Planning some leisure time in the Lone Star State? Whether you’re into art, nature, science, or history, you’ll find something to enthrall you at all the must-visit museums in Houston!
If you think this town is all about rodeos and wranglers, think again! Houston is renowned for its thriving arts and cultural scene, home to a treasury of over 150 world-class museums and cultural institutions featuring everything from fine art collections to mind-boggling high-tech experiences.
You’ll find most of Houston’s top museums in the scenic Museum District just south of downtown. You can pack your day with visits to amazing destinations like the Houston Museum of Natural Science, the Museum of Fine Arts, the Children’s Museum, and more—all without missing a beat.
Ready to book some time in the Bayou City? Discover its unique art, history, and architecture with this complete Houston museums guide!
Houston Museum of Natural Science
You don’t need to be a science nerd to be awed by the amazing Houston Museum of Natural Science. Set in beautiful Hermann Park, this historic structure dates back to 1909 and remains one of the most popular museums in the United States.
The Houston Museum of Natural Science is an astounding complex filled with five floors of fascinating displays that feature everything from dinosaur skeletons to space-age technology. With over a dozen permanent exhibit areas, this family-friendly crowd-pleaser is one of the most-visited museums in Houston.
Explore its enthralling collections of fossils, rare gems, and ancient Egyptian artifacts. Sit back and immerse yourself in 3D splendor at the Wortham Giant Screen Theatre, where you can have a virtual encounter with sharks, swim with sea lions, or explore the Great Barrier Reef.
Take a digital trip through the universe in the Burke Baker Planetarium, or experience the enchantment of the winged beauties at the Cockerell Butterfly Center.
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
If you’re craving a feast for the eyes, wend your way to The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Set in the heart of Houston’s Museum District, this is one of the biggest museums in the country. The museum’s massive collection spans 6,000 years and features almost 700,000 works in the form of paintings, sculptures, photographs, and antiquities from around the world.
Explore Houston’s Museum of Fine Arts, and you’ll discover a wealth of exquisite pieces ranging from French Impressionist and Italian Renaissance paintings, to Pre-Columbian gold artifacts, to modern masterpieces.
The building itself is a work of art, too. Wander through eye-popping tunnels of color leading to the Kinder Building, a 100,000-square-foot light-filled exhibit. Venture beyond the main exhibition spaces to explore the beautiful sculpture garden, the rooftop garden, and two decorative arts museums.
Want to make the most of your visit to one of the most popular museums in Houston? Grab a headset and take an audio tour!
The Menil Collection
One of many fantastic free Houston museums, The Menil Collection is a unique hybrid of museum and art collection. Unlike many of the other popular choices in town, this gallery is located in the Montrose neighborhood, about 10 minutes southwest of Downtown Houston.
The Menil Collection is one of the most eclectic museums in Houston, home to more than 17,000 paintings, sculptures, drawings, and rare books spanning centuries. The exhibit rooms are lit by natural light that floods through enormous glass windows, setting a luminous scene. Take time to explore the museum’s many themed rooms, highlighting pieces ranging from Byzantine antiquities to modern art.
History buffs will be drawn to displays of exquisite ancient artifacts and works of art. Modern art enthusiasts will delight in an amazing collection of pieces by modern masters, including Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollack, and Marcel Duchamp.
Don’t miss one of the collection’s highlights: the Rothko Chapel. Set next to the main building in Menil Park, the chapel is adorned with enormous canvases painted by Mark Rothko. Take time to stand back and let the luminous intensity of their rich color wash over you.
Contemporary Arts Museum Houston
If you want the inside scoop on what’s happening in the field of modern art, carve out time for the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston. Set in the heart of the Houston Museum District, this free, non-profit organization is dedicated to showcasing leading-edge contemporary art.
Step inside the striking stainless steel building, and you’ll discover exhibits featuring established artists along with exciting emerging talents, both homegrown and international. Featuring two separate galleries, the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston hosts multiple exhibitions each year, so there’s always something new to see!
The Contemporary Arts Museum Houston is one of the city’s top museums if you want to take the pulse of the contemporary art world. Browse the Brown Foundation Gallery to take in work by leading-edge, internationally recognized artists. Peruse works by both established and emerging artists in the Nina and Michael Zilkha Gallery.
Stop off in the museum’s gift shop and check out its carefully curated merchandise for an “art-centric” memento.
Art Car Museum
Ready for some revved-up art on wheels? Cruise over to the Art Car Museum for a truly unique art experience. This quirky gem—dubbed “Garage Mahal”—is exactly what the name suggests: a gallery where cars are the canvas.
