If you know where to look, you can find some pretty amazing things to do for free in Houston. Any day of the week you can watch the bat colony takeoff at sunset at the Waugh Drive Bridge or explore the 7,800 acres of George Bush Park in west Houston. Get a run in along Buffalo Bayou (with killer city photo ops) and let the kids press the big red button to make the bayou burp.
You can spend your afternoon soaking up the sun at one of the many free public beaches in Galveston or escape the heat and get lost in a good read at Becker's Books, Murder By The Book, or any of Houston's other independent bookstores.
Wander past the uber cool Beer Can House or stroll down the Kemah Boardwalk for Instagram-worthy views of Clear Lake and Galveston Bay. And for cultural excitement, check out the hidden murals throughout the city on a self-guided tour (with the help of this map).
The city is bursting with things to do. Here are 18 free things you should check out in H-Town this summer, from unique date night ideas to yoga and fitness classes, and even ways to keep your kids learning during their summer break.
1. Send Your Kid to Apple Camp
Yes, really. The Apple Store actually has a camp for kids, ages 8-12, where they can get creative with hands-on digital projects with the help of Apple experts. These three-day, 90-minute Apple Camps tend to fill up quickly so register early.
2. Play Bar Trivia with Geeks Who Drink
With a name like Geeks Who Drink, you know their trivia game is legit. This Denver-based group has actual "quizmasters" who create their unique bar trivia questions. Games are hosted at different bars and breweries like the Barking Pig, Little Woodrow’s, and Town and City Brewing Company, among dozens of others and played in fun-loving, smack-talking kind of way. And of course there’s competition, so bring your friends, preferably your quick-thinking friends.
3. Tour a Local Brewery
Aspiring brew masters and hopheads, head to your nearest brewery in town to get schooled on things like how to incorporate new ingredients into your brew and why some styles have more alcohol content over others. Of the 20 or so breweries in Houston, you can find a handful that offer free brewery tours like these:
4. Splash Away at Schlitterbahn Waterpark
In celebration of American Heroes Week, 5/29 – 6/4, all Military, Police, Firefighters and EMT’s will have free admission to Schlitterbahn Waterpark in Galveston. And yes, Schlitterbahn is for adults as much as it is for kids.
5. Explore the Unusual Underground Cistern
From an underground drinking water reservoir (built in 1926) to an underground public space that hosts changing art installations, the Cistern is a highly unusual space that gets a lot of attention. Spanning 87,500-square-feet underground including 25-foot tall, slender concrete columns set row upon row, hovering over two inches of water on the reservoir’s floor. It’s absolutely stunning and the changing art installations use the space as part of their exhibit. It’s free on Thursdays but you still need to reserve a ticket, as space is limited.
6. Watch Movies Under the Stars
Well it’s not a drive-in theater but it’s kind of the same idea minus the cars. Grab a blanket, pack your snacks and relax under the stars while watching some of your favorite stars on the big screen. These pop-movie movie spots are appearing all of over Houston. Alamo Drafthouse Rolling Roadshow presents movies under the stars at the historic Market Square on select Wednesday’s this summer showing movies like Dirty Dancing and Almost Famous.
For family-friendly movies, head to the Discovery Green on select Saturday nights for movies like Secret Life of Pets, Ghostbusters and “Finding Dory.” Or check out movies at Sugar Land Town Square, also on Saturday nights featuring Pete’s Dragon and Moana.
7. Go for a Sunday Ride with Bayou Bikers
The first Sunday of every month, Bayou Bikers meet up at Market Square and go for a 25-to-40 mile bike ride. Leave your road bike or cruiser at home as these bayou-exploring rides are best for mountain bikes and fat tire bikes.
8. Experience an Epic Sunset Light Show
Head to the campus of Rice University at sunrise or sunset to check out the largest sky space created by world-renowned artist James Turrell. By staring up through a 14-by-14-foot opening to the sky, you are surrounded by colors being projected via lights onto the building's ceiling. As the sky changes, so do the gradients of color on the ceiling, making you feel as though you are in a dream. With music that changes based on the sky patterns, the experience is always unique, integrating nature and technology. Free to view but reservations are required.
