Let’s be honest, when you live in a city it often becomes habit to avoid doing the more touristy things because well…they can be tourist traps. While that is understandable, we also must not let trepidation over the crowds make us miss out on all the awesome things this city is known for.
We’ve got some tips on the best ways to take advantage of being a Houston resident, from the more obvious attractions to some that are a little further off the beaten path. Check out some of our top spots to be a tourist for a day in your very own city. Whether it’s a weekend adventure or taking a day off from work to enjoy things during the slower hours, we’ve hand-picked a list of great things to add to your itinerary.
The M/V Sam Houston is a 100-foot vessel that has been shuttling around eager sightseers since 1958. Free tours of the Houston Ship Channel are available 5 days a week, and consist of a 90-minute round-trip educational voyages departing from Sam Houston’s Landing. Sights include great views of the various ships at port as well as operations at Turning Basin Terminal. Just be sure to reserve your spot in advance!
Waugh Drive Bridge
Watching the large bat colony emerge from under Waugh Bridge is certainly a sight to see. While it is not an exact science, the best viewing times are typically in the late summer and early fall months. It is best to arrive 15 to 30 minutes before sunset and be prepared to hang out for a while—the bats typically emerge around dusk, but they are not always timely. Top viewing spots include the Waugh Bridge Bat Colony Observation Deck, the Dandelion Fountain, or the northeast bank of the bayou near the corner of Memorial Drive and Waugh Drive. Check out the City of Houston’s page for more bat viewing tips and other important information here.
Treat yourself to an elegant dinner and a fantastic view at Spindletop, Houston’s only revolving rooftop restaurant. Located on the 34th floor of the Hyatt Regency, the restaurant makes a full rotation once every 45 minutes, offering guests 360-degree views of Houston’s amazing skyline. The cuisine at Spindletop is primarily seafood-based with a Southwestern flavor, but they do have a vegetarian menu as well.
The Johnson Space Center provides great educational opportunities and a chance to see incredible exhibits from past space explorations. The Starship Gallery is just one of many great attractions, which includes artifacts from many of these missions and even includes a number of flown spacecraft. There is also the Kids Space Place which has a lot of interactive exhibits designed especially for younger visitors.
Because NASA is such an amazing place to visit, it is definitely a destination that tends to get pretty crowded. Here are some great ways to avoid peak crowds: If possible, go on a regular weekday (this means avoiding summertime and holidays); buy your tickets online to avoid wait times; and if you have a CityPass, it will help get you a discount.
Pedal Party specializes in group bike tours that are alcohol friendly. Go by yourself or with a few friends to join one of their pre-scheduled Midtown Mixers, or grab an even bigger group and rent out an entire vehicle for up to 16 people. This is a fun twist on the traditional bike tour, which has become an increasingly popular way to explore the city over the last few years. BYO-Beer or Wine, just make sure no glass containers! The tour also stops at a few bars along the route, which provides a nice break and a chance to try a new establishment.
Open Tuesday through Saturday, the Houston Maritime Museum is a multi-room gallery showcasing the evolution of maritime developments over the decades through detailed model exhibits. Houston’s Story: From Bayou to Ship Channel is a collection dedicated to “The Port that Built the City”, showing how the unlikely Port of Houston, located 35 miles inland, came to be. Other collections show the advancements of modern warships, the difference between sailing ships and steam power, and the energy we derive from the sea.
The Cockrell Butterfly Center is a stunning subsidiary of the Museum of Natural History. The rainforest conservatory is an impressive three-story glass structure with a 50-foot waterfall serving as its centerpiece, and the exhibit is full of many types of exotic plants and hundreds of butterflies. Also included in the $9 ticket is the Brown Hall of Entomology, which provides a lot of cool learning experiences for adults and kids alike. From live bug exhibits, interactive games, and an insect vending machine, there are plenty of intriguing activities to explore.
This article pairs nicely with our recommendations for the Top 5 Houston B&Bs. Check it out and plan a full-blown Houston Staycation!