With plenty of cheap flights to Houston operating daily, the city is ripe for a spontaneous 3-day trip. Houston is packed with culture on the back of a large and diverse population, museums and expansive urban parks.
There’s never a reason to be bored in Houston. The city is home to a wonderful cultural district, several top-end sports teams, the Space Center Houston and pleasant year-round weather.
Add in a potential day-trip to Galveston along with some great local eats and you’ll be wondering why you didn’t visit sooner! Let’s get started.
Where to Stay in Houston
Houston is the fourth most populated city in the United States, and is teeming with a variety of neighborhoods that have something to offer visitors.
Uptown Houston is a common spot for travellers being home to the Galleria Houston, a massive shopping mall. You’ll also have restaurants, nightlife and the full spectrum of hotels to choose from. Plus, you won’t be far from downtown.
The Museum District would be a great place to base yourself during your time in Houston. Much of this itinerary is based on this part of the city, as it’s the cultural hub of Houston. Find the bulk of the city’s renowned museums plus Hermann Park and the Houston Zoo.
Lastly, Downtown features a wide range of luxury and budget accommodations. Plus access to dining and nightlife. You’re also close to the Buffalo Bayou Park and the city’s MetroRail.
The Best Time of Year to Visit Houston
Due to its warm climate, Houston enjoys mild winters and warm summers. In many ways it operates on a different schedule as other destinations. In the summer, locals often travel to milder destinations, leaving cheaper room rates and lower crowds at popular attractions.
Fall, winter and early spring are great times to enjoy all that Houston has to offer. With the milder temperatures, the parks are a wonderful place to be. Plus, you will have the added benefit of potentially escaping your regular winter.
Day One: Bayous, Murals, and Theatre
Houston is full of sprawling green spaces that perfectly complement the urban landscape. After your journey into the city, the last thing you’ll likely want to do is hunker down inside when the bright sun is shining. If my instincts have served me right, then check into your hotel and head straight to Buffalo Bayou Park.
Backed by the soaring skyscrapers of downtown Houston, Buffalo Bayou Park is a spacious 160-acre urban park packed with fun activities for young and old. The highlight, of course, is the bayou that not only cuts through the park but the city itself.
Inside the park, you will discover an extensive trail system for walking and cycling. If you’ve brought along the family dog, then there’s also a large dog park to explore. But beyond the trails are several public art exhibits and an abundance of leafy trees perfect for some light ready, or a cheeky cheese board.
The park isn’t just for on-land activities. In fact, one of the best things to do at Buffalo Bayou Park is to get out onto the water. With the help of Bayou City Adventures, you can rent a variety of paddlecraft from kayaks to SUPs. Find them at the Lost Lake Visitor Center and enjoy a paddle!
Finally, finish off your adventures at Buffalo Bayou Park at the iconic Cistern. The unique site is from the 1920s and was an old underground reservoir for early residents. But now you’ll find it as a place that hosts many eye-opening art installations you can explore on a guided tour.
Depending on when you arrived in Houston, you may have the time to begin tackling the city’s well-known Museum District. As one of the top attractions in the city, the district is home to an envious amount of quality museums and galleries that can’t be completed in one sitting. Not that you shouldn’t try.
All up, there are 19 museums within the district, 11 of which are free to explore. The most popular museums include the Museum of Natural Science, the Menil Collection and the Contemporary Arts Museum. Two of our favorites, the Museum of Fine Arts and the Children’s Museum of Houston, have been added to the third day of our Houston itinerary.
Speaking of stunning and free public art, one of the most underrated aspects of Houston is the city’s immense street art scene. Where some may just see graffiti, the street art here is world class, with several top local artists like Gonzo247 and international wonders like COPE2 adding another layer to the vibrant city.
Without even trying, you’ll stumble across many murals around the city, some of the best being within the downtown and central business district. This is where you’ll be able to snap photos in front of the giant ‘Houston is Inspired’ mural.
