Houston On The Cheap

Houston on the Cheap: 10 fun things to do in the Bayou City that are free all the time

Houston on the Cheap: 10 free fun things to do in the Bayou City

Spring Texas Skatepark
The Spring Texas Skatepark is the largest in the United States and is perfect for any of Houston's skating enthusiasts. Connor Hyde / Impact News
CounterCurrent Festival 2015 Ht/X by Luke Savisky
Luke Savisky's 'Ht/X' video installation at Allen's Landing is just one of the free events at the CounterCurrent Festival, taking place April 14-19. CounterCurrent Festival
Urban Harvest Farmers Market booths
Urban Harvest's farmers market is the perfect place to people watch and enjoy a beautiful Saturday morning. Ebony.com
Infinite Machine Byzantine Fresco Chapel art
The new installation at the former Byzantine Fresco Chapel is a must-see — and it's free. Photo by Joel Luks
News_Waugh Bridge_Bat Colony_Sign
Viewing the nightly bat flight from the Waugh Bridge is truly a rite of passage for any Houstonian. Courtesy photo
Discovery Green, George R. Brown Convention Center, Hilton, skyline, December 2012
Discovery Green, a 12-acre park located in the heart of downtown, is a wonderful place to spend the afternoon with friends and family. Photo courtesy of George R. Brown Convention Center
Places-A&E-Art Car Museum-exterior-1
As one of the most unique institutions in Houston, the Art Car Museum is a must-visit for any area resident. Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau
Places-A&E-Lawndale Art Center-exterior-1
Lawndale Art Center, located in the Museum District, features exhibitions highlighting local contemporary artists. Courtesy photo
Miller Outdoor Theatre
All performances and events at Miller Outdoor Theatre, located in Hermann Park, are free to the public. Photo by Leroy Gibbins
News_Houston Center for Contemporary Craft
The Houston Center for Contemporary Craft, which is always free to visit, is one of the Museum District's hidden gems. Photo by Cynthia Neely
News_Dan Flavin_Site-specific installation by Dan Flavin_1996_Menil Collection_Richmond Hall
The Dan Flavin installation at Richmond Hall is just one part of the extensive and incredible campus of The Menil Collection. Courtesy photo
Spring Texas Skatepark
CounterCurrent Festival 2015 Ht/X by Luke Savisky
Urban Harvest Farmers Market booths
Infinite Machine Byzantine Fresco Chapel art
News_Waugh Bridge_Bat Colony_Sign
Discovery Green, George R. Brown Convention Center, Hilton, skyline, December 2012
Places-A&E-Art Car Museum-exterior-1
Places-A&E-Lawndale Art Center-exterior-1
Miller Outdoor Theatre
News_Houston Center for Contemporary Craft
News_Dan Flavin_Site-specific installation by Dan Flavin_1996_Menil Collection_Richmond Hall

Sometimes it feels like you can't find anything fun to do without spending a lot of money in this city. Thankfully, you'd be wrong. We've rounded up 10 incredible places to visit or things to do in Houston that cost absolutely nothing.

Waugh Bridge Bat Colony

About 250,000 Mexican free-tailed bats live within the crevices of the Waugh Drive Bridge, and every evening at twilight, they emerge as a cloud of chirping winged creatures to stretch and feast on bugs. Unlike other colonies of bats residing in Texas that opt for warmer climates by migrating southward during winter months, the Waugh Bridge Bat Colony remains in Houston throughout the year, and it's thought to be the only bridge in Texas with such a large colony that resides in one location. So choose your viewing location and enjoy the wonders of some of Houston's most interesting residents.

Houston Center for Contemporary Craft

Opened in 2001, the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft is a nonprofit arts organization founded to advance education about the process, product and history of craft. The institution's emphasis is on art objects made primarily from craft materials, such as clay, fiber, glass, metal, wood or found and recycled materials. Featuring exhibitionretail and studio spaces to support the work of local and national artists, the center also serves as a resource for artists, educators and the community-at-large and is one of only a few venues in the country dedicated exclusively to craft at the highest level. The Houston Center for Contemporary Craft is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays.

