As America’s fourth-biggest city, Houston offers no shortage of unique attractions. Whether you’re a born-and-raised Houston native or a tourist experiencing Houston for the first time, it’s practically impossible to be bored in this bustling Texan city. Those with lots of money to spare can take advantage of the various wonders of Houston, but the city also offers a plethora of interesting attractions for free, so you can enjoy Houston regardless of your budget. Here are a few awesome things you can do in Houston for free.
1. Sam Houston Boat Tour
Houston offers entirely free 90-minute boat tours around the Houston Ship Channel, complete with historical details provided by an experienced tour guide. This educational tour is 100% free but does require a reservation to join.
2. Waugh Bridge Bat Colony
Hundreds of thousands of bats flying together in an urban metropolis like Houston? It sounds unreal, but it happens nearly every dusk at the Waugh Drive Bridge, which stretches over the Buffalo Bayou. As long as it’s warm enough (roughly above 50 degrees) and not raining, around 250,000 bats emerge every evening.
3. Buffalo Bayou Park
If you’re going to see the bats, why not get to the Buffalo Bayou early and enjoy the park first? Public art dots the 160-acre park along the Buffalo Bayou waterway, with nature and biking trails, a dog park, a skate park, and a children’s play area all available as well.
4. Miller Outdoor Theater
From March to September, Houston’s Miller Outdoor Theater hosts high-quality, entirely free performances every weekend. From musical concerts and beloved musicals to Shakespearian dramas and children’s plays, Miller Outdoor Theater hosts it all, and these performances could easily cost more than $50 elsewhere.
5. Movie Night at Market Square Park
If movies are more your speed, head over to Market Square Park, located in Houston’s Downtown Historic District. At least twice a month, you can catch free nighttime movie screenings at the park—just bring your own blankets and popcorn! The park also hosts daytime events like music festivals and group workouts.
6. Art Car Museum
If you’re looking for a uniquely Houston-esque experience, visit the Houston Art Car Museum, also called the Garage Mahal by some. Car lovers and art lovers alike can enjoy the creative cars on display, lovingly crafted by underrepresented contemporary artists. The exhibits change every few months, so there’s always something new to see, and admission is free.
7. The Menil Collection
The Houston Art Car Museum isn’t the only free museum in town. The Menil Collection, another art museum, showcases ancient and modern art alike, from a wide variety of cultures and time periods. Exhibits change periodically, but admission is always free.
8. Houston Street Art
Houston is a creative city—and its creativity is displayed for all to see on walls around the city. With exquisitely painted wall murals dotting the landscape, Houston locals and tourists alike can enjoy a bona fide art tour without spending a dime. There’s even a mural map available online so you know where to go.
9. Twilight Epiphany Skyspace
For another unique experience, head over to the Rice University campus before sunrise or sunset. James Turell’s art installation, Twilight Epiphany Skyspace, offers a free light show at every sunrise and sunset—arrive 40 minutes before sunrise or 10 minutes before sunset to catch the show, and be dazzled by the lights for around 40 minutes.
10. Gerald D. Hines Waterwall Park
Located in Uptown Houston, the iconic Waterwall makes a perfect stage for unbeatable Instagram shots. This serene installation offers a break from the hustle, bustle, and noise of the big city, complete with a light mist to help beat the Houston heat. It opens at 8 a.m. every day, and you can access it for free.
11. Shri Swaminarayan Mandir
Find India in Houston by visiting the Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Stafford. Now you don’t need to travel halfway across the world to experience a Hindu temple in all its glory. The temple was the first of its kind in North America and is a perfect way to showcase the cultural diversity in Houston. Enjoy the beautiful sights entirely free of charge!
12. Rothko Chapel
Found in Downtown Houston, close to the Menil Collection, is the Rothko Chapel, a non-denominational spiritual center crossed with an art museum. Visitors of all faiths are welcome to enter for free and reflect on the various artworks by abstract expressionist Mark Rothko that line the calming environment of the chapel.
13. Cloud Column
Calling to mind Chicago’s famous Bean sculpture, the Cloud Column, or El Frijole, as some locals know it, is a two-story-tall stainless-steel sculpture by artist Anish Kapoor found in the sculpture garden of the Museum of Fine Arts. It’s a great opportunity for a unique selfie, and you can enjoy a one-of-a-kind upside-down view of surroundings.
These are only a few examples of the marvels Houston has to offer—for free! Naturally, there’s also lots of exciting paid attractions all around Houston as well, but Houston is a city for everyone, regardless of their budget. So, keep your wallet at home and hit the town to make memories that last a lifetime.