Best Museums in Houston

Setting the World Apart in Houston

Visiting a museum in Houston is always a singular experience, as each one houses its own display of exhibits, style, knowledge and personality. Patriotic veterans and fans of antiquity will enjoy the San Jacinto Museum, Monument and Battleground, the USS Texas, Buffalo Soldier Museum, Holocaust Museum Houston and National Museum of Funeral History. A must for any kid or teenager is the Children’s Museum of Houston full of engaging showcases and anyone who adores the fine arts should plan a day at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston. The Houston Museum of Natural Science is a fascinating look at what makes our world “tick” and all ages will enjoy learning about Texas wildlife, energy, and the study of prehistoric life.

Houston is the largest city in Texas, so one should expect a well-rounded choice of museums, equipped with amazing one-of-a-kind displays, touring exhibits and original pieces of art. Don’t wait for your child to bring home a permission slip to visit a museum in Houston. Plan a weekend for the whole family and visit as many of these establishments as possible. Going solo? Don’t fret! Museums are a great way to spend an entire day with your inner child who has a quest for knowledge. There are perks to visiting a museum alone, including the fact that you can take your time and no one will rush you. With the variety of historical exhibits and innovative demonstrations, no one should be disappointed in what Houston has to offer!


The Menil Collection is considered one of our nations best private collections and museums. Works by Warhol and Matisse are available and the Byzatine Icons exhibit is considered one of the most important of its kind. The founders of the Menil Collection are John de Menil and Dominique Schlumberger de Menil who moved to the United States during World War II and made their home in Houston. The couple became important collectors and there contributions were key to the development of culture, modern art and architecture in the Houston area. The neighborhood surrounding the museum has an artistic vibe and the property is a quiet reflection of a peaceful and dreamlike landscape. Public programs and held at the Menil Collection are free, but seating can be limited, so check out their calendar for more information. Throughout the year, the Menil also offers a free “Artist's Eye” public program on the first Sunday of the month (with the exception of April and July) and visitors take part in an open discussion with a Texas Artist.

Local Expert tip: Best for families with teen and tween age groups.

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The National Museum of Funeral History in Houston is the largest collection of funeral service relics in the United States. It features enchanting (even though some people may call it morbid) exhibits, which include, Celebrating the Lives and Deaths of the Popes, Day of the Dead, Presidential Funerals, and The Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Find out what the difference is between a casket and a coffin. Learn funerary customs and mourning rituals. Take a gander at a distinctive display of hearses and horse drawn funeral carriages, as well, as the history of embalming. The museum shares funeral traditions from other parts of the world and has an entire exhibit dedicated to Fantasy Coffins where visitors can see creative, custom coffins, including a Mercedes Benz, a canoe, and in the shape of a chicken! There is a store on premise that offers a variety of Day of the Dead dolls, t-shirts, jewelry and novelty items.

Local Expert tip: Seniors, Children and Veterans receive a discount on entry fees.

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For a genuine Houston history lesson, experience the world's tallest monument tower, the Jesse H. Jones Theatre for Texas Studies and a captivating view of our nation's history at the San Jacinto Museum in Houston. There are an array of exhibits and historical artifacts on display in the museum before taking a walk on the battlefield of San Jacinto. The museum is located in the base of the monument; greeting people from all over the world with its bronze decorated doors adorned with the six flags of Texas. The base of the monument is 125 feet squared, with panels of importance portraying events in Texas history leading up to and resulting from the Texas Revolution. As you stand inside the actual shrine, which is a symbol of true Texas pride, the gateway brings great understanding as to the sacrifices made during this time. Observe Houston like you've never seen it before!

Local Expert tip: The San Jacinto Monument is fifteen feet taller than the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C.

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Houston Museum of Natural Science

Complete with an IMAX theater, internationally recognized exhibits, a planetarium, and butterfly center, the Houston Museum of Natural Science is one of the top ten most visited museums in the U.S.! The IMAX® 3D camera is one of the highest resolution image-capturing devices in the world and creates an incredible eye-popping experience for viewers. The planetarium opens a vast, new world for those who reach for the stars. Several of the shows are programmed with the legendary music of Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin. Kids can learn all about dinosaurs, chemistry, wildlife and insects! Families are encouraged to attend special events throughout the year, including the Family Energy Festival, Tricks, Treats and T-Rex, and Dino Days. Time travel takes visitors back to the historical escapades, exclusive artifacts, and remarkable stone carvings. Check their calendar for up-to-date listings because this museum is a must for any visitor!

Local Expert tip: The museum can be quite crowded on the weekends, so call ahead if you want to avoid hundreds of visiting students.

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Although, walking back in time brings such a melancholy remembrance of one of the most challenging times in our history, Houston's Holocaust Museum offers an in-depth look at this period of history. Actual film footage, photographs, letters, and permanent exhibits, which include, Bearing Witness, that takes visitors back through pre-war, the Nazi movement and the “Final Solution” after the Holocaust; The World War II Holocaust Railcar, which is on display to demonstrate the kind of transportation that millions of Jews were forced to ride to the camps; and the Danish Rescue Boat is permanently featured to share with visitors about a rare heroic Holocaust story in 1943 when Christians in Denmark risked their own lives to save thousands of Jews from death. Oral histories of Holocaust survivors, including a number of Houston residents, are shown in the theater. Additional rotating exhibits are showcased at the Museum during the month. The Holocaust Museum depicts the dangers of hatred, marginalization, and fear that surrounded human beings during this time. There are exhibits that elucidate the development and operation of the ghettos, in which authorities compelled the city's Jews to live; the functions of concentration camps, extermination camps that were built primarily or exclusively for mass murder; and the execution of war criminals.

