free things to do in Houston with kids

22 of the Best Free Things to Do in Houston with Kids

It’s definitely possible to save cash and still enjoy local events and free activities with my list of free things to do in Houston with kids. This list is your ticket to enjoying the best the Houston area offers. From nature walks to local museums and other free attractions, there’s something for every family.

If you’re looking for fun things to do in Houston with budget-friendly kids, you’re in the right place! Keep reading to learn about all my favorite free Houston events and activities to explore with your kiddos while you’re here. These fun free activities are sure to keep you busy!

free things to do in Houston with kids

Miller Outdoor Theatre

Houston’s Miller Outdoor Theatre in Hermann Park offers free live shows that are perfect for your list of free things to do in Houston with kids. Currently, park guests can enjoy a live family dance theater performance of Peter & Wendy or Mozart by Moonlight produced by the Mercury Chamber Orchestra. It’s a great way to introduce the whole family to live theater.

Discovery Green

Discovery Green Park is one of my favorite free attractions for families. There’s so much to do! No matter what age your kids are, they’ll find something to love at Discovery Green. 

The park hosts Toddler Tuesdays for little ones and includes a “Rocket Dog” attraction with lawn games everyone can borrow for free. You’ll also find splash fountains to beat the summer heat and dog runs for your four-legged family members. Don’t forget to play some golf at the family putting green too.

free things to do in Houston with kids

Learn to swim in Kinder Lake and don’t miss the John P. McGovern playground. The playground features tons of interactive elements and toys for kids of all ages to enjoy.

The Menil Collection

The Menil Collection is a free art museum dedicated to preserving and exhibiting the art collection of John and Dominique de Menil. A visit to the Menil Collection is a great way to introduce your kids to art museums and help them learn about fine art. The museum features free admission every day.

Kids will especially enjoy the Dan Flavin installation created using neon lights. The museum is best suited for older children who can navigate the quiet nature of an art museum well.

The Art Car Museum

Admission to Houston’s Art Car Museum is always free, but you’ll need to book an appointment. The Art Car Museum might not be one of Houston’s spur-of-the-moment free activities, but it’s totally worth the visit! The cars featured here are bedazzled and decked out in ways we could only imagine in a dream! 

Houston museums for kids

Houston’s Arboretum & Nature Center

There are so many amazing children’s programs available at Houston’s Arboretum & Nature Center. It’s easy to nurture a connection between your children and nature with all these great free activities! Kids are encouraged to experience the great outdoors through exploration and hands-on activities like preschool hikes, homeschool programs, and cooperation with the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts. 

The Houston Arboretum & Nature Center also offers lots of family programming. If you’re looking for free things to do in Houston with kids, try joining the bubble science class or exploring the hands-on nature playscape filled with opportunities for kids to learn more about native spiders, caterpillars, and more!

Buffalo Bayou Park

The whole family will have a great time at Buffalo Bayou Park! This park is a favorite for locals in the Houston area and it’s filled with all kinds of free attractions and activities for all ages. If you’re looking for ways to explore the bayou with your kids this year, try doing it on two wheels.

Buffalo Bayou Park features paved biking trails that are perfect for tricycles and bigger bikes too. The park’s play area encourages kids to explore nature with play structures that blend into the natural landscape. 

Kids can build sand castles, dig for treasure in a sandpit, or hop up a wall of stumps. The water features in the play area and the giant wooden slide is always a hit! Then, relax in one of the wide-open green spaces when they’re all tuckered out.

Kids Eat Free In Houston

Did you know that kids eat free everyday of the week in Houston? That’s right. There’s over 60 restaurants that feed children each day here in the greater Houston area. Whether you’re looking for deal on your next night out, or just want a break from cooking there is something for everyone!

Holocaust Museum of Houston

If you’re looking for a meaningful museum to take your older children to during your visit to the Houston area, discover all the history at the Holocaust Museum of Houston. Admission is free on Thursdays from 2:00 pm to 8:00 pm. There are many important exhibits for your family to experience. 

The museum offers 4 different types of tours including self-guided tours and tours with a docent that will give your family the opportunity to ask questions and learn more. Plus, there are educational programs you can schedule in advance to add to the experience. The Holocaust Museum of Houston teaches us using artifacts, diaries, memorials, and more.

Hermann Park

Hermann Park is a Houston area favorite! There are several free attractions and paid attractions available in and around the park. For example, the Houston Zoo and Miller Outdoor Theater are both located in and around Hermann Park.

