Things to do in Houston/ Richmond/ Katy/ Sugar Land

25 July 2012

I am a list maker.  But I am also a big-time forgetter.  I think there are just too many things rolling around in my head at once and I can't focus on any of them until they are down on paper.  Enter the "Free stuff to do in our area list." 

We are always regretting that we don't get out and do more, and with all of us at home together for the summer, I knew that we needed to take advantage of our time.  However, each morning the, "What do you want to do today?" is always answered with, "I don't know."  So we turn to the list. 

I made the list a while back knowing that we would be drawing blanks when we finally had the time to get out and explore.  So each week this summer, we are picking something from the list and getting out of the neighborhood.  Most things are free, or require very little money.

Here is our list:

Houston Proper
  • Rothko Chapel*
  • Menil Collection*
  • Cy Twombly Gallery*
  • Byzantine Fresco Chapel Museum*
  • Hermann Park/ The Japanese Gardens / Houston Garden Center: Beautiful alle├ęs of trees with park benches along the long reflecting pool are so romantic.  The Japnaese Garden is one of the larger ones I have been to, and is truely peaceful.  The Garden Center is where we ususally park, and I love walking through the rows of roses, and their kitchen garden gives me more ideas than my back can implement at home!
  • The Water Wall in the Galleria area: Stunning horseshoe of a waterfall.  I must go see this in person.
  • Discovery Green: Water features, farmer's market, classes in the park, surrounded by skyscrapers, music, etc. Sounds perfect!
  • Art Car Museum: Connected to the Art Car Parade that I found out about too late to attend this year.  It is what is sounds like: art cars.
  • Heritage Society Museum: Sam Houston Park and the museum gallery are free (tours of historic buildings for a fee).
  • Holocaust Museum: Not for the littles, so this one will wait, but it is on the list so I don't forget in the future.
  • Port of Houston Sail: 90 minute Sam Houston boat tour, for free.  Um, okay!
  • Buffalo Bayou Park: Still under construction, but some stretches are open.  Looks amazing with different pockets to explore, each with its own personality.  I would love to hear more about this area if you have been.
  • Arboretum: We have been here once and would love to go back.  You are right next to the loop, but feel lost in a jungle.  Also, elevated train tracks run through the arboretum.  It is very neat to see a train emerging through the trees above you.
  • Bayou Bend Family Days: These run fall through spring, and it is free to roam the gardens and take a guided tour of the house.  The days are themed with kids in mind, but if you want to relax and stroll alone, you are welcome to.  I obsess over this place.
  • Mary Jo Peckham Park: Free mini-golf course.  Fishing in the lake. Check!
  • No Label Brewing Co. Saturday Tastings: $5 per person, but includes live music, casual picnic atmosphere, and four beer samples. 
  • La Centerra Shopping Center: We grabbed some Starbucks (using a handy gift card), and people watched in really nice patio courtyard in the heart of the outdoor shopping center.
  • Bass Pro Shops: 20k gallon aquarium, archery range, golf range and putting green.  Something for everyone in this family!  Hard not to buy anything, but it is so fun to look. Update: This one was kind of lame.  It was more fun than the average sporting goods store with the aquarium, but I would not make it a trip unto itself again.
  • Wild West World: Junk/antique shop with a little bit of everything.  Very neat location. Update: This place closed down.
  • Fort Bend Museum: The name "Fort Bend" county came from the ice house/fort that was built by the first settlers in Austin's colony. This area is rich with Texas history. Update: If you like history, this little museum is very cool.  And the small fee to tour the historic homes on the property is worth it.  It is a small place, so you can make it as short or as long of a trip as your kiddos' patience will allow.
  • George Observatory: This is not free, but buried within Brazos Bend State Park, and we are nerds for astonomy, so it is on our list. Update: They just got one of their telescopes repaired, and they have one of the largest telescopes in the country that is open to public viewing.
  • George Memorial Library: Large children's section for CT, but I am mostly interested in their genealogy library on the second floor.  Amazing resources if you are a history buff. 
  • Morton Cememtery: In the same history vein, some Texan notables are buried there. Call me crazy, but cemeteries are neat to visit.  They are rich with stories, and I love finding names I recognize from history.
  • Varner-Hogg Plantation: This isn't in Richmond, it is further South in West Columbia, but you can picnic on the grounds of an 1800's plantation for free. 
Sugar Land
  • Sugar Land Memorial Park: A developing park, with much already built, including a rough terrain biking trial, country lake, walking trails, picnic areas, playground, dog park, etc.  We are very excited about their future expansion plans to include access to the Brazos River.
  • Imperial Farmer's Market on Saturdays.
  • Sugar Land Town Square: Similar to Katy's Centerra, but bigger.  Grab a Starbucks and hang out in front of an amazing statue at City Hall and people watch the afternoon away.
  • Cullinan Park: A swampy wooded oasis right next to the Sugar Land Airport.  You can watch small aircraft come in over the lake, and see gator swimming from the observatory deck.  I heard rumors that this area is going to be adding a botanical garden in partnership with the Houston Parks Dept.  I hope that is true!!! Update: So I think the Houston Botanic Garden went with another location.  But there are big improvement plans for Cullinan Park in the works to open it up more to the public.

