Houston Top 20 Tourist Attractions
Houston has no shortage of things to do when it comes to culture, food, shopping, distinctive attractions, and exciting experiences. The famed Space Center Houston, renowned chefs, fascinating museums, and gorgeous green spaces, as well as a bayou running through the heart of the city, make this the fourth largest metropolis in the United States. You could even be able to catch a sporting event or attend Houston’s iconic event, the Livestock Show and Rodeo, depending on your travel dates.
Houston is an excellent weekend vacation destination, with direct flights from all around North America. See our list of top attractions in Houston for a complete list of things to do.
1. Visit Space Center Houston
Center for Space Exploration Houston is home to NASA’s Johnson Space Center’s official visitor center, which is a must-see destination in the city. You may walk around the space shuttle replica Independence and the massive shuttle carrier aircraft it’s placed on at this massive complex. You may go through a recreation of America’s first space station, Skylab, and touch a moon rock in the visitor center. This is also where you can find out about NASA’s prospective missions, such as a trip to Mars. On a Friday at noon, you could even get to meet an astronaut.
You may take an open-air tram journey from the visitor center to Johnson Space Center, the home of mission control, to witness where astronauts train for space missions. This tour also includes a visit to Rocket Park, where you can view real rockets on display. Simply drive up and tell them you want to visit, and they will let you in.
Sign up for a Level 9 Tour and get a behind-the-scenes look at Johnson Space Center for a totally unique experience. You can visit the Buoyancy Lab, ISS Mission Control, and simulation labs, as well as other locations not open to the public on regular tours, and maybe even meet an astronaut. The tours begin at the Space Center Houston, which you are welcome to visit as part of your ticket purchase.
2. Explore Houston’s Museum District
With 19 museums in this gorgeous section of downtown, the Museum District is one of Houston’s most popular cultural destinations. Eleven of them are available for free to the general audience. The Museum of Fine Arts, the Menil Collection, the Holocaust Museum, and the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, to name a few, are all worthwhile visits. Hermann Park and the Miller Outdoor Theatre are both located in this region.
The majority of the museums are easily accessible by foot. The Menil Collection, Rothko Chapel, Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, Houston Center for Contemporary Craft, Lawndale Art Center, Houston Museum of African American Culture, Moody Center for the Arts, and the Houston Center for Photography are among the museums that are free to visit.
3. The Museum of Fine Arts
Houston’s Museum of Fine Arts is one of the best museums of its sort in the country. The 63,000-piece collection is split between two buildings: the Audrey Jones Beck building and the Caroline Wiess Law Building, which are linked by the Wilson Tunnel.
The museum’s focus is on Impressionist Renaissance paintings, exquisite sculptures, and European and American decorative arts by French and Italian artists. Check out the amazing collection of gold objects from pre-Columbian and African cultures.
If you like to explore at your own leisure, there’s plenty to keep you interested and entertained here; however, if it all seems a little overwhelming, sign up for a tour to see the highlights.
4. Houston Museum of Natural Science
The Houston Museum of Natural Science is one of the city’s most visited attractions. The museum is a fun adventure for people of all ages, and it covers a wide range of topics that will appeal to everyone in your company.
During your stay, stop by the Hall of Paleontology to see numerous entire dinosaur skeletons. Tour the Cockrell Butterfly Conservatory for something still alive, where approximately 1,500 of these lovely insects flit around in the humid air, and if you’re lucky, one might even land on you.
With a show at the Planetarium, learn about what’s in the night skies over Houston, then relax and engage your senses at the Wortham Giant Screen Theater.
5. Visit the Houston Zoo
The Houston Zoo, located on 55 acres in Hermann Park, is one of the city’s most popular attractions, drawing both locals and visitors. The zoo has about 6,000 exotic and native species, as well as an education center and a children’s zoo. Feeding the giraffes, viewing marine life up close in the aquarium, and seeing sea lions and otters frolic are just a few of the highlights.
