Looking for “cheap and cheerful” fun things to do in this colorful city? Check out these five great spots for free!
By Madeleine Munford
The Menil Collection
1533 Sul Ross St., Houston, TX 77006
Named after founders John and Dominique de Menil, the French-American art collectors and philanthropists, the Menil Collection stands on 30 acres of green, peaceful land in the heart of Houston’s Museum District. Designed by Renzo Piano, the facility encompasses five buildings: two main buildings house special exhibitions and the permanent collection, and two are dedicated to single artists (Cy Twombly and Dan Flavin). A fifth building, the drawing institute, opened in fall 2018. The Menil and its grounds provide a sanctuary to visitors from daily life, as they’re welcome to “pause, reflect, and reinvigorate.” Part of the vision of this art museum is to inspire visitors to feel the spirituality and humanistic features that emanate from the art pieces. Admission is always free.
Lee and Joe Jamail Skate Park
103 Sabine St., Houston, TX 77007
Got teens? Finding cool places for them to enjoy life can be a challenge. Visitors of all ages will enjoy a trip to the Lee & Joe Jamail Skatepark, designed by the premiere skatepark firm Grindline and the first world class, in-ground skatepark in the region. One of the largest skate cradles in the U.S., the $2.7 million skate park has areas for all levels, from seasoned pros to beginners. Whether you just want to experience the thrills from the sidelines or give this daring sport a try with one of the free classes available, the Lee & Joe Jamail Skatepark provides hours of free entertainment. (Helmets required.)
Project Row Houses
2521 Holman Street, Houston, TX 77004
Project Row Houses began in 1993, when seven visionary African-American artists saw potential in some derelict shotgun-style houses at the corner of Holman and Live Oak, in Houston’s historical Third Ward. Today, PRH encompasses five city blocks and houses 39 structures that serve as home base to a variety of initiatives that enrich the community, including art programs and neighborhood development. Through mentorship and art installations, the arts community encourages an atmosphere that fosters artistic growth and supports and honors culture. Various exhibits and programs run year-round. Admission is free.
The James Turell “Twilight Epiphany” Skyspace
(Located adjacent to the Shepherd School of Music on the Rice University campus near entrances #8 and #18, near WestLot 2 parking.)
Constructed of grass, concrete, stone and composite steel, the Skyspace structure is equipped with an LED light sequence that projects onto the ceiling and through an aperture in the 72-foot square knife-edge roof just before sunrise and at sunset. Created by American artist James Turell, the piece can accommodate 120 people, and the light sequences were designed to offer students of Rice University a pensive escape through a public display of art in everyday life. The Skyspace structure is open to the public throughout the day. Light sequences occur daily at sunrise and sunset (see website for times and more details). Admission is free, with optional reservations for timed shows each day.
Sam Houston Boat Tour
7300 Clinton Dr., Houston, Texas 77020
The Sam Houston has offered the public tours of the Port of Houston since 1958. The 95-ft. vessels holds up to 100 passengers and offers 90-minute round-trip education tours along the fascinating Houston Ship Channel. Tours are offered Tuesday through Saturday, starting at 10 am with a varying schedule. The tours are free, but you should make reservations online. Bring your friends and family to explore a large part of Houston in under two hours! (Closed Monday and Sunday.)