Top Things To Do In Houston

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Houston is a big-time city with a smooth, Southern style. Whether it’s sampling savory barbecue, indulging in upscale shopping, or tapping your brand-new boots to thumping blues music, Houston dishes up a hearty helping of arts, activities and jaw-dropping, space-age thrills. National travel reviewers for and Budget Travel both picked Houston as one of 2011’s top value destinations in terms of pricing and thrills. To help make your trip planning easier, here’s a list of some of the top things to do in Houston.

Space Center Houston

Space Center Houston has been inspiring young people to learn more about STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields since opening in 1992. The center is home to more than 400 space artifacts and also features various attractions and theaters designed to engage people of all ages.

What to Do
Highlights include astronaut training for the International Space Station, the development of deep-space missions, and the latest space robotic technologies, which are playing an important role in the exploration of Mars. If you're visiting on a Friday you also have the chance to listen to a presentation by a real astronaut. For an authentic look behind the scenes at NASA, the NASA Tram Tour travels into working areas of the Johnson Space Center.

What to See
Visitors also can view spacecraft, spacesuits and other artifacts from our nation’s space program, as well as look to the future at the Saturn V Complex in Rocket Park. In the Blast-Off! Theater watch real-time updates on current NASA missions, and get a feel for what it's like to blast into space.

>> Learn more about Space Center Houston.

Downtown Aquarium

Here, landlubbers can take a tantalizing tour of colorful, captivating undersea landscapes as varied as a sunken shipwreck and tanks full of red-bellied piranhas, venomous stingrays and a shiver of sharks. Featuring more than 400 species, there is plenty to discover at Houston's Downtown Aquarium.

What to Do
The aquarium also has plenty of land-side attractions, including Ferris wheel rides and a rain forest with colorful birds. Take a walk through the Sunken Temple and come face-to-face with lionfish, tarantulas, and pufferfish. You can even see a Tiger Reticulated Python that is over 20 feet long!

What to See
Don’t miss the Louisiana Swamp, with gators, alligator snapping turtles and spotted gar! Downtown Aquarium is also home to white tigers that live in their Maharaja's Temple exhibit. Not only can you see the tigers up close, you can also learn about the Aquarium's conservation efforts to help other tigers in the wild.

>> Learn more about the Downtown Aquarium.

Houston Museum of Natural Science

There’s a reason the Houston Museum of Natural Science is one of the most attended museums in the United States. The Museum houses four floors of exhibit halls including the Morian Paleontology Hall, Cullen Hall of Gems and Minerals, Hall of Ancient Egypt, Hall of the Americas, and more. This is a museum you can't miss if you're visiting Houston.

What to Do
Head to Hermann Park, where the museum assembles a captivating collage of scientific and historical artifacts, including dinosaurs, rare gems, spectacular shells, and an African ecosystem. If Ancient Egypt fascinates you, make sure to head over to the 10,000-square-foot Hall of Ancient Egypt. There you'll witness hundreds of artifacts that offer a glimpse of what life was like in ancient Egypt. You'll also get to meet the resident mummy, Ankh Hap.

What to See
There is so much to see at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. It's worth taking a visual journey in the Wortham IMAX Theatre, or observing over 1,500 butterflies in the Cockrell Butterfly Center. See the spectacular Rainforest Conservatory — a three-story glass structure built around a 50-foot indoor waterfall.

>> Learn more about the Houston Museum of Natural Science.

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

This museum is world renowned for its nearly 60,000 works of antique and modern art gathered from nearly every corner of the world. Whether it's art from Africa, Asia, Europe or the Americas you'll find something that fascinates you at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

What to Do
Visitors can enhance their visit by joining ongoing gallery talks and tours, or they can learn more about various pieces using their mobile devices. Some of the highlights to see at the Museum include works by James Turrell, Andy Warhol, and Vincent van Gogh to name a few.

What to See
Take a look at displays as diverse as 2,500 Years of African Art, Indonesian Gold, Americana, European masterworks, modern masterpieces, and a breathtakingly expansive sculpture garden. MFAH always has new exhibits rotating in, so there is always something new to see.

