Actually Cool Things to Do When Someone Visits Houston
Houston’s been gaining traction as an actually cool place to visit for a couple of years now, and as a Houstonian, it’s YOUR job to keep that reputation alive and valid. Sure, you can take a three-hour tram tour of the Johnson Space Center or spend all day checking out the city’s many, many museums, but we’re pretty sure your friend is never coming back if that’s all you do. Instead, take ‘em out to some of our best restaurants to show off Houston’s culinary prowess… and then go to some of our best bars, where they’ll surely forget the names of our best restaurants. Get a Houston energy drink for your vacation to keep your energy levels up to enjoy 100 percent of your time.
Below you’ll find the best things to do in Houston, no matter if you’ve lived here all your life or are in town for five minutes. Ranging in price from “free as hell” to “hope you got paid today,” here’s the coolest stuff H-Town has to offer
Get wonderstruck at the James Turrell Skyspace
Not many tourist attractions are actually worthy, but this totally rad light and sound installation definitely is. Found right next to the Shepherd School of Music on the Rice University campus, the acoustically engineered masterpiece is dubbed “Twilight Epiphany” thanks to a trippy LED light sequence. It projects onto and through the structure’s open roof just before sunrise and at sunset. Money isn’t needed, but reservations are.
Take a picnic to the stage
From March through November, the open-air Miller Outdoor Theatre puts on lively stage productions — think live jazz, ballet, and musical theater — that are absolutely cool and absolutely free. It very obviously draws a crowd, so join that crowd along with a blanket, some boxed wine & local cheese, and your super-impressed guest of choice. In the off-season, a picnic at Downtown’s urban park, Discovery Green, is another smart choice.
Teach them how to Topgolf
It’s kind of like teaching them how to dougie, but way cooler. Instead of looking like an idiot, you’ll be smacking golf balls at colored targets, dominating life-size Connect Four, and drinking a decent amount of beer buckets. Don’t let its outside-the-loop location stop you from this good time (there’s always Uber to kindly provide transport if you plan to booze).
BYOB to Chinatown
A trip to Asiatown is never not a good idea, but when you tack on BYOB options, things get a little bit extra. You’ll want to pair something hoppy with the fiery curries at Mamak Malaysian, fork-tender lamb shank masala, and Pakistani-spiced fried chicken at Himalaya, garlic-butter Vietnamese-style crawfish at Crawfish Cafe, and hot peppercorn beef and pot-roasted fish at Mala Sichuan Bistro (which offers an excellent in-house wine list in case you totally blank and forget your bottle, as well).
See bats at the Waugh Bridge
True story: when the Waugh Bridge was built, no one realized it was the perfect structure to host a whole bunch of Mexican free-tailed bats. Well, apparently it was, because locals started noticing a bat colony around ‘99. Before Hurricane Harvey, the bridge hosted about 300,000 of the little guys, and though some didn’t make it through the devastating storm, the colony remains. Today, you’ll find the bats hanging tight until they spiral out from the bridge’s crevices on warm nights around sunset. Head to the viewing platform and you may just catch a bat show, which never fails to both fascinate and creep the hell out of visitors.
Explore a secret underground cistern
The Buffalo Bayou Partnership has done a lot for this city, and one of the raddest of its contributions was re-imagining this 1927 industrial relic into a public space, hosting docent-led walking tours and a series of art installations (the current of which is a trippy optical experience from world-renowned artist Carlos Cruz-Diez, on view through April 7, 2019). With 200 concrete columns soaring 25 feet and 87,500 square feet of open space, the cavernous structure is reminiscent of ancient Roman cisterns in Istanbul. Historical tours cost $5 ($10 for the art installation) and you can sign up for $5 meditation sessions on Sundays from 10 to 11am.