Things to Do in Houston
Space Center Houston, the official visitor center of NASA’s Johnson Space Center, offers visitors some out-of-this-world experiences. Watch astronauts train for missions, touch a real moon rock, and tour NASA’s control center. Anyone with an interest in aeronautics and space will appreciate Space Center Houston’s interactive exhibits, presentations, and attractions that dive into the past, present, and future of our universe.
Located in Houston’s sprawling Hermann Park, Houston Museum of Natural Science features four floors of exhibit halls; a planetarium; giant-screen theater; and a butterfly center. The museum is known for its stellar lineup of special exhibitions, which cover topics far beyond the scope of traditional natural science.
Houston’s Downtown Aquarium is a fun and educational attraction, especially for families. Children can get up close and personal with more than 200 types of underwater creatures, including myriad fish, eels, rays in a touch tank, sharks, and white tigers. Kids also love the amusement rides and dining in the underwater aquarium restaurant.
Located in Hermann Park, the 55-acre (22-hectare) Houston Zoo is home to more than 6,000 animals that span hundreds of species. Spacious enclosures, educational activities, and seasonal events have earned Houston Zoo the accolade of one of the US’ most-visited zoos.
Houston residents love their Astros—and they also love their park. Ever since 2000 when the stadium opened to immediately rave reviews, Minute Maid Park has been one America’s most loved park’s for baseball. Hitters love how the left field wall is only 315 feet away, and fielders love how natural grass is used instead of turf. Spectators love how the retractable roof can create the ideal conditions, as well the train that chugs on the tracks with every Astros home run. In a nod to the city’s railroad history, part of the park has incorporated the historic Union Station, which now serves as the park’s main entrance adjacent to the left field wall. During days when there isn’t an Astros home game, visitors can enjoy a tour of the park that includes the broadcasting booth, press box, luxury suites, dugout, and historic Union Station. Or, if it’s a day when Houston is gearing up to cheer for their hometown team, there are 40,963 seats if you’d like to purchase a couple of tickets and be an Astros fan for a day.
Set in the heart of downtown Houston at the site of the city’s original founding, Market Square Park is the greenest, hippest, and most historic square block in town. The urban park is popular with picnickers, cyclists, and anyone looking for quiet reflection in the middle of the bustling city.
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH) displays some 6,000 years of art history through a collection of nearly 70,000 works from six continents—one of the largest museums in the United States. The collection is spread across seven facilities plus two nearby house museums showcasing the decorative arts.
Whether carrying out science experiments, discovering foreign cultures, or constructing elaborate LEGO inventions—kids will be in their element at the Children's Museum of Houston. Designed as a ‘Playground for the Mind’, the museum focuses on child-centered learning through hands-on workshops, interactive exhibitions, and fun activities.
If "everything is bigger in Texas," JPMorganChase Tower in central Houston is no exception. This skyscraper stands 75 stories tall and tops out at just over 1,000 feet (305 meters), making it the tallest building in Texas. It boasts a unique five-sided design, built with expansive 85-foot-wide (26-meter) glass, and serves as a Houston icon.
Texas has a history as long as fascinating as the United States itself, and Sam Houston Park is where history and green space combine in the heart of Houston. Established back in 1900, Sam Houston Park is not only the oldest park in the Houston, but also a time portal to the 1800s when the city was first being founded. Wander past the Kellum Noble house that dates to 1847, and is believed to be the oldest brick house in the entire Houston area. Even older is the Old Place Cabin that dates to 1823, and was relocated to the park to join the collection of preserved, historic buildings. Credit for all of the preservation can be attributed to the Heritage Society—a group that was founded in 1954 to preserve the city’s heritage. If visiting the park in the middle of the day, stop in to the The Heritage Society Museum for a look at artifacts and memorabilia from Houston’s lengthy past. The museum is modeled after a 19th-century, small-town general store, and tells the story of how the largest city in Texas started from small town roots.
More Things to Do in Houston
The town of Kemah sits on the shore of Galveston Bay on the Gulf Coast of Texas, and its boardwalk is one of its main attractions.
