Top 12 Best Things to Do in Houston, Texas

Last Updated on February 22, 2024 by Emily Johnson

Houston is the most populous city in Texas and the fourth largest city in the United States. With a vibrant culture, booming economy, and diverse population, Houston has plenty to see and do for both visitors and locals. From world-class museums and performing arts to great outdoors spaces and activities, Houston offers something for everyone.

ActivityDescription
Museum DistrictExplore 19 museums, galleries, and cultural centers.
Theater DistrictAttend performances at nine world-class arts organizations.
Space Center HoustonVisit NASA’s historic control center and exhibits.
Discovery Green ParkEnjoy this 12-acre urban park with art and events.
Historic Homes TourTour homes in Sam Houston Park for 19th-century insights.
The CisternDiscover art in a former underground reservoir.
The GalleriaShop and dine in this large shopping center.
Buffalo Bayou ParkTake in skyline views and outdoor activities.
Food SceneExperience diverse and multicultural dining options.
Minute Maid ParkWatch a Houston Astros baseball game.
Boat TourExplore Houston from its waterways.
NightlifeEnjoy live music, bars, and clubs in various districts.

This article will highlight the top 12 best things to do in Houston, Texas. It covers the city’s top museums, attractions, performing arts scene, parks, and more. Whether you’re planning a weekend getaway or looking for new things to do as a Houston local, this list has you covered on the can’t-miss activities and destinations in H-Town.

1. Visit the Houston Museum District

Name and Location: The Houston Museum District is located in the Montrose neighborhood, about 4 miles southwest of downtown. It contains 19 museums, galleries, cultural centers and institutions.

History and Significance: The Museum District has been an arts, culture and education hub since the 1900s when the Museum of Fine Arts and Houston Museum of Natural Science opened. It continues expanding.

What to Expect: Visitors explore exhibits spanning art, history, culture and science across the District’s museums. Sculptures and artworks display outdoors and cafes, shops and parks offer breaks.

Visitor Information: Most museums close Mondays but open Tuesday-Sunday. Hours vary. Admission ranges from free to $25 per museum. CityPASS bundles tickets.

Houston’s Museum District is home to some of the best museums in Texas and the entire country. Located just south of downtown, the district spans 1400 acres and is home to 19 museums, galleries, cultural centers, and community organizations.

Some of the top museums in the district include:

  • Museum of Fine Arts, Houston – With a collection of over 65,000 works, the MFAH covers art from ancient times to the present. Don’t miss seeing masterpieces from Monet, Van Gogh, and more.
  • The Menil Collection – Focusing on surrealism and modern & contemporary art, the Menil hosts works from artists like Magritte, Warhol, and Rothko. The campus also includes the Rothko Chapel.
  • Houston Museum of Natural Science – Dig into dinosaur fossils, gems & minerals, astronomy exhibits, and more at this massive science museum.
  • Children’s Museum of Houston – From hands-on interactive exhibits to outdoor playgrounds, this museum is perfect for kids and families.

With so many museums close together, it’s easy to spend a full day (or more) exploring the Houston Museum District.

2. Attend a Performance at the Theater District

Name and Location: Houston’s Theater District encompasses 17 blocks in downtown Houston with 9 performing arts organizations. Venues seat from 500 to 2,400 guests.

History and Significance: Formed in the 1970s, the Theater District is America’s second-largest by number of theater seats. From Broadway tours to resident companies, it hosts diverse talent.

What to Expect: Fans enjoy musicals, plays, operas, ballets, concerts and comedy shows in the District’s historic, modern and adaptive reuse venues. Dining and nightlife options are all within walking distance.

Visitor Information: Showtimes vary by company and performance. Ticket prices range widely but discounts are often available. Public parking garages provide paid parking nearby.

Houston’s 17-block Theater District is home to nine world-class performing arts organizations. Catch a play at the Alley Theatre, see an opera with the Houston Grand Opera, or watch ballet at the Houston Ballet.

The district truly has something for all tastes – in addition to theater, opera, and ballet, you can see orchestral performances by the Houston Symphony, musical theater at Theatre Under the Stars, and more. Many of the theaters in the district have gone through recent renovations and feature stunning architecture.

Spend an evening catching a show in the Theater District, then head to any of the nearby restaurants for a post-show dinner in downtown. With so many theaters close together, you can easily see multiple shows over a single weekend.

3. Tour the Houston Space Center

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

History and Significance: Open since 1992, Space Center Houston serves as the official visitor center for the Johnson Space Center, showcasing past and future human space flight.

What to Expect: Guests can tour NASA facilities, view space artifacts and rocket displays, interact with astronauts, and engage in educational space-themed activities.

