One of the best ways to help Houston recover from Hurricane Harvey is to visit. But don’t come just to be altruistic; visit for these amazing experiences, festivals, and events that you won’t find anywhere else in the country.

Plenty of people are looking to help Houston in its recovery from Hurricane Harvey. But sometimes, making an online donation feels a bit, well…unfulfilling. Tourism dollars always go a long way to help that recovery, yet we’re not suggesting you make a visit to Houston out of the good of your heart. We’re suggesting you come because Houston has some of the most incredible and one-of-a-kind festivals and events you’ll find anywhere. It’s part of what has made this city one of the fastest growing in the country. A yuletide visit to a zoo aglow with Christmas lights, an “art car” parade that attracts 300,000 people, a barbecue cook-off to beat all barbecue cook-offs as the prelude to Texas’s biggest rodeo – here are six events, festivals, and experiences in Houston to make for a great visit at various times throughout the year.

need a reason to visit houston

6. Day for Night Festival [December]

This Houston festival, named “the best live music in the world” by online music publication Consequence of Sound, plans to turn any preconceived notion you may have of how a “festival” should look and feel on its head. The two-day visual and audio phenomenon was specifically designed around the merging of technology, sound, and how audiences will experience them. In a city known for its size, the lineup seems suitable: four stages with performances by more than 30 artists, including Pretty Lights; Tyler, the Creator; Nine Inch Nails; Lil B; Solange; and many more. The criteria for which acts get selected? Day for Night only hosts those that are inventive and have a highly visual approach to their performance. Houston was chosen for the festival because of its modern “renaissance” in arts, music, and culture, and Day for Night puts it all very literally on display.

5. Comicpalooza [May]

This Houston festival is about much more than dressing up as your favorite X-Men character. Known as Texas’s largest pop culture festival, it’s three days full of more than 2,000 hours of events. You can sit in on the renowned Film Festival, catch a hilarious Doomsday Wrestling match, attend multiple live concerts, skate by the Houston Roller Derby competition, enter in gaming competitions, and meet and greet celebrity guest speakers, to name just a few of the options on tap.

4. Zoo Lights [November/December]

You usually don’t head to the zoo knowing you won’t be hearing the roar of a lion or the chatter of chimpanzees, but each year the Houston Zoo gives plenty of other reasons to make the trip in their warm winter months. While many of the usual main acts go in for their long winter’s nap at 9 p.m., this Houston festival is just beginning. More than two million eco-friendly lights are strung along the lofty ancient oak trees and illuminate 15 miles of paths. Along the way, LED lights create striking shows to nostalgic music on bodies of water, walls, and even through an old Cadillac named “Holly Berry.” End the evening under the 33-foot-tall Christmas tree that you have to see to believe.

3. That Houston Sports Spirit [March through October]

We’re not saying Houston’s major league sports teams are the best in the nation…but their fan base is top-notch, Texas loud, and crazy fun. The stadiums are impressive, beautiful venues with great views to catch some Houston sports.  Take BBVA Compass Stadium, home of Major League Soccer’s Dynamo, for example. Newly relocated in East Downtown, the stands are now just steps away from dozens of bars and restaurants – try grabbing a local beer at hotspot 8th Wonder Brewery and have the locals teach you a cheer or two before taking your seats. For baseball fans, head to Minute Maid Park for a Houston Astros game. The World Series Champions in 2017, the Astros are often plenty entertaining and this park is legendarily loud, but for more casual fans, the park is also filled with unique features that make a visit a fun event. Take, for example, the old train on top of the left wall filled with oranges (Minute Maid’s specialty) that moves along an 800-foot track every time the Astros score a homerun.

2. Art Car Parade [April]

What started as a one-car donation called the “Fruitmobile” in 1984 has transformed into a 300-car, 300,000-person weekend-long spectator event that may be Houston’s most legendary across the calendar year. An entire street in downtown Houston is shut down for the procession of eclectic vehicles of all kinds. Fire-lit fiats, tree-house-hung trucks, spaceship Saabs – it takes truly seeing these wonky creations to grasp what makes this Houston event so fun and unforgettable.

1. Houston Barbecue Cook-off and Rodeo [February]

Consider this the ultimate Houston culture and experience dive. This rodeo, the largest in the state that attracts close to three million people, ropes guests in for a full two weeks every February. But perhaps the biggest highlight comes as a prelude to the rodeo itself. The legendary “World’s Championship Bar-B-Que Contest” has to be good with a name like that. The cook-off pits 250 hopeful teams cooking, basting, marinating, and glazing their prized meats for top honors. Sample some of the outputs, then grab a brew and head on over to the boundless live music from country stars including Garth Brooks to Texas artists on the rise. A carnival for kids, a wine garden featuring more than 70 varieties of vino, and plenty of rodeo action make this a Houston event that feels as big as Texas itself.


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