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Houston Hermann Park Conservancy track during autumn in Texas.
A beautiful view of McGovern Lake with geese.
Bright orange fall leaves on tree with blue sky in the background.
When the sweltering heat is behind us, humidity is lower and mosquitoes are no longer our constant companions, it can only mean one thing—it’s fall, y’all! And with the season comes fun holidays to plan for, more time spent outdoors and a slew of seasonally appropriate activities to enjoy.
If you are looking to maximize Houston’s blink-or-you’ll-miss-it fall weather, we’ve got you covered. From enjoying a great day outdoors with the kids (pumpkin patches and hayrides, anyone?) to planning the perfect weekend outing with friends (hello, wine tasting and live music), keep reading for 50 bucket list things to do in Houston this fall.
Art lovers descend on downtown Houston each fall for the Bayou City Art Festival. For two days, the largest art festival in Houston is home to over 250 national and international artists representing 19 disciplines of art. The fall weather makes it a perfect time to stroll through the festival, listen to music, enjoy food and drinks and peruse beautiful works of art.
Brenda Anaya gives her son, Isaac Anaya, 12, a bite from her mole chicken taco during the MECA Dia de los Muertos Festival Oct. 30, 2021 in Houston.
Parades, processions and celebrations are the hallmark of the fall holiday which originated in Mexico. Houston has several celebrations, including the annual City of Houston Dia de los Muertos parade that begins in Sam Houston Park downtown. Also known as Day of the Dead, Dia de los Muertos is a tradition where families honor those who have passed away. For over 22 years, Houstonians have celebrated Dia de los Muertos with MECA Houston. Known for its month-long celebration of altar exhibitions, community workshops and a two-day festival, the nationally recognized art center is an epicenter of tradition.
For decades Houstonians have made the pilgrimage to Ellington Field to watch the world-famous aerial acrobatics of daring military pilots. Over two days in late October all eyes are turned to the sky to see the likes of the iconic Blue Angels, acrobatic skydiving teams, military jet demonstrations and so much more. A fun family attraction in Houston, visitors will also enjoy seeing vintage airplanes, classic cars and interactive activities for children and adults.
Oktoberfest at King’s BierHaus in Houston TX on Friday, October 18, 2019.
Houston celebrates this German holiday in a big way. Starting in late September, Houstonians have their favorite steins ready for festivities at restaurants, breweries and festivals. One of the largest celebrations, Oktoberfest Houston, is an annual family-friendly tradition with live music, dancing games, entertainment and delicious German food and drinks.
Fall and football go hand in hand—especially in Texas. From the beginning of September to early February, Houston Texans fans wear their red and blue apparel to NRG stadium, where cooler temperatures allow for a fun tailgating experience and a high-energy game. No tickets are needed to watch the game on a big screen at any of the city’s bars or restaurants with chips, queso and a cold one in hand.
Waugh Bridge bat colony bats flying from under the bridge at sunset.
Through the end of October, witness 250,000 Mexican free-tailed bats swoop and swirl their way from under the Waugh Drive Bridge each night. The bats emerge about 15-30 minutes before sunset as they roam the area for food. There is no fee to watch the bats; the best viewing platform is the southeast corner of Waugh Drive at Allen Parkway. This is definitely one of the best free things to do in Houston for nature lovers.
Step back in time at the nation’s largest Renaissance Festival. Located one hour outside the city, RenFest is a fun family attraction near Houston that takes place over eight weekends in October and November and draws in over half a million people each year. Spread out over 70 acres; guests can visit 400 on-site shops, watch performances on 20 stages and take in the costumed fun that has made it a must-see event since 1974.
Houston Zoo Boo.
October is a big month at the second most visited zoo in the U.S. Little ghouls and goblins are invited to partake in family-friendly fun at the Houston Zoo from the first of the month until Halloween. The Zoo goes all out with over-the-top decorations, special animal enrichment activities and events for kids of all ages. Families will also enjoy exploring at night when glowing jack-o-lanterns and Halloween lights will make for a memorable evening.
