With a population of slightly more than 2.3 million at the time of the last census, Houston is Texas’ most populous city and the fourth-largest in the country.
It’s also always been a place where fortunes were made and lost, mostly in the oil and gas industries that tend to experience booms and busts pretty regularly.
Houston is a big aerospace center too. It’s also full of historic sites, trendy restaurants, shopping districts, and abundant live entertainment venues, so finding fun and educational ways to occupy your time while in the area shouldn’t be a problem.
1. NASA Space Center Tour
Though it’s technically outside Houston city limits, the NASA-Johnson Space Center is the area’s biggest tourist draw.
Often referred to as Space City USA, this full-day tour is a great way to experience it in all its splendor.
Tour participants spend about six hours on-site, which means they get behind-the-scenes access and fascinating insights into the program’s history.
The tour includes a stop at the visitor center and museum, and a narrated tram excursion that’s a real blast for adults and kids alike.
There are a number of interactive exhibits along the way that tend to keep little ones engaged and entertained.
2. Culinary Tour of Downtown Houston with Tunnel Access
Houston boasts a variety of cultural and ethnic influences, and it draws tourists and business travelers from around the world.
Not surprisingly, the city is home to a hip food scene that’s definitely worth exploring, especially for foodies and amateur chefs.
This culinary tour of the downtown area is a great fit for travelers who want to experience many sides of the city at once.
Guests will visit a number of local restaurants and sample dishes from Latin and South America, Asia, and Europe. They’ll learn about the city’s unique history along the way.
They’ll also explore the country’s most extensive tunnel system—if they’re not squeamish and claustrophobic.
3. Mural Tour by Electric Cart
For a city with such a long history in the oil sector, there sure are a lot of tours that use electric vehicles.
Much like its variety of culinary influences, Houston boasts a vibrant art community, and the city is full of colorful murals that are worth checking out.
This electric cart mural tour is an excellent way for art lovers to get their fix without being stuck in a stuffy museum or gallery, and it’s a fun way to learn about the local culture as well.
The tour lasts about 1 ½ hours and visits dozens of murals in a number of neighborhoods.
4. Historic Downtown Pub Crawl
Pub crawls are fun events for the over 21 crowd, and merry revelers often meet like-minded travelers from all over the country and world.
This 3-hour downtown pub tour includes stops at four bars. Along the way, guests will learn about the neighborhoods they’re visiting and the city’s history as well.
It’s a great opportunity to rub elbows with locals, so don’t be shy about asking them for suggestions for unique things to see and do while in town.
Pool, pinball, and darts go great with adult beverages, and many guests head out to explore together after the tour is officially over.
5. Downtown Underground Tunnel Tour
The ground below Houston’s streets is a dizzying web of interconnected tunnels that run for nearly 10 miles.
Fascinating places to explore with an experienced guide, many of them are directly under Fortune 500 companies that reside in some of the city’s towering skyscrapers.
Stops also include a historic courthouse, the state capital, and some of the city’s swankiest hotels.
The tour lasts about two hours. Though its centerpieces are the tunnels, there’s ample time spent above ground as well. It’s a great way to see the city from a unique perspective and discover things to explore on your own later.
6. City Sightseeing Tour by Electric Cart
Electric carts are fun ways to explore a new city, and when matched with a knowledgeable and enthusiastic local guide, all the better.
This sightseeing tour lasts 1 ½ hours and includes stops at several historic sites, urban parks, colorful murals, and the now-shuttered Astrodome.
With a fleet of carts and available guides, tours can range from just a few to nearly 50 guests. They’re great for large families, bachelor and bachelorette parties, and corporate events.
Participants will have time to stop for photographs, and learn about Houston’s theater district, and where to eat and drink later on.
7. Hop-on-Hop-off Houston City Tour
For travelers who’d rather see some of Houston’s most popular sites without wasting time on things that don’t interest them, this hop-on-hop-off city tour is probably just the ticket.
Depending on which option you choose, the tour pass is good for either one or two days.
The tour bus is reminiscent of the double-decker variety found in London. Stops include City Hall, the Downtown Aquarium, Theater District, Market Square, and the Fine Arts Museum – to name just a few.
Guests can choose what they want to explore and how much time they want to spend at each site.
8. Haunted Houston Ghost Walking Tour
Rumor has it that Houston’s got a vibrant ghost community, and many of its most active characters are readily seen after dark.
