5 Must Do Things in Pasadena

A water park scene with volleyball nets, twisting water slides and more
Cool off in Houston's hotter months at the Strawberry Water Park in Pasadena | Courtesy of City of Pasadena

In our Must Do Things Around Greater Houston series, we take a look at Houston’s vast array of communities, neighborhoods and destinations to bring you five fun, tasty, surprising and enticing reasons you should give each one a visit.

Pasadena lies about 20 miles from Downtown Houston, bordered by the Houston Ship Channel to the north and Galveston Bay to the southeast.

Once damaged by the same 1900 hurricane that hit Galveston, the city saw a revival after strawberry plants were donated by the Red Cross, and later, expanded further thanks to the Texas Oil Boom.

Though it’s still heavily tied to the oil and gas industry, the area is also home to fun festivals, a nature center and more.

5 Must Do Things in Pasadena

A swampy pond with tree protusions and a far shore of tree line
Armand Bayou Nature Center offers a prairie and wetland experience in nature | Courtesy of City of Pasadena

Take a canoe tour of the Armand Bayou Nature Center

With 2,500 acres of natural wetlands, forest, prairie, and marsh, the colossal Armand Bayou Nature Center is also home to over 370 species of birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians.

Explore its hiking trails, go birding, visit a historic farm, take a pontoon boat cruise, or paddle your way through nature on a guided canoe tour.

Admission is $6; $4 for ages 4 to 12, and 60+ (as well as college students, teachers, active duty military, and first responders); free for ages 3 and under.

Open Wednesdays to Saturday 9am to 5pm; Sunday noon to 5pm.

A slice taken from a massive strawberry-topped cake
Have a slice of the world’s largest strawberry cake at the Pasadena Strawberry Festival in May | Courtesy of City of Pasadena

Celebrate the strawberry at Pasadena’s signature festivals

Named after Pasadena’s history as the “Strawberry Capital of the South,” the yearly Pasadena Strawberry Festival is typically held on the third weekend in May.

Check it out for multiple days of family-friendly fun and entertainment, complete with a carnival, bbq cook-off, helicopter rides, mud volleyball, all kinds of vendors, puppet shows, pig races, pony rides, live musical entertainment, a petting zoo, and fun contests such as the adult strawberry eating contest.

The festival is also home to the World’s Largest Strawberry Shortcake, coming in at 2,073 square feet of cake.

The Pasadena Livestock Show & Rodeo also rolls into town every fall, offering events from livestock shows and calf scrambles to rodeo performances and bbq cook-offs.

The exterior of "The Don'Key" with outdoor seating
Take to long-time Tex Mex restaurant The Don’key in Pasadena | Courtesy of The Don’key

Fill up on fajitas & ‘ritas at the Don’Key 

Open since 1984,  local Tex-Mex institution The Don’Key is known for “Don’Key Ritas” that’ll “kick your ass.”

Pair the boozy numbers with chorizo-loaded queso flameado, sloppy enchiladas, colossal chimichangas, and sizzling fajitas served with all the proper fixin’s.

Don’t forget to tack on homemade flan or sweet, fried sopapillas for dessert; and check out weekday happy hour for deals on margaritas and beer.

A water park scene with children and parents
The Strawberry Water Park offers multiple modes of splash park fun | Courtesy of City of Pasadena

Take a dip in the summer months

When it’s time to cool off in Pasadena, don’t overlook the inland fun to be had at Strawberry Water Park, which features a public swimming pool, twisting water slides, water sports and a recreation area.

And, with proximity to the Clear Lake waterfront (where you can make a splash renting kayaks, jet skis and boats) and the sands of El Jardin Beach, a visit to Pasadena should most definitely include a day by the water.

An array of Japanese decorations and cultural items with antique furniture
Tour the city’s history and its global connections at the Pasadena Historical Museum | Courtesy of City of Pasadena

Dive into the history & heritage of Pasadena

Pasadena is home to both the Pasadena Heritage Park and Museum and the Bay Area Museum.

At the heritage park and museum, discover Pasadena’s roots as an agricultural outpost and birthplace of “Free Texas,” with tours of the historic Pomeroy House and Strawberry House. You’ll also find Pasadena’s only mobile water-drilling rig, designed and patented by the Pomeroys in the 1900s. Get directions to the Pasadena Heritage Park and Museum.

Over at the Bay Area Museum, you’ll find treasures from Clear Lake, Seabrook, and the surrounding area—from NASA memorabilia to custom-painted displays. Get directions to the Bay Area Museum.

Find More Things to Do in Houston All Year Long

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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 .