If you’ve never been to the big city, here are the top things to do in Houston not to miss.
Houston is Big! I thought Dallas was big until I visited Houston. The city has over 6.4 million people living there; when visitors arrive, that’s even more. If you just moved here or visiting for the first time, put these top things to do in Houston on your must-see list. There are more than enough activities here to do in one day. So be sure to bookmark this page and refer back when you have time to venture out.
The City Never Sleeps is a sprawling metropolis offering a wide range of entertainment, dining, and cultural options while providing easy access to nature anytime. Whether you want to relax on the beach or explore the great outdoors, Houston has something for everyone.
And if you have more than a day, you may want to read our article about weekend getaways from Houston.
Top Things To Do In Houston, Texas
The arts scene in the city is very vibrant. Many performing arts venues, museums, and galleries are around the city. It is also home to some of Texas’s most popular tourist attractions, including the Johnson Space Center, the Houston Museum of Natural Science, and the Houston Zoo. You can spend days exploring all that the city has to offer!
You can say that Houston is a city full of culture, diversity, and history. It also has plenty of things to do for every type of traveler—from sports fans to history buffs, families looking for fun activities, or foodies who want to try new restaurants. Here are our suggestions for what to do in Houston, especially for the first-timer.
A CityPass is worth mentioning here. Look it up, as it has several attractions for one great price.
Busy In Houston, Texas
Here is a list of the best things to do in Houston if you only have a day.
- Museum of Fine Arts
- Houston Museum of African American Culture
- Sam Houston National Forest (north of Houston)
- Houston Zoo
- Galleria Mall
- Hermann Park
- Buffalo Bayou Park
- Gerald D. Hines Waterwall Park
- Historic Downtown Houston
- Space Center Houston – Johnson Space Center – Space exploration – Space City – You may want to swing by the official visitor center of NASA before heading out.
- Minute Maid Park
- Houston Museum of Natural Science
- San Jacinto Monument & Museum (La Porte, TX)
- Miller Outdoor Theatre
- Discovery Green Outdoor Ice Skating Rink (wintertime)
- Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo
- Cockrell Butterfly Center
- Toyota Center
- Japanese Garden
- Galveston Island
Houston Museum of Natural Science
Located in downtown Houston and next to Hermann Park, HMNS offers interactive exhibits, a planetarium, butterflies, a theatre, and more. When my son was young, I got a membership to the Fort Worth Museum of Science & History, and we went all the time. I renewed my membership for at least five years. He loved it so much.
Located in the heart of Houston, Hermann Park is one of the largest city parks in America, with lush greenery and walking paths that wind through beautiful trees. It offers a wide variety of activities, from boating on Lake Plaza to hiking trails in the wooded areas and playing golf or tennis. There are also plenty of picnic areas for families wanting to spend time together outdoors. If I could tell first-timers to Houston what to do on a day, it would be to visit Hermann Park.
This park is also home to the Houston Zoo and Japanese Garden and has plenty of green space for picnics and family outings. It also hosts many festivals throughout the year, including Juneteenth and the Greek Festival.
The Houston Zoo is open from 9 am to 5 pm. Prices vary and are cheaper during the week.
Japanese Garden – 5 acres of mouth-watering strolling gardens and elegant landscapes.
Take a full day to explore this park.
Space Center Houston
Open year-round and located in Clear Lake, TX. (27 miles from Houston)
Space Center Houston is a science museum that serves as the official visitor center of NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston. It welcomes visitors from all over the world. The museum shows our country’s greatest space exploration and engineering achievements over the past years. It offers a variety of exhibits and activities, including IMAX theater and flight simulators.
General admission includes the Mission Control Tour – the open-air tram tour – from $39.95 to $44.95.
There are many options if you’re looking for fun things to do in downtown Houston. You can enjoy its many restaurants, bars, and clubs while also taking advantage of its great shopping opportunities at places like Macy’s or Neiman Marcus – or take advantage of its excellent public transportation system by riding METRORail!
Minute Maid Park is the home of Major League Baseball’s Houston Astros and has been since 2000. The Astros are not just any baseball team but the World Series champions! It’s also where you can catch a game or concert at NRG Stadium, which is across from Minute Maid Park.
Gerald D. Hines Waterwall Park
With its multi-story sculptural fountain, this park is one of Houston’s iconic landmarks where the local community sits and stares in the mist while listening to the rapid waterfalls. Waterwall Park sits on almost 3 acres of land with live oak trees as its backdrop. This will be the perfect spot to take the kids when summer rolls around. Nothing’s better than getting cooled off from the mist. It is one of the most visited attractions in Houston, so I suggest packing a lunch and setting out early.
Houston Livestock Show And Rodeo
From the end of February to mid-March, the rodeo is in town. Grab a cowboy hat, boots, and a belt or not, and head to see young cowboys and cowgirls compete for a trophy and the big kids (adults) compete for the title. If you’re filling it, hop on the mechanical bull and go for a ride! See all events at the NRG Stadium.
Buffalo Bayou Park offers visitors a chance to enjoy nature in all its glory by canoeing or kayaking through Buffalo Bayou and other water sports activities such as fishing and bird watching. It also has wonderful playgrounds where kids can play safely while their parents relax nearby and a dog park.
- Dog Park
- Bike & Boat Rentals
- Hike & bike trails
- and more
Memorial Park is one of the largest urban parks in the United States. It is a great place to bike, hike, run, walk, and jog. There is a 3-mile jogging trail around the park. But there are another 10 miles of trails at the park’s south end. You’ll find lots of shade on the trails and free exercise classes at the park. Leashed dogs are welcome at the park.
Houston Arboretum & Nature Center is out there, too.
Toyota Center is the home of the Houston Rockets, who have won more games than any other NBA team in history. They are one of the best teams in the league and have a great roster this season. The Rockets will be a force to be reckoned with this season! It’s also an arena for many live music performances and special events.
The Galleria Houston
Is shopping on your mind? The Galleria has it all, with luxury shops and restaurants galore. And when the kids get antsy, or you’re looking to do something besides spending money, Discovery Green offers plenty of green space perfect for picnics or enjoying some outdoor time in the city. It’s right next door to the mall.
These are our top picks of things to do in Houston if you visit for the first time. After perusing this list and you’re looking for something more low-key, check out some local museums like The Health Museum or The Children’s Museum Of Houston!
Dog Parks In Houston
All Over Houston
We Wouldn’t want to leave out your pets. Houston has roughly 20 dog parks throughout the city, most right in the heart of the town. As noted above, one is Johnny Steel Dog Park, inside Buffalo Bayou Park. Memorial Park (above) also allows leashed dogs. But there are plenty more – Houston has your best friends covered!