Layover in Houston Airport? 8 Attractions Nearby

Settling in for a long layover at Houston Airport? Why not spend that time doing something fun instead?

The Houston Intercontinental Airport (also known as the George Bush Intercontinental Airport) is Texas’s second busiest airport and is just under 25 miles from downtown Houston. It is also the second biggest passenger hub for United Airlines. 

But don’t stick around there when exciting Houston is so close by! Drop your bags at a luggage locker near the airport and head into Houston to check out the best attractions. From botanical gardens to museums, there is something for everyone to enjoy. 

1. Mercer Botanic Gardens

With over 300 acres of manicured hiking trails, beautiful picnic areas, butterfly house, and cypress swamp, the Mercer Botanic Gardens are the perfect place to spend a few hours and is only a short drive from the Houston Airport. 

It is free to visit the gardens, making it an attractive spot to spend time. See the plants available for sale as well as other fun souvenirs in the gift shop. 

2. The Houston Museum of Natural Science

This interesting history museum is on the northern edge of Hermann Park and is home to the Burke Baker Planetarium, Cockrell Butterfly Center, and Wortham Giant Screen Theatre. The Houston Museum of Natural Science is a great place to visit in Houston. 

With so many permanent exhibits highlighting space, science, paleontology, astronomy, and Native American cultures, it will take you a few hours to explore it all. There are also several traveling exhibitions that cover a variety of areas. 

You can even visit the two satellite facilities of the Houston Museum of Natural Sciences. The George Observatory has one of the biggest telescopes in the U.S. and the Houston Museum of Natural Science at Sugar Land has exotic live insects. 

3. Cockrell Butterfly Center

Located in the Houston Museum of Natural Science, the Cockrell Butterfly Center is home to a walk-through rainforest. The rainforest is housed in a three-story glass structure with the main focal point being a 50-foot waterfall. 

Wander through the Cockrell Butterfly Center and have several different varieties of butterflies land on you and flutter throughout. You will also enjoy the beautiful exotic plants growing in this simulated rainforest. 

Exotic butterflies and insects you may see when at the Cockrell Butterfly Center include:

  • Antilles Pinktoe
  • Blue Morpho
  • Bull Thorn Acacia
  • Giant Long-Legged Katydid
  • Owl Butterfly
  • Praying Mantis
  • Pride of Trinidad
  • Whipscorpion 

Be sure to visit the insect displays in Brown Hall of Entomology. Enter the living habitat at Brown Hall and have the butterflies land on you. You can even see some of the biggest arthropods in the world and play interactive games with the whole family. 

4. Minute Maid Park

Minute Maid Park has had several names including Astros Field, The Ballpark at Union Station, and Enron Field. It is home to the Major League Baseball Houston Astros and has a retractable roof. 

While you probably won’t have time to catch an Astros game, you can take a tour of the stadium and get a behind-the-scenes look at the clubhouses, dugouts, bullpens, and so much more. 

5. Houston Zoo

Visit Hermann Park and the Houston Zoo, a 55-acre zoo that is home to 900 different species and over 6,000 total animals. The Houston Zoo is the second most visited zoo in the U.S. and has an estimated 2.1 million visitors every year. 

Spend a few hours strolling through the zoo checking out the animals in their natural habitats and learning about the various ecosystems. Sit and watch a few animal shows or enjoy an animal encounter for an up-close-and-personal experience. 

6. The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Spend some time in the Houston Museum District at The Museum of Fine Arts which is one of the biggest fine arts museums in the U.S. The permanent collection at the museum covers over 6,000 years and has over 70,000 different works of art

Stroll through the manicured gardens when you are at the museum and enjoy the virtual and hand-on exhibits that showcase the international collections of contemporary and modern art at the Nancy and Rich Kinder Building. 

7. Space Center Houston

When you have some time and don’t want to sit around waiting at the Houston Airport, visit the official visitor center of the NASA Johnson Space Center at the Space Center Houston. This fantastic science museum is a must-see when in Houston. 

In 2014, the museum became a Smithsonian Affiliate museum. It is more than just a museum filled with old relics but a hands-on space exploration learning center where you can see and feel what it is like to go into space. 

The 250,000-square-foot learning center plays host to 1.25 million visitors each year. The Space Center Houston was awarded the 2016 Top Workplaces Award by the Houston Chronicle.

grey plastic capsule - layover in Houston

8. Kemah Boardwalk

Take a few hours and visit the Kemah Boardwalk, a 60-acre theme park that is only about 30 miles to the southeast of downtown. The boardwalk is built along Galveston Bay and Clear Lake. It is one of the best boardwalks in the U.S. 

The theme park has several old-school amusement park rides and classic carnival games. There are several restaurants to choose from when you get hungry or grab a snack from one of the street vendors along the boardwalk. 

When you get stuck at the Houston Airport or are staying nearby, there are fun and exciting attractions to keep you busy. With plenty to see and do, you’ll no doubt come back to Houston for another visit!

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