The Houston Museum of Natural Science, the Miller Outdoor Theatre, a Japanese Garden, and the McGovern Centennial Garden are among the other attractions in Hermann Park. A paddle boat cruise on McGovern Lake or a stroll along the park’s walking trails are also enjoyable.
6. The Menil Collection
The Menil Collection is housed in a structure that is almost as much of a work of art as the artifacts it houses. Because of the large glass windows that look out over the lovely gardens, it was designed by the renowned architect Renzo Piano. Unlike many other art museums, the art in many (but not all) of the rooms is illuminated by natural light.
The Menil Collection is notable for having the world’s largest collection of Max Ernst works. All of these pieces are shown together in special spaces.
If the weather permits, spend some time exploring the Menil Collection’s campus. The Rothko Chapel, with its mural canvases, is one of the most interesting things to view.
7. Houston Children’s Museum is Children’s Favorite
The Houston Children’s Museum is a terrific way to fight the summer heat and one of the greatest places to visit in Houston for families. Allow the youngsters to run wild and get busy with all of the hands-on and interactive displays.
You and your children will discover how things work in everyday life. The FlowWorks wet zone is also a fun location to play with water, turn it on and off, change the flow, and see the results.
Send your kids to the SECRETS Spy Game exhibit if they’ve ever wanted to pretend to be secret spies. While fighting against malicious individuals, they will put their skills to the test by attempting to crack codes and locate clues.
8. Experience the Gerald D. Hines Waterwall Park
The Gerald D. Hines Waterwall Park features a multi-story sculptural fountain that cascades water sheets over enormous concrete walls and sculptures. The semi-circular shape of the construction rises 64 feet above the ground and is surrounded by a massive arch and 46,500 square feet of water.
Photos do not do this attraction justice; it is something that must be experienced in person to fully understand. This 2.77-acre park in Uptown Houston is surrounded by dozens of live oak trees.
9. National Museum of Funeral History
You may not expect a museum dedicated to funerals to be a big tourist destination in Houston, but it is. This fascinating and interesting museum is quirky and unusual, but it’s well worth a visit.
Antique funeral hearses, embalming exhibitions, coffins from around the world from as far away as Ghana, the history of presidential funerals, and other exhibits can be found inside the 30,500-square-foot facility.
The vivid overview of Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos), where this Latin American tradition is discussed in great detail, is a must-see exhibit.
10. Discover Houston’s Street Art
Houston’s street art, or what many people refer to as graffiti, is remarkable, despite the fact that it is frequently disregarded by tourists.
Gonzo247, a dynamic artist, is the unofficial curator of Houston’s street art. He is the creator of the large “Houston is Inspired” mural at Travis and Preston Streets, as well as the smaller “Houston” mural at Leeland and St. Emanuel Streets, and is one of the city’s most well-known street artists.
Off Leeland Street at Chartres Street and St. Emanuel Street, there is a large concentration of stunning installations that adorn the walls of various one- and two-story buildings. However, artwork can be found on walls of varied sizes all across the city.
11. Holocaust Museum Houston
Stop into the Holocaust Museum for a somber reminder of man’s ability to inflict unspeakable evil on another human being. Since its inception in 1996, the museum has been portraying the story of the Holocaust during WWII.
With a 187-seat indoor theater, 175-seat outdoor amphitheater, and a café, the Holocaust Museum Houston is now twice the size it was before.
In four galleries, interesting anecdotes from survivors, as well as exhibits, are skillfully presented in a way that is both fascinating and thought provoking. The museum houses an authentic railcar that was used to transport victims, as well as a Dutch fishing boat that was used to carry fugitives. A regular succession of temporary shows is housed in two additional galleries.
12. Walk, Bike, or Paddle in Buffalo Bayou Park
There are numerous walking and bicycling trails, a dog park, sculptures, and shady spaces to rest in this urban park.
There are rentals available in the park, as well as tours ranging from one to three hours in length. Similarly, there are outfitters in the city who offer guided bike trips.
