Even in these tough economic times, Houston delivers a hearty sampling of entertainment options for all budgets. Whether you take our suggestions below or build your own experiences a la carte, this value adds up.
All This For Only $25:
It’s hard to beat Saturday afternoon tours at the Saint Arnold Brewery. For $5, fans receive a beer tasting glass from which they can enjoy Saint Arnold’s 10 different beers—our money is on the Lawn Mower—and a tour of the facility. Stay tuned for the biz to move to a bigger location later this year.
Dig into a slice of heaven at Heights-based Flying Saucer Pie Company. The Houston institution has been serving up fresh pie to faithful fans for more than 40 years. Choose from classic varieties like apple, peach and the famous golden-baked cherry ($2.95).
On a nice day, head to one of the city’s most popular places—Hermann Park. The 445-acre spot, bordered by the Museum District, features a golf course, zoo, Miller Outdoor Theatre and half-hour pedal boat rides on McGovern Lake for $8 for up to four people. For details, contact visitors services at (713) 526-2183.
Visit the hippest cinema in H-Town. With screenings everywhere from rooftops to junkyards, Aurora Picture Show is Ground Zero for new media artists. Expect irreverent indie-films like the recent Obama music video Change You Can Dance To and Toy Punks—a documentary on Japanese toys, fashion and punk rock. Admission for regular screenings is $6. Visit www.aurorapictureshow.org to view the event calendar.
When life handed Irma Galvan lemons, she made the best darn lemonade in the city, which is why customers flock to Irma’s Restaurant for a $2.50 freshly squeezed bottomless glass of legendary lemonade. Make plans to stop by during breakfast and lunch, since Irma’s is closed for dinner and on weekends.
All This For Only $50:
When in Houston, don’t miss a performance by Houston Ballet—the fourth-largest professional ballet company in the United States. For $18, visitors can take in tu-tued dancers from the orchestra side front section. Visit www.houstonballet.org for the performance schedule.
Tour the house that booze built. Covered in more than 50,000 empty beer cans, the Beer Can House is unlike anything you’ve ever seen. Visitors pour into the Rice Military-area bungalow on Saturdays and Sundays for a close-up look at the aluminum (literally) siding and beer-can garland. Visit the grounds of this amazing work of art for just $2, or take a guided tour for $5 and get access to the house exhibition.
Want some Goode news? You can take it with you. Enjoy the taste of
Goode Company Barbeque at home with a 13 oz. bottle of BBQ sauce for
$3.95 from the company’s store. The spicy, smoky tomato goodness is
made from scratch daily.
More than 60,000 guests hit the 600-acre Memorial Park Golf Course each year. On the weekends, save money by opting for a twilight tee-time and enjoy 18 holes for $24.
All This For Only $100:
Tourism on sale! Visit Houston’s most popular attractions, avoid ticket lines and save nearly 50 percent off admission prices by buying a CityPass. For $34, pass holders get access to Space Center Houston, the Houston Zoo, Museum of Fine Arts and several more highly sought-after spots.
It’s never too early for Tex-Mex. Join other pretty young things for the “Recession Proof” Sunday brunch scene at River Oaks-based Armandos Restaurant. There, pair a $3 mimosa with a $12 brunch entrée, which includes steaks and traditional Mexican breakfast fare.
Get a water-front view of Buffalo Bayou from the comfort of a pontoon boat. On the second Saturday of each month, the Buffalo Bayou Partnership provides 30-minute cruises from Sesquicentennial Park to the Sabine-to-Bagby Promenade. For $7, riders get to see herons, jumping fish and even the occasional alligator.
Cheer on the Astros, but keep an eye out for home run hits in Minute Maid Park’s Crawford Boxes. Situated in left field—only 315 feet from home plate—the Crawford Boxes are known to be hitter-friendly, but well worth the $34 ticket tab.
Hip, unpretentious service has a home at Montrose’s Jenni’s Noodle House. The unassuming spot is outfitted in funky, eclectic decor and dishes up some mean (and vegan-friendly) “Art Car” curry made with potatoes, mushrooms, carrots and tofu for $10.
