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The best things to do in Houston right now

Houston’s big city activities, restaurants, events and culture mean there’s so much to experience—you’ll have your pick

Written by
James Wong
&
Rebecca Deurlein
Contributors
Jonathan Thompson
&
Krista Diamond
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Houston is one of the most diverse cities in the nation, and it celebrates its melting pot reputation while staying true to its Texan roots. That means that yes, everything is bigger here, but you’ll also be met with small-town warmth and hospitality. Whether stepping into quirky museums or stepping it up to award-winning, fine dining restaurants, you’ll get the same, downhome Texan welcome Houston is known for.

With 25 distinct neighborhoods, each with its own personality, you could spend a year exploring and still not see everything Houston has to offer. So take our advice and check out the best things to do in Houston on your journey through Space City (more on that below!).

This guide was updated by Houston-based writer Rebecca Deurlein. At Time Out, all of our travel guides are written by local writers who know their cities inside out. For more about how we curate, see our editorial guidelines

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Best things to do in Houston

  • Museums
  • Science and technology
  • Clear Lake

The first word spoken on the moon was "Houston," so it is fitting that the city is home to one of the finest interstellar museums on planet Earth. NASA’s Space Center Houston boasts masses of permanent displays and attractions, including a flown SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket over 156 feet long. Plus: an extensive artifact collection, live shows, and a NASA Tram Tour that takes visitors behind the scenes at Johnson Space Center.

  • Museums
  • Science and technology
  • Binz

The Houston Museum of Natural Science boasts several world-class exhibits, including fossils in action. Most major paleontology exhibits feature dinosaur skeletons lined up one after the other, but this museum tried something entirely different; it recreates actual encounters between dinosaurs as they might have occurred millions of years ago. The results are fantastic, with skeletal dinosaurs eating, chasing, and fighting. The breathtaking jewelry vault and indoor rainforest are also not to be missed.

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3. MaKiin

When MaKiin, the finest of Thai dining restaurants, opened in 2023 under the helm of two multi-award-winning Thai chefs, it became the talk of Houston. The restaurant is at the base of the prestigious Hanover in River Oaks, but you might as well be in Bangkok when you step inside. Between the architectural details, the supremely unique cooking methods, and the over-the-top presentation, this is not your typical Thai restaurant. And you don’t have to go nearly as far as Bangkok!

4. Chinatown

Houston boasts the second-largest Indochinese population in the U.S. (after Los Angeles), so it is only fitting to visit Chinatown, which (authentically and deliciously) brings together delights from all over Asia. Head to the thriving district in the southwest for an epicurean adventure. Savor the rich (and tempting) tastes, sights, and smells of the bustling Hong Kong Food Market. After that, nibble on dim sum at Ocean Palace or a steaming bowl of vermicelli soup at Tan Tan. Finish your afternoon with a peaceful stroll around Jade Buddha Temple's serene lotus ponds, statues, and gardens. The district is vast; visit Chow Down in Chinatown for the latest events and recommendations.

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  • Museums
  • Art and design
  • Museum District

The Museum of Fine Arts in Houston is one of the largest museums in the United States, so expect exhibitions and installations galore. On Thursdays, admission is free all day. Bonus: Happy Hour Thursdays means you can check out everything from Renaissance art to rare African sculptures with a cocktail in hand before enjoying the resident DJ and grabbing a bite from one of the curated food trucks usually parked outside. Plus, if you can tear your eyes away from the Matisses and Rodins in the museum’s sculpture garden, you’ll find yourself in the perfect position to enjoy the sunset over the city skyline, too.

6. The Altitude Rooftop & Pool at the Marriott Marquis

You may have heard that it gets hot in Texas, and we’ve got the perfect place for you to cool down. The Marriott Marquis sits right next to Minute Maid Park and Discovery Green and offers a day pass to its Altitude Rooftop and Pool. The 550-foot lazy river in the shape of Texas is flanked by your choice of lounge chairs, cabanas, pergolas, and day beds. A festive bar and live music create a party atmosphere, but the giggles of kids ensure that the space is family-friendly. Set the kids up by the poolside grill Hive Dive and enjoy a mahi mahi sandwich. Be sure to check out the infinity pool, where you can snap photos of yourself swimming with the Houston skyline as your backdrop.

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7. Montrose

From neon-lit tattoo parlors to tree-covered bungalows and quaint coffee shops, this four-square-mile neighborhood is a pocket of eccentricity like no other on this side of Austin. Spend an afternoon perusing its experimental art galleries or find a one-of-a-kind treasure at one of the offbeat boutiques along Westheimer Curve. Of course, the food scene is stellar, and our pick is Kâu Ba's Viet-Cajun restaurant and bar, an exceptional brunch spot.

8. The Hobby Center

This non-profit showcases Houston's thriving performing arts scene with a mission to expand the city's reputation as a world-class center for culture. The complex has two performance chambers and an upscale restaurant for those looking to make an evening of it. If you're looking for the perfect excuse to dress up and see some performing arts, think of The Hobby Center as Houston's own Broadway—all of Broadway squeezed into one building, that is. Featuring hits like TootsieHadestown, and Hamilton, not to mention drag shows, parodies, and seasonal goodies, this place has it all.

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  • Art
  • Museum District

One of the most significant art assemblages of the 20th century, the Menil Collection is housed in a magnificent purpose-built gallery designed by none other than Renzo Piano (the same architect behind NYC's Whitney Museum of American Art). Displayed in spacious, naturally lit white-walled sections, the superb works are the collection of John and Dominique de Menil. The nearly 15,000 pieces range from Paleolithic carvings to Surrealist paintings, and many prominent artists—including Picasso and Rene Magritte—have entire rooms to themselves. With free admission and parking, it would be a crime not to spend time here.