Located in the Washington Avenue Coalition/Memorial Park neighborhood, the Art Car Museum is unlike any other you’ve seen. Where else would you find the “Roachster” (complete with antennae and wings) or a Honda motorcycle that transformed into a giant red rolling stiletto?
This unlikely homage to the city’s alternative scene makes it a standout among Houston museums. It’s part of the art car movement that dates back to the playful height of hippiedom (think outlandishly-decorated VWs of the 60s).
Take a stroll, and you’ll get an eyeful of everything from elaborate lowriders to rhinestone-encrusted ramblers. If you’re planning a springtime visit to Houston, take in the museum’s eye-popping Art Car Parade.
Holocaust Museum Houston
Set in the Museum District, the Holocaust Museum Houston is one of the largest centers of its kind in the USA. Home to multiple galleries and exhibits, the museum is dedicated to shining a light on one of the darkest periods of human history.
Explore this 57,000-square-foot campus to learn more about the era and the stories of those who survived it. The Holocaust Museum Houston hosts both traveling and permanent exhibits that highlight Holocaust’s legacy and the ongoing struggle for human rights.
Take time to browse the Boniuk Library, packed with thousands of books, documents, films, and artifacts. Feel the past made chillingly real with exhibits including a railcar used to transport victims to concentration camps and a humble Dutch fishing boat that carried survivors to safety.
Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens
If you’re a culture vulture with a taste for the bucolic, head over to the Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens. Part of the Museum of Fine Arts, this garden-cum-gallery began life a century ago as the lush setting for the home of philanthropist Ima Hogg.
Nestled on the edge of Houston’s historic River Oaks neighborhood, the grounds boast 14 acres of organically maintained gardens and native woodland paths. Today, the Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens is home to one of the world’s finest showcases of American furnishings, ceramics, silver, and vintage paintings.
Drop in on Family Day for fun activities like crafts, games, music, and giveaways – and take a guided tour to get an inside look at the home’s elegant rooms. Browse the boutique-style gift shop for some great gift ideas.
There’s an admission fee, but the third Thursday of every month is free!
Color Factory Houston
If you like your museums on the playful side, give yourself a treat at the Color Factory Houston. This immersive art experience celebrates the joy of color. Up for some fun?
Tap into the delight of discovery at over a dozen interactive installations. One of the highlights at the Color Factory Houston: A giant ball pit filled with over 500,000 balls. Dive in and immerse yourself in a sea of color!
Visit the Ribbon Room, where you can drift through a tunnel of vivid ribbons and be surrounded by color. Feeling upbeat? Grab your glitter and get into the groove at the Royal Disco Ball, celebrating homegrown artists like Beyonce and Lizzo. Grab a set of headphones, turn up the volume, and dance!
Before you leave, hit the oh-so-cool gift shop for some “colorful” souvenirs.
Space Center Houston
Whether you’re a science fiction fan or a moonwalking wannabe, your Houston itinerary has to include the Space Center Houston. This award-winning center for space exploration is one of the most popular family-friendly museums in Houston.
The Space Center Houston takes you behind the scenes of the NASA Johnson Space Center. Chock-full of interactive exhibitions, multi-media displays, cutting-edge technology, and fascinating space artifacts, this is one of the most awe-inspiring museums in Houston.
Take a walk through Rocket Park, where space mission specimens are on display. Get an up-close view of the space shuttle replica Independence and the enormous shuttle carrier that it traveled on. Feel the thrill of stepping into a recreation of Skylab, the first American space station.
One of the most popular Houston tourist attractions, the center celebrates the past while looking to the future. Space Center Houston is the gateway to the world-famous mission control and astronaut training center – so you’ll get an awesome inside look at upcoming space missions!
Who says museums can’t be cool? Gear up for a mind-bending experience at Seismique. This so-real-you-can-feel-it museum invites you to do much more than just view art: Jump in and be a part of it!
Set in the village of West Oaks, this 40,000-square-foot space is packed with huge installations, enthralling interactive exhibits, and eye-boggling optical illusions. Alive with brilliant color and vibrant patterns, Seismique aims to engage all the senses – and channel your inner kid.
Seismique is one of the most “hands-on” museums in Houston, where you can immerse yourself in creative experiences in 40 unique galleries. Let your imagination loose as you play with computers, cameras, holograms, and augmented reality. Get lost in an intergalactic maze, get “soaked” in a rain room, or scramble through a giant jungle gym.
Bring a camera to snap some Instagram-worthy pics of these stunning installations, and check out the gift shop for some nifty gadgets and accessories.