>> Learn more about the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

Houston Zoo

Featuring a collection of more than 6,000 animals including elephants, red pandas, chimpanzees and rhinos the Houston Zoo is a must-see when you're in town. Use the free GPS-enabled smartphone app to enhance your experience.

What to Do
Attend special "Photo Days" throughout the year so that shutterbugs can take advantage of a variety of light, weather, and horticultural conditions. If you have the kids with you, head over to the Children's Zoo where you'll find a petting zoo, playround, bat cave, and live shows geared towards the Zoo's younger visitors.

What to See
From its newer Galapagos tortoise and jaguar exhibits, to its popular red panda (known as the "world’s cutest animal"), the zoo provides hours of interactive adventure. Houston Zoo is also home to the rare and beautiful okapi or forest giraffe. Cousins of the giraffe, these amazing animals are only found in the most remote rainforests of central Africa.

>> Learn more about the Houston Zoo.

The Children's Museum of Houston

Parents' magazine ranked The Children's Museum of Houston as the nation's No. 1 children’s museum. CMH is packed with 14 hands-on exhibits designed just for kids. From programming robots, inventing things, being a news anchor or getting elected as mayor your kids will have a fun time learning at their level.

What to Do
Build robots, race boats, use a make-believe debit card to buy groceries, or take a wet, wild adventure into FlowWorks. How Does It Work? is another fantastic exhibit that teaches kids how sound and electricity travel, as well how we all use simple machines in our everyday lives. There are also plenty of safe, interactive things to do for kids under two.

What to See
Kids can test-drive 24 different jobs such as becoming mayor or anchoring the news. If you have kids, this is one museum you have to add to your list of things to do while you're in Houston.

>> Learn more about the Children's Museum of Houston.

Kemah Boardwalk

The Kemah Boardwalk is where rides, shops, music and Texas-sized tastes all come together along the beautiful Galveston Bay. Located just 20 miles from downtown Houston, this bodacious strip of fun is a great way to cool off in the sea breeze.

What to Do
Explore an aquarium full of Caribbean sea life, ride a riotous roller coaster and enjoy the views from the top of a huge Ferris wheel. Take the kids on the Double-Decker Carousel and let them choose between riding on a dragon, sea monster, horse or unicorn. There's plenty of shopping and fun food, as well as water to splash in.

What to See
Summertime features "Rock the Dock" music performances on Thursday nights. Take time to kick back and relax in the Boardwalk Tower. You can see miles away while you soak in the sights of the Bay surrounding the Boardwalk.

>> Learn more about Kemah Boardwalk.

Gerald D. Hines Waterwall Park

Located adjacent to The Galleria, the Waterwall is a towering work of art that inspires hearts. The 64-foot semi-circular fountain recirculates 11,000 gallons of water per minute as it flows down the inner and outer walls of the structure.

What to Do
Be on the lookout for love - this is one of the city’s most popular places for proposals and weddings. Naturally make sure to snap some pictures of your own. The Waterwall can be a very romantic photo spot.

What to See
Designed by Philip Johnson and John Burgee, the multi-story structure was built to be a "horseshoe of rushing water" opposite the Williams (formerly Transco) Tower. The park itself is surrounded by 186 beautiful live oak trees. It's no wonder the park is considered the community centerpiece for Uptown Houston.

>> Learn more about the Gerald D. Hines Waterwall Park.

The Galleria

This national icon of shopping sophistication is the top shopping destination in Houston with over 30 million visitors a year. The Galleria is internationally respected for its architectural style and was modeled after the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele in Milan.

What to Do
Underneath The Galleria’s spectacular glass atriums, this ode to consumerism has more than 400 fine stores and restaurants, a renowned ice rink and two Westin hotels.

What to See
It’s the perfect venue to peruse all the leading names in fine apparel, jewelry and gifts, including Neiman Marcus, Cartier, Gucci, Tiffany & Co., Saks Fifth Avenue, Macy's, Ralph Lauren Collection, Louis Vuitton, Chanel, and Nordstrom.

