Things to do in Houston

Museums in Houston

Discover that history in the Museum District, where these gems are waiting for you and make the passage for your family to visit.

A wide range of activities awaits in Houston, a city defined by its rich history and the resilience of its inhabitants. Discover everything from cultural explorations to modern adventures among the things to do in Houston.

Art Museums

Artistry is in everything we do — the ordinary and the extraordinary. These museums pay respect to something we cherish: creativity and limitless expression.

1. Contemporary Arts Museum Houston

The Contemporary Arts Museum Houston may seem unassuming at first glance, but once you step inside, you're welcomed into a world of artistic expression, free of admission.

Enter the main hall, and you'll take in a vast collection of modern takes. You’ll find eclectic expressions of suburban society, intentionally placed components of a greater whole, and blends of color that deliberately strike chords. This magical museum is one of many diverse art galleries in Houston.

2. Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Visit The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, for contemporary artworks. It features architecture that has been current for the last century, from the haughty neo-classicism of the original structure to the deconstructionism of the Glassell School of Art, completed in 1974.

Like the walls outside, the art exhibits inside are a hodgepodge of styles and tendencies, from stark naturalism to the abstract of modern paintings. There’s statuary and multimedia work, presentations on local artists, and a large exhibit by Kehinde Wiley, a name known for creating President Obama's official portrait.

The effect is as poetic as it is mischievous, like Mauro, the clown at the heart of our show, Corteo.

Photographer: Adrian N

3. The Menil Collection

If someone passed you a sketchpad and charcoal pencil and gave you five minutes to sketch a restful suburban art gallery, your drawing might look like The Menil Collection gallery in Montrose. It’s a low-slung crib with clean lines and a serene color palette that seems to always have a cool breeze blowing across the campus. 

The Menil Foundation got its start in the ‘50s, when oil money was used to buy up practically the whole neighborhood. The idea seems to have been to slowly develop a whole section of Houston into a high-end arts and culture district.

The plan had unmatched success, and now the campus hosts the main gallery, a school of sketch drawing, several cafés, and some relaxing tucked-away hiding spots under trees where you can have a picnic.

The atmosphere at Menil induces a mood, one you’ll be familiar with if you’ve been to our performance of Cirque du Soleil Crystal: everything icy blue and serene, a studied leisure, and beautiful people working in hushed rooms where they study ancient Mesopotamian cuneiform and abstract expressionist splatter paints from the mid-20th century.

Research drives the institution, but it’s open for free to anyone who’d like to drift in and hit their quota of cool for the day. Don’t leave until you’ve seen the Renaissance oil on canvas by Giuseppe Arcimboldi, who made a career out of the wonderful and weird in European myth.

Photographer: Jon Bilous

4. Art Car Museum

The Art Car Museum in Houston is a must-visit destination. Here, you’ll find fine oil paintings and gnarly restored cars tipped on end and painted like Jolly Ranchers.

Some of the Art Car Museum’s exhibits feature classic cars lovingly restored until you can practically hear their engines purring. Others are deliberately left rusty and adorned with paraphernalia of all kinds.

Remember, this is a gallery, not a garage, so one of the world’s most eye-catching collections of oil-on-canvas originals is slung across every wall. The effect is eye-twisting. Cast your eyes up the wall and behold a sensitive still life of nature, then trip over a crankshaft from an old school bus somebody tricked out. 

5. Rothko Chapel

The aptly named Rothko Chapel is a quiet, restful place where the spirit can refresh in the cool shade of old-growth lime trees. It’s named after Mark Rothko, a brilliant 20th-century artist who commanded canvas and color to create exuberant depictions of life and feeling. More than anything, he pioneered the concept of art as a spiritual and religious experience.

In contrast to the religious themes and spiritual subjects of past artistic eras, Rothko converted the art form into an experience. He made art out of color and form itself.

We love this place for its tranquillity, which invites the visitor to look inward toward the unseen that Mark Rothko spent his short life chasing.

6. Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens — Museum of Fine Arts

Add the Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens to your list of places to visit in Houston. A staple of the American South, the Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens is a massive home fixated upon rolling ornamental lawns. This graceful homage to architecture past is served with fine art and some of the most impressive American furnishings, silver, ceramics, and paintings in the world.

You can lose yourself on the 14-acre campus, like how the lead character, The Innocent, loses himself in a dreamworld and finds himself at last in KOOZA, part of our 2024 touring schedule that you can’t miss.

Photographer: Adrian N

Science and Education Museums

Curiosity is a driving force behind the modern world. From the atoms we're composed of to the vast expanse of planets, stars, and galaxies, everything we know was discovered because someone was curious. These museums are a testament to that curiosity and, hopefully, a catalyst for curiosity to come. 

7. Houston Museum of Natural Science

The secrets of the universe await at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. The skies above us are filled with light, and the ground underfoot is packed with life from ages past. A miniscule amount has been dug up and displayed at the Houston Museum of Natural Science.

