While it can certainly be a struggle to find something that is as fun as it is inexpensive, especially in larger cities, Houston has numerous offerings that are free of charge. Below are just five great activities to try, but in addition to this short list, many museums and area attractions offer at least one free admission day each year.
This park is an all-inclusive downtown getaway that certain gives Central Park a run for its money. And considering that the vast majority of this outdoor center’s offerings are free of charge, it’s an absolute must-see for tourists and residents alike. The Discovery Green has events happening seemingly every single day, and seasonal activities that are fun for everyone. At minimum it’s a beautiful park to simply walk around the lake shores, jogging trails, and outdoor promenades.
However, the park also offers many art installations, outdoor splash parks and fountains, picnic lawns, live free concerts throughout the year, and inexpensive seasonal equipment rentals. And considering that the park has two dining options and even a dog park, it would be an easy place to bring the kids or your date for a fun filled day on a bargain.
Sam Houston Boat Tour
Unlike many free tours offered, this is a 90-minute tour on a moving boat that takes passengers around the Houston Ship Canal, one the nation’s busiest international cargo shipping docks. Tuesday through Sunday, this hour and half free tour is given at least once each day, and free drinks are provided to those lucky enough to score a reservation. If you’re worried about getting a little too much heat, the inside of the seated viewing area is air conditioned. If you love being on the water, have in interest in history or industry, or just like taking tours, this is a great option for your group. Just be sure to call ahead and claim a spot, as well as confirm that the tour will be taking place.
WWII Aircraft Museum – Commemorative Air Force Houston Wing
The local chapter of the Commemorative Air Force offers many special events throughout the year. However, one of the most accessible things they offer to the public is free access to their museum every first and third Saturday of every month from 10 am to 3 pm. In the museum’s hangar you’ll find real aircraft used in the wars that guests can even climb into the cockpits of. Inside the museum proper you’ll find real memorabilia from World War II depicting the daily struggles of not just our brave armed forces, but information about the German and Japanese forces as well. With larger groups, a reserved tour can be scheduled in advance with a knowledgeable tour guide, which will run about two hours.
Unlike other major metropolitan cities, Houston has spent a lot of effort into creating natural outdoor spaces. Buffalo Bayou is another large, free-to-access park that has many offerings to enjoy. At night, 250,000 bats fly from the Waugh Bridge and can be seen every single evening, weather permitting. Buffalo Bayou is home to hiking and biking trails that go around the entire perimeter, as well as through the park. You’ll also find art sculptures, a 30,000 square foot skate park, a dog park, fountains, special events, and the final resting place of Howard Hughes, the publicly accessible Glenwood Cemetery. If you enjoyed Discovery Green but are left wanting a more traditional public park, this is your next stop.
First of all, the one catch this offering; while it is a free event that takes place six days every single week, seats are limited to 120 visitors each night with only two levels of benches. Reservations absolutely must be made in advance before visiting this art installation.
While the structure is a permanent addition to Rice University and can certainly be viewed all day for no additional cost, it’s the evenings’ 40-minute show that draws a crowd. Twilight Epiphany is a part of a larger international art installation, being structure number 73 in a larger art project. This small outdoor space uses minimal architecture, LED lighting, and hidden acoustic speakers to provide a nightly show celebrating the natural sunset or, if you’re an art and nature enthusiast that prefers to catch the worm, the sunrise.
So now, are you ready for Houston?