Balling on a budget?
Is one of your New Year’s resolutions to save money? We got you covered. While a little mula could get you a long way as far as experiencing what the City of Houston has to offer, there’s still plenty of cheap and/or free activities for you to enjoy on a budget. Read on to discover 25 cheap and amazing things to do in Houston. [Featured image: @jchen.ys]
1. Stargaze In Wonderment At The Twilight Epiphany Skyscape In Houston
The rise and setting of the sun are spectacles all on their own: captivating natural phenomena that imbue us with feelings of wonder, awe, and romance. At the James Turrells’ Twilight Epiphany installation, you’ll see the sky in entirely new colors. Two sequences occur every day, except for Tuesday, at sunrise and sunset. Visitors are asked to arrive 15 minutes ahead of each sequence; the sunrise sequence begins 40 minutes before sunrise; the sunset sequence begins 10 minutes prior. The experience is free to the public.
2. Visit Houston’s Hidden Slice of Mexico
In this glorious city of ours, we’re proud of our widespread prevalence of Latin culture. The people, the art galleries, the celebrations, and of course, some of our all-time favorite restaurants. Old Town Harrisburg in Houston’s East End offers a Latin oasis featuring vibrant architecture, indoor and outdoor markets, weekend art fairs, and more!
3. Pick Your Poison at this Magical Market
For the first Saturday of every month, Thorn and Moon hosts their Magickal Market. In addition to a conjuring of artisanal vendors, the truly bizarre bazaar will feature an evening of mystical events that include a bewitched burlesque show, tarot card readings, food, cocktails, and more! Entry is free.
4. Cozy Up In The Stacks Of This Gorgeous Oxford-Inspired Library In Houston
Houston isn’t exactly known for its prominence of British culture. While one might not be all too surprised to happen upon a British pub in Montrose, say, one would register a more a delightful wonder to discover an English village in Northwest Houston complete with a 17,000-square-foot University of Oxford-inspired library, train, and cobblestone street.
The Lanier Theological Library is open to the public from 9 am to 5 pm on Mondays through Fridays, except for Tuesdays when it is open until 9 pm. Entrance is free.
5. Stroll Through the City’s Many Graffiti Galleries
It’s no secret that Houston is home to a plethora of talented artists. Some of those artists are generous enough to display their work on the faces and walls of the cities’ buildings for all of us to see. In case you haven’t been out and about lately, here’s a brief guide to some of Houston’s hottest graffiti galleries.
6. Go Ghost Hunting
Hate to be the one to tell you folks, but Houston is haunted. See for yourself via our list of the most haunted places in and around Houston – don’t forget your Proton Packs.
7. Catch the Flight of the Bats Under Waugh Bridge
While Austin might where the title of “Bat City” Houston hosts one of the largest year-long colonies of Mexican free-tailed bats in Texas. When the sun goes down, these bats emerge from underneath Waugh Bridge to stretch their wings resulting in a surreal surreal sunset spectacle.
8. Visit a Museum
Houston is a city of art, and we want the people to know it. That’s why many of Houston’s museums are either free to the public during select times throughout the week, or are just free altogether.
Free MuseumsAsia Society Texas Center Contemporary Arts Museum Houston Diverseworks Houston Center for Contemporary Craft Houston Center for Photography The Jung Center Lawndale Art Center Moody Center for the Arts
Free Museums at Select Hours
Buffalo Soldiers National Museum – Thursdays from 1 pm to 5 pm.
Children’s Museum of Houston – Thursdays from 5 pm – 8 pm.
Czech Center Museum Houston – Last Monday of the month from 12 pm – 4 pm.
The Health Museum – Thursdays from 2 pm – 7 pm.
Holocaust Museum Houston – Thursday from 2 pm – 5 pm; all day on January 27, June 6, and December 10.
Houston Museum of African American Culture – Thursdays from 6 pm – 8 pm.
Houston Museum of Natural Science – Thursdays from 6 pm – 9 pm.
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston – Thursdays from 10 am – 9 pm.
9. Wild Out at the Zoo
On the first Tuesday of every month, the Houston Zoo offers free admission from opening to closing. While free, visitors must make an online reservation beforehand (except for members) as tickets are not available at the gate. Future dates include: February 1, March 1, April 5, May 3.
10. Meditate in the Rothko Chapel
Tucked in the heart of Montrose, across the shaded lawn from the Menil Collection is the quiet, unassuming Rothko Chapel. Since 1971, the chapel has served as a modern landmark and quiet sanctuary. Inside the space a stillness is almost palpable, giving visitors a meditative ambiance upon which to look upon the 14 Rothko murals adorning its walls.
Visitors are welcome inside the chapel as a respite from the chaos of surrounding life. From Wednesday through Sunday the chapel is open from 10 am – 6 pm. While admission is free, visitors must first reserve timed tickets.
11-14. Visit Houston’s Wonderful Parks
One of the upsides of living in a city where winter is a rarity is being able to enjoy its plentiful park system throughout the entire year.
- Experience a vibrant blend of nature and art at Smithers Park, a creative urban space filled with technicolored mosaic installations, a meditation garden, a whimsical set of swings, and more!
- Wander out to Eleanor Tinsley Park. With its pristine lawn, undulating hills, and breathtaking location in front of the downtown skyline, it makes for an ideal spot to toss the frisbee, plop down for a picnic, or catch the sunset of clearer evenings.
- In between the Rothko Chapel and the Menil Collection in Montrose is Menil Park, a shaded little patch of greenery with plenty of natural nooks and crannies for one to curl up with a book, catch up with friends, or simply be present.
15. See What’s Going on at The Miller Outdoor Theatre
The Miller Outdoor Theatre in Hermann Park is one of Houston’s most beloved institutions. From classical music, to theatre, ballet, and film screenings – the theatre also hosts a vibrant variety of live performances for the whole family to enjoy. Plus, it’s all free!
16. See Surreal Art Installations At This Hypnotic Underground Chamber In Houston
“Underground” has long been the moniker to describe art, music, and film outside the mainstream passed, traded, and discussed by those in the know. In Houston, the underground art scene could mean just that, or, it could refer to the art scene literally underground at the Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern.
From now until January 17, 2022, visitors can experience the immersive Time No Longer installation from multimedia artist, Anri Sala. On Thursdays, visitors can experience the installation without charge, however, a reservation is still required.
17. Find Serenity At The Japanese Garden In Houston
Now open, the Japanese Garden, also known as the Friendship Garden, was designed by renowned Japanese landscape architect, Ken Nakajama. The late Nakajama, who arranged similar gardens all around the world, designed the Hermann Park Japanese Garden according to traditional Daimyo style. Over five acres, the elegant terrain features comely touches of lush flora, a stone Yukimi-style lantern, shaded stone paths, bridges, and cascading waterfalls. Admission is free.
18. Cheers at Houston’s Beloved Beer Can House
Featured on Ripley’s Believe It Or Not – remember that show? – the Beer Can House puts frat houses and your uncle’s shed of empties to shame with over 50,000 cans constructing this beer can casa. According to the organization’s website, the project began back in 1968 when retired railroad upholsterer, John Milkovisch began experimenting with mixing pieces of metal, marble, and rocks into concrete and redwood. Once he filled his backyard with these quirky little landscape features, Milkovisch went to work on his house, adorning it with aluminum beer can siding over the course of 18 years. Tickets run for the small price of $5 for adults, free for children aged 12 and under.
19. Bend and Breathe at These Free Yoga Classes
It’s about time the world has come around the limitless benefits that yoga has to offer. Now that we all know that yoga is no longer just for the Austin-types, Houston thankfully has a couple of free classes for the public to get their stretch on:
- On Saturdays, Discovery Green hosts free Hatha Yoga classes led by Andria Dugas at 9 am. Classes are free, but participants must bring their own mats, as well as register on site beforehand.
- Sundays at 11 am at Lululemon offers complementary yoga classes, mats provided if necessary.
20. Discover What’s What at Discovery Green
In addition to the aforementioned yoga classes, Discovery Green regularly features countless free events, exhibitions, and experiences throughout the year in the heart of Downtown, Houston.
Presently, visitors can check out the Mosaic of Light exhibition until February 27; practice Tai Chi on Saturdays at 10:15 am (class on January 8 is cancelled); and participate in other fitness classes on select dates.
Be sure to check their schedule for upcoming experiences including Screen on the Green, Flea by Night, and other special events!
21. Visit the Breathtaking Hindu Temple
The BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir Houston is a marvelous 11,500-foot traditional Hindu Temple in Strafford. On grounds that expand over 33 acres, the place of worship welcomes all to visit, offer devotion, and learn about Hinduism.
22. Stand in the Mist of Houston’s Great Waterwall
Among the top contenders for Houston’s top monuments is the magical Gerald D. Hines Waterwall Park. Located in Uptown Park, the massive Waterwall is an absolute must-visit for Houstonians, newcomers, and tourists.
23. Experience A Psychedelic Odyssey Only Accessible By Train
The train ride in Hermann Park begins as ordinary as would be expected in any urban park. Fair, pleasant, mild. The miniature Dr. Jack Express train picks you up from Kinder Station and takes you on an 18-minute trip around the park. It engines along, giving you pleasing views of the Miller Outdoor Theatre, Japanese Garden, and the Jones Reflection Pond. When suddenly, you are plunged into Destination Mound Town: a tunnel of mind-altering artwork from another universe. Tickets cost a mere $3.50.
24. Check Out Post Houston’s New Skylawn
Behold, the former USPS warehouse as a new a cutting-edge, multi-purpose, multi-layered facility with a complete technical re-design. Featuring multiple double-helix staircases, a trio of skylit atriums, and a FIVE-ACRE ROOFTOP PARK AND FARM.
25. Pay Homage to the Founders of Houston at Glenwood Cemetery
On Washington Avenue, set upon a rolling grassy landscape is the century-old Glenwood Cemetery. Its terrain resembles more that of a park. With its hilly natural landscape and bluff overlooks, this site offers one of the best views of Buffalo Bayou and Downtown Houston the city has to offer.
See also: Mind-Blowing NASA-Inspired ‘Infinite’ Experience Lifts Off In Houston