Children’s Museum Houston
If you’ve got youngsters in your entourage, a stop at the Children’s Museum Houston is a must. Designed for children ages 0 to 12, this kid-focused attraction was the brainchild of a group of Houston parents who wanted to spark a love for learning through interactive exhibits.
Let the kiddos loose to experience 90,000 square feet of action-packed fun at the Children’s Museum Houston. They’ll get hands-on with technology and gadgets, explore nature and the outdoors, conduct experiments in a chemistry lab, test their stamina on obstacle courses, learn about other cultures, and much more.
Youngsters celebrating a birthday are treated to a private party room, guided tours, balloons, and activities they can take home.
Every Thursday is free family night!
The Health Museum
If you’re looking for a one-of-a-kind family learning experience, plan a visit to The Health Museum. Set on Hermann Drive just down the street from the Children’s Museum, this is one of the 19 museums in Houston’s Museum District.
Offering a unique deep dive into the study of the human body, The Health Museum is hands-down one of the most unusual museums in Houston. No need to be a science geek to get a kick out of this venue; it offers an absorbing interactive experience for visitors of all stripes.
Get yourself geared up with goggles, gloves, and a lab coat, and you’ll feel like a pro! The Health Museum is packed with experimental stations designed to share scientific know-how and inspire scientists of the future.
You’ll get a chance to observe real organ dissections and view gigantic reconstructions of a beating heart, brain, and eyeball. Eye-boggling!
Buffalo Soldiers National Museum
If you’re fascinated by overlooked nuggets of history, discover a real gem: the Buffalo Soldiers National Museum. Set on the Houston Community College campus in Midtown, this unique museum sheds a rare light on a little-known piece of America’s history.
The Buffalo Soldiers were regiments of African Americans who were among the first to serve on the American frontier in the 19th century. Charged with forging trails and escorting immigrants through the West, these regiments were the original rangers of the National Park Service.
The regiment also saw over nine decades of military service in the American Civil War, both World Wars, and the Korean War. The Buffalo Soldiers National Museum pays tribute to their legacy and to the historic role of African-Americans in the American military.
Browse a fascinating collection of exhibits and artifacts, including uniforms, tools, photographs, weapons, and even household items. See the past brought alive in the museum’s Reenactment Program as actors recount the unsung stories of African-Americans who played a vital part in the opening up of the American West.
Lone Star Flight Museum
Up for a sky-high experience at one of Houston’s top attractions? Wing your way to the Lone Star Flight Museum, 25 minutes southeast of the city center.
One of the finest flight museums in the country, this destination highlights the story of flight and its ongoing role in the American story. It showcases the exploits of the pioneers of aviation and offers visitors a chance to engage with cool interactive displays that feature amazing technological innovation.
Explore the Lone Star Flight Museum, and you’ll soar with everything from high-tech crafts to flight experiments to lively public programming. Browse the Texas Aviation Hall of Fame and learn about the intriguing characters in the rich history of Texas aviation.
Go hands-on in the cutting-edge Aviation Learning Center and Flight Academy. Get an inside look at historic planes like the DC3 or the Howard 250. Take a thrilling ride in a vintage B-25, one of America’s star aircraft in the Second World War. Wheels up!
Cullen Sculpture Garden
If you’re looking for the perfect spot to chill, set aside some time to meander through the Cullen Sculpture Garden. Whether you’re a nature lover or an art enthusiast, you’ll find a serene oasis here. Set next to the Museum of Fine Art (MFAH), this beautiful green space takes the pace of urban life down a notch or two with its winding paths and shaded enclaves.
Graced by native trees, bamboo, and flowering plants, the Cullen Sculpture Garden showcases sculptural works by masters including Matisse, Auguste Rodin, and Joan Miró. Take your time, enjoy a ramble, and keep your camera handy!
When hunger strikes, grab a bite at the MFAH café, or bring a lunch, settle in at one of the park benches, and enjoy the view.
If you’re visiting on a Sunday and feeling frisky, get moving with a Zumba class – or find your sweet spot with a yoga session.
Houston Museum of African American Culture
If an exhilarating infusion of culture is on your agenda, put the Houston Museum of African American Culture on your must-see list. The most-visited African-American cultural institution in Houston, this collection is a treasury of culture and art that showcases the experiences of African-Americans in Houston and far beyond.
Dive in and open yourself up to a unique experience at one of the most culturally-rich museums in Houston. Explore the many educational programs hosted by the Houston Museum of African American Culture. Sit back and soak in the museum’s Movies at Sunset. Join in the conversation at guest lectures and presentations.
Be sure to check out the Jazz Church of Houston. A treat for the eyes and ears, this captivating exhibit celebrates the history of jazz music and the rich jazz culture in Houston.