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A Quirky and Fun Houston Weekend Trip (2 Day Itinerary)

April 30, 2024

Houston, a southern Texas metropolis, is a sprawling city known for NASA mission control, melting of cultures and history of oil. To be honest, my first impression of Houston was one of chaos. The city does not have zoning laws, so you’ll find schools next to restaurants, auto repair shops, etc. It can feel confusing as you’re driving around and navigating tall highway overpasses.

However, the more I explore, the more unique and artistic gems I find in this city. Not to mention all of the great food. From a folk-art display dedicated to oranges to a house adorned with 50,000 beer cans, Houston has so many peculiar attractions.

This Houston weekend trip itinerary goes beyond the typical must-see attractions and will lead you to unique art displays, an underground tour and a Texas state park where you’re likely to spot an alligator. I hope this Houston guide helps you plan a fun Texas vacation, and encourages you to see some of the weird and wonderful places that Houston has to offer.

When to Visit Houston

Houston is known for being quite hot, humid and sticky in the summer, so you should avoid visiting during June, July and August.

Winter, fall and spring can all be nice times to visit. The weather is warm year round. January is the coldest month of the year, with an average high of 60° F and low of 45° F.

Personally, Spring is my favorite time to visit Houston and Texas in general. Not only will you enjoy mild weather, but you can see bluebonnets and other wild flowers popping up all around the state. I saw several during my last spring visit to Houston.

Spring also has some great Houston events. If you’re interested in attending the Houston Rodeo, it typically runs from the end of February to mid-March. You also may want to time your visit to see the Art Car Parade, which takes place in mid-April.

Looking down a trail at an observation tower at Brazos Bend. The trail framed by trees with hanging moss.
Brazos Bend State Park

How to Get To Houston

Houston has two major airports: George Bush Intercontinental Airport and William P. Hobby Airport. Both have several flights a day from all of the major US airlines. Hobby Airport is smaller and closer to downtown.

If you’re driving to Houston, it’s located 3.5 hours from Dallas, just under 3 hours from Austin, 3 hours from San Antonio and 5.5 hours from New Orleans.

The exterior of The Orange Show Monument.
The Orange Show
A colorful sculpture that reads 'We Heart Houston'
We Love Houston at 8th Wonder Brewing

Getting Around Houston

There are a few different ways to get around Houston. You could rely on public transportation. However, in many cases it will take at least twice the amount of time to get anywhere compared to driving.

If you’re staying in the city center and will only be exploring close by, it might make sense to rely on rideshare. Uber and Lyft are easy to request all over the city.

If you’re going anywhere a bit outside the city, (such as Brazos Bend in this itinerary), you will want to rent a car. Just be aware that driving in Houston can be a bit stressful if you’re not used to it. There is a LOT of traffic and there are huge highway interchanges that can get confusing. Make sure to pay close attention to signage and be careful. However, it’s worth having a car despite the stress.

Pro Tip: Make sure you know your rental car company's policy on driving on toll roads, and avoid them if necessary.

Compare Rental Car Prices from George Bush Airport on

Houston Weekend Itinerary: Day 1

Spend the day exploring several of the most unique attractions in Houston!

Eat Breakfast at Segundo Coffee Lab in Ironworks

When in Texas, start your day with breakfast tacos! Segundo Coffee Lab is a hip spot with high quality coffee - they source their coffee beans from around the world and roast them in-house. They also serve breakfast tacos fashioned with homemade tortillas, along with pastries and other breakfast items.

The exterior of the Ironworks building. There are orange doors and it reads 'Ironworks' in orange letters.
Two tacos with cheese, veggies and more from Segundo Coffee Lab
Tacos from Segundo Coffee Lab

They have two locations in Houston; their Milby St location is located in an industrial warehouse called Ironworks, which also houses other shops and restaurants. Ironworks has shops stacked on top of each other in shipping containers and is the first place of its kind in Houston. Segundo and Ironworks are perfect for savoring a coffee, eating breakfast and shopping locally.

Explore Smither Park

Not far from Ironworks, visit a couple of the most quirky places in Houston: Smither Park and the Orange Show. In my opinion, Smither Park is definitely one of the best things to do in Houston!

Two skeletons sitting at a table in Smither Park. The skeletons and table are covered in mosaic tilesThe base of a lamppost, which is shaped like a giant mug made up of many smaller mugs
Smither Park

Smither Park is a collective urban space that is covered in mosaic artwork. The ground, the swings, the walls, the benches, the amphitheater, and more, are all detailed with intricate artwork made of found objects and recycled materials.

Over 300 artists have contributed to this display, and it’s always getting enhancements and additions. It’s truly a masterpiece! From skeletons playing checkers to giant tigers to a mug made of mugs, there is so much to delight in here. You could spend hours admiring all of the various details.

Smither Park is free to visit and open from dawn to dusk. There is street parking available surrounding the park.

Visit The Orange Show

Just a block from Smither Park, The Orange Show Monument is a unique folk art sight built single handedly by a Houston postal worker. Jefferson Davis McKissack built the venue from the 1950’s to the 1970’s. The display is inspired by his love for oranges (yes, the fruit) and the vitality he believed came along with them.