All This For Only $200:
Even in tough times, there are certain things one shouldn’t have to do without, happy hour being one of them. Grab a handful of friends and hit the Remington Bar inside the St. Regis Hotel. The bar is offering a Tapas & ‘Tinis special indefinitely to groups of five or more for $25 per person, which allows each group member two drinks and three appetizers. See, things are looking up already!
Houston’s annual Livestock Show and Rodeo may be the world’s largest livestock event, but the 20-day celebration isn’t just about the bull riding and barrel racing. The event also brings top performers to Reliant Park. Stay on a budget and see big-name stars like Taylor Swift, Keith Urban and the Jonas Brothers perform with the rodeo’s $10 concert value ticket (valid through March 22, 2009).
Get smooched by a sea lion and meet up with the meercats on a Behind The Scenes tour at the Houston Zoo. For $50, zookeepers will take you on a 30-minute trip to see your animal of choice. Choose from more than 23 categories including giraffes, grizzly bears, mandrills and African lions.
Plan time for polo! During the spring and summer seasons, the Houston Polo Club hosts tournaments and matches only minutes from The Galleria. Tucked away on 26 wooded acres, the club offers exciting matches and fun people watching for a $25 ticket price.
It may appear unsuspecting from the outside, but inside, Ninfa’s on Navigation definitely delivers on the drinks. The signature Ninfarita, which tastes of freshly-squeezed lime juice, is made using the original recipe from 1973. Grab a glass for $6.95.
Stop in Project Runway winner Chloe Dao’s Rice Village store to scoop up one of Houston’s most popular souvenirs: a Lot 8 tee ($32). At her boutique, Dao also sells flirty dresses, edgy sportswear and fashionable evening wear.
The best part of waking up might just be breakfast at Buffalo Grille. Dig into enormous, old-fashioned pancakes—one really is enough—and savor a cup of Buffalo Grille’s famous toasted cinnamon coffee for $5.
Nosh on delicious pub grub (order the Shepherd’s pie) and jam to local and rising-star musicians at McGonigel’s Mucky Duck. The River Oaks-area concert venue has something going on every night, and admission for most shows is less than $20. Visit www.mcgonigels.com to see what’s on tap for a particular date.
It’s been more than 50 years since Miss Ima Hogg donated her home and her famous art collection to the Museum of Fine Arts. Known today as Bayou Bend, visitors can explore Miss Hogg’s beautiful gardens and outdoor rooms, as well as sign up for guided tours of the house, which are conducted at noon on selected Tuesdays and Thursdays. Admission is $10, and reservations are a must.
In its eighth year in business, Mildred’s Umbrella Theater Company continues to produce innovative and thought-provoking works. Expect a mix of original plays by resident playwright John Harvey, as well as H-Town premieres of New York and London shows. Tickets are $8 when you mention VisitHouston.
Head to Washington Avenue’s Max’s Wine Dive for a hipster scene, upscale comfort food and a stellar wine stock. Do order a glass of New Harbor Sauvignon Blanc. For $9.75, the New Zealand vino is perfect for pairing with one of the restaurant’s delicious seafood dishes.
Houston, For FREE:
Founded by John and Dominique de Menil in 1986, the Menil Collection contains approximately 15,000 paintings, sculptures, photos and books, including works by Jackson Pollock, Max Ernst, Pablo Picasso and Andy Warhol. The museum, located near the University of St. Thomas, is open to the public and admission is free.
Dubbed the Garage Mahal, the Art Car Museum is unlike anything you’ve ever imagined. It’s the only place you’ll find the antennae and wing-cloaked Roachster or the Honda motorcycle that has been transformed into a shiny red rolling stiletto art car.
Downtown’s new 12-acreDiscovery Green park has something going on all the time. In the spring and fall, spend happy hour listening to local musicians perform in the amphitheater, pick up fresh produce at theGreen Market on Sundays and, in the winter, enjoy ice skating on Kinder Lake.
Miller Outdoor Theatre might be one of the best reasons to visit (and live in!) Houston. Open from March through November, the venue hosts a range of performances including classical music, ballet, dance, film, Shakespeare and more. The theater, set inside Hermann Park, also allows patrons to BYOB (no glass containers, please!), so pack a picnic and settle in for the show.