I would love to hear what you like to do in this area that is either free, or near free, in the comments!

*So it's kind of cheating to list these seperately, because they are all part of the Menil Collection, but they are at different locations and have different purposes, and so they could definatly be different trips.
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  1. These are great!!

    A couple more:
    Chase Tower Sky Lobby on the 60th floor. Free, and open M-F 8am-5pm. Just walk right in the lobby of Chase Tower and there's a direct elevator to take you straight there. Afterwards, go under the tower and walk around the downtown Houston tunnels - a whole 'nother world down there!

    Also, the beer can house:

    Also, Buffalo Bayou Brewing Co. & St. Arnold's have cheap beer tastings too!

    P.S. You MUST do the Art Car parade this year! :)

    1. Hi Lisa,

      I love those downtown ideas. I have heard about the tunnels, and would love to explore that area. I can't believe that I forgot the beer can house, and my husband thanks you for the tip about Buffalo Bayou Brewing Co. We haven't heard of that one before, and we are always up for a tasting!

  2. You are missing one of the old time freebies - the hill at Miller Theatre! A picnic blanket, some food (and bug spray) and enjoy outdoor theatre during the summer nights. Rolling down the hill is a must for kids. Enjoy!

    1. Hi Karen,

      That sounds fantastic! I hadn't heard about their summer night shows. Thanks for the tip.

  3. Oyster Creek Park in Sugar Land is beautiful! There isn't a playground, but there is a huge creek and turtles swimming around and supposedly alligators, although we didn't see any when we were there. It has really nice paved trails so next time I will have my kids bring there scooters.

    1. Oyster Creek is fantastic. If you take the path by the creek around to Lost Creek Park (very short walk), there is a playground. I love the outdoor stage at Oyster Creek, too. Great addition to the list!

    2. You can also park at Lost Creek Park with the Pavilion, soccer fields, and playgrounds.

    3. Yes you can. Thanks for mentioning that! Lost Creek Park was one of the first places we found when we visited Sugar Land before moving from Colorado. It was right before Ike, and everything was so lush on the trail between the two parks. We would actually rather park at Lost Creek, since it is a bigger lot and you don't have to cross Hwy 6.

  4. The George Ranch in Richmond is awesome, especially if you are a history buff. It's not free but it is fairly cheap and totally worth it!

    1. Hi Emily,

      I actually just bought 1/2 price entrance to George Ranch through Groupon for this summer! I have been waiting to go there for a while, and I heard they just opened a new trail area that I can't wait to check out.

  5. Wild West is transforming from retail to events venue.

    1. I saw that the retail was closing up. I am glad to see that the property will have a new life! Can't wait to see what all is to come.

  6. There's also they do a different free workshop/craft the first saturday of every month

    1. I had never heard of the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft before. Seems like a very interesting place, and one with free admission! The free workshops look like a great hands-on opportunity for kids (and those of us who never got tired of digging our hands into the clay). Thanks for the info!

  7. Here is the new URL to Mary Jo Peckham Park: