Houston, TX: There Are No Problems – Seven Free Things I Bet You Never Knew About Houston. You’ll Love #2

by Kerwin McKenzie on February 3, 2017

Houston-Bobby (HOU) Airport Bag Tag Houston-Intercontinental (IAH) Airport Bag TagHouston, the 4th largest city in the U.S., population about 5.5M and rising, is one of those cities that if you ask people what is there to do, they pause a bit before they answer, then they can’t really think of anything. But that’s really far from the truth. Just so you know, when you visit you will get a taste of Texas and you’ll hear people talk about the Bayou city; that’s ’cause there is a Bayou (river) running through the city. This river actually helps to drain the city when it rains, well most of the times anyways.

Houston-Intercontinental airport is about 21 miles north of the city mostly along I-45 and Houston-Hobby airport is about 12 miles south of the city mostly along the same I-45. Most people drive in Houston so like Los Angeles, CA, traffic is just ridiculous especially at rush hour.

I’ve been digging around my adopted city and airports since December 1996 and I’ve found seven things you can enjoy in the city for free. But before I begin, here’s some very important items you need to know before you delve further:

  • Scheduled Service Airlines Serving Houston-Hobby (HOU): American Airlines (AA), Delta Air Lines (DL), JetBlue (B6), Southwest Airlines (WN).
  • Houston Airport (IAH) OverviewScheduled Service Airlines Serving Houston-George Bush Intercontinental (IAH): Aeromexico (AM), Air Canada (AC), Air China (CA), Air New Zealand (NZ), Alaska Airlines (AS), American Airlines (AA), ANA (NH), AviancaTaca (AV), Air France (AF), British Airways (BA), Emirates (EK), EVA Airways (BR), Frontier Airlines (F9), interJet (4O), KLM Royal Dutch Airlines (KL), Korean Airlines (KE), Lufthansa German Airlines (LH), Qatar Airways (QR), Singapore Airlines (SQ), Spirit Airlines (NK), Texas Sky (P1), Turkish Airlines (TK), United (UA), VivaAerobus (VB), Volaris (Y4) and WestJet (WS).
  • Cargo Airlines Service Houston-George Bush Intercontinental (IAH): Air France/KLM/Martinair Cargo, British Airways World Cargo, Cathay Pacific Cargo, China Airlines Cargo, DHL Cargo, EVA Air, FedEx, Lufthansa Cargo, Qatar Airways Cargo, Saudi Arabian Airlines and UPS.
  • Airfare Tip: If looking for a low fare, book at the Web sites for the low cost carriers as you’ll more than likely get the best value there.
  • Airport Lounges
    • IAH: American Express Centurion, British Airways-Terraces (OneWorld), Executive Lounge (Emirates, Lufthansa and Qatar), KLM Crown Lounge (SkyTeam), United Club (Star Alliance), USO; additional information.
    • HOU: USO
  • 102 Bus to Downtown Houston from Houston-Intercontinental Airport (IAH)Airport To The City: The best way to get around Houston is by taking the local bus. My friends do think I’m crazy when I say this, but I’ve not had a car in Houston since 2005. If you do need one, then you can certainly rent one as all major car rental companies are represented. I must warn you though that Houston is one of the more expensive car rental markets. To take the local bus, you should acquire a Metro Q card. Sadly, this cannot be purchased at the airport nor on the airport buses. Instead, you must first pay $1.25 in exact change (a paper dollar is acceptable), then once you make it downtown you can purchase a Q card at the Metro office at Main and Jefferson Streets. The Q card allows you to transfer for free to buses within a two hour timeframe.
  • Airport Hotels:
    • IAH – Hampton Inns & Suite, Spring Hill Suites, Sheraton North Houston, DoubleTree, Red Roof Inn, Country Inn and Suites, Comfort Suites, Hilton Garden Inn, Ramada Houston,  Holiday Inn, Towne Place Suites, Fairfield Inn & Suites, Staybridge Suites, Hyatt Place, Hyatt, Hilton.
    • HOU – DoubleTree By Hilton, Holiday Inn, Hampton Inn, Spring Hill Suites, Drury Inn & Suites, Baymont Inn & Suites, Houston Marriott South, Marriott Courtyard.
  • Currency: US Dollars (USD).
  • Language: English although due to its proximity to Mexico, Spanish is widely spoken.
  • Visa Information: You may qualify to use ESTA, if not,  use this link to check U.S. visa requirements.

