Welcome Guide to Houston

Houston, the largest city in Texas and the fourth-largest in the United States, was established in 1836 by brothers John Kirby Allen and Augustus Chapman Allen. Nestled on the banks of Buffalo Bayou, the city of Houston has been named after General Sam Houston, the former President of the Republic of Texas who had commanded at the Battle of San Jacinto. The city has also received a number of nicknames such as “Bayou City”, “Magnolia City”, “H-Town”, and “Clutch City”. However, the official nickname given to Houston is “Space City” as it is home to NASA’s Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center.

Houston is well known for its arts and culture. There are as many as 9 major performing arts organizations and 6 performance halls in the Theater District, situated in Downtown Houston. The permanent, resident, professional companies in major performing arts disciplines include the Houston Grand Opera, the Houston Ballet, the Houston Symphony Orchestra, and the Alley Theater. Besides, the city is also home to a number of smaller progressive art organizations, local folk artists, and art groups. The main annual art event held in the city is the Bayou City Art Festival. Other annual events hosted by the city include the annual Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, the Houston Pride Parade, the Art Car Parade, the Houston Greek Festival, and the Houston Auto Show and the Houston International Festival.

Another place of tourist interest in Houston is the Museum District, which is home to various cultural institutes and exhibits. The main attractions in this area include the Museum of Fine Arts, the Contemporary Art Museum, the Houston Zoo, the Holocaust Museum Houston, and the Houston Museum of Natural Science. Other main attractions in Houston include the Space Center Houston, the Hermann Park, Houston Arboretum and Nature Center, the Galleria, and San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site. The other facilities situated in the nearby Montrose District include the Menil Collection and the Rothko Chapel. Houston is rich in art, culture, and history. It has a lot to offer to its visitors and is also considered as a shopping paradise.

Bayou Bend

Bayou Bend, situated in Houston, Texas, is one of the most important museums of American decorative and fine arts in the country. It was designed by a renowned architect John F. Staub and was constructed in 1928 for Miss Ima Hogg and her brothers, Michael Hogg and William C. This magnificent house features 28 room settings, including elegant parlors, a grand reception hall, stylish bedrooms, and a fashionable dining room. In addition, over 14 acres (5 hectares) of breathtaking woodland and formal gardens encircle this elegant pink stucco home.

Bayou Bend is an amazing legacy of a remarkable woman and has been wonderfully restored. It is situated on Buffalo Bayou and is just five miles (8 km) from the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Miss Hogg donated her home and her fabulous collection to the Museum of Fine Arts in 1957. It was in 1966 that this cultural treasure of Houston finally opened to the public. At present, this house-turned-museum is well known for an extraordinary collection of American decorative arts. This collection comprises over 5000 objects, including paintings, ceramics, textiles, glass, silver, furniture, and works on paper. The main highlights of this unique collection include outstanding paintings by John Singleton Copley and Charles Wilson Peale, exceptional furniture of John Townsend and John Henry Belter, and stunning pieces of silver by Paul Revere and John Coney. All the exhibits depict the inspiring artistry of early America, from 1620 through 1870.

Bayou Bend is certified as a Texas Historical Landmark and is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Museum also offers several Family Days programs that provide a variety of fun activities for both children and adults. Besides, several teacher workshops, summer camps, student tours, and student tours are also hosted by the museum. Bayou Bend has an unmatched collection and is certainly not worth missing.

  • Address: 1 Westcott Street, Houston, TX 77007
  • Hours: Tues – Fri, 10 – 11:30 AM & 1 – 2:45 PM; Sat, 10 – 11:15 AM (90-minute tours offered every 15 minutes)

Menil Collection

The Menil Collection, situated in Houston, Texas, is a premier museum that holds the most important privately assembled art collections of the 20th century. This magnificent museum designed by Renzo Piano opened to the public in 1987. Its main highlight is a private art collection of its founders, John and Dominique de Menil. The extraordinary collection at the Museum comprises of over 15,000 sculptures, paintings, photographs, rare books, prints, and drawings. The Surrealist Collection housed in the Museum is also among the premier art collections in the world.