For the easily frightened, that’s bad news – but for lovers of the eerie and macabre, guided ghost tours are great ways to get a cheap thrill.
Covering about 1 ½ miles, this walking tour leads guests through a number of neighborhoods, each with its own dark and disturbing past.
Compared to some, this two-hour tour is relatively tame and is even appropriate for those traveling with little ones.
Food and drinks are available, but the cost isn’t included in the tour.
9. Apollo 13 Escape Room
In recent years, escape rooms have become popular vacation activities, and compared to many tourist attractions, they’re very reasonably priced.
First-timers consistently rank them as great value, and they’re surprisingly exhilarating too.
The Apollo 13 Escape room is located in the midtown area and allows groups to test their teamwork and problem-solving skills in a NASA and space-themed environment.
The activity lasts an hour and includes non-alcoholic drinks, as well as ample time to take photos decked out in space gear in a lifelike control room.
Groups of between 6 and 12 are okay, but each participant must be at least ten-years-old.
10. Downtown Houston Bites & Sites Food Tour
For those with limited time, it may seem a bit overwhelming deciding what to see and do while in Houston.
Luckily, there are plenty of combo tours that allow visitors to make the most of their trip.
Houston is jam-packed with historical, cultural attractions, and restaurants of all stripes.
On this 3-hour tour, guests will experience all of the above under the guidance of a local food and history expert.
The tour provider’s restaurant partners offer a variety of vibrant cuisines, most of which are paired with vintage-style cocktails, beer, and wine, so plan on showing up with an empty stomach.
11. Houston Museum of Natural Science General Admission
The weather in Houston in the summer can be notoriously hot and humid.
The city is full of outdoor attractions that are definitely worth checking out, but indoor ones like the Houston Museum of Natural Science are great alternatives.
The museum is home to the largest dinosaur display in the country. It includes tons of interactive exhibits that touch on Egyptology, local wildlife and environments, and entomology.
It’s an especially big hit with little ones, and general admission tickets allow guests to see things at their own pace. The museum is wheelchair and stroller accessible and features a lovely on-site café as well.
12. Best 2-Hour City Tour
You may be asking yourself if it’s possible to experience Houston in two hours.
Sounds pretty unlikely, but for those with just a few hours to spare, there’s really no better way to do just that than with this small group vehicle tour.
Guests will enjoy stops at some of the city’s premier attractions, like Market Square, Minute Maid Park, Buffalo Bayou, and the Astrodome.
Each tour includes the services of a friendly and knowledgeable local guide, who’ll describe the things you see and their significance.
The tour has a maximum capacity of 11 travelers and includes pickup and drop-off from area hotels.
13. Houston Sightseeing Tour and Galveston Day Trip
Houston is an impressive city with more than two million residents. It’s also close enough to the Gulf of Mexico to make day trips to coastal towns like Galveston fun options for those who need a break from the chaotic urban setting.
This six-hour tour begins with a 90-minute tour of Houston’s hotspots by bus, after which guests will head to Galveston.
Galveston is full of historic charm, impressive Victorian Mansions on quiet streets, and tons of galleries, bars, and eateries.
Guests will have free time to explore on their own and may opt for a dolphin viewing boat tour or just relax under an umbrella by the water with a cool drink.
14. Houston Historic District Craft Cocktail Tour
Much like the craft beer and small winery renaissances that have been taking place across the country in recent years, craft cocktails are making big comebacks as well.
Back in the prohibition days, Houston was full of shady speakeasies, where the music was loud and the bathtub gin flowed like water.
Those days are long gone, but for adult beverage aficionados, there’s a way to experience a bit of the past without breaking any laws.
This historic district craft cocktail tour includes stops at several downtown bars and restaurants featuring world-class drinks and food.
Each tour lasts about 2 ½ hours and includes a complimentary coffee at the end.
15. iFLY Houston Memorial Indoor Skydiving
Indoor skydiving has significant advantages over the outdoor kind.
Primarily, it’s cheaper, more convenient, and never results in guests hitting the ground at 300 miles-per-hour because their chute failed to open.
Though you won’t technically need a guide to experience skydiving at iFLY, you’ll get all the gear and training you’ll need from their experienced staff before taking the plunge into the wind tunnel.
Prepaid tickets give you the option of visiting when you want, which will come in handy if you prefer to visit on days that are typically less crowded.
Each participant gets one-minute of free-fall time and a personalized certificate to take home.