One of the great things about living in a city the size of Houston is that there are plenty of fun and interesting things to do that don't cost a lot of money. Here's your go-to guide to the best free attractions in the Bayou City.
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Sam Houston Boat Tours are a free, 90-minute cruise aboard the Port of Houston Authority’s public charter boat. This 95-foot vessel holds 100 passengers. Scheduled tours are Wednesday through Sunday at specific times.
The boat tour is free, but reservations at least 24 hours in advance are required. Reserve your spot online.
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More than 250,000 Mexican Free-Tailed bats live under and emerge each night from the Waugh Drive Bridge at sunset—unless it’s rainy or foggy, of course. This bat colony inhabits the Waugh Drive Bridge over Buffalo Bayou between Memorial Drive and Allen Parkway. Kids are fascinated by bats, so this is certainly fun, free entertainment! Free parking is available along Allen Parkway and Spotts Park.
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Browse the Museum District's Many Attractions
Houston's remarkable Museum District has more than 17 attractions all within a 1.5-mile radius. Thursday is the magic day for free admission to many of Houston’s museum, though it varies by location.
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Downtown Houston is home to a unique outdoor green space dubbed Discovery Green. With a schedule consisting of all kinds of free weekly events—Zumba, Thursday Concerts, and STEM Saturdays—as well as loads of special events, including a winter ice rink, Discovery Green is a winner in free entertainment. The venue also offers fountains, restaurants, a dog run, and a playground.Continue to 5 of 10 below.
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Skate Around Jamail Skatepark
Lee and Joe Jamail Skatepark is a public skatepark near downtown Houston with 30,000 square feet of fun. Skaters of all levels are encouraged to work on their tricks—or just learn how to stay balanced. Helmets are required.
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The horseshoe-shaped waterwall in Gerald D. Hines Waterwall Park in the Uptown District is a sight to behold. At 64 feet high, the rushing water fountain is certainly worth a visit. It’s especially beautiful at night with the lights shining on the unique sculpture, which has been in operation since 1983.
Note: Drought conditions may affect the waterfall’s operation.
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Outdoor spots promoting nature, fun and education are great choices for free family entertainment. The Houston area is home to two such venues—Houston Arboretum & Nature Center and Mercer Arboretum and Botanic Gardens (in Humble).
The Houston Arboretum features a 155-acre nature preserve with five miles of walking trails, a Discovery Room with hands-on activities, and lots of special programs and classes.
Mercer Arboretum features 300 acres of East Texas Piney Woods along Cypress Creek. Sights include a beaver pond at the Endangered Species Garden, trails, visitors’ center, playground and special educational events.Continue to 9 of 10 below.
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Hana and Arthur Ginzbarg Nature Discovery Center is a little-known gem for free science-related activities. It offers a variety of kids’ science activities geared to toddlers through elementary and up. Discovery Rooms feature interactive exhibits and 23 Discovery boxes—modeled after the Smithsonian—for hands-on learning. Topics are targeted to specific age groups and entice children to explore topics such as shells, critters, snakes, seeds, minerals, birds, and animal teeth.
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What more can you say about Houston’s Art Car Museum? This collection of eclectic, unusual and creative cars is all about fun. If you miss Houston’s classic Art Car Parade in the spring, you can still catch a glimpse of some of the elaborately decorated cars here. The museum also features innovative art throughout the museum, so it’s not just about cars. The best part? Admission is always free.
Vicki Powers, a native Texan, is founder and writer of Houston on the Cheap, a site dedicated to sharing deals, discounts, and freebies for Houston entertainment, restaurants, and family fun. She also writes frequently about business and technology for national publications as a freelance journalist.