Visitor Information: Space Center Houston is open daily except Thanksgiving and Christmas. Tickets start at $29.95 for adults. Extended tours available at added cost.

Houston is proud to call itself Space City, as it’s home to NASA’s Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center. Visit the space center to see NASA’s historic Mission Control Center, go inside a life-size replica shuttle, and touch an actual moon rock.

Guests can take tram tours of the center, view the giant Saturn V rocket, and watch films about NASA’s space exploration. One of the Space Center’s newest exhibits is the Independence Plaza, where visitors can walk inside a shuttle mounted on top of a Boeing 747 aircraft.

The Space Center makes for an ideal family-friendly activity – kids will love sitting in mission control chairs, “landing” shuttles in simulators, and seeing real-life astronauts. Beyond the indoor exhibits, you can have lunch with a view of Rocket Park’s towering Saturn V rocket.

4. Stroll through Discovery Green Park

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

History and Significance: Opened in 2008, Discovery Green park helped catalyze downtown redevelopment. Its amenities and events have made it Houston’s most popular gathering spot.

What to Expect: Visitors enjoy free concerts, films, fitness activities and art installations. Other features include playgrounds, dog runs, restaurants, outdoor games and ice skating.

Visitor Information: The park is open daily 6 AM to 11 PM with free admission. Some areas may close temporarily for special events. Nearby parking garages offer paid parking.

Right in the heart of downtown Houston, Discovery Green is a 12-acre urban park that’s become a community hub since opening in 2008. With beautiful landscaping, interactive art installations, restaurants, performance spaces, and recreational areas, the park is the perfect place for a stroll on any visit.

Some of the top highlights at Discovery Green include the kid-friendly Gateway Fountain, concerts and events at the Jones Lawn, art at the Gus Wortham Fountain, and places to grab food like The Grove and The Lake House. Locals love attending free yoga and Pilates in the park, free live music on weekends, movie nights, and other community programming.

The park also hosts larger events throughout the year like New Year’s Eve and Fourth of July celebrations. Whether you play at the park’s playgrounds, read in a hammock garden, or explore the various public art pieces, Discovery Green is a must-do on any Houston itinerary.

5. Tour Historic Homes in Sam Houston Park

Name and Location: Sam Houston Park in downtown Houston preserves nine historic homes and buildings at 1100 Bagby St dating from 1823 to 1905.

History and Significance: Created in 1899, it was one of Texas’s first urban parks. The restored houses and replicas provide insights into Houston’s early days and architectural development.

What to Expect: Visitors take self-guided walking tours of the park’s museums and homes examining antique furnishings and early Texas lifestyle exhibits. Docent-led tours may be arranged.

Visitor Information: The park is open daily 7 AM to 6 PM with free admission. Tours are first come, first served. Free street parking surrounds the small urban park.

Located downtown, Sam Houston Park provides a unique glimpse into Houston’s 19th century history. The park contains nine historic homes and buildings that have been relocated and restored to resemble Houston in the 1800s.

Wander through the Kellum-Noble House, an 1850s Greek revival home, or tour the Staiti House, an original Houston boarding house built in 1903. Costumed guides provide information about each building and details about what life was like during Houston’s early days.

In addition to the historic houses, the park has acres of oak trees, a museum, old-fashioned general store, and Heritage Garden. After your house tours, grab a bite to eat at the Smither’s Cafeteria and Delicatessen located in a 1920s church. With its beautiful buildings and gardens, Sam Houston Park is one of the most unique attractions in Houston.

6. Explore the Cistern

Name and Location: The Houston Cistern is a repurposed 87,500-square-foot underground reservoir located across from City Hall at 105 Sabine St, Houston.

History and Significance: Built in 1926 then unused for decades, the Cistern was renovated into an intriguing art and event space displaying ingenious lighting and reflective columns.

What to Expect: Visitors descend winding ramps into the vast chamber with visiting art installations and enlightening facts about Houston’s history with drainage and water supply infrastructure.

Visitor Information: The Cistern offers 45-minute guided walking tours Wednesday-Sunday for $10-15 per person. Advance reservations are required via the website.

The Cistern is a former underground reservoir that once supplied water to Houston. Built in 1926, the 87,500-square-foot space features 221 concrete columns holding up a flat slab roof. Although it was decommissioned in 2007, the Cistern was transformed into an art space that allows visitors to wander through its dramatic and cavernous interior.

The Cistern’s main attraction is its ever-changing display of site-specific art installations. Past exhibits have included 80 brightly lit, 10-foot tall orbs and a field of repurposed steel petals that open and close. The spare, industrial space provides an amazing backdrop for the modern and immersive artworks.

