Located in downtown Houston, the Downtown Aquarium is home to more than 200 aquatic animal species from around the world, housed in 500,000-gallon underwater complex. The attraction caters to children and families and, while not the largest aquarium, does have some interesting exhibits that will keep you interested. Experience Shipwreck, where you can walk inside a replica of a sunken seventeenth century Spanish galleon to view living coral reefs, octopus, moray eel, Clownfish and more.
There’s also the Shark Voyage Tunnel, a ride aboard a C.P. Huntington Train that takes visitors through an aquarium tunnel filled with a variety of shark species which will swim right over your head. The Downtown Aquarium allows you to explore more than just underwater marine life as it’s home to a variety of eco-systems.
Located in Hermann Park, the Houston Museum of Natural Science is dedicated to providing interesting and educational science exhibits and experiences. Visitors can find four floors of science halls and exhibits in the main building, as well as a planetarium, butterfly center and big screen theater. You could easily spend hours perusing all the institution has to offer.
With so much to explore, where do you begin? The permanent exhibits are included in your general admission ticket and host some worthwhile attractions. For example, the Paleontology exhibit is a common favorite, as it showcases a unique display of predators in action, creating an illusion that the skeletal displays are alive. A progressive timeline layout showcasing over 50 dinosaurs and a section on human evolution also keeps things interesting.
Home to more than 6,000 animals and 900 species, the Houston Zoo is a popular attraction for locals and visitors to Houston. Located in the beautiful Hermann Park, the 55-acre zoo features many exhibits, animal encounters, shows and ecosystems to explore. Additionally, the attraction is well-staffed, and there is always a knowledgeable worker to answer your questions or direct you.
While the zoo has numerous interesting sites within it, there are a few experiences you shouldn’t miss. First is the Masai giraffe feeding, which can be done daily from 11am to 2pm. Visitors can feed these long-necked creatures crispy lettuce leaves while getting a close-up view. Another not-to-miss attraction is the African Forest exhibit, which will transport you to a different continent as you trek through an African jungle full of chimpanzees, rhinos and antelopes, Masai giraffes, zebra and ostriches. Part of the experience is also authentic drumming and art.
One of Houston’s most popular public greens, the free-to-enjoy Hermann Park is a historic 445-acre park that is home to many important cultural institutions as well as outdoor attractions. For those wanting to experience the city’s natural beauty, head to Bob’s Fishing Pier for some fishing, go hiking in the 80 acres of Bayou Parkland, peruse 2,500 rose bushes and outdoor sculptures at the Garden Center, pedal boat on the 8-acre McGovern Lake or play a round at the 18-hole Hermann Park Golf Course, the first desegregated golf course in the United States. For a serene experience, the Japanese Garden provides a peaceful retreat with waterfalls, wooden bridges, stone pathways, sweet cherry trees, Japanese maples and colorful flowers, while the Mary Gibbs and Jesse J. Jones Reflection Pool measures 740 feet long by 80 feet wide and features a black bottom for striking mirror images of the surrounding trees.
For those with an interest in aeronautics and space, Space Center Houston is full of interactive exhibits, presentations and attractions that will help you understand the past, present and future of the universe. Additionally, because Space Center Houston is the official visitors center of NASA’s Johnson Space Center, there are many one-of-a-kind experiences to be had, like watching astronauts train for missions, touching a real moon rock brought back by Apollo 17 or touring NASA’s control center.
While there are myriad points of interest within the Space Center Houston -- like collections of used spacesuits, galleries of crew photos, space station simulations, space theaters and IMAX films -- there are a few must-have experiences. First is the NASA Tram Tour, which takes visitors to the iconic Apollo Mission Control Center, the place where all space shuttle missions and activity onboard international space station assembly flights is directed.
Located in the Houston Museum District, the Children’s Museum of Houston makes learning fun for children and families. Founded in 1980 by a group of parents who hoped to make early childhood development a priority in the community, the museum features 14 interactive exhibits that allows for myriad fun experiences. At Invention Convention kids can build robots, cars and rockets using LEGOs, magnets, batteries, switches and more, while Think Tank allows them to enhance their problem solving skills with brain teases, puzzles and optical illusions.
Kidtropolis is another favorite station, as children can act like adults by governing life-sized city. Taking on the roles of city leaders, business owners and community members, children are given an ATM card with 40 Kidtropolis dollars to budget with, needing to get a job, purchase groceries and deposit wisely.
As they say, “everything’s bigger in Texas,” and the skyscrapers here are no exception to the rule. Houston has some of the best skyscraper architecture in the world, and the Chase Tower is a proud addition to that list. Standing 75 stories tall and topping out at just over 1000 feet, the Chase Tower is just under three-and-a-half football fields tall and boasts a unique five-sided design with expansive 85-foot wide glass running up its western face. This audacious height makes the Chase Tower the tallest building in Houston, and correspondingly makes for incredible photo opportunities from the ground or high atop the tower itself.
Guests can ascend to the Sky Lounge on the 60th floor and roam about at their leisure. The Sky Lounge boasts panoramic views of downtown Houston, and from here you can point out every major building in Houston – making a visit to the Chase Tower one of the best free things to do in the downtown Houston area.
The signature weather of Houston is something to write home about – it’s hot. Really hot in the summer, and as Houston is a do-something city, the powers that be decided to do something about it – they built the Houston Downtown Tunnels. A series of interconnected and, bless them, air-conditioned tunnels running 20 feet below the surface of the street, the Downtown Tunnels connect restaurants, shops and office buildings and provide some much-needed respite from the Houston heat. A feat of engineering that connects 95 city blocks, the tunnels themselves are an attraction for the Houston visitor. While you might expect a city of two million people to offer a downtown scene full of bustling people, you may find Houston’s streets oddly deserted – but that’s just because the real life of the downtown scene is happening underground. See it for yourself, and enjoy one of the most unique attractions in the entire southwest.