  • Restaurants
  • Mexican
  • Second Ward

Legend has it that the fajita was invented in Houston—and the restaurant that had the bright idea is still serving the treat today. Original Ninfa’s has been around so long that its slogan is the best Mexican food in Texas since Texas was in Mexico. It is not all hot air either; the food here is incredible, especially when ordered with the famous 'off the menu' toppings. They also serve some of the finest margaritas in town. Win-win!

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11. Waugh Drive Bat Colony

Houstonians flock to this weird nighttime ritual, but most visitors know nothing about it. Head to the Waugh Drive Bridge in Buffalo Bayou Park, where every night at sunset, 250,000 Mexican free-tailed bats emerge from their slumber. Even the locals who have witnessed this site countless times still gasp at the flaps of the wings, the chirping and squeaking, and the sheer mass of the blanket of black as the bats head out to explore the city. It’s the perfect way to end a day at the park or kick off an evening in the city.

  • Attractions
  • Museum District

This octagonal building in the Museum District is an oasis of peace and calm where religion, art, and architecture intermingle. The 'Chapel' (a misnomer given that the venue is without denomination) is decorated with 14 mural canvasses painted by celebrated Russian-American artist Mark Rothko shortly before his death in 1970. Rothko considered them his most important works, and their power in this tranquil space is undeniable.

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  • Things to do
  • Greater Houston

Considered Houston's most significant natural resource, Buffalo Bayou has hundreds of acres of parkland and running trails. One of the finest ways to enjoy the bayou’s beauty is from the water, starting downtown at Allen’s Landing and working your way west. Rent a kayak from the Buffalo Bayou Partnership or join one of the boat tours, which include history tours and the popular twilight tours.

  • Museums
  • History
  • Greater Houston

Visitors can discover everything from the mysterious traditions surrounding the burial of a Pope to the recreation of Abraham Lincoln’s state funeral at this morbidly curious museum. Alright, a trip to this museum may not be the most upbeat adventure, but it is certainly engaging. The real must-see is the enormous 1916 Packard graveyard bus, created to eliminate funeral processions. It could carry a coffin, pallbearers, and 20 mourners but was hastily retired after the weight caused it to tip over on a San Francisco hill, sending bodies (both living and dead) bouncing down the street like a real-life version of Coffin Flop.

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15. Diversión Immersive Cocktails

Diversión isn't simply a cocktail bar. It's an immersive experience and one of the coolest things to do in all of Texas. Enter an unassuming grey building to a Harry Potter world of boozy fun. They use the finest ingredients, home or locally grown and crafted from scratch. Watch your mixologist work their magic in the laboratory-style bar ahead; it is an art. All cocktails (especially the ones from their immersive menu) are outrageously creative and make for excellent social media content if that's your thing.

  • Theater
  • Binz

One of Houston’s brightest cultural gems, Miller Outdoor Theatre in Hermann Park, has staged free outdoor performances since 1923. With eight months of free arts programming every year, the sloping lawn in front of the stage gets packed with locals toting blankets and picnics. Where else can you enjoy everything from drama to the symphony, free of charge? Just check the event calendar before your visit (and book tickets in advance, if necessary). Besides, it is a great way to lay back and enjoy toasty Texan weather without being accused of laziness.

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17. The “Houston is Inspired” mural

"Inspired, hip, tasty, funky, savvy" shouts the famous mural at 520 Travis Street, which has become a photographic flag-bearer for the city. This wonderfully vibrant, colorful image is more than just Instagram bait; it is an homage to local pride, drawing attention to Houston's best characteristics in the heart of the Market Square District. Its message is clear: Houston, we don’t have a problem.

  • Museums
  • History
  • Greater Houston

Towering over the Houston Ship Channel, the San Jacinto Monument is the tallest war memorial in the nation, standing 15 feet higher than the Washington Monument. The 570-foot obelisk—topped by a massive 220-ton Lone Star of Texas—pays tribute to those who fought for Texas' independence from Mexico in 1836. The outstanding San Jacinto Museum at its base contains several fascinating artifacts from the Texas Revolution and subsequent Republic and serves as the access point for the all-important elevator to the summit. The San Jacinto Museum also houses the Albert and Ethel Herzstein library, where you'll discover rare books and delicate manuscripts.

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  • Attractions
  • Parks and gardens
  • Galleria

Formerly, the Williams Waterwall and the Gerald D. Hines Waterwall are two of Houston’s most popular spots to relax (naturally, it is also one of the most photographed sites in the city). A dramatic 64-foot semicircular fountain, the Gerald D. Hines Waterwall recycles a ferocious 11,000 gallons of water per minute in what has become liquid Instagram gold. Once you’ve taken your mandatory snap, grab some lunch to-go from the neighboring Galleria before returning to the oak glades in the Waterwall’s three-acre park for picture-perfect picnicking.

20. Minute Maid Park

The home of the Houston Astros can keep as many as 40,000 fans cool through all nine innings thanks to its 242-foot-high retractable roof and surprisingly effective air conditioning. If the promise of relief from the Texas heat isn't enough to entice you, Minute Maid Park's food will do the trick. Besides, even if you aren't a baseball fan, the atmosphere alone is worth the ticket price. You'll be rooting for the home team before you know it.

More great things to do in Houston

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