Time your visit during the day to see shafts of sunlight streaming down through the skylights between the concrete columns. The Cistern is one of Houston’s newer and lesser-known attractions, offering an underground art experience unlike any other.

7. Browse the Galleria

Name and Location: The Galleria Houston is an upscale shopping complex located at 5085 Westheimer Rd in the Uptown District, housing over 375 stores and restaurants.

History and Significance: Opened in 1970, the Galleria pioneered the modern mixed-use shopping mall concept combining retail, dining, offices, hotels and entertainment. It still thrives today.

What to Expect: Shoppers will find luxury brands, high-end fashion, one-of-a-kind architecture like the dramatic atrium and central ice rink, and diverse dining options.

Visitor Information: The Galleria is open daily with hours from 10 AM to 9 PM Monday to Saturday and 11 AM to 7 PM Sundays. Paid parking is available in attached garages and lots.

You can’t visit Houston and not spend time at the gigantic Galleria complex. This upscale shopping center includes over 375 stores, restaurants, hotels, and attractions all under one roof.

Browse luxury retailers like Gucci, Louis Vuitton, and Tiffany & Co. in the Galleria mall or visit the flagship Houston locations for shops like Pottery Barn and Williams-Sonoma. When it’s time for a meal, choose from sit-down restaurants like Del Frisco’s, Shake Shack, and Nobu.

The Galleria also has an indoor ice rink, a vibrant atrium perfect for people watching, and attractions like the Galleria Climbing Wall and Aquarium Pyramid. When the weather is nice, shop and dine al fresco in the Galleria’s outdoor area. With so much to do in one place, the iconic Galleria is a Houston must-visit.

8. Take in the Skyline Views from Buffalo Bayou Park

Name and Location: Buffalo Bayou Park extends along Buffalo Bayou for 160 acres from Shepherd Dr. to Sabine St., overlooked by downtown Houston.

History and Significance: Once untended land, Buffalo Bayou’s redevelopment created a ribbon park downtown with trails, event spaces, native landscaping and art installations to appreciate.

What to Expect: Joggers, cyclists, families and sightseers enjoy skyline views and amenities like picnic areas, play spaces, lighting displays and water features throughout the park.

Visitor Information: The park is open daily 5 AM to 11 PM. Nearby intersections have parking garages charging hourly rates with park and trail access.

Buffalo Bayou Park is a 160-acre green space that follows the winding Buffalo Bayou west of downtown Houston. The park is best known for its hiking, biking, and jogging trails that offer skyline views of Houston’s towering skyscrapers.

Rent kayaks and canoes, walk through sculpture and art installations, check out the historic Cistern, climb the observation tower at the Waugh Bridge Bat Colony, or stay active at one of the park’s playgrounds or workout stations. The park also hosts events and festivals throughout the year and has many restaurants and breweries along its trails.

Buffalo Bayou Park demonstrates Houston’s recent honing of its green spaces and is considered one of the best urban parks in the country.

9. Explore Houston’s Food Scene

Name and Location: Houston’s dining scene encompasses the city, with concentrations of restaurants downtown and in Midtown, Montrose/Neartown, Chinatown, Little Saigon and more.

History and Significance: Houston is one of America’s most diverse cities, reflected by regional American and global cuisine from top chefs. Everything from barbecue to banh mi to molecular gastronomy delights visitors.

What to Expect: Foodies find dizzying arrays of pho shops, Brazilian steakhouses, modern Mexican cantinas, seafood raw bars, Indo-Pak grill houses, craft brewpubs, Acadian bakeries, farm-to-table kitchens and food halls citywide.

Visitor Information: Most restaurants are affordably priced with better quality found inside Loop 610. Attire and opening times vary. Reserving tables, especially for weekend dining, ensures you’ll be well-fed.

Houston is a diverse, multicultural city – and you’ll find some of the country’s best eats here. From Tex-Mex and BBQ to Vietnamese and Indian food, Houston’s incredible food scene reflects the city’s cultural fabric.

Indulge in Tex-Mex favorites like fajitas and margaritas on one of Houston’s famous patios. Dig into classic Texas barbecue at spots like Killen’s, Pinkerton’s, or The Pit Room to taste brisket, sausage, pork ribs, and more.

Houston’s huge Vietnamese community means pho and banh mi shops are plentiful. Take your pick between French, African, Indian, Chinese, and other global cuisines. And be sure to sample local treats like kolaches and tacos al pastor. Don’t miss hitting up food trucks and Instagram-worthy dessert shops too.

Food tours, festivals like the Houston Barbecue Festival, and neighborhood restaurant crawls are great ways to explore Houston’s cuisine.