Spring Texas Skatepark

The 78,000-square-foot Spring Texas Skatepark — the largest in North America — is the perfect destination for any of the city's skateboard enthusiasts.  The park features a 360-degree pipe (inside a Texas-shaped bowl, no less), a 12-foot vertical ramp and a 10-foot-deep bowl, as well as a "street" with stairs, handrails and benches. Located at 12351 Kuykendahl, the Spring Skatepark— which always features free admission — is open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.

Miller Outdoor Theatre

Located in Hermann ParkMiller Outdoor Theatre offers an eight month season — beginning in March — of professional entertainment, and the venue features the largest always-free program of its kind in the country. Whether it's a classical concert, jazz, ethnic music and dance, ballet, Shakespeare, musical theater or even one of your favorite films, Miller Outdoor Theatre presents a wide variety of events. Bring a picnic basket, a blanket and your friends and family to enjoy any number of events from the hill, or get free tickets — available at the venue's box office on a first-come basis — for up-front covered seating.

Art Car Museum

Opened in 1998, the Art Car Museum was founded by Ann Harithas, an artist and long-time supporter of the Art Car movement, and James Harithas, the director of the Station Museum of Contemporary Art. The museum celebrates the spirit of the post-modern age of car culture, in which artists have remodeled cars to the fit the specifications of their own idiosyncratic images and visions. The museum — open Wednesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. — features elaborate art cars, lowriders, and mobile contraptions, as well as exhibitions by local, national, and international artists. 

Discovery Green

A 12-acre park located in the heart of downtown, Discovery Green is the perfect place to spend the day with friends and family, whether you're looking to run around or simply lounge in the grass. The urban park features a kid's playground, trails, a small lake, many unique public art pieces and beautiful gardens, not to mention an incredible schedule of free programming that includes movie nights, concerts, festivals, exercise classes, art exhibitions and more. Open from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily, the park also features two restaurants (The Grove and The Lake House) in case you get hungry from having too much fun.

CounterCurrent Festival

Running April 14 to 19, the CounterCurrent Festival presents bold experimental art at a number of unexpected sites around Houston. All events are free of charge, although due to limited seating, reservations — which can be made online starting March 17 — are highly encouraged. Presented by the University of Houston Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts, CounterCurrent includes audio and visual installations, live performances and participatory events by artists from around the world. The event features collaborations with dynamic organizations and artists in the Houston community, as well as new works by faculty and students from the University of Houston.

Lawndale Art Center

Lawndale Art Center is one of the city's only institutions dedicated to presenting contemporary art with an emphasis on work by regional artists. Located in the Museum District, Lawndale utilizes its accessible location to present exhibitions, performances, lectures, film screenings and events, and also offers an annual residency program to further the creative exchange of ideas among Houston's diverse communities. The institution is also well-known for annual programming like its Dia de los Muertos events and The Big Show, their open-call, juried exhibition. Lawndale is open to the public — admission is free, of course — from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and from noon to 5 p.m. on Saturdays.

Urban Harvest Farmers Market

Urban Harvest — a nonprofit that encourages community, good nutrition and sustainability through the teaching and support of organic gardening — hosts the farmers market every Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon in the parking lot of 3000 Richmond. Often considered to be the city's best farmers market, it features more than 50 farmers and vendors who sell everything from farm fresh duck eggs and grass-fed beef to artisanal breads and local olive oil. Although the products aren't free, admission to the market is, and it's certainly a fantastic place for early morning people watching (definitely be on the look out for some of your favorite local chefs picking up fresh ingredients).

The Menil Collection

In 1987, Dominique de Menil generously opened her extensive private art collection — which has been called one of the finest of the modern era — to the public by creating the admission-free institution known as The Menil Collection. The museum features many permanent (but ever-changing) collections — ranging from Surrealism and Contemporary art to Byzantine and Medieval works — in addition to their temporary exhibitions. The Menil campus also includes the Rothko Chapel, the Cy Twombly Gallery, the Dan Flavin installation at Richmond Hall and Menil Park, as well as The Infinity Machine, a new, year-long installation by Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller in the Byzantine Fresco Chapel. The entire campus is open Wednesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Did we miss your favorite free thing to do in Houston? Let us know in the comments section below.