Houston, Texas is a massive city boasting countless attractions such as the Space Center; Downtown Aquarium; Museum of Natural Science; and Hermann Park. However, if you want to avoid the crowds and experience life just like the locals, then trod the less-traveled path and add these hidden gems to your itinerary. They’re located throughout the metropolis with plenty of Houston vacation rentals nearby each of these points of interest.
1. George Ranch Historical Park
Located in the southwestern outskirts of the Houston metropolitan area in Richmond, the George Ranch Historical Park is a living history museum and working ranch spanning 100 years and four generations. The farm is divided into four sections: the 1830s Jones Stock Farm, 1860s Ryon Prairie Home, 1890s Davis Victorian Site, and 1930s George Cattle Complex. Other than touring the historic buildings, you can pet the horses, visit the farm animals, go on a hay ride, watch blacksmiths at work, and enjoy historic food. While the park is only a 30-minute drive from downtown Houston, and there are plenty of vacation rentals within just a few miles. It’s open year-round for easy access.
2. Willow Waterhole Greenspace
The Willow Waterhole Greenspace lies in southwest Houston between the Westbury and Willowbend neighborhoods. This area boasts several vacation rentals that lie within a stroll of the park. This hidden gem has 290 acres of ponds, walking trails, and coastal prairie. You can even bring your dog for a walk as long as he’s leashed at all times and picked up after. While the park’s open year-long, it has regular hours from dawn until dusk, which means visiting during the night is prohibited. Otherwise, picnicking, walking, biking, birding, and lounging on the lawns are all allowed and encouraged. The greenspace also hosts regular activities from athletic events to musical festivals.
3. Lake Houston Wilderness Park and Nature Center
The Lake Houston Wilderness Park and Nature Center is considered a hidden gem because of its location on the fringes of the city in the northeast. Many visitors opt for the big-name parks such as Hermann Park and Memorial Park in the heart of the city, but this one covers 4,786 acres of land and it just as amzaing. In fact, you can get a vacation rental right on one of the arms of lake Houston for some solitude, and still be within a 30-minute drive from the downtown area. The park has 20 miles of hiking and biking trails through heavy forest, boat launches onto the arms of the lake, and plenty of creeks for great kayaking expeditions. Stop at the Nature Center for educational programs for all ages. The park does require a small entry fee.
4. Glenwood Cemetery
Glenwood Cemetery, located in the heart of Houston, doesn’t seem like it would be a gem, hidden or otherwise. However, not only is it a historical site, but it contains the graves of several famous locals. Plus, the gnarled, drooping trees, intricate headstones, and pond gives it a restful atmosphere. Located along the Buffalo Bayou Park and not far from Memorial Park and Sam Houston Park, Glenwood Cemetery boasts 1.5 miles of trails for you to stroll along, either on your own or during a group tour. You can also jog or bike within the cemetery.
5. Folk Art
While Houston has a huge art scene, the folk art aspect is often shuffled aside for visits to the Museum of Fine Arts or the Art Palace. However, if you want to enjoy the local color and history all mixed into one, tour some of the lesser-known folk art exhibits such as the Beer Can House and Orange Show. A few streets over from Memorial Park, in the downtown area, is the Beer Can House made out of 50,000 beer cans with pop-top tabs serving as the decor. The Orange Show, not far away, is an entire folk art installation that was made using found objects and remaking them into works of art, mosaics, and even balconies. The Orange Show is closed every January and February in anticipation for the coming spring, summer, and fall shows.
6. Shri Swaminarayan Mandir
Shri Swaminarayan Mandir is a Hindu temple and complex located in southwest Houston. Historically, this site is the first mandir of its scope built in North America. Architecturally, it combines traditional construction and hand-carved pieces from India with Italian marble and Turkish limestone to create a stunning complex. Enjoy the peaceful atmosphere while walking along the paths and between the water features. This mandir also sponsors regular events from the Shri Ram Navmi Celebration to a charity walk so that there are often things going on you can participate in. As a bonus, Shri Swaminarayan Mandir is not far from the George Ranch Historical Park. A local vacation rental puts you in an easy drive from either.
7. The Funeral Museum
While the Space Museum is the obvious place to visit when in Houston, the National Museum of Funeral History is often overlooked. However, this treasure explores death and funerals through the ages from ancient Egyptian funeral practices to the Mexican Day of the Dead celebration. It has several permanent and rotating exhibits, so there’s no telling what interesting things you’ll discover. The museum lies in north Houston with access to many vacation rentals, several eateries, and a few small museums such as Pearl Fincher Museum of the Fine Arts that are also often missed by visitors.
8. Rice Village
The Galleria is the premier place for shopping, but if you happen to have a vacation rental just a few miles southwest of the downtown area, then head to Rice Village, the underappreciated little brother. This shopping center hosts some trendy stores and boutiques as well as awesome restaurants. The Shiva Indian Restaurant, which has been around for the last 30 or so years, is a small spot that only locals seem to know about. It serves some of the best Indian food in the state. Also located in the Rice Village is the Istanbul Grill & Deli – a Turkish spot with decadent baklava and other traditional desserts.
9. Rudyard’s Bar
Rudyard’s Bar and Pub is super low-key, a place that caters to locals and falls far below the tourist’s radar. If you’re lucky enough to make your way here –it lies west of downtown and south of Buffalo Bayou Park – try the boudin balls, a sort of sausage stuffed with cheese. There are other Cajun foods served here, as well as pub classics (burgers, pizzas, and nachos). Play a board game at your table or challenge your friends to a game of darts. There’s also comedy acts, live music, and dancing.
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