Houston, Texas, is one of the oldest and most storied American cities. Founded in 1836 by two brothers, it’s experienced nearly two centuries of growth, innovation, and social change.

Houston has built and rebuilt itself several times in that time, resulting in a patchwork quilt of architecture and attractions that seem to defy the passing years. If you’re planning a trip to Houston, you might be tempted to see the Space Center Houston or visit the Houston Zoo.

But if you’re looking for a unique experience that you won’t soon forget, you might want to skip these tourist favorites and opt for something a little different. Let’s explore some of the unique and free things to do in Houston that can help keep you off the beaten path!

Catch a Performance at The Orange Show

The story behind this iconic Houston hangout starts in 1956 when Jeff McKissack (a postal service worker) began gathering stray building supplies and putting them together. Over time, his creation became a funhouse-like monument to one of the nation’s favorite citrus fruits: Oranges.

Today, this haphazard collection of stairways, platforms, and bench seats is a haven for local artists and musicians. Thanks to its proximity to nearby Smither Park, The Orange Show could be a great starting point for visitors hoping to see Houston’s most experimental and rustic art installations.

Get a Taste of Local Art at Smither Park

While you’re visiting The Orange Show, you might as well wander over to Smither Park and take a gander at its many statues and art pieces. If you’re looking for some one-of-a-kind photo opportunities, this park’s mosaics may be just the thing to spice up your selfies.

Let Your Dreams Fly at the Cockrell Butterfly Center

Photo Credit: paogfox via Instagram

If natural wonders are your cup of tea, you might want to add the Cockrell Butterfly Center to your Houston itinerary. This massive enclosure contains lush gardens that are home to several species of butterflies. Visitors can also enjoy the tropical rainforest environment and its gorgeous waterfall.

Chow Down on Authentic Mexican Cuisine at La Calle Tacos

Houston is often called the Gateway to the World, and it’s not hard to understand why. This massive Texas city’s close proximity to the Gulf of Mexico makes it a transport hub and one that’s been operating for nearly two centuries.

One of the greatest exports to arrive in Houston is authentic Mexican cuisine. If you love tacos, burritos, and other common Mexican dishes, you’ll want to stop by La Calle before you leave Houston. Not only do they serve some of the most delectable tacos in the city, but they also have reasonable prices and daily specials to keep you coming back for me.

See a Show at the Miller Outdoor Theatre in Hermann Park

Hermann Park is one of the most popular outdoor destinations among Houstonians and visitors. Not only does it have a small Japanese garden and a golf course, but it also contains the Miller Outdoor Theatre, a modern stage, and shelter that often sees a wide variety of performances.

Take a Break at Discovery Green

Downtown Houston is overflowing with shops, restaurants, and fun things to do. If you need a quiet place to take a quick break from the action, be sure to check out Discovery Green. It’s a small patch of green amid the towering skyscrapers and often hosts local bands and musicians.

Learn New Things at the Children’s Museum of Houston

You’re never too old to learn new things, and the Children’s Museum of Houston could be an excellent place to discover a new interest or ignite a passion for knowledge. Besides, visitors with children are bound to enjoy the many hands-on activities on offer at this interactive museum.

Explore the Past at the Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern

Long before modern plumbing, many of the largest cities used underground cisterns and aqueducts to provide drinking water to residents. Though Houston may not be as ancient as Rome or Athens, it once relied on a hidden cistern.

If you’re the adventurous type or enjoy learning more about early American history, you’ll want to schedule a visit to the Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern. Once you’ve had your fill of the eerie, spacious underground tunnels, you can come up top and enjoy the natural resplendence of the park and its many artificial rivers and pathways.

Relax at Gerald D. Hines Waterwall Park

This small uptown park is essentially a tall sculpture that constantly pours water over itself, resulting in a streaming wall of water. It’s an excellent spot for photographs or peaceful breaks. When you’re standing before the semi-circle wall of water, the sounds of the city seem to vanish.

Get Revved Up at the Houston Art Car Museum

Automotive experts and art fanatics alike are bound to enjoy the Houston Art Car Museum. That’s because this museum contains one of the largest collections of decorative art cars.

You’ll find dragsters, classic sports cars, and several prototypes that look like they’re from a parallel universe. There are even stylishly decorated bicycles and a colorful rocket-shaped vehicle that keep your eyes entertained and your imagination running.

Shop Until You Drop at The Galleria

If you’re someone who can’t resist the allure of a splendid shopping mall, you may fall in love with The Galleria. This massive complex contains more than 300 stores, several dozen restaurants, and two dedicated hotels.

As such, you could literally shop until you drop when visiting this beloved Houston establishment. In fact, you could spend several days in this opulent shopping center without seeing everything that’s for sale.

Let Loose and Get Wild on the Kemah Boardwalk

Kemah Boardwalk is one of the most popular destinations for Houstonians and visitors, as it’s chock-full of restaurants, bars, stores, and attractions.

There are roller coasters to ride, freshly caught seafood to eat, and unique souvenirs to explore. But be careful; once you’ve visited Kemah Boardwalk, you might never want to leave Houston!

Final Thoughts

There are hundreds of things to do and see while visiting Houston, and choosing the most exciting attractions for you can be challenging. Fortunately, we found several distinct experiences that you and your family could enjoy while visiting the largest city in Texas.

Whether you’re hoping to relax within the quiet eaves of Hermann Park or looking forward to screaming your lungs out on Kemah Boardwalk’s many rides, you’re bound to have an unforgettable time in Houston.

Which experiences will you choose?