As promised, here are seven things you can do for free in Houston:

  1. American Statemanship Park Houston, TXAmerican Statemanship Park (Mount Rush Hour) – Or as I call it, the Presidents Heads. This piece of artwork is found in one of the six Wards, the Sixth Ward, of Houston. The Wards are/were the low income areas of Houston primarily in the downtown area. I don’t think this was the initial intent, it may have just happened. In some area, land developers have bought them up and relocated the people and built new expensive townhomes; the process continues. Visible form I-45 and I-10 highways you can see the huge sculptures of four statesmen (Stephen F. Austin, Sam Houston, Abraham Lincoln and George Washington). The statues are 18 foot tall and made of white concrete. A pretty impressive sight.
    • Open: Dawn to Dusk
    • Location: 1400 Elder St
  2. Echo Chamber at Houston-Intercontinental AirportEcho Chambers at the Houston-Intercontinental Airport.  This one is not downtown, but its worth mentioning. When you are at the airport in Terminal C. There are two places where four walkways cross. I guess the architects thought it would be fun if they created an echo chamber. So if you stop in the dead center and speak it echoes and scares everyone around you. Its a lot of fun so try it when you are passing through the airport. They are located near C14 and C45. If you don’t know they are there, you will walk right past them.
    • Open: As long as the airport is open.
    • Location: Intersection near gates C14 and C45
  3. Green Link Driving on Smith Street - MetroFree Green Link Bus – To help visitors get around the city form their hotels, the city operates a complimentary bus. Typically, it goes from the hotels to the Convention Center (Minute Maid Park (baseball stadium) and Toyota Center (basketball)) are close by; Houston is a mega convention city and has many conventions year round. If you have 30 minutes, get on at one of the designated stops to get out of the heat in the summer time and the cold at winter. Both locals and tourist take the bus. You can get on and off at any of the stops, check out that are and then get on again. Ride Metro even created a PDF document with the stops and what to see along the way.
    • Open: 6:30a – 6:30p operating every 7-10 minutes
    • Location: Downtown Houston
  4. Water Wall Houston, TXGerald D. Hines Waterwall Park In The Middle of The City. If you journey a little bit to the Galleria area and locate the Williams Tower; don’t worry its the tallest building in the area with a rotating beacon so you can’t miss it, you will find a park with a huge waterfall. It’s mesmerizing that such a monument sits in the city, just constantly gushing water. And yes, when you get too close you will get sprayed. If you put the address in the Google Maps, it will tell you how to get there using public transit. But basically, just take the 81/82 from downtown Houston, get off at the Galleria Mall and walk down Post Oak Boulevard until you get to it. Just walk past the Williams Tower.
    • Open: Daily 8a – 9p.
    • Location2800 Post Oak Blvd, Houston, TX 77056
  5. George Bush Monument Houston, TXGeorge Bush Monument. I was walking around the city one day and I just happened upon this monument. As you may or may not know, President George Bush, the 41st President of the Unites States is a Houston resident. In this monument, he is looking toward the city of Houston. You just walk a bit from the curb to the center of the monument to enjoy the view that he sees. Unlike the one at his namesake airport 21 miles away, IAH, he has his jacket on. The statue was created by famed portrait artist, Chas Fagan.
    • Open: Dawn to Dusk
    • Location: Corner of Franklin and Bagby Streets
  6. Houston Public Library – Julia Idelson Building. This building is a hidden gem in the city. Once you step inside you will see what I mean. Just go one level up and look up. The detail is unbelievable, not mention the pristine surroundings. For a moment, you will forget that you are in a Library. There are also pictures of Houston dating back to 1924. If you look closely, you should recognize that some of the buildings are still standing.
  7. Sadly, this is now closed. JP Morgan Chase SkyTower Observation Deck. You can get a Panoramic View of the city 60 floors up and all complimentary. The Chase Tower is 75 floors tall and is the tallest building in the city of Houston. Just walk in, say hello to the security guard, walk to either of the two banks of SkyTower elevators (don’t take any pictures), press the button and away you go. In about a minute or less you will be treated to a panoramic view of one side of the city of Houston.
    • Open: Monday – Friday 8a – 6p.
    • Location: 600 Travis.
  8. More Restaurants Than You Can Think Of. While this one is not free, you’ll invariably get hungry when you are here and need something to chew on. It’s said that there are more restaurants per capita in Houston. I’m not sure how true that is, but there are a lot of restaurants here. I’ve made a list of a few of the more memorable ones. If you know of any more, please leave a comment below:
    1. Houston Greyhound Bus StationGreyhound Bus Station Restaurant. My friends think I’m nuts as no one in their rightful mind uses the Greyhound bus station in Houston unless you really must. But I’ve had occasions to use it when I can’t get to/from other Texas cities by air. The area around the station is one of the not so nice areas of the city, so be careful as lots of people who are not taking a bus or picking up anyone hangs out there. But if you get past that, the burger joint inside makes good burgers. Of course they also claim they are the best burgers in Midtown, but you know what, I enjoyed the burger. Is it the best in Midtown? You tell me.
      • Open: 24 hours
      • Location: 2121 Main
    2. Hub Cap Grill Fries and Burger Houston, TXHubcap Grill Downtown. yes, they do have hubcaps on the roof of the building. It’s very tiny, but again the food is quite good. Oftentimes, there is no place to sit, so that tells you the food is good; burgers is their specialty.
      • Open: Monday – Saturday 11a – 3p
      • Location: 1111 Prairie
    3. Lankford Grocery & Market. I don’t know why it’s called “grocery” as this is a burger and breakfast joint and yes the burgers are good; the place is a dive and you’d perhaps not go there unless told the food is good. The food is good.
      • Open: Monday – Saturday 7a – 3p.
      • Location: 88 Dennis.
    4. Treebeards – The Cloister. It’s actually inside an old church. The ambience is good and so is the cajun food.
      • Open: 11a – 2p
      • Location: 1117 Texas