The park’s Lake Plaza area is home to Kinder Station and the famous Hermann Park Railroad. Riding the rails is an exciting way to begin exploring the park with your little ones. The ride is about 20 minutes long and stops along the way. 

There’s plenty to enjoy at Hermann Park including the pedal boats at McGovern Lake. There are lots of ducks and geese around the lake for kids to enjoy watching too. Hermann Park’s interactive fountains are another favorite spot to visit and let kids splash around. 

Houston Zoo Free Admission Days

The Houston Zoo is committed to making wildlife conservation accessible to all members of the community. As part of their dedication, they offer free admission on the first Tuesday of every month.

Houston Zoo guide

Free admission is granted through an online reservation and is first come first serve. Check out my guide to the Houston Zoo for more details on parking, hours, and attractions.

The Sam Houston Boat Tour

Getting out on the water is a fantastic free attraction to enjoy while you’re in Houston! The views from the water are one-of-a-kind and the tour is filled with educational facts for the whole family. Most people don’t realize the Sam Houston Boat Tour is a totally free 90 minute tour filled with sightseeing opportunities. Kids especially like seeing the huge cargo vessels on the water.

McGovern Centennial Gardens

While you’re visiting Hermann Park, don’t forget to stop by the McGovern Centennial Gardens. If you’re looking for free things to do in Houston with kids, exploring the themed garden rooms along Centennial Green is definitely a good way to go. You’ll find 490 trees, 760 shrubs, 650 azaleas, and 4.5 acres of grass. 

things to do in Houston

Older guests will enjoy the Arid Garden, the Rose Garde, the Woodland Garden, and the Celebration Garden. The educational Family Garden is the perfect place to explore with children because it produces seasonal veggies, herbs, and fruits. Plus, it’s filled with interactive learning opportunities.

Twilight Epiphany Skyspace

If you’re in Houston to tour Rice University’s campus, don’t miss the opportunity to see the Twilight Epiphany art installation. Even if you’re not in the Houston area to see Rice University, you should probably plan to see the Twilight Epiphany Skyspace during your visit. It’s a great way to wind down during the evening. 

things to do in Houston for free

This outdoor art installation is a free attraction built by James Turrell. It’s a grass-covered pyramid with sides that gently ascend to a flat top with a 72-square-foot roof supported by only a few thin beams. The effect is that the installation appears to be hovering above the ground. 

At sunrise and sunset, visitors can experience free 40-minute light shows. The ceiling is illuminated by lights that act as a frame for the center opening, featuring a unique and beautiful view of the sky above. The shows are free to watch and take place six days a week. Occasionally they are accompanied by live music from the school’s orchestra.

Memorial Park Conservancy

One of our favorite parks in the Houston area is the Memorial Park Conservancy. The park focuses on drawing in visitors who want a more active outdoor experience. There are hiking trails, a golf course, and lots of recreational areas.

I love the park’s playground because it provides easy accessibility for children with disabilities. The Vale-Asche Foundation Playground features braille signs, ramps, and transfer systems for children of all abilities to play together without restrictions. The area is equipped with rubberized surfaces, shaded spaces and picnic tables, making it safe and ideal for families. 

Waugh Drive Bat Colony

I can’t make a list of the best free things to do in Houston with kids and not mention the Waugh Bridge Bat colony. It’s definitely one of the best free attractions to experience while visiting the Houston area. If you’re looking for free activities that will captivate a variety of ages, don’t miss this great place!

The bats come out on warm nights and anyone hanging around the Waugh Drive Bridge can see them. On Friday nights, volunteers from the Houston Area Bat Team are on hand for “bat chats” where they answer questions and talk about the famous Waugh bat colony.

Kemah Boardwalk

The famous Kemah Boardwalk is free to enter. However, experiencing the rides and attractions requires the purchase of tickets. So what can you do at the Kemah Boardwalk for free?

fun things to do in Kemah

Guests looking for free attractions can stroll along the boardwalk, enjoying the lights at night and splashing in the free splash pads and water fountains. The dancing water fountains are the perfect place to cool off! There’s also a great playground just behind the Flying Dutchman on the boardwalk where little ones can play for free.

Houston Museum of Natural Science

The nationally acclaimed Houston Museum of Natural Science is one of the most fun free things to do in Houston with kids. You can spend the whole day exploring and experiencing new things at the museum! The museum offers free entry to permanent exhibits on Thursdays, but the hours change seasonally so you’ll want to call before you visit. 

