June 27, 2022

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7 standout Houston museums to visit right now

6 min read

You’d be hard-pressed to find a city with a greater range of world-class museums than Houston.

Thanks to the city’s success in energy markets, businesses and philanthropists have been able to invest deeply in cultural institutions. The Houston Museum of Natural Science—which offers four floors to explore everything from tiny seashells to outer space—ranks as one of the top museums in the U.S. And other Houston museum’s, like the National Museum of Funeral History, house the most funerary artifacts in the world. 

If you’re looking for things to do in Houston with kids, a date night activity or a fun way to spend an afternoon, keep reading for seven standout Houston museums.

Houston Museum of Natural Science

Visitors of the Houston Museum of Natural Science can fly through the universe, roam planets and navigate asteroid fields with Burke Baker Planetarium’s new Digistar 6 experience. Crazy about spiders, ants and other creepy-crawlies? Glide over to the Brown Hall of Entomology to learn cool facts about insects, followed by mingling with winged beauties in Cockrell Butterfly Center’s multilevel paradise.

The Morian Hall of Paleontology at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. 

The Morian Hall of Paleontology at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. 

Robin Soslow

In the Morian Hall of Paleontology, go on a prehistoric safari to see reconstructed predator and prey animals poised in action as if still living their lives, as well as prehistoric relatives such as tree-climbing australopithecines. Be sure to head over to the Cullen Hall of Gems and Minerals to see an array of spectacles, including an 850-pound amethyst and roam through the museum’s habitats to spot Texas wildlife.

Highlights: The Hall of Ancient Egypt—a colossal reimagined space which opened in Nov. 2021 to stellar reviews—takes you back centuries to experience the art, culture and fashion of the times and revelations about mummification.
Audience: All ages.
Timing: Spend a whole day. Open 7 days a week.
Insider tip: Free Thursdays from 2-5 p.m. Ages 2 and under free.

Find it: 5555 Hermann Park Drive, Houston, TX 77030

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Indulge in the joy of creativity in this world-renowned cultural gem. Even the corridors linking the buildings are delightful including the fantastic tunnels of color and light leading to the gigantic Kinder Building—a 100,000 square feet of exhibition space circling a three-level, natural light-filled atrium that opened in 2020.

The light tunnel to the new Kinder Building at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. 

The light tunnel to the new Kinder Building at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. 

Robin Soslow

Fun features include an interactive video wall that captures and plays visual tricks with images of passersby, creating fresh views for selfies. In addition to the museum’s collection of nearly 70,000 works of art created throughout the world, from antiquity to modern day, MFAH presents world-class special exhibitions.

The variety continues to dazzle here with pastoral landscapes by George Inness, to prints exploring social issues by Kara Walker, to a sensational modern twist on 15th-century Flemish-style altarpieces—a multipanel depiction of a shantytown by Grupo Mondongo which uses materials like Play-Doh.


Audience: All ages.
Timing: Spend a whole day. Closed Mondays and Tuesdays.
Insider tip: Free general admission is available on Thursdays and free MFAH garage parking is available on Thursdays 5-9 p.m. Ages 12 and younger are always free. Ages 18 and younger are free on Saturdays and Sundays with a Texas library card. The Museum’s outdoor spaces are always free including the Cullen Sculpture Garden which was created by sculptor Isamu Noguchi and open daily from 9 a.m.-10 p.m.

Find it: 1001 Bissonnet St., Houston, TX 77005

Contemporary Arts Museum Houston

A stainless-steel exterior hints that bold works await you inside the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston. Rotating exhibits tackle social issues with remarkable ranges of messages and mediums that show curatorial chops. Examples: The Dirty South statement pieces to rising star Amoako Boafo’s joyful portrayals of soulful figures with finger-painted faces and brightly patterned attire that has inspired fashion lines. Past pop-up exhibitions have included a poster collaboration between the Houston Rockets and local artists.

Mel Chin's Manilla Palm installation at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston.

Mel Chin’s Manilla Palm installation at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston.

Courtesy of Rick Gardner for Contemporary Arts Museum Houston

Audience: Some adult themes. If bringing children, read the family reviews on each exhibition page before you go.
Timing: Spend 1 to 2 hours. Open until 9 p.m. on Thursdays. Check the website for hours and events.
Insider tip: Admission is always free.