The Cistern, a historic subterranean drinking-water reservoir from 1926 that currently features changeable art exhibits, is a particularly interesting landmark in Buffalo Bayou Park. Visitors can now have a short guided tour of the museum.
The Waugh Drive Bridge in the park is also home to a large colony of Mexican free-tailed bats. Every evening after sundown, about 250,000 of them take off from the bridge.
13. The Health Museum
If you’ve been enjoying the delicious cuisine of Texas and are wondering why your jeans are too tight when you put them on, a visit to the Health Museum is in order. You may literally step inside your own body at one of Houston’s most creative museums.
Walking through a 10-foot-high brain, exploring a 12-foot-high pumping heart, and getting up close and personal with a big eyeball are just a few of the family-friendly activities. With the Calorie Crank, you can keep track of how many calories you’ve consumed when visiting Texas’ famous BBQ joints!
14. Art Car Museum
Try the Art Car Museum if Impressionists and Old Masters art aren’t your thing. Cars of all kinds are employed as the medium for unique and interesting artworks in this gallery. Additionally, regular pieces of art featuring automobiles are shown on the walls.
Since its inception in 1998, the Art Car Museum, commonly known as the Garage Mahal, has been a popular Houston destination. The automobiles and displays change on a regular basis, so you never know what you’ll see, as artists try to turn something mundane into a distinctive statement or message.
15. Shop the Vintage Stores on 19th Street in The Heights
19th Street in The Heights is the place to go for vintage apparel, retro décor, and ancient collectibles. This eccentric neighborhood is home to a variety of odd stores selling anything from evening gowns to casual wear, as well as jewelry, footwear, household gadgets, and other unique products.
This is also an excellent area to go gift shopping. Some shops sell fresh or a combination of new and old items, so the stuff isn’t exclusively vintage. Even if you have no intention of purchasing anything, the entire neighborhood is worth viewing and provides a unique shopping experience.
16. Day Trip to Galveston
Galveston’s magnificent beaches are less than an hour away from Houston. Along the oceanfront, miles of endless beach and shallow, blue sea extend. Pleasure Pier is located in the middle of the beach action.
The Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig and Museum, the Texas Seaport Museum, and the Strand Historic District are among the other places to see. Moody Gardens is a great place to visit if you’re traveling with your family.
You can also take an organized excursion to the island if you don’t have your own car or want to keep things simple. The Houston Sightseeing Tour and Galveston Day Trip is one option that combines some sightseeing in Houston with a trip to Galveston. This covers transportation to and from Galveston, as well as a 90-minute double-decker bus tour of Houston.
17. Attend the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo
The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, Houston’s largest annual event, is a fun-filled 19-day event that draws the entire city out to celebrate in February or March. It’s much more than a livestock exhibition and rodeo.
If this is your first time attending such an event, you will be pleasantly surprised by the variety of activities available. There are enough carnival rides, games, and food vendors on the grounds to keep you entertained endlessly. See the cowboys show off their skills in a number of categories at the rodeo events, which require tickets to attend. Check out the concert schedule ahead of time and get your tickets.
Spend a morning or afternoon strolling the grounds and enjoying the carnival, see some of the finest farm animals on display at the Livestock Festival, then watch a rodeo event or two to see the cowboys in action, and spend the evening at a concert if you only have one day to attend this magnificent show. The Downtown Rodeo Parade is another must-see event.
18. See a Sports Game
When it comes to seeing a game in Houston, sports fans have lots of alternatives, and the city takes its sports seriously, whether it’s football, baseball, basketball, or soccer. The Houston Texans (NFL), Houston Astros (MLB), and Houston Rockets are all based in Houston (NBA).
The Texans play at NRG Stadium, the Rockets play at the Toyota Center in downtown Houston, and the Astros play at Minute Maid Park, which is located in the city center.
The Houston Dynamo (MLS) and Houston Dash (NWSL) are both based in Houston and play their home games at BBVA Compass Stadium.
At least one of these teams is likely to have a home game during your visit.
19. Unique Dining Cuisines in Houston
There are far too many fantastic dining options to name them all, but some are too unusual not to include.