Visit T’afia any Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday evening for free appetizers with the purchase of a cocktail. Dine on tasty dishes like
chickpea fries and sliders while sipping blojitos and ratafias, T’afia’s namesake cocktail.
Less than a year old, the Lee and Joe Jamail Skatepark is the creme de la creme of the grinding and boarding world. The $2.2 million, state-of-the-art facility—thought to contain the largest cradle in the world—is located close to downtown, near Eleanor Tinsley Park.
Tucked on the west side of Memorial park is the Houston Arboretum and Nature Center, a 155-acre nature sanctuary that educates visitors on how to protect native plants and animals in the city. Walk the center’s five miles of trails and visit the sanctuary’s interactive exhibits free of charge. Dogs on leashes are welcome.
Designed by architect Philip Johnson more than 20 years ago, the Galleria-areaWater Wall offers a refreshing respite for visitors seeking a mid-afternoon break. The 64-foot-tall fountain—built to look like a “horseshoe of running water”—sits among 1,118 oak trees at the base of the 64-story Williams Tower.
Set sail on a free, 90-minute tour of the Port of Houston. While on board the 90-passenger boat, you’ll learn about the history of the seaport and be able to watch ocean freighters and barges navigate the 50-mile channel. The tour is free, but reservations are required.
Houston’s Contemporary Arts Museum focuses on showing new work from national and international artists. In addition to hosting exhibits, the CAMH also offers lectures, special programs and a stellar shop chock-full of unique books and gifts.
Dedicated to remembering victims of the Holocaust and honoring the survivors, the Holocaust Museum Houston works to educate future generations about the dangers of hate and prejudice. Check out the education center and the permanent exhibit, Bearing Witness: A Community Remembers, which focuses on stories of Holocaust survivors living in the Houston area.
See the work of local and national artists who focus on using materials like fiber, metal, glass, clay and wood at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft. Located next door to Lawndale Art Center, the HCCC has innovative exhibits and unique gifts in the Asher Gallery. Admission is always free.
Located in the Museum District, the Lawndale Art Center is a staple of Houston’s art scene. Four galleries are contained in the art deco structure, which serves as a backdrop for annually changing exhibits and events like Dia de los Muertos and The Big Show.
Situated inside downtown’s Sam Houston Park, the Heritage Society Museum is the city’s only interactive, outdoor museum. The site features structures dating back to the 1820s, including a 4th-ward cottage and a Greek revival house build for Rice University founder William Marsh Rice. The museum itself is free, but guided tours are $6.
Set in Houston’s Third Ward, Project Row Houses is a nonprofit art initiative aimed at creating a positive place for local artists to work. Some of the shotgun-style houses are dedicated to art and photography, while others are devoted to the literary and performing arts.
Rothko Chapel is a serene place to meditate in the middle of Houston’s Museum District. Founded by John and Dominque de Menil (of Menil Collection fame), Rothko is a non-denominational chapel and exhibit space for modern art that draws thousands of visitors each year.
Tour the city with the help of a personal Houston Greeter. The program, made up of local volunteers, provides two-to-four hour hosts that are able to show newcomers or visitors local attractions that might be of interest to them. The service is free, and METRORail provides free passes for visitors and greeters.
Seen as a symbol of friendship between the U.S. and Japan, the Japanese Gardens in Hermann Park provide a quiet place to sit, meditate and watch the Koi fish swimming in the pond. Of course, it also makes a great backdrop for souvenir shots. Main Street and Sunset Blvd.
By day, Caroline Collective offers a shared space for artists and writers to work free of charge. CC provides free Wifi and hot coffee for visitors during the day and at night, the facility is used for ArtStorm events, craft nights and movie showings.
Looking for a deal on accommodations? Search the Travelocity Private Label Booking engine on the homepage of www.VisitHoustonTexas.com.
While you’re on the site, check out Houston for $2 or Less, which lists 33 attractions. Click on Plan a Visit, then scroll down to the Two Dollars or Less section.