Long before Chip and Joanna Gaines made shopping in Round Top trendy, Texans have been flocking to the tiny town (population of 90) between Houston and Austin for its twice-yearly antique market. Round Top Antiques Festival takes place in late October each year, and several hundred thousand people visit to shop for antique decor, clothing, jewelry and more. The market is the largest of its kind in the country stretching for 11 miles on either side of Texas State Highway 237.
Dreux Simmons, 19-months, dressed in skeleton pajamas, in the Pure Pumpkin Patch at St. Luke’s Methodist Church on Friday, Oct. 30, 2015, in Houston, Texas. ( Gary Coronado / Houston Chronicle )
Whether you carve, paint or display pumpkins in their natural state—there is no denying pumpkins are a big part of fall decor. Starting in October, pumpkin patches pop up across Houston, making it easy for families to get their hands on one. The Oil Ranch Pumpkin Patch, TGR Exotics Wildlife Range Pumpkin Patch, Old MacDonalds Farm and Old Time Christmas Tree Farm are just a few places to find the perfect pumpkin. A great activity to do in Houston with kids—take advantage of their seasonal activities, no one can resist a hayride, can they?
The NBA is one of the country’s most-watched sports leagues, and the Houston Rockets keep the action going from mid-October through April. Tickets start under $10, making it possible to take the whole family to a game where the on-court antics, atmosphere and delicious food are non-stop fun.
Visitors dress up at the Houston Ballet Nutcracker Market.
This annual and massive shopping extravaganza marks the beginning of the holiday shopping season in Houston. The Houston Ballet Nutcracker Market is the largest fundraiser for the Ballet, with over 200 vendors selling everything from clothing, home goods, decor, ornaments and food items. Shoppers will have no problem getting everyone checked off their holiday gift-giving list.
Home to the most extensive “always free” program in the U.S., Miller Outdoor Theater provides diverse and unique entertainment options, from symphony and ballet performances to internationally recognized superstars. A great free event to do in Houston with kids, catch a family-friendly show on the hillside with a picnic or relax under the covered pavilion.
Walking Stick Brewing Company prides itself on welcoming all in the Houston community–dogs included–and holds fundraisers to raise money for local animal charities.
Outdoor games, room to run around, tasty food and drinks at the ready—while that may sound like the ultimate park, it describes Houston’s craft brew scene. Fall weather is the perfect time to take advantage of the city’s penchant for beer at breweries across the city. Check online for event calendars because most breweries host weekend events to make playtime for kids, pets and adults even more enjoyable.
Houston’s beloved annual celebration of everything Greek is just one more thing to love about fall. The family friendly, yearly festival takes place over four days at Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Montrose. Authentic dance performances, Greek food, wine and beer, games, activities and plenty of shopping have made this fall festival a favorite for Houstonians for decades.
Tractor rides, corn mazes, petting zoos and opportunities to pick fruit or vegetables are the hallmarks of a fun day. One of Houston’s best attractions for families, the city is home to several farms where fall festivals and fun are their number one crop. Blessington Farm, Dewberry Farm and Froberg Farm are three popular attractions because of their large size and abundant activities for kids of all ages.
Oak tree in the fall with changing colors.
Houston Arboretum is a 155-acre nature sanctuary located on the eastern side of Memorial Park and was one of the first nature education facilities built in Texas. Explore native wetlands, prairies, forested areas and meadows in the heart of Houston. Visiting the Arboretum is a wonderful free activity in Houston because the trails are family- and pet-friendly, with several spots for bird watching and ponds where it is easy to catch a glimpse of turtles and fish. Stop at the interactive Nature Discovery Center to learn more about Houston’s native flora and fauna.
Fresh fall air and less humidity can only mean one thing—it’s patio season in Houston. There is nothing like sitting outside with a cocktail and delicious meal in hand and luckily, there are plenty of festive al fresco dining opportunities across the city. Finn Hall boasts the largest outdoor patio in downtown; Patterson Park, Backstreet Cafe and Monkey’s Tail are also great choices to dine and drink outdoors.
