8 Ways to Have Fun in Houston For Free (No, Really—Totally Free)

Who says fun means costly?

By Claire Anderson and Jessica Lodge


Catch a flick at Market Square Park for free. 

As a kid, you couldn’t wait to get older and have the freedom to do whatever you wanted. But there’s a high chance we didn’t fully understand the sentiment of being an adult—especially as it pertains to finances. As soon as the money is deposited bills have to be paid, groceries bought, gas tank filled and in some instances, there’s no surplus leftover that allows for some much-needed adventures. But who’s to say that you have to spend money in order to do so? 

H-Town is packed with events that permit you to coincidentally forget your wallet at home. If you’re looking for some new, free events to attend, we’ve got you covered.

1. Check out Movies Under the Stars at Market Square Park.

Bring your comfiest lawn chairs to these free outdoor screenings held twice a month at Market Square Park. Enjoy a mix of cult classic comedy films like Eddie Murphy’s Coming to America or Pitch Perfect, or more recent family-friendly flicks like Lightyear and Hotel Transylvania while you nosh on Greek fare from Niko Niko’s, just a stone's throw away from the park. Still looking to be cost-effective? Bring some snacks from home, like a good movie’s favorite accompaniment, buttered popcorn—or something from that stash of candy you were supposed to be saving for the trick-or-treaters this year.

2. Partake in Fitness in the Park at Discovery Green.

Join local fitness and wellness instructors at these weekly classes at Discovery Green. Sweat it out in the Houston summer (er, fall) heat with vinyasa yoga classes Tuesdays and Saturdays, or break out of your mid-week slump with Pilates or HIIT Wednesdays and Thursdays. Then, find your inner peace with some Saturday-morning Tai Chi courtesy of the Four Dragons Institute. The variety of exercises offered will keep your body, mind, and spirit in better shape than ever, and it all takes place in nature.

3. Catch a show at Miller Outdoor Theatre.

No matter your niche, there’s something for everyone at Miller. Take your pick from upcoming and seasonal events like concerts by The Devon Allman Project or Frankie Avalon, performances by Houston Grand Opera, the annual Houston Shakespeare Festival, plus jazz and Chicano music. Attend screenings of The Mighty Ducks and Black Panther, and fully improvised, kid-friendly musical theater productions by Express Children’s Theatre. As a catch-all venue for all things Houston, the theater also celebrates diverse, international cultures with productions such as Asia To The World, Houstonian pride (the Houston Young Artists’ Concert showcasing local classical child musicians), and everything in between.

4. Get some fresh air at Houston Arboretum & Nature Center

Want to walk on the wild side without straying from the forest path? Visit the Houston Arboretum & Nature Center, home to 13 walking trails populated by a variety of native birds, insects, squirrels, snakes, wildflowers, and trees. Both family and dog-friendly, these trails are accompanied by bountiful learning opportunities. The arboretum hosts free educational programs for everyone, including a homeschool program for ages 5 –12, the Arboretum After Dark, and for this season—classes that will teach you how to make pumpkin planters or gingerbread birdhouses.

5. Defy gravity at the Lee and Joe Jamail Skatepark.

Houston’s first public skatepark is home to one of the largest cradles in the nation. Occupying 30,000 square feet, there’s plenty of space for novice and pro skaters alike. Whether you’re there to hop on a board yourself or simply spectate the wonder of Houstonians defying gravity, the downtown skatepark is great for all ages. Parents can drop the kids off for free after-school skating lessons, or wander down to Skater Alley to discover all the graffiti art (and maybe make some of your own). The park offers all the fun of skateboarding culture—with some Houston flair.

6. Learn about Houston’s history Sam Houston Boat Tour.

Reserve a ninety-minute boat tour and celebrate a slice of Houston’s history on the M/V Sam Houston, Port Houston’s sixty-four-year-old public tour boat whose maiden voyage set sail in 1958. Sip a complimentary drink as you sightsee around the biggest port in Texas, and maybe throw a wave at passing international cargo vessels down the Houston Ship Channel. Learn about the history and daily operations of Port Houston as you relax in the ship’s lounge and admire the oh-so-blue water. Plus, you never know when you might see a mermaid (or at least a really cool fish).

7. Indulge in the art at Rothko Chapel.

Looking for some bliss? Need an art fix, too? Look no further than the Rothko Chapel. John and Dominique de Menil, late co-founders of Houston’s beloved Menil Collection, founded the Chapel over fifty years ago, and its presence has not lessened since. It’s intended to be an all-inclusive, non-denominational space for visitors to sit and reflect while admiring masterworks by the famous abstract artist Mark Rothko. While you’re there, you won’t be able to miss the massive sculpture dedicated to Martin Luther King Jr. by the world-renowned artist Barnett Newman right outside the building. Visit anytime you need a quiet afternoon, or attend one of its special events, usually surrounding issues of social justice, spirituality, art and music, and self-reflection.

8. Snap a few flicks at the Houston Graffiti Wall.

When you have a day to yourself and no plans, explore the city and take some Instagram-worthy pictures. The city is filled with hidden gems that make the ideal backdrop for the photos that are guaranteed to break the internet. Old industrial buildings are covered with murals of Houston legends such as Bun B, DJ Screw, and the late Kobe Bryant.

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