4 things you didn't know were FREE to do in Houston

HOUSTON – You don’t need a big budget to explore the fourth largest city in America.

From splashing around downtown to exploring the diverse art scene, there are four attractions you must check out year around, whether you live in Houston or just come to visit.

Nora Kapche, The Coupon Contessa, reveals her favorite spots to have fun with the family on Houston Life.

1. Explore the Houston Ship Channel by boat

Learn about international trade at one of the nation’s busiest ports


The Sam Houston Boat Tour is a free educational experience where guests can learn more about the greater Port of Houston and the Houston Ship Channel’s impact and importance to the Houston region, state and nation.  During the tour, guests will enjoy passing views of international cargo vessels and operations at the port’s Turning Basin Terminal.  While completely free, reservations are required and the 95-ft. vessel holds up to 100 passengers. It features air-conditioned, lounge seating, as well as standing room outside on the boat’s deck, and a complimentary beverage is offered. Tours are offered twice a day (10 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.), but they are closed on Sundays and Mondays.

2. Visit the Menil

New to the Houston arts scene? This 30-acre neighborhood of art is a great place to start.


The current crowd-favorite installation is Contemporary Focus: Mineko Grimmer. Grimmer’s work on view is called Remembering Plato, a pair of sound-producing kinetic sculptures that evoke calm and encourage contemplation using water, melting ice and falling pebbles that strike a brass rod and piano strings. It’s a great escape from the summer heat! The Menil Collection is open Wednesday – Sunday, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

3. Cool off at Discovery Green

The Gateway Fountain features 14-foot high arcing jets that provide plenty of water for kids to play under.


Discovery Green is full of free, family fun entertainment every day of the week. From yoga and tai chi to zumba, live music, writing workshops for teens and much more. The 12-acre park features sprawling lawns, a one-acre lake, an interactive fountain, a playground, public art installations and garden.

4. Cruise into the Art Car Museum

Houston is often considered the “art car capital” because of the large number of art cars assembled here.

This one of a kind museum features award-winning art cars and revolving exhibitions from local and international artists. The current exhibit is called “Then and Now” and showcases the works of a core group of 25+ artists from UH Lawndale in the 80s and their evolution of vision (four decades of work). The Art Car Museum is opened Wednesday through Sunday, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Watch Nora’s segment on Houston Life to learn more about each of these attractions.

Other affordable fun things to do with the family:

Ride the train or go pedal boating at Hermann Park

This is a great activity the whole family can enjoy together, even if you're on a budget. 

Train rides are available daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on the Hermann Park Train. Tickets are  only $3.75 per ride or $7.50 for an all-day pass.  The train makes three stops that all provide different activities.


You can also enjoy the beauty of the park by renting a pedal boat. The cost is $12 per boat for 30 minutes of fun. Pedal boats are available daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Hermann Park.

Explore nature at Lake Houston Wilderness Park

Located in New Caney, TX this beautiful park is just about 30 minutes north of downtown Houston.


Lake Houston Wilderness Park is the only park in the Houston Parks and Recreation Department system that offers overnight stays with a variety of campsite rentals, even cabins for those of us who like running water and air conditioning. There is a small $3 park fee per person ages 13 to 64. Activities include hiking, biking, kayaking and enjoying the great outdoors.


To connect with Nora and her blog, Coupon Contessa, click here.