Built in 1999, the Kemah Boardwalk is an entertainment and amusement park right on Galveston Bay. The boardwalk transformed what was once a small fishing community into a popular tourist destination. The town is considered part of the “greater Houston area,” as it's just 20 miles east of the big city, but it's a popular draw for visitors from elsewhere in Texas, too.
The Kemah Boardwalk features 15 different amusement park rides – including a 96-foot-tall roller coaster, a 140-foot free fall ride, a zip-line over the boardwalk, a double-decker carousel, and a 65-foot Ferris wheel. You can also take speedboat trips into the bay, and visit the Stingray Reef to touch and feed live stingrays.
Whether you want to delve into World War II history, admire contemporary art masterpieces, or spot lions and elephants at Houston Zoo—the Houston Museum District has something to suit all ages and interests. The district is home to 19 museums, galleries, and cultural centers, linked by tree-lined boulevards and leafy parks.
Marking the southern border of Houston’s Museum District, Hermann Park offers 445 acres (180 hectares) of urban parklands just minutes from downtown. With a lake, golf course, gardens, and plenty of space for outdoor activities, the park is an idyllic spot for city dwellers to escape the crowds or spread out a picnic blanket.
The signature weather of Houston is something to write home about – it’s hot. Really hot in the summer, and as Houston is a do-something city, the powers that be decided to do something about it – they built the Houston Downtown Tunnels. A series of interconnected and, bless them, air-conditioned tunnels running 20 feet below the surface of the street, the Downtown Tunnels connect restaurants, shops and office buildings and provide some much-needed respite from the Houston heat. A feat of engineering that connects 95 city blocks, the tunnels themselves are an attraction for the Houston visitor.
While you might expect a city of two million people to offer a downtown scene full of bustling people, you may find Houston’s streets oddly deserted – but that’s just because the real life of the downtown scene is happening underground. See it for yourself, and enjoy one of the most unique attractions in the entire southwest.
Since Houston is known as “Space City” for its affiliation with NASA, it only makes sense that a downtown park commemorates the day that U.S. astronauts first landed on the moon. Named after the lunar Sea of Tranquility—a basaltic plain on the surface of the moon where the Apollo astronauts landed—the park today features a replica of a footprint that Neil Armstrong left on the moon.
The first words that the astronaut transmitted from up there are posted in 15 languages, so nearly everyone who visits can read the phrase: “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The eagle has landed.” Most impressive is the park’s fountain, which is designed in large, cylindrical formations to resemble the rocket boosters used on Apollo to get the men to the moon. The park also features craters and mounds meant to mimic the moon’s topography. Although, all lunar connections aside, this is a peaceful place for a pensive moment in the middle of bustling, downtown Houston, just steps from City Hall.
A prime example of southwestern architecture of the late 1930s, Houston’s City Hall was built to house the local government and state officials who do business within the city of Houston – but its long history doesn’t stop there. Originally built above a crowded fish market, City Hall has always entertained a lively commercial market, and today the towering structure sits relatively small among downtown's massive skyscrapers. Remnants of that long and lively history can be seen at the City Hall Farmers' Market located just outside the City Hall Reflecting Pool on Wednesdays in the spring from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., where local farmers sell everything from coffee to broccoli.
Inside Houston City Hall you’ll find various notable items all harkening back to the great lawgivers that came before us. From the aluminum medallions featuring Julius Caesar, Moses, Charlemagne, Thomas Jefferson and more, to the great marble stairways and specially cast aluminum doors, City Hall is both a step back in time and a contemporary look at modern law making.
Some 23,500 gallons of water per minute gush over a silver semicircular 64-foot (20-meter) wall known as the Williams Waterwall. The sculptural fountain sits in Gerald D. Hines Waterwall Park, a 3-acre (1.2-hectare) green area shaded by more than 100 Texas live oak trees. It’s become a popular backdrop for both Houston locals and tourists.
