PeaceJoyAustin

Cheap, free, and local-endorsed things to do in beautiful places

Houston

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  • Texas’ largest city
  • The country’s oil and energy industry hub
  • Has been rated the most diverse city in the nation

Metro population: 6.8 million (#5 in the U.S.)

When To Visit: Year-round

Climate: Mostly sunny with some rain year round. Warm winter and hot spring, summer, and fall.

Houston feels a lot more like a big city than you might expect – with LA-style traffic, huge skyscrapers, and a ton of distinctive neighborhoods to explore. It has a great cultural scene – with several fascinating and affordable museums, monuments, and parks.

Photo: Texas Medical Center

Where To Go in Houston

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Houston Convention Center

San Jacinto Monument: The world’s tallest masonry column, the San Jacinto Monument is taller than the Washington Monument and commemorates the Battle of San Jacinto which ended the Texas Revolution. From the observation deck, you’ll get great views of the Trinity Bay and the greater Houston area. To experience some swampland, walk on the monument’s boardwalk. $6 admission. 3523 Independence Parkway, La Porte. (281) 479-2421

Discovery Green: This park in the heart of Downtown Houston provides epic views of the surrounding skyscrapers and has fun interactive art, a pond, and great people watching. You’ll also get a good look at the uniquely styled Houston Convention Center next door. Free. 1500 McKinney Street, Downtown. (713) 400-7336

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Art in Discovery Green

Williams Tower & Gerald D. Hines Waterfall: Williams Tower is a breathtaking 64 foot skyscraper that is one of Houston’s iconic buildings. There’s no public observation decks, but it’s still amazing to gaze at. Next door is Gerald D. Hines Waterfall Park which showcases a magnificent 64 foot waterfall and fountain. Free. 2800 Post Oak Boulevard, Uptown. (713) 850-8841

Hermann Park: This popular park has beautiful grassy areas, fountains, reflecting pools, and a free Japanese Garden. Try to find the statue of the city’s namesake, Sam Houston. Free. 6001 Fannin Street, Museum District. (713) 524-5876

The Health Museum: This hands-on museum allows us non-scientists to learn about the human body. Great for kids and adults! Park in the free public lot across the street. $10 admission. 1515 Hermann Drive, Museum District. (713) 521-1515

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Texas Medical Center

Waugh Drive Bat Colony: Stand on this bridge at sunset to watch thousands of wild bats take off on their nightly journey – an unforgettable experience. Free. 764 Waugh Drive, River Oaks. (713) 752-0314

Buffalo Bayou: The Buffalo Bayou is a natural 52-mile waterway that runs through greater Houston. Take a walk on a two mile stretch of boardwalk along the bayou which was just completed in 2015. Free. 105 Sabine Street, Fourth Ward. (713) 752-0314

Houston Arboretum: This nature sanctuary has nine trails which take you through lush greenery and showcase countless native plants and animals. Free. 4501 Woodway Drive, Memorial Park. (713) 681-8433

Houston Cheap Eats

Houston restaurants and fast casual eateries popular with locals where you can get a full meal for under $15 (often under $10). I always highlight some vegan or vegetarian options – cutting down on the amount of meat you eat is by far the #1 way you can reduce your environmental impact and contribute less to animal cruelty.

Niko Niko’s: This large casual Greek spot has super hearty portions and some of the best tzatziki sauce you’ll find anywhere. 2520 Montrose Boulevard, Montrose. (713) 528-4976

Ninfa’s: Some of the best Mexican food in the city, this casual, down-home restaurant has creative twists on tacos, enchiladas, and fajitas – it’s easy to try something amazing you’ve never heard of before. 2704 Navigation Boulevard, Second Ward. (713) 228-1175

Baba Yega Cafe: This popular brunch spot that’s open all day has a beautiful outdoor garden seating area and a dedicated vegan/vegetarian menu. 2607 Grant Street, Fourth Ward. (713) 522-0042

Hugo’s: A Mexican eatery with ample vegetarian and vegan options, a huge happy hour food menu, and a delicious Mexican-style brunch, including a buffet on Sundays.  1600 Westheimer Road, Montrose. (713) 524-7744

MKT Bar: This trendy bar and restaurant with frequent live music is located inside a market and has incredible food happy hour deals, including a $13 two-course meal on Tuesdays. Try their vegan pizza! 1001 Austin Street, Downtown. (832) 360-2222

Pepper Tree Vegan Cuisine: 100% vegan Asian cuisine that is so rich and flavorful that anyone will love it. If you’re feeling hungry, check out the buffet on weekdays at lunchtime and all day weekends. 3821 Richmond Avenue, Greenway. (713) 621-9488

Amy’s Ice Creams: This fun Texas chain rotates between 350 specialty flavors (including some with alcohol infusions) and is open ’til midnight at most locations. 3816 Farnham Street, Montrose. (713) 526-2697

Houston Nightlife

Houston bars, lounges, and clubs that are popular with locals and meet one or more of these criteria: A) Unique, unlike anyplace you’ll find in another city B) Fun and lively, sure to be a good time C) Beautiful decor or view

Okra Charity Saloon: 100% of proceeds from this brick-walled venue with a gorgeous bar go to rotating local non-profits – they’ve raised nearly a million dollars so far. Drinking has never felt so…giving! 924 Congress Avenue, Downtown. (713) 237-8828

Grand Prize Bar: Fun kitschy decor, cheap drinks and bright Christmas lights make this two-level dive bar a fun place to hang out. Be sure to go up to the rooftop deck. Happy hour goes until 8pm! 1010 Banks Street, Museum District. (713) 526-4565

Guava Lamp: A swanky lounge setting and nightly events like open mic night, drag bingo, and karaoke make this gay bar a fun place to hang out.  570 Waugh Drive, River Oaks. (713) 524-3359

Poison Girl: This large bar has wild art, a $2 well drink happy hour, and lots of outdoor seating on their pleasant back patio. 1641 Westheimer Road, Suite B, Montrose. (713) 527-9929

Neon Boots: This large cowboy-themed gay club is a great place to let loose and dance.  It’s located in a historic ballroom building and has 16 bars and a good-sized outdoor patio. Open Wednesday-Sunday. 11410 Hempstead Road, Spring Branch East. (713) 677-0828

Dirt Bar: Dive bar meets lounge at this small bar known for their well-crafted cocktails and strange decorations. 1209 Caroline Street, Downtown. (713) 651-3988

Nearby Side Trips from Houston

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Historic homes in Galveston

Galveston: This island city on the Gulf Coast an hour south of Houston dates back to 1816 and has a quaint historic downtown, beautiful old-school homes, and a long coastal boardwalk.

Austin: “Keep Austin Weird” is this liberal haven’s unofficial motto. The city 3 hours west of Houston has some of the country’s best live music and tons of natural beauty to explore. Read more.

San Antonio: You’ll have to go beyond the iconic Alamo and RiverWalk to experience the true character of this city 3 hours to the west which has been heavily influenced by its large Latino(a) population. Read more.

Dallas: You might be shocked to find out that Dallas’ metropolitan area is the 4th largest in the country (even larger than Houston’s) and its immense size offers a variety of opportunities for sightseeing in this very urban city that’s managed to retain a lot of its cowboy character. 3.5 hours north. Read more.

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