Bring the kids and your spouse, or bring your friends and yourself. This museum has displays of dinosaurs and wooly mammoths, rare gems, and even rarer Fabergé eggs. Group packages are available, and life-changing wonder is always in the cards here.

8. Space Center Houston

Houston, we have a problem… you haven’t been to the Space Center Houston yet! You’re missing out on something wondrous. Exhibits at Space Center Houston walk you through NASA’s storied past, from the first beeping metal balls humanity launched into low orbit to the moon landings and beyond.

You can even touch a moon rock here, which is an educational experience unique to our modern era of space exploration.

Photographer: MRoald

9. The Health Museum

The Health Museum looks back at the history of medicine. Visitors embark on a grand tour of humanity’s quest for healthier lives through medical science. Visit The Health Museum and transport to the vast, a time when pre-modern physicians cast horoscopes and cured  diseases with leeches. Moving along, we see the emergence of medicine as a science, followed by the triumphant rise of modern genetics and the amazing frontiers of current research.

10. Children's Museum of Houston

There’s so much stuff to do at the Children’s Museum of Houston, and no group of happy children could possibly play with it all on a single visit.

Learn new things the fun way with hands-on exhibits and seasonally scheduled activities that include secret agent spy games, with laser motion sensors to sneak around, and project workshops for the future engineers among us.

Getting kids interested in a museum can be hard, but this immersive and interactive museum might do the trick.

This all reminds us of the Seeker and his cabinet of wild curiosities, which you and the kids can see at our performance of KURIOS – Cabinet of Curiosities. This performance is all about awakening curiosity, learning new things, and coming alive to the thrill of humor and poetry.

11. National Museum of Funeral History

The National Museum of Funeral History is not for the faint of heart—or for little ones. Here, secreted away in a hidden gem of a garage, we can run our hands over the artifacts of our ancestors’ most somber ceremonies.

See the exhibits of the ancient world, including Egypt, which made a high art out of funerary rites, to the modern era of hearses and moving family tributes. There’s even a funeral carriage in the old European style that was pulled by a coach-and-four harness.

Cultural and History Museums

The history of the world and the culture of its microcosms are as fascinating as the building blocks of the universe itself, and these museums are a gargantuan stepping stone on the path to enlightenment. 

12. Houston Museum of African American Culture

The great state of Texas has a wealth of African American history. Come to the Houston Museum of African American Culture and explore its rich tapestry.

Special exhibitions celebrate the special history of African Americans in Houston. It looks at the early days of the Lone Star Republic to the Great Migration and beyond, and their social and cultural contributions, in a book of hidden history that’s still being written today.

13. Holocaust Museum Houston

The Holocaust Museum Houston in Houston is an important visit. The museum is dedicated to educating visitors on the horrors of the Holocaust through an interactive series of exhibits about one of the darkest chapters in human history. After the educational programs and hushed whispers in the remembrance center, step back out into the light and honor those lost with a lifetime of memories.

14. Czech Center Museum Houston

The Czech Center Museum in Houston is a celebration of Houston’s Czech community.  A migration of Czechs first arrived here following the Mexican War. Thrilling exhibits show off the arts and crafts of an early farm colony who found free air under Texas’ big, bright stars. The learning experiences continue, wending their way forward through history to the struggles of maintaining their cultural identity in modern Texas.

15. Buffalo Soldiers National Museum

Learn about Buffalo Soldiers at the Buffalo Soldiers National Museum. The Buffalo Soldiers were central to the expansion of the Old West. These few men, part of the tiny U.S. Army of the 1870s, blazed trails, manned remote garrisons, and rescued settlers in peril from bandits, raids, and the elements.

Discover the amazing history of America’s first African American fighting men at the Buffalo Soldiers National Museum.

16. San Jacinto Museum of History

The San Jacinto Museum of History examines the history of the war of San Jacinto.

Texas wasn’t always a state, and it wasn’t always part of Mexico, either. Between the two was an epic struggle for independence marked by heroism, sacrifice, and the best qualities of the American frontier.

History moved fast in 1836, when the Texas independence faction won the decisive battle of their war at San Jacinto, marking the climax of the fight for freedom and paving the way to full independence.

You’ll find the story told from both sides at the San Jacinto Museum of History. You can wander around this museum all day, learn something new around every corner, and leave wanting more of the amazing story of how history sometimes turns on a single 18-minute fight between armies.

Photographer: Droneandy

Houston, Beautiful Houston

Can you believe the spell Houston weaves over its visitors? Beyond its captivating museums, the city also boasts some of the best parks in Houston, blending art, culture, and natural beauty. You're welcome in this city of history, and we welcome you to join us at a Houston performance of wonder. 

What may seem like magic as you stare open-mouthed at the stage is merely an expert blend of art, science, and history, put together and flawlessly executed by our performers. 

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