As the fourth largest city in the nation, Houston, Texas, is hot — and not just from its legendary humidity. H-Town is a thriving metropolis and one of the most diverse — and visited — cities in the nation. People from every walk of life and various cultures, races, backgrounds, and faiths come to Houston for its opportunities, its lifestyle, and its wealth of activities to suit any taste.

Downtown is Houston’s epicenter for foodies, with award-winning cuisine and celebrated chefs garnering national recognition. Shopping is also legendary here — visitors come from all over the world to snag everything from couture to vintage fashion. The cosmopolitan nature of this city (Houston is said to be one of the most diverse cities in America) might come as a surprise, but don’t worry — this city is Texan through and through.

There are countless must do's in Houston and so many places and activities in downtown Houston, it can be tough to narrow them down. So if you're wondering what to do in downtown Houston, you've come to the right place.

Quick Answer Guide: 15 Best Things to Do in the Downtown Houston

‌Top Things to Do in Downtown Houston‌

‌Best Things to Do During the Day in Downtown Houston‌

‌Best Things to Do Outdoors in Downtown Houston‌

‌Free Things to Do in Downtown Houston‌

‌Best Things to Do at Night in Downtown Houston‌

Top Things to Do in Downtown Houston

Houston is a sprawling metropolis, but if you are staying downtown, everything is within reach. The section of Houston designated as “downtown” is 1.84 square miles. It’s easy to navigate via bus, trolley, Uber, or your own car. It’s also easy to stay as busy as you want in this thriving, energy-filled center of city life. Downtown is the hub of culture, sports, and dining, so you’ll have your pick of activities.

1. Take in a Show in the Theater District

  • Perfect For‌: Art lovers
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  • If You Go:‌ Houston shows are in demand, so for the best seats in the house, purchase your tickets online as soon as you know your travel dates.

Downtown is home to several theater venues, including the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts and three theaters that are contained in one block: Alley Theatre, Jones Hall, and Wortham Theater Center. This area also showcases talent from the Houston Ballet, the Houston Grand Opera, and the Houston Symphony. Broadway shows, plays, and concerts take place every night of the week, with nearby restaurants offering early pre-theater dinners.

2. Relax at a Rooftop Concert

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  • Perfect For‌: Music lovers
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  • If You Go:‌ Parking is limited, so consider taking the MetroRail.

A buzzing hive for culture, recreation, and food, this all-in-one locale is the perfect place to spend a day or evening. The upscale food hall features award-winning chefs and gives you the opportunity to sample foods from every culture. Retail browsing will send you home with Texan souvenirs, and live performances in the 713 Music Hall will entertain you as you stroll. You’ll be wowed by the sprawling rooftop with views of the Houston downtown skyline.

3. Catch Some Professional Sports

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  • Perfect For‌: Athletes and fans
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  • If You Go‌: Check each stadium’s restrictions for carrying in bags – the last thing you want to do is walk a mile back to your car.

Houston is home to the World Series Champion Houston Astros, who play at Minute Maid Park. Grab a ballpark frank and a Coke and settle in to watch the ‘Stros, or head over to the Toyota Center to see the Houston Rockets swoosh. Just across the highway from Minute Maid, you’ll see the white domes of Shell Energy Stadium, home of Houston’s soccer teams, the Dynamo and the Dash. If sports is your thing, you’ll find it in Houston.

Best Things to Do During the Day in Downtown Houston

Houston is hot through the summer months, but the rest of the year temperatures are pleasant, making for year-round outdoor attractions. No matter when you visit, you’ll find quirky, only-in-Houston sites and impressive museums that rival some of the best in the world.

4. Go Back in Time at the Houston Museum of Natural Science

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  • Perfect For:‌ Science geeks
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  • If You Go:‌ Don’t miss the special exhibits that rotate throughout the year.

The dinosaurs in the Morian Hall of Paleontology are the showstoppers at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, and kids will ooh and aah at the stunning room where the prehistoric creatures loom. But for a well-rounded museum experience, continue on to the Cockrell Butterfly Center and the Burke Baker Planetarium. From Texas ecology and wildlife to getting lost in space, this museum will please everyone, regardless of age. While in the area, check out the entire Houston Museum District, which includes The Menil Collection and Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

5. Cruise the Art Car Museum

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  • Perfect For:‌ Auto enthusiasts
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  • If You Go:‌ Museum tours are by appointment only, so be sure to schedule your visit ahead.

Nicknamed the Garage Majal, this mixture of contemporary art and classic cars is quirky and surreal. Stock cars have been remolded as artistic commentary about politics, culture, or whatever the artist wishes. The colors are vibrant, the statements are bold, and the cars are like nothing you’ve ever seen.

6. Only in Houston can you visit the Beer Can House

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Begun in 1968, this house was built with beer-can siding by one man who wanted his house to be the only one of its kind. He succeeded — the house was later featured in "Ripley’s Believe It Or Not" and is said to be constructed of 50,000 beer cans. It stands as a monument to recycling and is a must-see when in Houston.

Best Things to Do Outdoors in Downtown Houston

Houstonians who traverse these roads frequently refer to the city as the Concrete Jungle, but in actuality, Houston has some fantastic public spaces and outdoor activities. Downtown is no exception, as evidenced by the crowds that gather for movies on the lawn, street festivals, and special events. And the mainstays of Houston are just as popular, drawing visitors to explore everything from exotic animals to unusual foods.

7. Get lost in the Galapagos exhibit at the Houston Zoo

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  • Perfect For:‌ Families of all ages
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  • If You Go:‌ Download the schedule of Feeder Talks and plan your tour of the zoo accordingly. Don’t miss your opportunity to feed a giraffe!