The Galveston Pier at sunset.
There are perks to living so close to one of the most popular beaches in Texas. An easy drive from Houston makes Galveston accessible year-round, so when the weather turns cooler and the crowds die down, locals can take advantage of shorter wait times at attractions and restaurants and more room to explore the island’s beaches.
Bring warm blankets, snacks and a lawn chair to snuggle up for a movie under the stars. Take advantage of Halloween lineups and fun Christmas flicks as the holidays get closer. Everything from classic hits to current blockbusters are screened at popular venues such as Miller Outdoor Theater, Rooftop Cinema Club, Blue Moon Cinemas, Historic Market Square Park and Discovery Green.
Balloons are carried during the 70th Annual H-E-B Thanksgiving Day Parade downtown Thursday, Nov. 28, 2019, in Houston.
For over 70 years and counting, thousands of Houstonians have lined up along 20 city blocks downtown to watch the elaborate parade floats, marching bands and dancers perform in the city’s annual Thanksgiving Day Parade. Don’t worry about missing Thanksgiving lunch or dinner. The parade starts early (typically at 9 a.m.), giving spectators enough time to enjoy their holiday celebrations.
Galveston’s Strand National Historic Landmark District transforms into 19th Century Victorian London with costumed characters, live entertainment, parades, carolers and vendors. Costumes are encouraged at this holiday event which takes place on the first weekend of December. For nearly 50 years, this Galveston Historical Foundation event has been the highlight of the island’s holiday season.
What better way to enjoy the change of season than with a wine tour of Houston. There is no need to trek to the Texas Hill Country to discover new favorites from Texas and beyond. Messina Hof Harvest Green Winery & Kitchen, Nice Winery, Sable Gate Winery and Eads Family Vineyards are local favorites, each offering delicious food and wine tastings.
Early morning view of the entrance to pedestrian bridges over Buffalo Bayou in Houston’s Buffalo Bayou Park with autumn colors in background.
Fall’s cooler temperatures make it a great time to learn more about Houston’s longest and largest waterway, Buffalo Bayou. Learn about flora and fauna found around the Bayou during a nature walk led by a Buffalo Bayou Park naturalist. Don’t miss the underground Cistern, dog and skate parks, kayaking opportunities and public art found through the massive park.
Starting in September and running through February, the fourth largest ballet company in the nation takes the stage. Both ballet enthusiasts and those who have never seen a ballet before will be enchanted by the storytelling, beautiful costumes and graceful dancing. December is a great time to see a performance of “The Nutcracker,” a beloved holiday tradition.
Where to go horseback riding in (and around) Houston
Horseback riding is a great way to slow down and explore the fall foliage in Houston. Several places provide horseback riding lessons or trail rides, making it easy to explore miles of trails with beautiful views around the city.
Overlooking Buffalo Bayou, Glenwood Cemetery is the first professionally designed cemetery in the city. Visitors can take a guided walking tour on Saturday mornings to learn about the important people and significant history of this cultural landmark. Enjoy a snapshot of Houston’s timeline since 1892, along with beautiful statues and unique gravestones.
Houston’s Wortham Theater Center is home to some of the city’s most incredible artistic performances, including the Houston Grand Opera. Opera season begins in fall and lasts through April giving Houstonians ample opportunity to take in the magnificent costumes, stunning backdrops and the dazzling sounds of vocal artistry at its highest level. No two operas are the same, making it easy for audiences to enjoy everything from laugh-out-loud comedies to Oscar-worthy dramas. After all, someone is always dying, crying or getting married in an opera.
It’s easy to add pumpkin spice flair to coffee or hot chocolate at home.
The fall season doesn’t officially start until coffee shops across the city roll out their pumpkin-spiced treats. Delicious fall drinks aren’t limited to pumpkin spice; hot cider, hot toddies, hot tea and hot chocolate are also great ways to warm up on a crisp fall day. Fellini Cafe, Badolina Bakery, TeaFix and Campesino Coffee House are great places to get your hot drink fix.
