5 Must Do Things near George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH)

Photo courtesy of Mercer Botanic Gardens

In our series of Must Do Things Around Greater Houston, we take a look at Houston’s vast array of neighborhoods and communities to bring you five fun, tasty, and enticing reasons you should give each a visit. Originally published in 2016, we are now refreshing, updating, and adding to this series, including new neighborhoods and destinations.

Originally named Houston Intercontinental Airport, IAH opened in 1969. In 1997, Houston City Council unanimously voted to rename it George Bush Intercontinental Airport, after President George H. W. Bush. Today, the airport offers non-stop service to more than 70 international destinations. Whether you find yourself with some time to kill on a layover or just want to explore the area, there is plenty to do nearby.

Note: For the purposes of this list, the area near George Bush Intercontinental Airport is bound by Spring Creek Greenway to the north, I-69 to the east, Beltway 8 to the south, and I-45 to the west.

5 Must Do Things Near George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH)

  1. Appreciate natural beauty at the Mercer Botanic GardensOver in Humble, you’ll find 300 acres of horticultural beauty, complete with manicured hiking trails, a butterfly house, picturesque picnic areas, barbecue pavilions, a cypress swamp, and a wealth of animal life, not to mention the region’s largest collection of native and cultivated plants. After some serious flooding, the gardens are still recovering, recently receiving a nearly $5 million allocation to improve drainage. The gardens are free to visit, with ongoing and seasonal programs, including children’s story time in the garden and plant sales. Mercer is open every day of the year except Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day (seasonal hours apply). Click here for directions.
  2. Appreciate manmade beauty by watching planes go byLee Road Public Observation Area is the only free public spotting area for IAH, according to HoustonSpotters.net. The large gravel parking lot is just on the edge of Runway 27, offering magnificent views of planes flying about 100 feet above your head. Apple users should be sure to ask Siri “What airplanes are flying above me?” to get cool info on the flights, including aircraft type, altitude, and angle. There a number of other areas to plane spot, though they may require prior approval from airport security.
  3. Experience local tastes – If you have some time, Corkscrew BBQ in Old Town Spring is about a 15-minute drive from the airport, and it’s an absolute must hit destination for any barbecue enthusiast. The tiny pink-trailer-turned-brick-and-mortar offers glistening pork ribs, beautifully crusted oak-smoked brisket, and a killer overstuffed baked potato. Items go until they are sold out, so if you’re looking for something specific, show up by noon Tuesday to Friday and by 10am on Saturday. Click here for directions. For something a bit closer, try Jimee’s BBQ on Aldine Westfield. Click here for directions. You can also get another look at local flavor through Cajun and Vietnamese cuisine. Right on JFK Boulevard, you’ll find Texiana eatery Gumbo Jeaux’s. There, you’ll find a lineup fried, blackened and smothered shrimp, catfish, and fish alongside thick and dark gumbo, plump with andouille and smoked sausages, shrimp, chicken, okra, and rice alongside. You’ll want to splash in some hot sauce for good measure, of course. Click here for directions. At V Bistro in the Humblewood Shopping Center, build your own pho with brisket, flank, and tendon or get it hot and spicy with all the cuts of beef. The Vietnamese noodle house also boasts vermicelli bowls, rice plates, and banh mi. Click here for directions.
  4. Play a round of golf – The interactive driving range Top Golf is the coolest way to hit the green, perfect for a leisurely day or fun night on the town. Nosh on fries smothered in bacon and beer queso while you do your best to hit golf balls at targets in the outfield. Don’t worry, there are microchips to keep score so you don’t have to. Click here for directions. If you’re more of a traditionalist, the Cypresswood Golf Club sits on 600 acres of rolling hills and offers two unique, open-to-the-public courses. Click here for directions.
  5. Tour a vodka distillery Texas-owned BJ Hooker’s Vodka distills soft, winter wheat vodka right here in Houston. The distillery offers one hour tours, covering everything from the production line and wheat grinding to fermenting, distilling, and bottling. Of course, you can also sample some of the final product on site. Tours are offered Fridays at 1pm, 2pm, and 3pm and on Saturdays at noon, 1pm, and 2pm. Click here for directions.
Photo courtesy of CorkScrew BBQ
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Brooke Viggiano is a food and lifestyle writer residing in Houston. When she's not contributing to publications like 365 Things to Do in Houston, Thrillist Houston and the Houston Press, she's on the hunt for the coolest happenings in the city. You can follow her musings on Twitter @BrookeViggiano .