AAA Travel Tips / Free and Cheap Things to Do in Houston

Free and Cheap Things to Do in Houston

AAA/Laurie Sterbens
By AAA Travel Editor Laurie Sterbens
July 29, 2019
Planning a fun-filled vacation is easy to do if you're planning to visit Houston, which offers more attractions, activities and places to eat than you could possibly fit into one trip. Traveling on a budget? No worries. This destination offers lots of fun things to do that are inexpensive or free. Here are a few of our favorites.
AAA/Laurie Sterbens

Art Car Museum

140 Heights Blvd.
(713) 861-5526
As soon as you arrive at this free museum, you'll know you're in for something a little different than the art museums you may have visited in the past—it’s housed in a unique scrap metal and chrome structure nicknamed the "Garage Mahal" that was designed by car artist David Best. The museum's collection represents not only Houston's art car culture but also contemporary artworks by local, national and international artists, including some not represented in other institutions.
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Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens in Houston Texas
Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens/Rick Gardner

Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens

6003 Memorial Dr.
(713) 639-7750
The former home of Houston philanthropist Ima Hogg is the centerpiece of Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens. Filled with a collection of American antique furnishings, decorative arts and paintings, it is surrounded by eight formal gardens and acres of wooded areas. While there is an additional fee to tour the mansion, you can opt for a gardens-only admission that’s only $7.50 for adults, $5 for children ages 10 to 18 and free for under age 10. A cellphone audio tour is available to guide you past the flowers, plants and trees throughout the grounds, or you can listen to classical music chosen to complement the gardens.
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AAA/Laurie Sterbens

Buffalo Bayou Park

1800 Memorial Pkwy. & Memorial Dr.
(713) 752-0314
If you like to get in some exercise during your vacation but can't face that dreary hotel gym, or if you simply want to get out and enjoy some fresh air, head out to Buffalo Bayou Park. Just minutes from downtown, this 160-acre green space features miles of walking and biking trails along Buffalo Bayou, as well as other free and fun things to do. Go for an art walk and look for the sculptures scattered throughout the park. If your visit happens around sunset, stick around to see the bats fly out from beneath the Waugh Drive Bridge. Family or pets in tow? A nature play area, skate park and a dog park offer fun for everyone.
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AAA/Laurie Sterbens

Houston Arboretum & Nature Center

4501 Woodway Dr.
(713) 681-8433
Escape into the outdoors without leaving the city on the trails of the Houston Arboretum and Nature Center. Here you'll find more than 5 miles of scenic trails through meadow, pond, wetland and woodland habitats, along with themed gardens including Hummingbird & Butterfly Island, the Sensory Garden and the Wildlife Garden. Observation decks and a birding platform offer prime spots for viewing birds and wildlife. Kids will enjoy exhibits in the Nature Center's Discovery Room.
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AAA/Laurie Sterbens

The Menil Collection

1533 Sul Ross St.
(713) 525-9400
Art lovers won't want to miss the Menil Collection, a serene museum comprised of five buildings that house a diverse collection of around 17,000 works of art ranging from antiquities to early and mid-20th-century works by Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso as well as pop and contemporary works by Andy Warhol and Jackson Pollock. The collection isn't limited to the galleries—major works of sculpture are on display around the grounds surrounding the buildings.
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The Waugh Drive Bridge in Houston is home to a year-round colony of Mexican free-tailed bats.
AAA/Laurie Sterbens

Waugh Drive Bridge

Waugh Drive
(713) 752-0314
The Waugh Drive Bridge is located in Buffalo Bayou Park but is a special attraction in itself, as it's home to a large colony of Mexican free-tailed bats. Arrive at the bridge before dusk and you'll be treated to the spectacle of thousands of bats as they emerge from beneath the bridge and take to the skies in search of insects. Unlike other bat colonies in Texas, the Waugh Drive Bridge colony doesn't migrate for the winter, so no matter what time of year you travel to Houston, you can witness this unique sight. Look for the observation deck overlooking the bridge, where you'll find signs with information about the bats.
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