In 2013, Houston, Texas was ranked in the top 10 places to visit in the world according to the New York Times. I have been going to school here for almost two years now, and admittedly, this article really shocked me at first. When I thought about it more and more, however, Houston really does offer a lot of diverse activities and adventures, a smattering of museums, more restaurants per capita than New York City, and a boatload of free activities perfect for the traveler on a college budget. As the fourth largest city, Houston has an extremely diverse population and thus has a lot of eclectic areas to explore. Of course, as a student, I don’t have a lot of money to spend on extra activities, but here are a couple of exciting things I have found in Houston during my time at school here:
11. Take a walk (or a boat, or a train) through Herrmann Park. Herrmann Park, located right next to the Texas Medical Center, Rice University, and the Houston Zoo, is a peaceful area with beautiful paths to take a stroll in. Accessible by the Houston LightRail, this park is the perfect place to spread out a blanket and bask in the warm Texas weather for the afternoon. Some notable pieces of the park are the reflection pool and fountain area, the Japanese Gardens, and the train that circles around the park.
10. Stroll through the expensive brand-name boutiques of the Galleria and pretend you are rich. Maybe it’s just me, but I think it’s fun as a broke college student to stroll around the extremely top-tier areas of the Galleria and soak in the glamour and ritz of Houston’s largest shopping mall. For this activity, come ready to put on your best fake British accent and “high society” clothes, then walk into stores and stare at the beautiful but obscenely expensive fashions and displays inside of them. Some of them are really quite impressive. And, at the very least, it’s fun to walk around the Galleria and window shop.
9. Attend a festival or show. Houston has a pretty big art scene, and it’s easy to find free or fairly inexpensive events to enjoy here in the city. For students, many of the museums in the Museum District give pretty big discounts to students, and Herrmann Park has a lot of free events in its amphitheater. There are also cultural festivals, like the Houston Brazilian Festival and the Italian festival. Keep your eyes peeled and you’ll be sure to find an event that suits your fancy.
8. Create your own food tour. Houston has a lot of wonderful restaurants. In fact, it has more restaurants per capita than New York City. The Tex-Mex options available here are delicious, but keep in mind that there are loads of other cultural options, spanning from Turkish food to Japanese food, Brazilian steakhouses to Korean fare. Bored of reading all of the vast restaurant recommendations for Houston? Then why not take a day and create your own food tour of the city?
7. See the bird’s eye view of the city…from the 60th floor of the Chase Tower. What a lot of people don’t know about this tall building is that its 60th floor is accessible to the general public, and the views from up here are absolutely stunning. The best thing is that this top-notch view is completely, 100% free. On Valentine’s Day, my significant other and I watched the sunset from up here, and let me tell you, it was a breathtaking sight to see.
6. Go to a farmer’s market. There are a bunch of different farmers markets around Houston that are really neat to peruse. One of these, the Rice Farmer’s Market, is held every Tuesday afternoon right on campus. There are also a bunch of other ones all over the city – you can find a complete list here. What I love about markets is the energy, the liveliness, and of course, the various fresh food offerings at these markets. Each one is different, so definitely try out a couple different ones for good measure.
5. Check out Chinatown. Chinatown has cheap eats, fun hangouts, awesome karaoke, and gooooood food. And I mean, really good food. Be sure to take some time to check it out, but also, be wary, as a lot of businesses only accept cash here.
4. Try to go anywhere in the city, and people-watch while you’re at it, using public transportation. Houston can be difficult to navigate without a car, but it’s possible, and it can be quite an adventure. Choose a “point A” and a “point B” and then try and get there using only public transit – the buses and light rail. It’s surprisingly great for people-watching and you might find some really neat areas of the city along the way.
3. Take a day trip to Kemah. I’ve never actually done this, but I hear this cute little boardwalk is a neat place to spend a summer’s day. Open from the morning until the evening, Kemah’s boardwalk looks like something straight out of a So-Cal soap opera. Definitely check this place out if you’re a sea lover, or if you just want to get away for a day.
2. Go thrift shopping in Montrose. Situated just outside of the downtown area, Montrose is an area full of quaint cafes, cute shops, and, my favorite, thrift shops. Check this place out for all of Houston’s best vintage finds and delicious, locally owned coffee shops. My personal favorite is Agora, an eclectic, cozy little coffee shop.
1. Bike or stroll through the Bayous. Houston is famous for it’s Bayous, or small water pathways throughout the city, and many of them are lined with sidewalks and paths for walking and biking. On sunny days, these areas are perfect for a relaxing stroll or a midday conversation. What better way to soak up the Texas sunshine?