Cool Places to See and Explore in Houston, Texas
Welcome to Houston, the fourth largest city in the United States. Houston is not only a melting pot of peoples and cultures, but a dynamic community of world class art, food, entertainment and attractions. There are so many cool places to see in Houston, Texas that you might have to extend your trip. Not only can you find family friendly fun, but there are places for art lovers, nature lovers, and history buffs as well.
In this post you will find information on many of the best activities in Houston. As a matter of fact many of theses cool places are also inexpensive or even free to explore.
A note regarding COVID-19 – Due to suggested National and State restrictions over the spread of Coronavirus, many attractions, restaurants, bars, hotels have been temporarily closed or offering restricted hours. Please make sure to check the website, social media and/or call ahead to confirm that the location is open.
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By the way, if you’re ready to visit Houston you can find some of the best rates on Travelocity. Also, be sure to check out the Houston CityPass to get discounted tickets to many of the top attractions. The CityPass can be used at Space Center Houston, Kemah Boardwalk, the Houston Zoo, and the Houston Museum of Natural History. In addition it can also be used at the Museum of Fine Arts and the Houston Children’s Museum. Of course, please check the CityPass website for all the details.
Space Center Houston
Space Center Houston has something for everyone to enjoy. Not only can you explore its space artifacts and interactive exhibits, you will also learn about the human spaceflight program. Some of the things you will see include science and space shows, displays of shuttle launches, and exhibits of space suites. In addition you will have access to Mission Control tours and a Starship Gallery full of artifacts. If you go, be sure to book the 90 minute tram ride. The ride, which is included in the ticket price, will allow you to see some of the space center’s most interesting aspects, including astronauts in training and Mission Control as well. Everyone who visits the Space Center Houston thinks it’s definitely one of the cool places to see here.
Another cool place to visit near Space Center Houston is the Kemah Boardwalk. If you have time maybe spend the evening on the Boardwalk and have a lovely dinner. After that you can enjoy some fun amusement park rides with your friends or family.
Hermann Park is an incredible green oasis just outside of downtown Houston. The park borders several different city neighborhoods, attractions, universities and local institutions, meaning you’ll find plenty of green spaces and amenities that will appeal to all ages. Not only does Hermann Park feature playgrounds, pavilions, picnic areas, lakes, and gardens, but there is also a golf course as well. In addition you will find a railroad ride for kids, pedal boats and numerous trails also. What’s more, the park is also home to the Houston Zoo.
If you’re already exploring Hermann Park, then consider a visit to the Houston Zoo. The zoo features more than 6,000 animals that include elephants, big cats, zebras, reptiles, animals of the African forest, birds and more. There’s even a section devoted to the animals of the Texas wetlands. Children will love the zoo’s interactive kids section ands it will keep them busy for a while. What’s more, the zoo offers special activities like giraffe feedings, a water play park and a 4-D movie experience. The zoo is open from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. everyday except Christmas.
Miller Outdoor Theatre
Also located in Herman Park is the Miller Outdoor Theatre, which is another of the cool places to see in Houston. Miller Outdoor Theatre is a unique and special treat because they offer an eight month season of excellent professional entertainment that is also diverse, not to mention free of charge. Yes, you heard correctly, Miller Outdoor theatre is the largest, always free operation in the country. Classical music, jazz, world music and dance, ballet, Shakespeare, musical theatre, classic films, and more are the types of shows you can enjoy here. Because of the completely free programing and being located outside, makes this a very family friendly activity as well.
Stroll Houston’s Historic Downtown
Downtown Houston has a wonderful historic district to explore. It is definitely one of the cool places to see on your visit as well. Market Square Historic District, City Hall, and the historic 1910 Harris County Courthouse are not to be missed. In addition you may happen upon the old Humble Oil Building, the Icon Hotel, or the Gulf Building as well.
Instagrammable spots are hot on everyone list when visiting a large city. Well Houston has many of these spots, but the beauty and diversity created by some highly talented street artists seems like the best place to start. You can find amazing murals all over the city, but the largest group will be located in Downtown Houston.
Begin with the Houston Graffiti Wall, located at the intersection of Chartres Street and Bell Street. This iconic treasure with all its beautiful colors really speaks to the diversity of the city. From there you can explore more amazing art on St. Emanuel Street and Leeland Street. Of course, please keep in mind that you are in a large urban city, and there may be some areas that are not as desirable as others. That being said, I grew up in Houston and I have spent a lot of time downtown and have never felt terribly unsafe.
