As a lifelong Houstonian, I have heard the phrase “everything fun to do here is so expensive” many times in my life. While it may feel that way when seeing people post their adventures on Instagram or Snapchat, I’m here to tell you that is not the case.
This list features some of my favorite free or low-budget activities around Houston, along with new experiences I’ll be trying this summer.
Visit Hermann Park
This park isn’t just your average greenery and trail, the amount of things to do here is surprising.
If you enjoy stopping to smell the roses, head over to the McGovern Centennial Gardens or the Japanese gardens for a relaxing walk. If you prefer the water, pedal boat rental is $12 and you can take in the views from McGovern Lake with up to three other people.
Enjoy a change of scenery during mealtime by having a picnic on the lawn with a buddy.
The Miller Outdoor Theatre offers free music, dance, films and many other shows to the public.
Head to the zoo
All UH students get free entry to the Houston Zoo as long as they present their student ID. If you don’t have one, entry is free for everyone on the first Tuesday of the month.
Once you’re there, make sure you visit Shasta for some good luck. As of now, tickets are not being sold at the gate and you must buy them online in advance.
Attend an Astros game
There’s nothing like a baseball game in the summer.
A nosebleed ticket to the game is usually around $20 if you want to go just for the vibes. If you want a better view, scope out the seats in the lower sections and try asking around or checking online to see if those belong to anyone.
Go to Buffalo Bayou Park
Underneath Eleanor Tinsley Park sits the old Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern. This massive underground structure used to hold water, but is now just a piece of really pretty history. The cistern tour is something people don’t often think about when looking for something to do around Houston.
The first Thursday of the month is free, and students can get $2 off the $10 tour any other day. If you have already visited or would like to walk around at your own pace, the self-guided tour is $8 and students also get $2 off this ticket.
Right next to the cistern is the Lee and Joe Jamail Skatepark, which is fun to skate in and people watch.
This park is one of the most popular parks in Houston, and for good reason. The view from here is amazing. You have to watch the sunset or sunrise behind the skyline one day.
Explore The Menil Collection
The main gallery plus four additional buildings give you many different works of art to enjoy.
If you have already visited, the artwork is often rotated so you may see something new the next time around. Enjoy the sun and green areas in between visiting the different buildings at Menil Park. The area is popular for picnics.
Get a drink at Truck Yard
Truck Yard has everything for you to enjoy a night out with friends. The bar is known for their ferris wheel, but it also has a karaoke area and is dog friendly.
Every day a food truck will be on-site to provide you with some fuel, and if the food truck doesn’t meet your taste, they have a Philly cheesesteak restaurant in the bar, and there are plenty of good food options steps away outside of Truck Yard. To go along with your meal, a wide variety of wine, draft beer and cocktails are available.
Thursday through Sunday the bar has live music.
Discover murals and graffiti
The Houston Graffiti Park on the corner of Leeland and Emmanual features buildings covered in artwork.
The graffiti park is a great way to enjoy local art and snap pictures. Using the Houston Mural Map website, create your own tour and find out who the artist behind the work is.
Do a scavenger hunt
A guide from Houstonia Magazine takes you around Harris County to discover unique sites.
Websites such as Scavenger Hunt offer hunts that are more interactive, but they do require a payment to play.
Wander the Houston Farmers Market
Support local vendors at this 18-acre market. Here you can shop produce, plants and meats.
If you get hungry while shopping, Underbelly Burger serves burgers using meat from the butcher shop next door.
Poke around the National Museum of Funerals
For just $10 you can visit America’s largest collection of funeral objects.
Here you will learn about the history of funerals along with the funerals of famous people. With 16 permanent exhibits and over 30,500 sq. feet of space, you will definitely learn something new on your visit.
See the stars at George Observatory
The observatory is a bit of a drive, but it’s totally worth it for the experience. Located in Brazos Bend State Park, the George Observatory is part of the Houston Museum of Natural Science.
Every Saturday there are three time slots for stargazing. 8 p.m., 9 p.m. and 10 p.m.
Tickets cannot be purchased onsite. You must purchase tickets in advance online.
Visit Market Square Park
Located in downtown Houston, you can enjoy free events at Market Square Park throughout the summer.
On various Fridays throughout the month, bring your blanket or a chair and watch some classic movies. You can also enjoy live music with the park’s Road to River Revival Music Fest on May 21.
Explore Galveston Island State Park
This is the perfect way to get away from the city and enjoy the island.
Utilize the pond, bay or surf to have a day of fishing. If you’re interested you can also attend a ranger program and learn about the plants and wildlife on the island. There are also four miles of hike and bike paths you can explore around the park.
Discover Galveston beaches
Galveston has a ton of free beaches, and some you have to pay to go to.
You can bring your own or rent out a surfboard or bodyboard and catch some waves.If waves are limited when you visit, bring a beach pail and see how big of a sandcastle you can build.
Use the calming noise of the environment and catch up on some reading, sleep or enjoy a relaxing tan.
There are a ton of things you can do in and around Houston. Stop saying, “there’s nothing to do in Houston.”