Lydia wanting through The Orange Show Monument. Behind her, the wall reads: 'Energy. Birds of a feather flock together.'Inside of The Orange Show Monument. The wall reads 'Be Careful'
The Orange Show

Fun Fact: McKissack believed eating an orange everyday was the key to a long life. He unfortunately died of a stroke right after the opening of The Orange Show and lived to be 77.

The maze-like structure includes a stage, a pond, a wishing well and various levels for visitors to explore. It takes inspiration from a circus environment, so you’ll see clowns mixed among various references to oranges.

To visit The Orange Show, you’ll need to reserve your tickets in advance. However, as of this writing, it’s closed for renovations. Be sure to check on their website for updates on when they will reopen in the future. You can still admire the outside, which is worth doing, because it’s right next to Smither Park.

The story of the Orange Show (and the Beer Can House below) remind me a lot of the Cathedral of Junk in Austin! All of these places should be on your list if you love quirky art displays as much as I do.

Have Lunch at Hobbit Cafe

Eat lunch at an adorable Hobbit-themed cafe that has been open since 1972! You’ll walk past the giant oak tree and into a quaint atmosphere with decor that will transport you into Lord of the Rings.

The exterior of Hobbit Cafe, where there is a giant blow-up dragon on the roofA mushroom burger and sweet potato fries from Hobbit Cafe
Hobbit Cafe

The menu is very vegetarian-friendly and they also have a great selection of craft beer and mead. I enjoyed the portobello mushroom burger with sweet potato fries, and loved sampling a few flavors of their popular meads.

This is a cute spot that is sure to please everyone, but is especially perfect for vegetarians or those who love a bit of fantasy.

Visit Gerald D. Hines Waterwall Park

Make a quick stop to see a giant 64-foot-high waterfall in an Uptown park! The waterfall first opened in 1985 when Gerald D. Hines commissioned it to be built along with the Tower next door.

Lydia looking up at the backside of the waterfall display in Gerald D. Hines Waterwall ParkLooking down the lawn of the park and at the Waterfall fountain in Gerald D. Hines Waterwall Park
Gerald D. Hines Waterwall Park

11,000 gallons of water flow through the fountain per minute. It’s a large concave shape, so you step inside and feel the mist of the water. It’s a great feeling on a hot day! Be prepared to have people in your photos, this is a popular spot. But it’s still worth seeing.

There is not a lot of street parking nearby. I parked in the garage across the street for a fee.

Pro Tip: Walk around to the back side of the waterfall sculpture for less people!

Visit the Beer Can House

The Beer Can House is another unique and fascinating place in Houston that was built by a man with a vision. John Milkovisch was a heavy drinker and when he retired from the Southern Pacific Railroad, he got sick of mowing the lawn and didn’t want to paint the house. So, he decided to create landscape features in his yard using marbles, rocks and metal. From there, he soon decided to adorn his house with 1,000’s of beer cans.

The front of the Beer Can House, where there is a tall ladder that says 'Amen' at the topA sign that reads 'Live by golden rule' in front of the Beer Can House
Beer Can House

Milkovisch added cans to the house for 18 years. It’s estimated that there are 50,000 cans adorning the structure. He drank most of the beer himself, but also had some help from his wife and friends. There are even a few soda cans contributed by his grandson.

Milkovisch didn’t care what anyone thought about the cans, and wanted to leave a bit of legacy behind. It’s free to visit the outside, but it costs a small fee to explore the museum inside the house. The display provides a bit more history and photos of the life of Milkovisch. The Beer Can House is managed by the Orange Show Foundation.

Tour the Buffalo Bayou Cistern

Have you ever been inside of an underground cistern? The Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern was an early reservoir for the city of Houston and provided drinking water. After a leak was found, it was decommissioned in 2017.

Looking out at part of the Buffalo Bayou Cistern. Columns reflect in the water at the base of the space
Buffalo Bayou Cistern

However, you can still go inside on a guided tour. During the history tour, you’ll learn a bit about the structure, and then be able to walk around the cistern at your own pace. It’s dark and eerie. Voices reverberate around the cavernous space and you’ll get a glimpse of a reflection in the 8-18 inches of water sitting at the bottom.

You can also attend Sound Healing Meditation in the Cistern. Plus, in 2024, there is a site-specific media and sound installation called Haha Real that draws on ancient storytelling methods and innovative technologies.

Fun Fact: The Cistern is the size of 1.5 football fields and has 221 concrete columns. It held 15 million gallons of water when it was being used.

Going inside is a unique experience that touches on the desire to explore abandoned places. Be sure to book your tickets for the guided tours in advance.

Lydia looking at the Houston skyline from Buffalo Bayou ParkA path with a flowering tree and a city view at Buffalo Bayou Park
Buffalo Bayou Park

Along with a tour of the cistern, it’s worth visiting the park above it. Buffalo Bayou Park has 160 acres of green space, trails along the river and a fantastic view of the Houston skyline. It’s a great place to have a picnic, go for a walk or watch the sunset.