Local Expert tip: Cell phone usage is not permitted in the exhibition or memorial areas unless the phone is being utilized to access phone-based audio tours for some changing exhibitions.

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Museum District

You are the exhibit at Houston's Health Museum. One of the special exhibits featured is the You: The Exhibit, where you put your own data into their data base, scan your body that allows you to see a holographic effect of your internal organs, a device that ages you forty years so you can see what you will look like in the future and demonstrate to a child how tall they will become when they reach adulthood. Other amazing displays are The Amazing Body Pavillion, which features over 27 feet of an intestine, a Texas-sized look at the brain, a skeleton bicycle, and a walk-in eyeball experience. Planet You is a 3D film mixing live action with cutting-edge technology and the Challenge Gallery dares visitors to compete against themselves, testing reflexes, mental awareness, and brain teasers. The museum has an interactive approach to learning about health and showcases seasonal exhibits that change every four months. Fun for all ages, this museum is a must in this day and time, offering a realistic approach to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, green environment and a life –size view into what makes us tick.

Local Expert tip: Planning a party at the museum is encouraged, but can be scheduled only during these times: 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. Saturdays and 12 p.m. - 4 p.m. Sundays.

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The Buffalo Soldiers National Museum offers an intense look at African American history through the eyes of brave pioneers who faced diversity and war. Historical artifacts, papers, videos, and other historic collectables are showcased at this museum located in the heart of Houston's Museum District. This is the only museum in the United States of America primarily dedicated to preserving the legacy and honor of the African-American soldier, as well as African American men and women who fought for human dignity and honor during the late 1800s. The 9th Calvary is the origin of the legendary name “Buffalo Soldiers,” declared the motto proudly of “We Can and We Will.” The 24th and 25th Infantry Regiments occupied military posts in the south for more than twenty years. These soldiers protected posts, managed food supplies, built roads, and scouted territories during wartime.

Local Expert tip: Student discounts available for entry fees.

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Houston Heights

Houston is one of the better cities in Texas when it comes to avoiding traffic and it also holds one of the most interesting “auto-art” private collections, showcasing fine art dedicated to cars. The Art Car Museum, or “Garage Mahal” as many call it, opened its doors in 1998, founded as a non-profit organization by artist and supporter of the Art Car Movement, Ann Harithas and James Harithas, who is currently Director of the Station Museum of Contemporary Art in Houston, Texas. What is the Art Car Movement? It is a contemporary, pop art movement, which emphasizes personal expression and choice of imagery obtained from our popular culture. An art car is a motor-driven vehicle, which an artist will create in such a way as to suit his or her own visual message. One who claims to be an “Art Car Artist” is someone who transcribes a new image of automobile, whether abstract or technical and demonstrates the unique expressions and traditions of art. The Art Car Museum displays the most inventive, intricate and cleverly constructed art cars, low riders and mobile contraptions. Many artists from all over the world rotate exhibits at the museum, featuring one-of-a-kind originals. The types of media explored include watercolor, acrylic, oil, collage, mixed media, wood and metal sculptures, photography and grand assemblage. Past exhibits have included, Musicians Who Make Art, Scrapdaddy, and Fast, Faster and Fastest, which was a photo ode to race car driving.

Local Expert tip: Admission is always free.

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Incredibly well-attended, this colorful, popular museum is clearly designed for kids. Like most facilities of its type, it promotes experiential learning and offers lots of interactive exhibits. Science, culture, geography, and creativity are all given due reverence. Build robots in Invention Convention; anchor the news; run a business; get elected as mayor in Kidtropolis, USA; explore nanotechnology in Matter Factory; portal through a mathematical quest in Cyberchase: The Chase Is On!, based on the PBS cartoon; take a wet, wild adventure in FlowWorks; and climb a three-story tower in PowerPlay. Traveling exhibits ensure that nothing ever gets stale for visiting young ones.

Local Expert tip: There is something new every day at the Museum.

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Museum District
Museum of Fine Arts

The Museum of Fine Arts (MSFA) in Houston, TX holds the largest exhibits of art collections in the United States of America. Over 63,000 pieces of art are on display at MSFA from all over the world, including Mexico, Europe, Asia, Central America, Africa, North America and the South Pacific. It houses the Glassell Collection of Indonesian, African and Pre-Columbian Gold that date back to 300AD collected and donated by the Houston philanthropist, Alfred C. Glassel, Jr. The exhibit comprises a rare burial mask from Java, a jewelry collection, and gold treasures full of spiritual meaning and stunning detail. From impressive Czech Avant Garde Art to the highly acclaimed "Tutankhamun: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs" touring exhibit, the Museum of Fine Arts offers an intermittent chance to view some of the world's greatest assemblage of traveling art.

Local Expert tip: The Museum of Fine Arts is closed on Mondays.

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Meet Heather J. Taylor

Heather J. Taylor grew up an “Army Brat” with her family roots deeply grounded in Texas.  When she was twenty, she moved to London on scholarship to study performing arts at Regent's College...  More About Heather