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Growing up outside of the city, I was excited to have the opportunity to go out and do things in the loop. Unfortunately, with all that fun came an empty bank account. After a year in Houston, I discovered not every Saturday out has to leave me without a coffee budget for the week. Here are 10 fun things to do for free while in town. 

Miller Outdoor Theatre

The Miller Outdoor Theatre, open from Mar. to Nov., is an always-entertaining space great for a picnic (and a show) with friends. Everything they host is ALWAYS free, including all seating and parking. They host an event almost every day of the week during their eight-month season, including plays, their “Summer Mixtapes,” series, opera and more with an easy-to-access schedule found on their website. They have both covered and hillside seating, and while both are free, you must reserve tickets for covered seating. Parking is also not an issue, as they are a part of the Hermann Park complex, where extensive parking can be found.

Movies at Market Square Park

With a helpful schedule found on their website, Market Square Park hosts a wide array of movies in the park for, of course, free! A great opportunity for a date night, a fun outing with friends or a step away from school stress. They also have a handy parking guide online. 

The Houston Zoo

While The Houston Zoo is not free for everyone, it is for students at the University of Houston! All a Coog would have to do is make a reservation through their website. Simply select discount tickets under the purchase tickets tab, and select the college student type. When you show up at the zoo at your reserved time, be ready to show the attendant your cougar card, and you will be welcomed in at no charge. Make sure every member of your party has their own reservation. While you are there, say hi to our beloved mascot Shasta!

Discovery Green

A beautiful park that holds over 600 free events a year, Discovery Green is a great place to go to read, draw, work out and do a photoshoot. They offer many free workout classes, art events for all ages and markets like FLEA by Night. FLEA is a collection of vendors selling vintage pieces, delicious bites and more. A full event schedule can be found on their website.

Photo by Rachel E. Coleman

The Museum of Fine Arts

The Museum of Fine Arts Houston is a unique collection of beautiful art from many periods, consisting of three buildings full of a wide array of art styles. While not free every day, it is free for everyone on Thursdays. You may have to make several trips to get through all the artwork, but make a point to see the light tunnels on your first visit. Pictured above is “Sometimes an underground movement is an illuminated bridge” by Ólafur Elíasson, a light installation housed at The Nancy and Rich Kinder Building Eliasson Tunnel that has a magnificent effect on all colors it hits. You’ll just have to see for yourself to understand it works.

University Events 

The events held at the student center on campus and Lynn Eusan Park may seem a bit out of place on this list, but I wish I had gone to more my freshman year of college. The student center plays free movies often, and holds fun events like drag shows and special guest speakers. Lynn Eusan holds carnivals, festivals and more. Not only is it free to go, but you will often come out with both a meal and some free merch. Student events are a great way to make new friends, and to get the most of that not-so-free college tuition and fees. Lines can get pretty long, so I recommend showing up 45-60 minutes before the event. It’ll be worth the wait, I promise. 

Photo by Rachel E. Coleman

The Japanese Garden in Hermann Park 

Located just beyond the Hermann Park Fountains, the Japanese Garden is a beautiful hide-away perfect for a serene evening, or a fun photoshoot. Don’t feed the ducks bread, it isn’t good for them! The park is open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mar. through Oct. and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. through Feb.

Houston Arboretum and Nature Center

Possessing five miles of nature trails free and open to the public, the Houston Arboretum and Nature Center acts as both a community connection to nature and a sanctuary for local wildlife. Learn about native plant and animal species, go for a hike or just exist in nature. Parking is free on Thursdays. 

Sam Houston Boat Tour

This completely free boat tour is a relaxing 90-minute trip around the Houston Ship Channel. Reservations must be made on their website for that month on the first of every 30-day period. On the day of, parking is free, and each guest will receive one free beverage on the boat ride, but due to Houston heat, it is highly recommended to bring some extra food and drink, don’t pay for the free ride with dehydration!

The Art Car Museum 

An inventive, exciting display of fun art, the Art Car Museum is a must-see place in Houston. Taking automobiles and turning them into challenging, emotional, cultural (and sometimes just fun art) the collections housed there are completely unique. While the museum is currently closed for the installation of a new exhibit, it will be back up and running (unlike their cars) Aug. 19.

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