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

A wooden walkway that winds through wetland environment
Take a walk through natural wetland habitat at the expansive Mercer Botanic Gardens | 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 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, Old Humble Road to the east, Little York Road to the south, and I-45 to the west.

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

A section of walking paths through manicured gardens
Unwind with a stroll through 300 acres of natural habitat and manicured gardens at Mercer Arboretum | Courtesy of Mercer Arboretum & Botanic Gardens

Appreciate natural beauty at Mercer Botanic Gardens

Over in Humble, you’ll find Mercer Botanic Gardens’ 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.

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).

A father and son watch a low-flying plane overhead
Pull up to Lee Road for an up-close view of the landing planes at IAH

Watch planes soar overhead at public viewing spots

Lee Road is the only 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.

A plate of barbecue brisket, ribs and sausage
Secure a plate of smoked barbecue at the Old Town Spring outpost, while supplies last | Courtesy of Corkscrew BBQ

Experience the local flavors of Cajun & ‘Que

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. Get directions to Corkscrew BBQ.

You can also get another look at local flavor through Cajun cuisine. Right on JFK Boulevard, you’ll find Texiana eatery Gumbo Jeaux’s.

There, you’ll find a lineup of 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. Get directions to Gumbo Jeaux’s.

A pint of beer with a pickleball and two racquets
SpindleTap offers fresh craft brews and a sprawling park of pickleball and other family fun | Courtesy of SpindleTap Brewery

Grab a brew & a round of pickleball at nearby local breweries

Just a stone’s throw from the airport on Old Humble Road, the outside-the-box taproom of Ingenious Brewing is serving up an ever-changing slate of sours and unexpected flavor profiles found in their stouts and IPAs.

And if you can’t decide on what you want to pour, not only are flights available, but you can also grab bottles and 4-packs to go—including the ability to mix and match so you can try several of their offerings at home. Get directions to Ingenious Brewing.

A quick 15-minute ride south of the airport, you’ll also find Spindletap Brewery gushing out some of the choicest brews in town, including the Honey Hole ESB, Hop Gusher IPA, Boomtown Blonde, and Juiceton Double IPA.

You’ll also find SpindlePark, its open-air sports-and-entertainment complex that includes a 9-hole miniature golf course, wiffleball/kickball field, basketball court, horseshoes, corn hole, pickleball, soccer field and covered picnic areas. Get directions to Spindletap Brewery.

Two people ride through a section of woods on horseback
Hit the trails on horseback with instructors at Cypress Trails | Courtesy of Cypress Trails Equestrian Center

Embark on a scenic trail ride 

Live that Texas cowboy life with a short ride over to Cypress Trails Ranch, where you’ll find beautiful horses and adventure trail rides for all skill levels of horseback riding.

The ranch is open to the public seven days a week (only closing on Thanksgiving and Christmas), and you can call for reservations.

Find More Things to Do in Houston All Year Long

You can find more fun in our interactive event calendar and 365 Weekend Guides.

Be sure to subscribe to our free Weekend Guide email to receive a round-up of great things to do this weekend in Houston in your inbox every Thursday.

If you don’t want to miss a thing, you can also opt in to our Daily Update emails (emailed 5 days a week).

Click here to sign up for free.

Previous article2023 Mother’s Day Brunches in Houston
Next articleThe 15 Best Things to Do in Houston This Weekend: May 12 to 14, 2023
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 .