>> Learn more about The Galleria.

Hermann Park

Located in the heart of Houston, the 445-acre Hermann Park is the city’s most significant public green space, hosting more than six million visitors per year.

What to Do
While in the park, visitors can feed the ducks, rent a pedal boat for the lake or take a train ride. The park even has nature trails, and a Japanese garden.

What to See
See almost all that Houston has to offer in one spot - the park is also home to the Houston Zoo, Miller Outdoor Theatre, the Houston Museum of Natural Science, Houston Garden Center, and Hermann Park Golf Course.

>> Learn more about Hermann Park.

Minute Maid Park

Minute Maid Park is a great place to watch a baseball game—you’re able to see an orange-lugging train and a home run at the same time. The retractable roof offers guests beautiful sunny skies when the weather permits and keeps spectators dry during inclement weather. Even though this stadium has modern accommodations for baseball fans, it was built to commemorate the Union Station entryway, built in 1911.

What to Do
When you come to watch the Astros take their home field, you better come hungry. If you’re not in the mood for peanuts and crackerjacks, take a bite into the tempting brisket curly fries from Street Eats. Your kids will have a ball at Squeeze Play Park: a fun-zone full of exciting games and activities. Or take a photo with Orbit, one of the MLB's most energetic mascots, but don't forget to show him your Astros pride with your orange and blue gear from the Astros Team Store.

What to See
Don't pass up the opportunity to enter the park through the Union Station lobby—it's what inspired the stadium’s unique design in the first place. As an homage to the stadium’s history as Houston’s original Union Station, an active train still runs along the tracks when the Astros get a home run, carrying a cart full of bright oranges.

>> Learn more about Minute Maid Park.

NRG Stadium

Everything is bigger in Texas, and when you're in the biggest city in the country's (second) biggest state, a Texan football game is a big part of the experience. Texas football has inspired some of the best movies and TV shows—don’t miss the opportunity to experience a game for yourself.

What to Do
Texans fans don't just wait for kickoff to put their game faces on; they inject themselves with team spirit at the NRG Stadium pregame tailgate parties! At the Budweiser Plaza, you can enjoy live bands and delicious food while waiting to have an unbelievable experience inside the stadium. Speaking of Bulls, head to The BULLevard (open two hours prior to kickoff) for family-friendly fun including more live music and interactive games.

What to See
Texan games consistently sell out, and the energy gleaming from the pumped-up crowd is paramount in the Bull Pen. The loudest and proudest Texan fans are encouraged to chant, stand, sing, and wave flags to ensure a Texans victory. For a different Bull Pen experience, enjoy the Bull Pen Pep Band's musical talents while you witness first-hand the power music has on Texan die-hards.

>> Learn more about NRG Stadium.

Toyota Center

The only sports team that might give the die-hard Texans fans a run for their money is Houston's very own Rockets. Decked out all in red, Rockets fans and players alike feel at home at the Toyota Center.

What to Do
After gobbling down a juicy burger, walk off your meal through the concourse and you might run into the Rockets mascot Clutch the Bear. Be careful—he's quite the prankster and you may or may not be his unsuspecting victim. Continue on your journey through the stadium to admire all the Rockets memorabilia throughout. Old jerseys that once belonged to Hakeem Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler, and many more Rockets legends hang from the rafters and a giant mural of legendary players is painted on the wall.

What to See
The Rockets are so loved, their biggest fans have to audition to sit in Section 114 where the Red Rowdies cheer on the team. You'll hear chants, songs, screams, and stomps from the Rowdies, who are almost as fun to watch as the Rockets themselves. While you're watching the game, it'll be hard to miss the video scoreboard no matter where your seats are. The Rocket’s video scoreboard captures all the action on a screen the size of Godzilla's television set — it’s the largest video scoreboard in the nation!

>> Learn more about the Toyota Center.

Market Square Park

Market Square Park is an outdoor escape from the concrete and asphalt of the big city and it's conveniently located right in the middle of Houston. Take a stroll through Market Square Park, bring a Frisbee, or pack a picnic lunch to enjoy in the sunshine.