If you love to enjoy green space in the heart of a large city then you will love Buffalo Bayou Park. In addition to featuring a skateboarding park, a nature-inspired playground and picnic pavilion, there is a tributary, a dog park and the Houston Police Officers’ Memorial as well. Another interesting find in Buffalo Bayou Park is the Cistern, Houston’s first underground drinking-water reservoir. The Cistern has been converted into an interesting public space and you can sign up to take a guided tour. Tours are available Wednesday through Sunday and cost $7 per person (ages 9 and up), there are also discounts for students, military, and seniors.
Fun fact, the tour for the Cistern is free on Thursdays, but you still need to make a reservation.
The kids will think the Downtown Aquarium is one of the cool places to see in Houston. This awesome six-acre entertainment and dining complex is a 500,000 – gallon aquatic wonderland. It’s not only home to over 300 species of aquatic life, but it features educational, aquatic & geographic exhibits as well. Additionally there are fun amusement rides, dining and shopping to please everyone.
Discovery Green is a small park, but it is packed with amenities for both the young and old. Not only will the kids enjoy the playground and two fountain areas, but there is a putting green, bocce ball courts, picnic lawns and library for everyone to love. Additionally the park features a lake with kayak rides, a jogging trail, a dog park, two restaurants, two performance spaces and multiple promenades as well. Discovery Green is also a free park.
Sam Houston Park
Sam Houston Park is a lovely park located in downtown Houston, Texas. The park, developed in 1900, was the first in the city. The land was purchased by Sam Brashier, a former Mayor of Houston.
The result is a treasure for the city of Houston. Not only will you find buildings representative of many eras, from an 1823 cabin to an 1891 church built by German and Swiss immigrants, but also a mansion built with all the conveniences available in 1905. The buildings tell the stories of how diverse segments of society lived daily, from freed slaves building new lives for themselves to prosperous merchant families from Houston’s early years.
Houston Children Museum
Another of the cool places to see for families with children is the Houston Children Museum. This fun filled museum has interactive exhibits for children of all ages. As a result there are exhibits for toddlers all the way through elementary school. As a matter of fact, this is a wonderful rainy day option or something cool to do during hot Houston summers for families with children. The museum is closed on Mondays and admission is $12 for both kids and adults. You can use the Houston CityPass for discounted admission also.
The Galleria is Houston’s showcase and largest mall. If you’re looking for a little retail therapy, then you will love the Galleria. Not only does the Galleria have over 400 stores, but it also home to hotels, restaurants, a theatre, and a full size indoor ice skating rink as well. In addition, there are beauty salons, tailors, children’s play area, banks and post office.
Gerald D. Hines Waterwall Park
Of course, if you’re looking for great instagram photo locations, there is one located a few blocks behind the Galleria. Gerald D. Hines Waterwall Park is a beautifully crafted, 64-foot Waterwall and a spectacular backdrop for photos. The cascading waterfall – located on all sides of the fountain – is an impressive site to behold. Additionally, the park also occupies a lovely space for kids to run around or for a group picnic.
Houston Museum District
Houston’s Museum District is by far the city’s greatest cultural asset. This district features 19 museums, which include popular spots such as the Houston Museum of Natural Science, the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, The Menil Collection and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. As a matter of fact, about 7 million people visit per year thanks to its diverse array of offerings. Not to mention the fact that admission to 11 of the 19 museums available is free, year-round.
The Beer Can House
The Beer Can House is just one of the quirky cool places to see in Houston, if you have the chance. John Milkovisch, a retired upholsterer for the Southern Pacific Railroad, began transforming the house in 1968. 20 years later, the house lay under a cover of flattened beer cans for both practical and decorative reasons. Even if you can’t tour the house, just stopping by and hearing it sing is worth the time, not to mention a really cool picture.
Art Car Museum
The Art Car Museum, also affectionately known as the “Garage Mahal,” opened in 1998 and features all sorts of automobiles, ranging from low riders and hippie vans to derby racers and police cruisers. You will see cars that are bedazzled, beautifully painted and some that have some very interesting art installations. Not only does the museum have brightly colored cars, it is also home to rotating modern art, photography and sculpture exhibits.
Finally, when you’re ready to head to Houston, check out these great deals here.
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