Located in Northeast Houston is a state-of-the-art NHRA 1/8-mile drag strip and ASA 3/8-mile asphalt speedway where audience members can watch high-speed races or try their hand at racing. Houston Motorsports Park provides racing opportunities for drivers at any level and with any car—after a safety check and weather permitting, of course. With speeds reaching 180 miles, the motorsports park packs in the crowds for special racing events on weekends.
Known as “18 Minutes That Changed the World,” the monument and museum honor those who fought in the 1836 Battle of San Jacinto, where Sam Houston led his troops in a defeat of Mexico and captured Mexican General Santa Anna. The indoor/outdoor museum is perfect for a fall day where visitors will enjoy displays of uniforms, over 2,000 artifacts and the opportunity to walk on the battleground where soldiers bravely fought for Texas’ independence.
Houston Hermann Park Conservancy and McGovern Lake in autumn.
Fall weather ushers in a glorious season for picnicking. A great free and fun thing to do in Houston with kids, the hardest part will be choosing the perfect al fresco spot, because there are so many to choose from. Hermann Park, Emancipation Park, Memorial Park, Levy Park and Evelyn’s Park are just a few top locations where the only necessities for an enjoyable picnic are good food and great company.
For over 50 years, train enthusiasts of all ages have hopped aboard the Hermann Park Train for a 14-minute journey around the park. Riders can get on at Kinder Station or one of three substations to enjoy the sites and sounds of the nationally acclaimed park. Zube Park in Hockley also offers train rides every third Saturday. Riders will enjoy a free 15-minute ride on a miniature steam engine courtesy of the Houston Area Live Steamers.
Find out exactly why the stars in Texas are “big and bright” at the Houston Museum of Natural Science’s George Observatory. Guided by local astronomers, spend an evening exploring the universe’s wonders at the Brazos Bend State Park observatory. Learn about the night sky via constellation laser tours, telescopes, live camera feeds, exhibit tours and expert talks.
A man and three kids look at the flamingos at the Houston Zoo.
Spend a few hours at the second-most-visited zoo in the U.S. For 100 years and counting, the Houston Zoo has kept visitors entertained with over 6,000 animals, exhibits and top-notch programming. Visit the African forest to view gorillas, zebras and giraffes or experience underwater creatures and seals. Then, listen to zookeeper chats, watch the elephants get their daily bath or pet the animals in the Children’s Zoo.
With over 30 miles of trails crisscrossing the largest urban park in Houston—and one of the largest in the nation—it is easy to explore Memorial Park on two wheels or two feet. However, there is much more than hiking and biking to enjoy, including Clay Family Eastern Glades, which was once inaccessible and now offers trails, boardwalks, Hines Lake, wetlands, pavilions and picnic areas. Playgrounds, tennis and volleyball courts, mountain biking, and golf are just a sample of what is available at the 1,500-acre oasis in the heart of Houston.
The light tunnel to the new Kinder Building at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.
Home to 19 museums in a 1.5-mile radius, Houston’s Museum District has four walkable zones making it easy to navigate and ideal for museum hopping. Visitors have the opportunity to explore everything from the Holocaust Museum and Children’s Museum to the Museum of African American Culture or the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Several are always free, while many offer free admission on Thursdays.
Who doesn’t love a good laugh every now and then? Houston’s comedy scene, which draws well-known performers from all over the country, is a great place to hear punchlines up close with friends or family. Improv Houston, The Secret Group, Rudyards’ Pub and Station Theater are a few venues known for their top-notch shows.
The patio dining area at URBE in Uptown Park.
Shopping is a year-round activity, but shopping in one of Houston’s many outdoor districts is much more enjoyable in comfortable fall weather. CityCentre, Uptown Park, Rice Village, River Oaks District and 19th Street are a few places where a leisurely stroll between great boutiques, restaurants and entertainment venues make for a great day.
