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Tucked away in the 20-acre Sam Houston Park downtown, you will find an impressive bit of Texas history. Visit the Heritage Society Museum & Tour, which features historical records, then take the outdoor tour of noble buildings restored to their original glory. Pathways lead to an assortment of prestigious homes in Greek and Victorian styles. The 1868 Victorian-style Pilot House also happens to be the site of the city's first indoor kitchen. All the homes on the tour are unique in structure and furnishings. There is also a quaint church built in 1891 by German farmers.
The vision of philanthropists, John and Dominique de Menil, The Rothko Chapel is a block away from the extraordinary art museum, The Menil Collection. The abstract expressionist Mark Rothko created 14 immense paintings for the sacred space, and the meditative aura that resulted is the true definition of tranquility. Renowned architect, Phillip Johnson, along with Houston's own Howard Barnstone and Eugene Aubrey designed the octagonal brick structure that overlooks Barnett Newman's sculptural tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Free to all and open to people of all beliefs, the independent site made it to the official National Register of Historic Places.
In his midnight millennium speech, Pope John Paul said the most defining elements of the 20th century were the rise and fall of two oppressive ideologies that victimized millions of people, Communism and Nazism. This museum is a tribute to the victims of the Nazi concentration camps during World War II. Through changing exhibits, films and lectures, it seeks to inform future generations of the racism of the holocaust and the horrifying results of hatred. In addition to exhibits, there is a library, theater and document archives.
The Children's Museum of Houston opened in 1984 and is devoted to teaching through interactive play. Galleries here cover subjects like history, culture, fine and performing arts, technology, science and geography. Adults are welcome to take a break in the Teacher and Family Resource Center where extra teaching materials are available to boost those creative juices. Lots of fun, educational toys are available in the gift shop and snacks are available to satisfy your hunger.
Opened in 1948, Contemporary Arts Museum Houston's goal is to present the "art of our time." Renovated in 1997, the building sports an elegant interior that is almost as appealing as the exhibits. Regional, national and international artists display their work here, and the museum can also take credit for the successful launch of several local artists' careers. The art exhibits are very diverse, exhibiting the use of various materials and subjects in a wide range of styles. The gift shop might put a significant dent in your wallet, but it is rumored to be one of the best in town.
The selection of exhibits at Houston's Museum of Fine Arts covers both modern and ancient art and represents the talent of artists from Europe, Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Americas. You will find Frederic Remington's fine Western art mingling with medieval pieces and the work of early European masters. Paintings are abundant, but the lovely sculpture garden here is also worth viewing. Both the Glassell School of Art and the Hirsch Library for Art History call this museum home. Film buffs love the museum for its weekly showings of classic and foreign films. A gift shop and restaurant are both on hand to satisfy your hunger after a day of exploring.
The Houston Museum of Natural Science offers a wide variety of exhibits that are worthy of a full day's outing. The three-level live butterfly exhibit will fascinate visitors of any age, as will the dinosaur exhibit in the Morian Hall of Paleontology. The Wiess Energy Hall and the Hall of Gems and Minerals are also worth a visit. If you need a break, enjoy an IMAX film or sit in on one of Burke Baker Planetarium shows.
Pack your lawn chairs and your cooler, and prepare to have a relaxing good time at Miller Outdoor Theatre. Visitors sit on the hillside or under the polygon canopy to enjoy the weekly shows that start in the spring and run through the fall. Sponsored by the Houston Parks and Recreation Department, free admission guarantees you can enjoy a lovely evening without hurting your entertainment fund. From folk music to grand opera, serious Shakespeare to outrageous comedy, concerts to full Broadway musicals, this outdoor theater appeals to all ages. Special children's programs are even available on occasion.
Situated in the lovely Hermann Park, the Houston Zoo is home to more than 6,000 animals and over 900 species. Experience a true wildlife adventure as you check out the lions, Komodo dragons, flamingos, tigers, gorillas, bears, and bats, just to name a few! There is a wonderful Natural Encounter area where you can get up close and personal with otters and meerkats; and be sure to take a spin on the Wildlife Carousel, featuring hand-carved and decorated animals that showcase many endangered species of the world. If watching the animals eat makes you hungry yourself, there are two outdoor concession stands and one indoor dining area. Get ready to spend a day with the animals as you learn more about the beauty and wonder of the natural world.
Bayou Bend is the former home of Ima Hogg, a famous philanthropist. Visitors can wander through 14 acres of woodlands and formal gardens, or check out the house that contains 4,800 various works of art. This art represents the American style from colonial to mid-19th Century. The house is a lovely lifestyle museum of that century. Please take note that children under ten years of age can wander the gardens but are not allowed in the house.
Memorial Park is a popular Houston attraction complete with a beautiful three-mile playground. There are walking paths, picnic sites, baseball fields, pine trees, gardens and ponds. Appreciate nature's beauty and make the most of the sunny weather. The locals love to jog here, but you can also rent a bike and hit the trail. There is also a public golf course with a clubhouse and restaurant, a tennis club, and a workout facility nestled on the grounds.
Although it sounds bizarre, National Museum of Funeral History actually provides an interesting look at the customs surrounding burial practices. View funeral memorabilia and artifacts that belonged to famous political and celebrity personalities in the "Funerals of the Famous" section of the museum. Equally intriguing is the coffin room that is filled with out-of-the-ordinary coffin themes, including giant fish, cars and a full-sized replica of King Tut's sarcophagus.