point village site.

What to Expect: Visitors jog, stroll or bike the park’s trails and roads past amenities like golf courses, tennis courts, a soccer field, a play area and nature sanctuary. Seasonal events occur regularly.

Visitor Information: The park is open daily from dawn to 11 PM. Facilities like golf and tennis require paid use permits. Free public parking is available in lots near Memorial Dr. and Woodway Dr.

Memorial Park is a 1,500 acre green space located in the heart of Houston. Established in 1924, it is roughly twice the size of New York’s Central Park. The park has many recreation facilities like tennis courts, baseball fields, a golf course, a nature center and over 13 miles of hiking and biking trails. A popular paved trail encircles the park and goes past small lakes and forested areas. There is a colonnade at one entrance with fountains honoring soldiers from World War I. Visit the 55-acre Memorial Park Arboretum which has gardens showcasing plants from around the world. The park hosts events like fun runs, music festivals and outdoor movies.

11. Buffalo Bayou Park

Name and Location: Buffalo Bayou Park extends from Shepherd Dr. to Sabine St. along Buffalo Bayou through downtown Houston.

History and Significance: Once neglected industrial space, Buffalo Bayou’s revitalization created a 160-acre ribbon park downtown with hike & bike trails, events and public art installations.

What to Expect: Visitors jog, walk pets, picnic and relax while appreciating native landscaping and skyline views. Special event spaces host concerts, food festivals and holiday activities.

Visitor Information: The park is open daily 5 AM to 11 PM. Parking garages near intersections with Sabine, Allen Pkwy and Memorial offer paid public parking with trail access.

Stretching along Houston’s Buffalo Bayou, this 160-acre greenspace provides visitors with plenty of recreational activities. The park features nature trails, bike paths, boat rentals, playgrounds, a dog park and open lawn spaces. There is an outdoor Cistern venue providing cool relief on hot days that you can explore. At the Wortham Fountain people enjoy the choreographed jets of water shooting up over 60 feet high. Buffalo Bayou Park is also home to many outdoor sculptures and pieces of public art. Visit the park to go paddling on the bayou, have a picnic, walk your dog or take an art stroll.

12. Beer Can House

Name and Location: The Beer Can House is found at 222 Malone St, Houston, TX 77007 in the Houston Heights neighborhood.

History and Significance: Retired upholsterer John Milkovisch spent 18 years covering his house in over 50,000 flattened beer can tops and bottoms, creating a landmark and tourist oddity.

What to Expect: Visitors take self-guided tours to admire the Beer Can House and fully grasp Milkovisch’s intricate aluminum works covering siding, eaves, garages and more in mosaic-style patterns.

Visitor Information: Tours are available Thursday-Sunday for varying admission fees. Advance online tickets are recommended as walk-up entry is limited. Free street parking is available nearby.

An unusual roadside oddity you can visit is the Beer Can House located in the Rice Military neighborhood. This art installation was created in 1968 by John Milkovisch who spent 18 years covering his entire house with flattened beer cans. He meticulously laid out colorful designs using an estimated 50,000 cans over every inch of siding, walls and roof. Aluminum pull-tabs and various bottle caps were also woven into railings and window trims. Although Milkovisch is no longer alive, his beer can masterpiece still stands and can be toured on the weekends. The quirky attraction exemplifies Houston’s characteristic eclecticism.

Conclusion

Houston offers visitors a huge variety of fun and unique attractions to see all year round. From educational museums and historical sites to vibrant parks and family-friendly entertainment, there is something for all interests. Iconic attractions like the Space Center Houston and the Houston Livestock Show provide one-of-a-kind experiences you can only find in Houston. More unconventional sites like the Beer Can House and the Orange Show reveal the city’s eccentric and artistic side. Whether you love art, nature, wildlife, science, or rodeos, Houston has an attraction tailored for you. So come explore the diverse and dynamic city of Houston, with our list of the top 12 attractions you must experience.

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