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Best Landmarks in Houston

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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.

If you're an art aficionado and a nature buff, you simply can't miss out on a visit to the Lillie and Hugh Roy Cullen Sculpture Garden, also known as the Cullen Sculpture Museum. Handpicked sculptures from the 20th and 21st centuries are artfully displayed on the grounds of the Museum of Fine Arts (MFAH) Houston, the collective creative geniuses of artists such as Henri Matisse and Auguste Rodin shining through. The setting for this sculpture display, a lush artwork of nature itself, is the brilliant brainchild of Isamu Noguchi and landscape architect Johnny Steele, who selected native plants like Loblolly Pines and Drake Elms. These trees, along with nearly 80 others, frame the priceless sculptures on display.

Houston will be forever grateful for George Hermann's generous gift of land in the early 1900s. The park spans over 445 acres (180 hectares) and is one of Houston's oldest public parks. People from all walks of life gather here for various events throughout the year. A monstrous statue of Sam Houston welcomes you to the park. Those seeking an educational outing for themselves or the kids will find many options inside the park. The Museum of Natural Science, Houston Zoo, Burke Baker Planetarium and an IMAX theater are all popular attractions. Lighter family entertainment is available in the form of pedal boats, train rides and other activities.

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 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.

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.

Standing stoically among 18 acres (7.28 hectares) of oak trees, the Gerald D. Hines Waterwall Park (formerly known as Williams Water Wall) has amazed visitors since its 1985 opening. The Waterwall sends 78,500 gallons of water down its face every three hours, utilizing a recycling mechanism that continues the torrent until the lights are turned off at the end of the day. Visible from many of downtown Houston's buildings, this attraction has become something of an icon with locals. Perfect for a romantic stroll, picnic, or reflective moment, Williams Water Wall is a great stop in the area.

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.

Spread over 1,620 acres (655 hectares) in Houston, the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center is one of the main centers for spaceflight in the United States. Home to NASA's Astronaut Corps, it functioned as Mission Control during the Gemini and Apollo space shuttle programs. It was also the primary flight control center for all following manned space missions, including Apollo 11 which put the first man on the moon. The Lunar Receiving Center at JSC is where they store most of the samples from moon missions and astronaut training takes place at JSC as well. At the forefront of technological and space discovery, the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center continues to push the boundaries of scientific achievement, as it has for over half a century.

Ever since the Apollo flights, Houston has been synonymous with space travel. Space Center Houston, of NASA's Johnson Space Center, allows visitors to study and understand the making of space history. Enter the five-story plaza which features a full-size shuttle mock-up, complete with a flight deck. By far, the most popular highlight for adults is the tram tour that takes you to various buildings throughout the Space Center. You will be able to have a seat in the viewing room of the original Mission Control room and stroll past full-size mock-ups of the original Apollo rockets. When you need a break from all the activity, the Zero-G diner is on hand to fix you right up.

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.

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.

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