The recently completed Galapagos exhibit is the crown jewel of the Houston Zoo. Just inside the main gate, you’ll get up close and personal with sea lions, penguins, and tortoises, and watching manta rays swim above you as you make your way through the aquarium tunnel. Elsewhere on zoo grounds, you’ll meet up with lions, tigers, and bears. The beauty of this zoo is that it’s large enough to be interesting and small enough for even the youngest to manage.

8. Explore Discovery Green and Phoenicia Specialty Foods

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  • Perfect For:‌ Culture seekers
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  • If You Go:‌ Park at Avenida Central, the closest garage to the park.

Discovery Green is exactly what its name implies — a greenspace to discover all that makes up Houston, from arts and crafts to demonstrations, concerts, and fitness classes. There is literally always something going on here, so check the website for details. Next door, you’ll find one of the most impressive ethnic and specialty food stores you’ve ever had the pleasure to peruse — Phoenicia Specialty Foods. It’s a great eatery where you can grab lunch or snacks for a picnic in the park.

Free Things to Do in Downtown Houston

Houston is known for its low cost of living, and visitors are often shocked by what they can get for their money in this city. In fact, there’s plenty to do right in the heart of downtown that won’t cost you a dime, from live entertainment to scenic walks to beautiful art.

9. Grab Your Spot on the Lawn at Miller Outdoor Theater in Hermann Park

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  • Perfect For:‌ Date Night
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  • If You Go:‌ Bring lawn chairs or blankets, and go ahead and pack a cooler, but leave glass containers at home.

Get here early, spread your blanket on the hillside, and settle in for a top-notch show. The Houston Symphony routinely performs here as the sun sets over the horizon, and if you check the calendar ahead of time, you can choose to visit on a free night. You might catch the symphony, a Shakespearean performance, or the occasional indie rock show. When you’re ready to stretch your legs, take a stroll around the lake at Hermann Park — the ultimate in romance.

10. Pedal or Jog Buffalo Bayou

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The slow-moving waterway of Buffalo Bayou has carved out a section of Houston where biking and hiking trails abound. You’ll forget you’re in the big city on these 225 acres of recreational greenspace. Disc golf, a boat launch, a skate park, and a dog park round out the space, and trails are lined with gardens and picnic spots.

11. Peruse the Public Art at Market Square Park

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  • Perfect For:‌ Artists and Dreamers
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  • If You Go:‌ Snap selfies with the artwork and share on your socials. It’s great publicity for the artists and their creations are definitely worthy of the 'gram.

Traveling art installations find a temporary home in Market Square, a lively communal space surrounded by restaurants, bars, high-rise lofts, and retail space, some 100 years old, some recently completed. The eclectic mix of experiences is mirrored in the public art on the square. You may find busy, bizarre contemporary pieces or meditative, calming sculptures. Spend an afternoon strolling Main Street and its street art, then enjoy the architecture and people watching that are their own forms of entertainment. It's one of the more unique places to visit in downtown Houston.

Best Things to Do at Night in Downtown Houston

After a day of activity in Houston — and possibly an afternoon cat nap — make time to enjoy the nightlife and see the city lit up in all its glory. There are so many performance venues in this town that on any given night, you’ll have your choice of comedy, live music in all genres, trivia nights, game nights, and on and on. Be sure to check the Houston event calendar for what to do in downtown Houston when you're in town.

12. Catch a concert at White Oak Music Hall

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  • Perfect For:‌ Music lovers
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  • If You Go:‌ Aim for a seat on the side balcony — there’s something about seeing fingers fly over instruments that makes the music come alive.

You know those music halls that are exactly the right size — big enough to feel like a party and small enough to see and hear all the action? That’s White Oak Music Hall. Ticket prices are reasonable, strong drinks are served in the lobby, and there’s not a bad seat in the house. It’s the type of place you might catch Tenacious D, the Steeldrivers, or Suki Waterhouse.

13. Quaff a draft at St. Arnold Brewing Company

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  • Perfect For:‌ Beer lovers
  • Website:
  • If You Go:‌ You’ll spot St. Arnold’s from the highway, and parking is ample.

St. Arnold Brewing Company is Texas’ oldest craft brewery and a Houston favorite. The outdoor beer garden strung with lights draws a happy crowd, especially when a big game is playing on the multiple screens around the venue. You’ll find a variety of year-round and seasonal beers on tap and a full restaurant offering famous Texas BBQ in both indoor and outdoor dining. It’s the perfect way to spend a breezy night with views of the city skyline.

14. Marvel at Waugh Drive Bat Colony

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In Buffalo Bayou Park, Waugh Drive Bridge is a haven for 250,000 Mexican free-tailed bats. At sunset, they spread their wings, and in unison, take flight, winding around the bayou and the nearby skyscrapers. Those who know about it gather like a secret society, witnessing the nightly ritual. It’s a brief but spectacular show, and you won’t want to miss one of the best activities in Houston.

15. Dine at the Four Seasons

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  • Perfect For:‌ Foodies
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  • If You Go:‌ Consider signing up for the hotel’s email updates so you can take advantage of special events and updates.

The Four Seasons is always a big draw, even if you simply walk through the lobby, but when in Houston, it’s worth the splurge to make dinner reservations at the hotel’s new restaurant, Toro Toro. This Pan-Latin steakhouse features exotic game, specialty tacos, and a “suviche” bar that marries ceviche with sushi. Be sure to order the official drink of H-Town — the winning concoction from this year’s cocktail competition hosted by the Four Seasons.

When it comes to the best things to do in downtown Houston, you have your choice and something for everybody. These activities and places to visit in downtown Houston are just a fraction of the opportunities available to you. So get out there and discover your personal "must do in downtown Houston!"