Housed in an imposing concrete building at the heart of Houston’s Museum District, the Holocaust Museum Houston is dedicated to the six million victims of the Holocaust. Reopened after extension renovations in 2019, its focus is to educate visitors about the Holocaust, honor the legacy of the victims and survivors, and offer hope for the future.
When you think of theater in the United States what cities come to mind? New York? LA? Chicago? Vegas? Maybe Washington DC? While all those cities definitely share an abundance of performing arts, it’s actually Houston that has the most second-most theater seats of any city in the country. In fact, between the 12,948 seats for live theater performances and the 1,580 movie seats that are also in the city’s theater district, there are enough seats to treat 89% of Texas towns to a show.
By every professional and statistical measure, Houston’s theater district is one the world’s most culturally rich destinations. Ballet, music, theater, and opera all have permanent, professional companies, and the actors, musicians, dancers and performers are among the best in the world. When visiting Houston’s theater district, enjoy a play at the Alley Theater, a longtime Houston icon. Or treat yourself to the sounds of a Symphony that was founded in 1913. The Houston Opera has won countless awards including a Tony, two Emmys, and two Grammys, and the Houston Ballet is the fifth largest company in the United States. Combined with the wealth of dining options within walking distance of the shows, the Houston Theater District is the ultimate night out for culture, food, and the arts.
Got expensive taste but limited budget? This is where Tanget Outlets come in. The real estate company has a branch just south of Houston and is committed to bringing its customers the best shopping experience possible by offering the best deals from preferred designers and brand-name stores, through strategic alliances with brands such as: Liz Claiborne, Gap, Banana Republic, Old Navy, Polo Ralph Lauren, Reebok, Tommy Hilfiger, Nautica, Abercrombie & Fitch, Hollister, Eddie Bauer, Brooks Brothers and Nike. Originally founded in North Carolina in 1981, Tanger Outlets have now spread to 24 states as well as Canada. The company currently owns 46 outlet centers across North America and attracts over 185 million bargain hunters every year.
The Wells Fargo skyscraper has won awards for its design—twice. Not only a designer’s masterpiece, Wells Fargo Plaza is also the tallest all-glass tower in the western hemisphere, the 16th tallest building in the U.S. and the second tallest building in Houston, making it one of the highlights of modern American skyscraper architecture. Its unique construction offers visitors to Houston an unparalleled look at the city's fabulous skyline, and from high atop one of the plaza’s two sky lobbies, one can see all of Houston.
Outlaid with fine Italian marble, stainless steel and glass, the Wells Fargo Plaza is an inimitable take on the modern skyscraper and one stop your visit to Houston shouldn’t be without. Connected to the famous Downtown Houston Tunnels, the Wells Fargo Plaza building encompasses an entire city block and features the area’s only sunken plaza.
Just minutes from the city but seemingly ages away, the Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens is a 14 acre estate that serves as part of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Once owned by Houston philanthropist Ina Hogg, the striking house is surrounded by beautiful gardens and manicured hedges and welcomes visitors year-round. Several ornamental gardens showcase both a classical attention to detail and an integration with the natural, wild woodlands. Many of the individual gardens are in fact named for a classical statue of a goddess within.
The house itself reflects changes in American architecture and style from the colonial to the Victorian era. It demonstrates both Southern/Spanish Creole and Northern influences in design. Inside, the stately collection of antiques furnishings, ceramics, paintings, textiles, and silver is one of the finest in the country. Nearly 5,000 objects on display collectively tell the story of American decorative arts from 1620 to 1870.
Experience life on a 19th-century Texan ranch at the George Ranch Historical Park, a living history museum set around a 20,000-acre (8,094-hectare) family ranch. The interactive visits are great fun for all ages, as you explore historic buildings, watch the ranchers at work, and see the livestock.
The Health Museum in Houston is an interactive learning center focused on health, medical science, and the human body. Visitors can tour a larger-than-life version of the human body, learn about the global food system, get an up close look at cellular biology, or see a film in the McGovern Theater.
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