In addition to these great but not so popular places, here are the typical popular places to visit in and around Houston:

  1. 1940 Air Terminal Museum Hobby AirportThe 1940 Air Terminal Museum. Located at the other side of Hobby Airport, this museum is a must see if you are visiting for more than a day and is an aviation geek.
    • Open: Tuesday – Saturday: 10a – 5p; Sunday: 1p – 5p
    • Location: 8325 Travelair St.
  2. Battleship Texas.
    • Open: Daily except Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Day  10 – 5p.
    • Location: 3523 Independence Parkway South LaPorte, TX 77571
  3. Downtown Aquarium.
    • Open: Monday – Thursday: 10a – 9p; Friday & Saturday: 10a – 11p; Sunday: 10a – 9p
    • Location: 410 Bagby St @ Memorial Dr.
  4. Houston Zoo.
    • Open: Daily 9a – 7p. Last entry at 6p
    • Location6200 Hermann Park Dr
  5. Lychburg Ferry. This is perhaps one of the coolest things I’ve done in Houston. It’s perhaps the shortest vehicular ferry crossing I’ve ever taken. If you take I-10 to the San Jacinto Monument, then you have to take the Lynchburg Ferry in order to cross the Houston Ship Channel. And its free. If its closed, you have to take the long way around.
    • Open: Saturday – Sunday: 11a – 6:30p; Monday – Friday: 4:30a – 8:p. Closed: New Year’s Day, Easter, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.
    • Location: 1001 Independence Parkway N, Baytown, TX
  6. Museums – Houston has many museums to choose from, some makes you wonder really? There’s a museum for that? Here are a few:
    • ArtCar Museum
    • Children’s Museum of Houston
    • Contemporary Arts Museum Houston
    • Holocaust Museum Houston
    • Houston Museum of Natural Science
    • Museum of Fine Arts
    • Museum of African American Culture
  7. San Jacinto Monument. From the top of this monument on a clear day, you can see the downtown Houston, the Houston Ship Channel and of course Battleship Texas. It’s quite spectacular as you can see from the Earthcam installed on the tower – http://www.earthcam.com/usa/texas/laporte/.
    • Open: Daily 9a – 6p. Various times for different sections of the exhibit.
    • Location: Independence Parkway
  8. Space Center Houston. During weekdays, you can take the 102 and connect to the 249.
    • Open: Daily 10a – 7p
    • Location1601 Nasa Pkwy

What have you found on your visit to Houston? Or if you live here, what say you? Please leave a comment below.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Pat Garvey August 8, 2014 at 3:55 am

You mention that car rentals out of IAH might be expensive, we found FireFly Car Rental from the Airport car rental terminal. Is quite reasonable.  We got a car for under $10 a day for a week rental.


avatar Kerwin McKenzie August 12, 2014 at 12:16 am

Thank you for your comment.
Really Pat? That’s a great deal.
Thanks for passing along that information.

I usually use Avis as I get some extra perks as I’ve rented from them so often. I’m a member of their Avis First and President’s Circle program. So that helps most of the times. It includes discounts as well.



avatar Eric Hultman September 5, 2014 at 2:57 pm

The Menil Collection is an awesome museum and it’s also FREE!!!!
Not quite free but only $5.00 is The Beer Can House. It’s quirky, fun and close to Memorial Park.
It’s associated with The Orange Show Foundation that also puts on the Art Car Parade.


avatar Kerwin McKenzie September 5, 2014 at 7:32 pm

Thanks Eric,

This is good information as well. Houston is full of hidden gems. I’ll have to pass by the Menil and see how it is.

You know I’ve never been to the Art Car Parade in all my years of living here. I’m always out of town and this year was no different…



avatar texascharterbuscompany December 8, 2015 at 6:31 am

I like this list. It’s more detailed outside of the main attractions you usually see. I get to see Houston a little more intimately through recommends like this. Thanks for posting!


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