With the art also being spread around the city, the mass of work can make it a challenge to explore it thoroughly. But with the help of this epic two-hour tour on an open-sided electric cart, you can explore the best murals in the city. On top of that, take a journey into local history and the culture of H-Town.
After dinner, and as the stars sparkle above Houston, make your way to the Miller Outdoor Theater. Found in Hermann Park, the outdoor theatre has been entertaining the masses since 1923. Here, you’ll find some entertaining free performances that span eight months of the year.
Bring along a couple of camp chairs and some blankets and snuggle up for a live performance under the moonlight. Miller’s website has a schedule so you can see what’s on while you’re in Houston.
Where to Eat On Your First Day
For your first meal in Houston, you can’t go wrong with Lucille’s. The local favorite will get you back in touch with (or introduce you to) classic southern fare. Pair your top eats with a cocktail or two for the full experience.
Before venturing to Hermann Park for some outdoor entertainment, stop by the Rustic Oak. The gastropub and wine bar serves up new-world southern cuisine, with a touch of Creole. Plus, you can dine outside!
Day Two: Astronauts, Zoos, and Baseball
With day one in the books, it’s time to experience without doubt the top attraction in Houston, Texas. Space Center Houston could easily be the first thing you do when you arrive in town. However, with just one full day in Houston, we placed it here so that you can have the entire day (if you wish) to explore the vast building.
Space Center Houston is an immense complex and the official visitor center for those who want to check out the Johnson Space Center. This isn’t just a regular museum either, it’s hands on. Holding such a prominent spot in the history of the United States, it will enthrall the oldies as much as the young ones!
Inside the visitor center, you will be able to walk inside a replica of the first space station ever made by the US, the Skylab. If you’ve ever wanted to touch a rock from the moon, the Skylab will answer your prayers.
But if you’ve come all this way, then you’ll be itching to pay a visit to the Johnson Space Center. Jump on the open-air tram and embark on a journey to mission control. Discover the place where all the action happens and astronauts train for their mission to space. This is also where you can explore Rocket Park, where real rockets are on display.
Before you head back to Houston, however, you must sign up for the Level 9 Tour. Go behind the curtains and see the space center like never before. Explore a series of buoyancy and simulation labs, the control center and if you’re lucky, you might cross paths with a real astronaut!
When at the Miller Outdoor Theatre, you may have crossed paths with the Houston Zoo. After the Space Center, another one of the top things to do in Houston with kids is to explore the expansive zoo.
Home to over 6000 native and international animals, the zoo covers over 50 acres. Discover animals from all corners of the globe with the chance to feed giraffes or watch the sea lions frolic around the aquarium.
To see more of the surrounding Hermann Park, join one of the many walking trails through the city’s crown jewel. Stumble upon McGovern Lark where you can sign up for a paddle boat ride, or explore Houston’s pristine Japanese Gardens.
As the day winds down, if you’re up for another fun family activity, then make a beeline for Fast Track Amusements. The Space Center inspires the adventurer in all of us. The best way to blow off steam is to hit the go-kart track and test our racing skills against friends and family.
After zooming around the Wacky Gator Super Speedway and collecting the checkered flag, defend your title on the mini golf course or in the arcade room. If that’s not enough, then work up a sweat as you battle it out on Fast Track’s laser tag course.
Between March and October every year, America’s pastime, baseball, sets up shop at Houston’s Minute Maid Park. The Houston Astros, the local and controversial team is always fun to watch, regardless of what team you follow.
Getting along to a baseball game is one of the top things to do at night in Houston. Under the retractable roof, you won’t have to worry about the weather and, with some great food offerings like local BBQ, you’ll also be set for dinner. Sit back, enjoy the atmosphere and hopefully catch a fly ball.
Where to Eat on Your Second Day
If you’re looking for a boozy brunch in Houston, then look no further than the aptly named a’Bouzy. Beyond the delicious brunch favorites, is a selection of over 250 champagnes that will change the way you look at a morning mimosa.
