Beat the Heat and Have a Blast in Houston This Summer

A carousel lights up the foreground while Houston's skyscrapers mark a silhouette against the night sky.
Houston’s skyline at night. Photo © Andy Rhodes.

Despite Houston’s high humidity and triple-digit temperatures, the city offers plenty of air-conditioned excitement and outdoor activities to beat the heat. Visitors can explore the extensive Museum District, discover nationally acclaimed restaurants, or play gulf-based water sports on nearby Galveston Island.


Although the city’s festival season doesn’t truly heat up until autumn, one of Houston’s venerable annual gatherings is held the first weekend of August. The 23rd Houston International Jazz Festival brings refreshingly smooth sounds to the heart and soul of downtown at Bayou Music Center on August 2, 3, and 4. This year’s highlights include a headlining performance by legendary percussionist Sheila E, along with the Nicaraguan-inspired jazz of Yelba Heaton Roman and local acts like the Texas Brass Band.


A wall with block text in relief reading Houston Museum of Fine Arts.
This summer, visit the MFAH free on Thursdays. Photo © Andy Rhodes.

For those seeking an invigorating way to learn about regional culture, head directly to the Museum of Natural Science. There, visitors will fine a variety of larger-than-life nature, from prehistoric creatures to sparkling gemstones to local oil-drilling techniques. Use your imagination to ward off the summer heat via the museum’s current photo exhibit, “Penguins of the Antarctic,” with plenty of chilly, icy imagery. Just down the street, the amazing Houston Museum of Fine Arts contains nearly 64,000 pieces of art, including bold Italian renaissance paintings, mesmerizing French impressionist works, and stunning black-and-white photographs. This summer, admission is free on Thursdays.

Light years away from ordinary summertime attractions is NASA Space Center, offering a true otherworldly experience. Discover the fascinating saga of the Apollo spacecraft missions in the exact same room where the words “The Eagle has landed” and “Houston, we have a problem” were first heard. For those interested in the Lone Star State’s legendary heritage, go to San Jacinto Battleground Historic Site, where Texas famously won its independence in 1836.


Believe it or not, Houston has more than 11,000 restaurants! Although the options for a summer meal can be overwhelming, several spots have risen to the top of the must-taste list, including locally sourced eateries touted as some of America’s best by national food writers. GQ restaurant critic Alan Richman recently claimed “Houston is becoming the most electrifying food destination in America,” and he included Oxheart and Uchi in his list of the 12 Most Outstanding Restaurants of 2013.

Located downtown, Oxheart is known for its bold flavor combinations, like smoked tuna with seaweed, and a barley and sunflower seed stew. A few miles away, Uchi features Top Chef-winning Paul Qui’s exquisite flavor combinations, including salmon with Asian pear and yellowfin tuna with oranges.

This being Texas, Houston’s restaurant options also include some of the state’s finest barbecue, Tex-Mex, and wild game. Head to the trendy Heights neighborhood to feast at Gatlin’s Barbecue, with its succulent smoked brisket, hearty pork ribs, and savory sausage. Just down the road, Sammy’s Wild Game Grill may look tame from the outside, but the exotic meats inside are downright crazy—anyone up for a kangaroo burger with a side of python chili fries?

Head to the Montrose Area for El Real Tex-Mex Café, offering a tantalizing menu of traditional Tex-Mex dishes. Choose from authentic recipes and ingredients, including flavorful chicken enchiladas with a tangy tomatillo sauce, as well as richly seasoned crispy beef tacos.

To beat the summer heat, stop by Mam’s House of Ice, known for its famous, refreshing shaved-ice snoballs. If it’s especially hot, indulge yourself with a large strawberry lemonade snoball—kids will go gaga for the gummy bear variety.


For those in search of outdoor recreation, escape the urban oven and make the short 45-mile drive to Galveston Island. A steady gulf breeze keeps things slightly cooler at Galveston Island State Park, where visitors can enjoy a leisurely stroll in the soft sand, explore the shoreline via kayak, or frolic in the ocean’s lightly lapping waves.

Travelers can also spend a day riding the roller coasters and amusement park rides over the water at Galveston’s Pleasure Pier, or interacting with rainforest and marine creatures inside the pyramids at Moody Gardens. For a completely different kind of adventure, splash and play on the water rides at Schlitterbahn Waterpark.

Get ready for some fun in Bayou City this summer!

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