Find it: 5216 Montrose Blvd., Houston, TX 77006

The Health Museum

The full name of this Houston museum is the John P. McGovern Museum of Health & Medical Science, but its nickname better reflects its vibe. Come for fun and hands-on approaches to getting a pre-pre-med education with games, displays and interactive activities that help people of all ages learn about the body’s inner workings. Nurses and volunteers are stationed around the museum to answer questions.

The Health Museum where it's fun to learn about the human body. 

The Health Museum where it’s fun to learn about the human body. 

Robin Soslow

Ride a bicycle with a skeleton to learn how your heart pumps blood to keep you going; high-jump at the bone density education tower; stroll the human-scale hamster wheel while learning about respiratory systems; and play mind games that exercise your brain. 

Audience: All ages; excellent for kids.
Timing: Spend 2 to 3 hours. Closed Mondays.
Insider tip: For an additional $5, visitors can do actual experiments at the bilingual DeBakey Cell Lab. Free Family Thursdays take place from 2-7 p.m. Ages 2 and under are always free.

Find it: 1515 Hermann Drive, Houston, TX 77004

The Menil Collection

Spend an afternoon visiting the five free-admission Menil buildings and strolling outdoors around the grand sculpture-dotted green spaces. The main museum houses the collection of art benefactors John de Menil and Dominique de Menil—nearly 19,000 paintings, sculptures, prints, drawings, photographs and rare books. Marvels include Picassos and Magrittes, African ceremonial carvings and lively retrospectives of groundbreaking artists. Explore the Dan Flavin light installation in Richmond Hall, then meditate at the Rothko Chapel—an ecumenical religious space clad with enormous Rothko paintings.

The Menil Collection is home to modern and contemporary galleries. 

The Menil Collection is home to modern and contemporary galleries. 

Courtesy Allyson Huntsman for The Menil Collection

Audience: All ages.
Timing: Spend 3 to 4 hours. Closed Mondays and Tuesdays.

Find it: 1533 Sul Ross St., Houston, TX 77006

Children’s Museum Houston

This brainy playland makes you want to be a kid again. An obstacle ropes course features a cargo net, rope bridge, rolling log, a leap across 30 feet of lily pads and a climb over the Kelp Walk. Form a team and apply intelligence and gadgets to solve clues scattered museum-wide in an interactive spy experience. At the Invista Genius Station, kids can enlist elite educators to answer their science questions, get help with homework and science fair projects and even get inspired about future careers.

Inside the Cyberchase exhibit at Children's Museum of Houston.

Inside the Cyberchase exhibit at Children’s Museum of Houston.

Geoffrey Lyon for Children’s Museum of Houston

Audience: Children of all ages.
Timing: Spend 2.5 hours. Closed Sundays and Mondays.
Insider tip: Online ticket reservations recommended including for Free Family Night Thursdays from 5-8 p.m. Ages under 1 are free.

Find it: 1500 Binz St., Houston, TX 77004

Holocaust Museum Houston

Holocaust Museum Houston shines a spotlight on the dangers of prejudice, hatred and apathy in society. To put events in context, the museum offers docent-led, audio-guided tours and self-guided tours. In June 2019, and after a $34 million expansion, the museum doubled its size to 57,000 square feet. Today, it is ranked as the nation’s fourth largest Holocaust museum. Fully bilingual in English and Spanish, the museum offers traveling exhibitions and permanent galleries including the Holocaust, human rights, “And Still I Write: Young Diarists on War and Genocide” and testimony of Holocaust survivors who settled in the Houston area.

An exhibit at the Holocaust Museum Houston.

An exhibit at the Holocaust Museum Houston.

Antonio H. via Yelp

Audience: Ages 12 and up.
Timing: Spend 2 hours. Closed Mondays except MLK Day, Memorial Day and Labor Day.
Insider tip: Online ticket reservations recommended, including for Free Thursdays from 2-5 p.m. Ages 18 and under are free. Several free days are offered throughout the year; check the website for dates.

Find it: 5401 Caroline St., Houston, TX 77004

Want to get a discount on museum visits? A Houston CityPASS can save you 47% off admission to Houston’s top attractions.

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