10. Catch a Baseball Game at Minute Maid Park

Name and Location: Minute Maid Park is located at 501 Crawford St in downtown Houston and serves as the home of Major League Baseball’s Houston Astros.

History and Significance: Opened in 2000 to replace the Astrodome, Minute Maid Park helped reenergize downtown with its easily accessible location, family-friendly amenities and retractable roof.

What to Expect: Baseball fans will find an immersive experience catching Astros games in comfortable seating while enjoying concessions, entertainment, fireworks nights and a lively atmosphere.

Visitor Information: The regular MLB season runs from April into October. Tickets start around $30 with street parking $10-20. Public transit and rideshares provide other access options.

Houston Astros fans are some of the most loyal in Major League Baseball. Catch the Astros play a home game at Minute Maid Park downtown. The classic ballpark opened in 2000 and seats over 41,000 fans.

From the neon lights and old train over the left field wall to the stadium’s retractable roof, Minute Maid Park offers state-of-the-art amenities alongside retro baseball charm. Arrive early to take in the atmosphere, get autographs during batting practice, and sample some of the park’s tasty food offerings.

During the game, fans are kept entertained with games on the jumbotron, miniature train rides, fireworks displays, and fun between-inning activities. Whether you’re a die-hard Astros fan or just enjoy the excitement of MLB games, Minute Maid Park is a top destination when visiting Houston.

11. Tour Houston By Boat

Name and Location: Boat tours cruise along downtown Houston’s Buffalo Bayou waterway and Houston Ship Channel providing unique vantages of the city’s attractions.

History and Significance: Tour boats have offered sightseeing adventures and dining cruises around Houston for over 20 years, taking advantage of the bayous threading through the metropolis.

What to Expect: Passengers enjoy air-conditioned trips with live narration highlighting skyscrapers, bridges, parks and more along Houston’s intricate canal system. Lunch/dinner options provide added value.

Visitor Information: Tours last 1-1.5 hours with tickets $10-100 depending on cruise type. Most boats depart from Allen’s Landing downtown with year-round schedules. Reservations advised.

One of the most unique ways to experience Houston is from its various waterways. Boat tours are available along the downtown Buffalo Bayou, the Houston Ship Channel, and on scenic Lake Houston.

Buffalo Bayou tours drift beneath bridges and skyscrapers, giving you views of the Houston skyline you can’t see anywhere else. Narrated tours of the Houston Ship Channel provide insights about the critical shipping port and the nearby industrial complexes. For something more laidback, hop aboard a lake cruise on Lake Houston to see waterside parks, homes, and wilderness areas.

Many tour companies even offer dining and entertainment options, like brunch cruises, dinner cruises with live music, and Fourth of July fireworks celebrations. Boating down the bayous, lakes, and waterways shows a whole different side of Houston.

12. Experience Houston Nightlife

Name and Location: Houston’s nightlife spans dining, bars and nightclubs found downtown, Midtown, Washington Ave corridor, Montrose and Rice Village neighborhoods.

History and Significance: Known for its friendly people and “no zoned” vibrancy, Houston offers eclectic after-dark entertainment from country western to EDM dance clubs suiting any mood or style.

What to Expect: Patrons find sophiticated cocktail lounges, laidback icehouses, vibrant LGBTQ+ venues, urban dance floors playing latest hip hop hits, neon-lit Asian karaoke joints, salsa dance clubs and more as Houston nights unfold.

Visitor Information: Most clubs open at 9 PM with closing times between 2-4 AM. Attire varies from casual brewpubs to upscale dress codes. Rideshare services provide safe transportation between areas.

When the sun goes down in Houston, the nightlife heats up. Houstonians love to let loose and have fun at the city’s array of live music venues, hip bars, and clubs. For live music, make your way over to House of Blues, Warehouse Live, The Heights Theater, and other local venues to hear local and big-name acts perform.

Downtown Houston has an ever-growing nightlife scene, especially along Main Street. There you’ll find fun bars like OKRA Charity Saloon, La Carafe, and Little Dipper. For a lively club atmosphere complete with dancing and DJs, Washington Avenue is the place to be. EaDo (East Downtown) is also home to popular cocktail bars and breweries like Chapman & Kirby, Truckyard, and True Anomaly Brewing.

Whatever you’re in the mood for, Houston has a fantastic variety of nightlife options for visitors and locals every night of the week.

Conclusion

With world-class museums, arts, sports, and dining plus unique attractions and green spaces, Houston offers endless opportunities for fun and exploration. From family-friendly sites to once-in-a-lifetime activities, this list of the top 12 things to do provides a great itinerary for experiencing the best of H-Town. Whether you spend a weekend or whole weeks visiting Houston, you’ll find incredible culture, cuisine, and character around every corner.

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