At present, the Menil Collection comprises of early to mid-twentieth century works of Pablo Picasso, Man Ray, Rene Magritte, Yves Tanguy, Henry Matisse, and Marcel Duchamp. Besides, the Museum also holds a collection of antiques and works of Medieval, Byzantine, and Tribal art. An extensive collection of contemporary art and pop art from noted artists such as Andy Warhol, Jackson Pollock, and Mark Rothko is also an integral part of the Menil Collection.

The major attractions in the museum campus include the Cy Twombly Gallery, the Richmond Hall, the world-famous Rothko Chapel, and the Byzantine Fresco Chapel Museum. The neighborhood nestled around the Museum gives a coordinated feel and is also well worth visiting. All the homes in this neighborhood are painted in the same shade of gray and are rented to artists. The Menil Collection is situated in the Montrose district of Houston, near the University of St. Thomas, and is a “˜must-see” for the art lovers.

  • Address: 1515 Sul Ross, Houston, Texas 77006
  • Telephone: (713) 525-9400
  • Fax: (713) 525-9444
  • Hours: Wed-Sun, 11 AM – 7 PM
  • Website: www.menil.org

Montrose District

The Montrose District, situated in the Neartown area of Houston, is the artist retreat of Harris County, Texas. Well-known for its culture, personality, and eclectic flair, Montrose is often considered as the Greenwich Village of Houston. It was founded in the year 1911 and is one of the most pedestrian-friendly and demographically diverse areas of Houston. With its wonderfully restored mansions, cottages, and bungalows with wide porches located along the tree-lined boulevards, the Montrose District has retained the strong identity built up over its long history.

The neighborhoods surrounding the Montrose District include Westmoreland, Avondale, Downtown, and Cherry Hurst. This historic neighborhood is known for its aesthetic appeal, real character of its people, and its business establishments. Besides, there are a number of elegant restaurants, shops, and a unique gallery in the neighborhood. Today, the area attracts thousands of artists, students, and musicians every year. The main tourist activity in Montrose is exploring the unique, local culture of this community. The District also has a number of music venues. The oldest folk and authentic music venue in the area is the Anderson Fair.

A major attraction in the district is Wertheimer Avenue, which is home to several vintage clothing shops, a selection of busy restaurants, and jazz music avenues. The shops in the Antique District are known for antique home furnishings and other unique articles from the earlier eras. In addition, Montrose is also home to the Museum District, which features the famous Contemporary Arts Museum and the Museum of Fine Arts. Montrose is also known for its gay bars, such as the nightclub South Beach. The major annual cultural event hosted by the town is the Houston Greek Festival, which has been held in the neighborhood for more than four decades.

Museum of Fine Arts

The Museum of Fine Arts, situated in the heart of Houston, Texas, is a vibrant cultural complex comprising of two museum buildings, two decorative arts center, two art schools, and a Sculpture Garden. The major attractions in the complex include the Law and Beck buildings, the Glassell Junior School, and the Alfred C. Glassell School of Art. The Museum is internationally acclaimed for its international exhibitions, award-winning programs, and an encyclopedic collection. The main campus of the Museum is located in the Museum District at Binz and Main Streets. This Museum is one of the premier destinations in the United States and is another “must-see” for art lovers.

The permanent collection at the Museum spans over 6000 years of history and comprises of nearly 40,000 works from six continents. All these collections are housed in seven facilities of the Museum. The Caroline Weiss Law Building, designed by Mies van der Rohe, is the original building of the museum dating from 1924. The Hirsch Library is the largest art reference library in the Southwest and is housed on the first floor of the Law Building. This library is open to the public but the MFAH archives are available only by appointment. The Audrey Jones Beck Building, founded in 2000, was designed by the renowned architect Rafael Moneo.

The Lillie and Hugh Roy Cullen Sculpture Garden, on the other hand, was created in 1986 by sculptor, Isamu Noguchi. This peaceful garden is filled with unmatched sculpture and is well worth visiting at least once. Besides, the Museum of Fine Arts also has two extra facilities near the main campus. These include the Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens and Rienzi. The former is a house museum that holds a unique collection of American decorative and fine arts while the latter is mainly dedicated to the European decorative arts. The Museum of Fine Arts attracts nearly 1.25 million people every year. The MFAH also hosts several community outreach programs, cultural events, and workshops. It has a lot to offer to its visitors and is a great place to visit.