There are some paid parking lots nearby and street parking available when you visit.

Enjoy Dinner and Drinks at Saint Arnold Brewing Company

Open since 1994, Saint Arnold Brewing Company is said to be the oldest craft brewery in Texas. The brewery is themed around the Patron Saint Arnold and the interior is gothic-inspired with elements that will make you feel like you’re inside a Cathedral.

A giant skeleton on top of an Art Car at Saint Arnold Brewing CompanyA beer at the outdoor patio at Saint Arnold Brewing Company
Saint Arnold Brewing Company

Saint Arnold’s also has a huge outdoor patio space with a view of the Houston Skyline. Not only do they have an extensive beer selection, but they have a full food menu with a variety of choices, including sandwiches and pizzas. I loved the Citrus Shandy beer and the Cucumber and Hummus Sandwich with truffle fries.

Another unique aspect of this brewery? They participate in and sponsor the annual Houston Art Car Parade, a festival that welcomes people all over North America to display cars that have been made into art. You can actually see some of the art cars that Saint Arnold’s has entered over the years outside the brewery!

Houston Weekend Itinerary: Day 2

Hike in the beautiful Brazos Bend State Park and savor Tex-Mex.

Hike in Brazos Bend State Park

If you enjoy the outdoors, it’s worth spending a day at Brazos Bend State Park! This Texas state park is located a little under an hour from downtown Houston. The park has 37 miles of trails and is home to so much wildlife. The park has alligators and over 300 documented species of birds, including the roseate spoonbill and great horned owl.

Looking down at a trail from the observation tower in Brazos BendA pink spoonbill flying by in Brazos Bend
Brazos Bend State Park

Things To Do in Brazos Bend State Park:

  • Hike the Horseshoe and Elm Lake Loop. And make sure to climb the Observation Tower on 40 Acre Lake! This is a fantastic trail to see wildlife - I have seen SO many alligators (including babies), countless birds, a snake and turtles here. This trail is one of my favorites, but there are also many more hikes around the park.
  • Visit the Nature Center, where you can see several animals and learn about the local wildlife in the displays.
  • Visit George Observatory (typically only open on Saturday’s).
  • Go Geocaching. There is a fun Adventure Lab challenge that leads you around different areas of the park, along with many physical caches.
A close up view of an alligator in Brazos Bend
Brazos Bend State Park

Brazos Bend is one of the best places to hike near Houston and a fantastic way to get a feel for the environment around Houston.

Pro Tip: If you’ll be visiting many Texas state parks over the course of a year, it may be worth it to buy a Texas state parks pass.

Eat at the Original Ninfa’s on Navigation

Don’t leave Houston without eating some delicious Tex-Mex! The Original Ninfa’s was founded by Mama Ninfa Laurenzo in 1973. Their signature dish is “tacos al carbon,” a fajita dish. From freshly-made tortillas to the secret marinade sauce on the fajitas, the food here is top notch.

Holding up a margarita in front of a stained glass window inside of Ninfa'sTwo meals at Ninfa's. The closest meal is enchiladas with a red sauce.
Original Ninfa’s on Navigation

As a vegetarian, I loved the Antiguas enchiladas. The restaurant also has a colorful atmosphere and fast service. They also have a location in Uptown.

Where to Stay in Houston

I recommend staying in a central location close to downtown Houston, so that you won’t be too far from the main spots on this itinerary.

A mirror with a blue frame in the bathroom of a room at Hotel Ylem.A bed next to a bright orange night stand in Hotel Ylem
Hotel Ylem

Boutique and Affordable: Hotel Ylem

Hotel Ylem is a quirky hotel with fun decor! The modern rooms feel artistic with colorful furniture and the exterior has a beautiful mural.

Midrange and Unique: Houston Towers Inn

This quirky hotel has luxurious suites and elegant touches. One suite even has two floors connected by a spiral staircase! Located in the museum district, this hotel is a destination of its own.

Luxury: Four Seasons Hotel

Located in the heart of downtown, the Four Seasons is a fantastic stay if you’re looking to treat yourself. The upscale hotel has a beautiful pool, two restaurants and a speakeasy.

If you have more time:

Here are a few more of the best things to do in Houston if you have more time to explore!

  • Explore the many museums in Houston! The Houston Museum District is top notch. I love the Museum of Fine Arts, but others include the Museum of Natural Science, the Health Museum, the National Museum of Funeral History, and many more.
  • Visit Space Center Houston and learn about space exploration.
  • Check out the colorful POST Market Food Hall.
  • Check to see what shows are happening at Performing Arts Houston.
  • Catch a baseball game at Minute Maid Park.
  • Take a day trip to Galveston Island, The Woodlands, Huntsville State Park or Beaumont.

Final Thoughts

With a chaotic layout, lots of traffic and humid weather, Houston may get a bad rap. However, the city has so much more to offer if you look beyond the top attractions. Whether you’re into the arts or outdoors, I hope this guide helps you plan a memorable trip to Houston.

For more Texas travel guides, check out these blogs:

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