Trade in city life for a night or two of nature and adventure. With cool nights and warm days, spending time outdoors in Houston’s fall climate is great for camping in a tent, RV or cabin. Create memories by hiking, fishing and making s’mores around a lively fire. Several family-friendly camping areas include Brazos Bend State Park, Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park, Double Lake Recreation Area and Huntsville State Park.
While it’s small, this 12-acre park packs in the fun and amenities for visitors. One of the most popular things to do in downtown Houston, Discovery Green is an excellent place to kayak, splash around in the park’s two water features, jog, walk or take advantage of the park’s free daily activities. Check their calendar for fall activities, including Hispanic Heritage Month celebrations, Dia de los Muertos activities, markets, pop-ups, free concerts and ice skating in December.
Theatergoers can catch shows at nine venues across 17 blocks in downtown Houston. Everything from Broadway shows to world premiere plays and local performers take the stage, making it easy to find a live performance in just about every genre. In addition to theater attractions, the walkable area boasts restaurants, bars and family-friendly attractions.
Fall race season has an adventure for everyone from veteran racing enthusiasts to stroller striders and weekend warriors. Enjoy family fun runs with great themes—anyone up for a glow race, tough mudder or turkey trot? Slightly cooler temperatures are the perfect time to add a 5k to the calendar.
Cast a line and relax in the cooler temperatures at any of Houston’s top fishing spots. There is no need to travel far for beautiful scenery and an afternoon of angling. Lake Livingston, Lake Conroe, Galveston Bay, Tom Bass Park and Mary Jo Peckham Park are all great places to catch (and release) a big one.
Escape It Houston’s west location located at the Marquee Center in Katy invites you to their new Apollo 13 realistic experience to try your hand stabilizing the lunar module.
Surprise yourself and your friends by beating the clock in a daring escape room. Easy to find in nearly every neighborhood in Houston, escape rooms are a great way to pass a rainy or cold afternoon. With themes like zombies, sports, racing, pirates and even educational escape rooms, there is a game for every player in the friend group.
There is no need to put golf clubs away during the fall and winter months. Houston golf courses tend to be less crowded and have a better pace of play without the summer sun beating down. Whether you’re shooting for a personal best or enjoying an afternoon with friends, Houston’s golf courses in the fall can’t be beat, and you can even make a weekend out of it at one Houston’s top golf resorts.
Great art is everywhere in Houston, including outdoors. Spend the day exploring Houston area attractions including sculptures, fountains, and historical landmarks. Smither Park near the University of Houston is an ever-changing display of art from local artists. The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston’s Cullen Sculpture Garden offers sculptures from great masters, including Matisse and Rodin and Cloud Column by Anish Kapoor.
Appreciating the clothing, decor and art of another era in Houston antique shops is easy. Curated with whimsical pieces, it is hard to say no to a day shopping for vintage charm. The Antique Gallery of Houston, Memorial Antiques and Interiors and The Guild Shop are great places to stroll through on a quiet fall afternoon.
What was once a 19th-century railroad town is now the location of Old Town Spring, a walkable historic district with more than 100 local shops, restaurants and entertainment venues. Located one hour from downtown Houston, the charming village still has landmark buildings from the 1800s, including the town’s original saloon and jailhouse.
The Houston Arboretum & Nature Center presented its inaugural “Concert in the Courtyard” live music event on Friday, Sept. 10, 2021.
Houston’s live music scene draws in great performers from across the nation and across the globe. Any night of the week, it is easy to see a show or two at venues including House of Blues Houston, Dosey Doe, Continental Club, Toyota Center, McGonigel’s Mucky Duck and so many more. Several local performers have gone on to see great success inducing Lyle Lovett, Beyonce, Lizzo and Parker McCollum.
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Gabi De la Rosa is a journalist and native Texan living in Houston. When not writing about new restaurants, travel destinations or interesting people she is most likely multitasking. She has a weakness for craft beer, tacos and books. Follow her on Instagram @gabioftheroses_htx.
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