What to Do
If you visit Houston with a furry friend, Market Square Park features not one, but two dog runs that are sure to make your pet's vacation memorable. When you get hungry, head to Niko Niko's, a Greek-American sidewalk restaurant with a patio that’s perfect for enjoying a glass of wine with some hummus. There are many events that are held in the park, offering visitors and locals alike plenty of exciting options, such as blanket bingo and outdoor movie screenings, on a regular basis.

What to See
Market Square Park is sprinkled with color year round. From bright flower gardens to fascinating public art, there's a lot to look at. The mosaic fountain and benches are a good place to rest and enjoy some people-watching in the park. Take a walk through Lauren's Garden, a memorial that honors Lauren Catuzzi Grandcolas, one of the passengers on United Flight 93. The garden features beautiful waters and a fountain commemorating the lives lost on September 11th, 2001.

>> Learn more about Market Square Park.

Rothko Chapel

A non-denominational chapel, Rothko Chapel is a sanctuary for all religions. It is a place of learning, mutual understanding, and inner and outer peace.

What to Do
Rothko Chapel is a wonderful way to escape from stress and turmoil you may experience in daily life. With more than 50,000 visitors a year, the Rothko Chapel holds the energy of mass prayer and meditation. Holy Books ranging from the Torah to the Quran and the Bhagavad-Gita are available to visitors, and you can spend your time reading up on world religions you might not know much about. After you’re done, describe your experience in the comment books--many people have a great story worth reading.

What to See
This Chapel was named after Rothko for a reason: The famous sanctuary features 14 grandeur Rothko paintings along with a steel sculpture on the outside named Broken Obelisk. Known for his work with solid bars of color on a canvas, it’s best that Rothko paintings be experienced rather than just seen. A longer look into the paintings that hang in the Rothko Chapel reveals a much deeper gradient of color washes, something that many visitors might not see until they've been fully enveloped in the energy of the Chapel. It's just one of those things you have to experience for yourself.

>> Learn more about Rothko Chapel.

Buffalo Bayou Park

You can get the best of both worlds at Buffalo Bayou Park—a sensational city skyline and the fresh, outdoor scenery. Green trees and a killer skate park, a hilly biking and jogging trail, and the fountain that looks like a misty dandelion make Buffalo Bayou Park a great destination.

What to Do
Strap on your skates and don't forget your helmet. Lee & Joe Jamail Skatepark hosts some of the biggest events in skateboarding today. If ollies and kickflips are too extreme, take a walk through Sandy Reed Trail. Urban, natural, artistic, and contemporary settings are revealed along the four and a half mile loop around Buffalo Bayou.

What to See
If you're out at Buffalo Bayou Park in the evening, you won't want to miss the Waugh Bridge bat colony. At sunset, more than 250,000 Mexican free-tailed bats spring forth from the dark crevices of the Waugh Drive Bridge. The Gus S. Worthman Memorial Fountain is a recognizable Houston landmark: a giant dandelion sculpture that mists joggers and dog-walkers with refreshing, cool water from its starburst pipes. It's a noteworthy site and is a great place to escape the Houston heat.

>> Learn more about Buffalo Bayou Park.

To visit the top attractions in Houston, make sure to use a Houston CityPASS ticket booklet. You'll save nearly half off combined admission costs and skip most main-entrance ticket lines, giving you more time to enjoy each attraction. Houston CityPASS includes admission to Space Center Houston, Downtown Aquarium, Houston Museum of Natural Science, and your choice between the Houston Zoo and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and a choice between The Children's Museum of Houston or an All-Day Ride Pass at Kemah Boardwalk. Some special exhibits are not included with the CityPASS and may require an extra fee.

CityPASS can be purchased online or at any of our participating Houston attractions. Use Houston CityPASS and discover these top places to visit and things to do in Houston.

Water Wall Photo Credit
Minute Maid Park Photo Credit
NRG Stadium Photo Credit
Toyota Center Photo Credit
Market Square Park Photo Credit
Rothko Chapel Photo Credit
Buffalo Bayou Park Photo Credit

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