9. Learn the Circus Art
A fitness style that is becoming all the rage, Circus Arts focuses on ground arts and acrobatics such as, low tight wire, partner acrobatics, contortion/flexibility, juggling and hand balancing. These Tuesday night classes are taught on the Hess Patio at Discovery Green and run through the end of June. The instructors are from Cique le Vie, a Houston Contemporary Circus company and you must be 13 and up to participate.
10. Cruise Around the City With Hundreds of Other Bicyclists
Critical Mass takes places on the last Friday of every month, where bicyclists around the world meet up to pedal through their city. Houston’s Critical Mass meets up at the historic Market Square and rolls off sometime around 7:15 pm. It’s an absolute blast and a great way to meet new people.
11. Free Yoga but BYOM
From sunrise to sunset on Labor Day, participating yoga studios across Houston and the nation offer free yoga classes for the Free Day of Yoga. This is a great time to try yoga for the first time or even just a new class and instructor.
If you don't want to wait until the end of the summer, here’s a list of a few additional places to choose from now:
Athleta in Rice Village (there are other locations but this locations offers the most options)
Discovery Green on Saturday mornings from 9 – 10
Lululemon in The Galleria and Highland Village
Sugar Land Town Square
12. Spot Dolphins from the Galveston Island Ferry
There’s no need to pay for a dolphin-watching tour when you can spot these adorable mammals from the Galveston Island Ferry on its way to Port Bolivar Peninsula. Seems like a random thing to do, but it’s free and the beaches on the peninsula are less crowded than on Galveston Island. Bring your car or walk on the ferry.
13. Writer’s Workshop for Kids
Limited to 25 students on a first-come, first-served basis, this is Houston’s only free writing workshop for kids. On every Saturday in the summer at the Houston Public Library’s HPL Express, kids can learn how to express their thoughts and develop their language skills.
14. Free Day at the Museum
You’ll be happy to learn that some museums are actually free every day in Houston and others are free on specific days like first Thursday. Here's a detailed list of the free museums. Bank of America card holders get free admission to over 100 museums in the nation as part of the "Museums on Us" program on the first full weekend of every month. In Houston, those museums are the Children's Museum of Houston and the Museum of Fine Arts Houston.
15. Skip the Gym and Get Fit Outside
Why buy an expensive gym membership when you can sample workout classes all around town? We’re not talking about a class pass either as there are tons of free workout classes throughout the city everyday. And while it might get pretty toasty outside during the summer in Houston, look at it this way: You’ll be sweating more and burning more calories. Among the classes:
Athleta Stores: Three locations and various classes throughout the week
City Centre Running Club every Monday night
- Hoop Dance - Sundays at 10:30 am
- Bumba Toning - Mondays at 6:30 pm
- Circus Arts - Tuesdays at 5:30 pm
- Yoga - Tuesdays at 6:30 pm
- Zumba - Wednesdays at 6:30 pm
- Parkour - Thursdays at 6:30 pm
- Yoga - Saturday at 9 am
16. Shake Things Up For Date Night
Remix your Friday night date plans with a little dancing under the stars in the Plaza at Sugar Land Town Square. Dance instructors from the Fred Astaire Dance Studio will be there to show you a few new dance moves if you’re feeling adventurous.
17. Houston LGBT Pride Celebration
The Houston LGBT Pride Festival and Pride Parade are at the center of the celebration with an attendance of over 700,000 people from all over the world. Taking place in downtown Houston on June 24 at noon, this festival is free and open to the public. No tickets are necessary unless you want to access the VIP areas. The parade kicks off that night when temperatures have cooled off a bit.
18. Boat Tour of the Port of Houston
Set sail on a free 90-minute boat tour of the Port of Houston. You’ll learn about the history of the seaport and see massive ocean freighters and barges navigate the 50-mile channel. The MV Sam Houston has been giving tours of Port Houston since its inaugural voyage on July 30, 1958 and has welcomed over 2 million visitors. The tour is free but reservations are required.