Houston Museums for kids

Kids under six will love the Cabinet of Curiosities exhibit where they are encouraged to touch and examine everything on display. Children from six to twelve will enjoy the dinosaurs in the Morian Hall of Paleontology! There’s even a fossil prep lab where they can see real paleontology volunteers unearth bones and clean specimens. Curious kids can ask paleontologists questions about dinosaurs too.

Cockrell Butterfly Center

The Cockrell Butterfly Center is the perfect spot to stop for entertainment with a side of learning. Kids will love walking through the butterfly habitat and seeing the weirdest of the weird arthropod specimens in Brown Hall of Entomology. There are even interactive games and quizzes to keep the whole family busy as you explore. 

The Butterfly Center is connected with the Houston Museum of Natural Sciences. Locals and visitors to the Houston area can experience the Cockrell Butterfly Center free of charge on Thursday afternoons.

Market Square Park

Market Square Park is a wonderful respite in the heart of downtown Houston. It’s easily accessible and a great spot to have a picnic. If you’re looking for free things to do in Houston with older kids and teens, you’ll definitely want to add this park to the list. 

Market Square Park offers haunted tours that teenagers would find exciting and entertaining. Visitors are welcome to explore the underground tunnels too. While you’re at Market Square Park, be sure to stop at Lauren’s Garden. This memorial garden includes a stone fountain with seasonal flower displays dedicated to the memory of the lives lost on September 11, 2001.

San Jacinto Museum of History

Looking for more museums to explore with kids in the Houston area? The San Jacinto Museum of History and Battle Monument is just 20 minutes from downtown Houston and free to visit. It’s connected with the San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Park.

There’s something to do for everyone. Enjoy the views from the observation deck or walk around the Battle Monument. History comes to life here and kids will enjoy being able to see, hear, and touch the monuments and artifacts.

The park also features a great playground for little ones. The whole family can enjoy the hiking and biking trails. You might even see some of the local wildlife including falcons, coyotes, and alligators so don’t forget a camera!

Smither Park

If you love art, don’t miss Houston’s artist’s park. Smither Park is filled with outdoor art exhibits that turn this park into a free attraction for art lovers everywhere! The eclectic “junk art” installations encourage children to explore art in a hands-on way that’s fun and filled with colorful art from local artists. It’s one of the many free things to do in Houston with kids that you’ll want to pencil into your calendar this year.

Houston Police Museum

At the Houston Police Department headquarters, you’ll find a free attraction called the Houston Police Museum. Inside kids can ogle a full-size police car, a helicopter mounted to the ceiling, and so much more! 

There are police badges, uniforms, and artifacts to see. The museum also includes a memorial wall honoring the officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice. It’s free to visit and a great way to teach children about how police officers function as helpers in the community.

Lee & Joe Jamail Skate Park

Looking for a skate park in the Houston area? The Lee & Joe Jamail Skate Park is a free urban park where skaters can practice all their favorite tricks. The park is home to a 30,000-square-foot in-ground public facility with one of the nation’s largest cradles. 

free things to do in Houston

If you’re visiting the park, you can join in with a skateboard or check out the aerosol art along Skater Alley. This winding walkway between the entrance to the park and Sabine Street features unique public art you won’t want to miss.

The Moody Center for the Arts

The Moody Center for the Arts is located on Rice University Campus near the Twilight Epiphany Skyscape. The center is open for free Tuesday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. While anyone can visit, it’s probably a more enjoyable experience for older children who will appreciate the quiet atmosphere. 

Gerald D. Hines Waterfall Park

Waterfall Park is located in uptown Houston and it’s a perfect free activity if you’re in this area of the city. Visitors of all ages appreciate standing in front of the waterfall, feeling the gentle mist, and the roar of cascading water. It’s a memorable experience for children of all ages.

free places in Houston

Walk through the live oaks of the business district drawing closer and closer to the waterfall to experience an unforgettable moment with your family. It’s the perfect way to end a busy day exploring all the free things to do in Houston with kids.

There are so many free things to do in Houston with kids this year that I’m sure I forgot a few free museums, free concerts, or free playgrounds in the area. Share your favorite free activities and free attractions in the Houston area in the comment section. I can’t wait to read them and try out some of your favorite free places to play and explore with my own family!

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