Discover the tastes of Oaxaca at Xochi, located on the first level of the Marriott Marquis Houston, for high-end Mexican cuisine. The menu provides a wide variety of foods, as well as some uncommon selections to pique your interest.
La Griglia has been a long-time Houston staple, serving customers some of the city’s best Italian cuisine. Houston is a great place to eat fresh seafood because it is so close to the Gulf of Mexico.
Vibrant serves healthful dishes from breakfast to dinner for health-conscious diners. All of the dishes are gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free, and GMO-free.
20. Walk through Rice University Campus
The Rice University Campus is a green oasis in the heart of Houston and a popular hangout spot for locals. This 300-acre site is home to walking and running routes, thousands of mature trees, and charming ancient buildings.
A significant number of stunning contemporary artworks are also on the grounds, adding to the serene atmosphere. When lit up at night, many of these installations are just as striking, if not more so.
Sightseeing in Houston: Where to Stay
It’s ideal to stay in or near downtown if you want to be close to key attractions and sporting events. In the city center, you’ll find a nice selection of luxury and mid-range hotels, while inexpensive hotels are usually a short drive away. We’ve listed a few of our favorite hotels below.
Hotels of the highest class:
The luxury boutique The Lancaster Hotel, one of Houston’s oldest hotels, reopened in late 2018 after a large and wonderfully performed makeover. This hotel is one of the greatest locations to stay in Houston because of its stylish design and attractive décor, as well as outstanding service and a good
The Four Seasons Hotel Houston is also at a fantastic position in downtown Houston, with consistently excellent customer service and a variety of room types and sizes. The hotel has a Topgolf facility where small parties may play virtual golf and order delicious food.
The Hotel ZaZa Houston Museum District is another downtown luxury hotel, known for its high-end spa and wonderful position near the city’s major attractions.
The Hilton Americas – Houston is a new, spacious hotel connected to the George R. Brown Convention Center. The hotel is conveniently located between the Toyota Center and Discovery Green Park, making it a great place to stay when the Houston Rockets are in town.
Middle Class Hotels
The Whitehall Houston is at the top of the mid-range sector, but it’s always a decent deal. This hotel offers contemporary, Southern-style rooms in a convenient location.
The remodeled Embassy Suites by Hilton Houston Downtown is an ideal alternative for individuals travelling with family thanks to its spacious outdoor pool, which is just a short walk from the city’s convention and sports facilities.
The outdoor pool of the Best Western Plus Downtown Inn & Suites is popular, as is its accessibility to attractions like the Downtown Aquarium. It’s a great spot to stay if you want to cook for yourself, as some rooms offer full kitchens.
Hotels on a Budget:
The greatest affordable hotels are outside of the city center, yet only a short drive away. The Red Roof PLUS+ Houston – Energy Corridor, located just a few kilometers west of downtown, offers pet-friendly accommodations as well as complimentary Wi-Fi and breakfast. Shopaholics may check out the La Quinta Inn & Suites By Wyndham Houston Galleria Area (named after the adjacent shopping mall). It has a hot tub and a swimming pool.
The Comfort Suites Northwest Houston along Beltway 8 is another decent alternative. This hotel has a pool, free breakfast, and Wi-Fi, as well as microwaves and refrigerators in the rooms.
How to Get the Most Out of Your Trip to Houston
Passes can help you save money.
Consider getting the Houston CityPASS, which offers you free entrance to five of the city’s greatest attractions, including Space Center Houston, the Downtown Aquarium, and the Houston Museum of Natural Science, if you’re planning a busy sightseeing schedule. The pass is valid for up to nine days, giving you the most flexibility in your travel plans.
A Houston Hop-on Sightseeing Tour is a great way to experience the city. This 75-minute tour on an open-top double-decker bus will take you through the attractions while providing audio commentary and historical background.
Maps & Information for Texas:
If you’re planning a road trip through Texas, go to www.TravelTexas.com and request a free copy of the Texas Travel Guide and Official Travel Map.