Houston takes a lot of pride in its food and this is certainly the case at Bodegas Taco Shop. While it’s not one of Houston’s famous food trucks, it acts like one, with the best tostados, burritos and tacos in town.
For date night, head to the Museum District for an intimate fine dining experience at MF Sushi. Enjoy an exquisite meal with many of Houston’s top cultural attractions within walking distance for post dinner festivities.
Day Three: Galveston, Museums and the Waterwall
If you fancy doing a brief road trip out of Houston and exploring more of southeast Texas, then Galveston will be a great way to begin day three. Just an hour out of Houston on the Gulf of Mexico, Galveston has something for everyone.
The stunning beaches of the coastal town are popular year-round thanks to seemingly endless sunshine, beautiful water and white sand. You could spend all morning soaking up the sun, playing in the water or venturing further out on a kayak. But there’s more to Galveston than just sun and sand.
The city has many historic neighborhoods, from the happening downtown district to the East End. The latter being home to spectacular Bishop’s Palace, also known as Gresham’s Castle. Bishop’s Palace dates back to the 19th century.
The downtown area comes with the Strand Historic District, great for sightseeing, boutique shopping and grabbing a bite to eat. You’ll also find the Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig and Museum along with the Texas Seaport Museum.
But nothing tops Pleasure Pier. Like a scene from Santa Monica, the pier is complete with a colorful theme park and extends well out into the turquoise water. Before returning, be sure to ride the rollercoaster that floats above the water’s edge.
If you forego the road trip to Galveston or find yourself with some time after returning to Houston, head back to the Museum District to explore the Houston Children’s Museum or the Museum of Fine Arts.
If you have kids in tow, the Children’s Museum will keep them well entertained thanks to an abundance of interactive exhibits. The kids will discover a world of science, technology, history and culture that will expand their minds and foster creativity.
The top attraction, however, is The Market. Here, they can replicate real-world situations in a relaxed setting. Kids can apply for jobs, get their paychecks and learn how to use an ATM. Outside, there’s also a water pipe playground for cooling off on a hot day.
To get your art fix in Houston, there’s no better place to go than the Museum of Fine Arts. With a collection that covers more than 6000 years of history, six continents and over 60,000 pieces, the world-class museum will have you hooked the minute you enter.
Some of the must see works include Monet’s Water Lillies, Memling’s self-portrait and La Femme by Gleize. A comprehensive collection of Roman paintings and period sculptures are also on display.
To end your three days in Houston, Texas, gather with your partner, friends or family at the Gerald D. Hines Waterwall Park. Relax, reflect and toast to a fun 72 hours in H-Town while witnessing one of the coolest man-made structures in the city.
The Waterwall is a 64ft (19.5m) semi-circle structure with waterfalls that tumble down. The wall re-uses 11,000 gallons (41,640L) of water every minute. It’s not the only cool park of the park, as the falls around surrounded by almost 200 oak trees, providing a perfectly pleasant spot for some yard games or a picnic.
Where to Eat On Day Three of Your Trip
Get pumped for the road trip to Galveston by beginning your day at Squable. The European-inspired bistro brunch comes with small and big plates. But if you have the room, you can’t pass up their Dutch Baby Pancakes.
For your last meal in Houston, Texas, complete the southern experience by dining at Pax Americana. With a fun atmosphere always permeating from the restaurant, Pax is a fun time with great All-American fare.
Being such an easy destination to fly to, Houston is a top destination for a quick three day escape. A city of culture and delicious dining, you could spend 72 hours jumping between renowned museums and galleries while feasting on fine foods and hearty southern fare.
If you’re traveling as a family, Houston is a great place to bring the kids with several kids museums, family-friendly parks and the Houston Zoo.
Between the Space Center, outdoor theater and the glistening sands of Galveston, it promises to be a busy weekend from the get go. So strap in for the ride and enjoy!