  • Address: 1001 Bissonnet Street, Houston, TX 77005
  • Telephone: (713) 639-7300
  • Hours: Tues & Weds, 10 AM – 5 PM; Thurs, 10 AM – 9 PM; Fri & Sat, 10 AM – 7 PM; Sun, 12:15 – 7 PM
  • Website: www.mfah.org

San Jacinto Battleground

The San Jacinto Battle was the most decisive battle of the Texas Revolution. The San Jacinto Battleground, now a State Historic Site, is situated off the Houston Ship Channel in Houston, Texas. The major attraction of the Park is the magnificent San Jacinto Monument, a 570 ft (174 m) high column topped with a 220-ton (200-tonne) star that memorializes the site of the Battle of San Jacinto. The 34 ft (10.3 m) “Lone Star” is the symbol of Texas.

The San Jacinto Monument is situated near the cities of Baytown and La Porte and is the tallest monument tower in the world. It was established in 1939 and was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1960. This masonry column is an octagonal shaft faced with Texas Cordova shell stone. The San Jacinto Monument is dedicated to the heroes of the Battle of San Jacinto and all those who contributed to the independence of Texas. It was designated a Historic Civil Engineering Landmark in the year 1992.

Another major attraction at the San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site is the San Jacinto Museum, which is housed within the Monument. This Museum is a non-profit, private, educational organization with an extraordinary collection that covers over 400 years of early Texas history, from the Spanish Conquest through Texas in the 19th century. The exhibits at the Museum, however, lay more emphasis on colonial Texas as a part of the Republic of Texas and Mexico. This unique collection comprises of over 10,000 objects, 10,000 visual images, 250,000 documents, and a nearly 35,000-volume rare book library.

The Museum is also home to a 160-seat Jesse H. Jones Theater for Texas Studies. This theater features the nation’s largest historical multi-image presentation, Texas Forever!! The Battle of San Jacinto, which vividly illustrates the events of the Battle of San Jacinto. Visitors are also allowed to ride to the observation floor of the Monument. This observation floor is nearly 489 ft (149 m) above the Battleground and offers breathtaking views of the city and the Houston Ship Channel.

Space Center Houston

Space Center Houston, situated in Houston, Texas, is a place where visitors are offered a unique opportunity to experience an out-of-this-world journey through a human adventure into space. It is the official visitors’ center of the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, NASA’s prime center for human spaceflight activities. At the Space Center Houston, people can understand and explore the dramatic history, the exciting present, and the compelling future of space. This Space Center is only one-of-its-kind and attracts millions of visitors every year. It features a number of unmatched exhibits, special presentations, attractions, and hands-on-activities, which vividly illustrate the story of the manned space flight program of NASA.

In fact, Space Center Houston is the only place in the entire world where the guests can actually touch a real moon rock, see astronauts train for missions, and land a shuttle. SCH also offers an interesting behind-the-scenes tour of NASA. The Center also houses several space artifacts and hardware, including Mercury 9 capsule, Gemini V capsule, Apollo 17 CM, Lunar Rover vehicle trainer, and the Skylab trainer mock-up. A major attraction at SCH is the Martian Matrix/Kid’s Space Place, a wonderful play place meant for children 5th grade and below.

Other major attractions at SCH include Northrop Grumman Theater, a Tram Tour of NASA, and the Level 9 tours. The Northrop Grumman Theater is a magnificent IMAX Theater, which hosts two movies, Inside the Space Station and To Be an Astronaut. The Tram Tour takes the visitors to Building 30 North and South, Building 9, and the interesting Rocket Park. The Level 9 Tours, on the other hand, are special tours provided at an additional booking cost and takes the guests to all the above buildings and areas, including the Neutral Buoyancy Lab. Space Center Houston is a great learning experience and is certainly well worth visiting.

  • Address: 1601 Nasa Parkway, Houston, TX 77058
  • Telephone: (281) 218-6148
  • Website: www.spacecenter.org