Edited by: Keri Stooksbury
- The Best Museums in Houston
- 1. Art Car Museum
- 2. Children’s Museum Houston
- 3. Contemporary Arts Museum Houston
- 4. The Health Museum
- 5. Holocaust Museum Houston
- 6. Houston Center For Photography
- 7. Houston Museum of Natural Science
- 8. Houston Toy Museum
- 9. Lone Star Flight Museum
- 10. The Menil Collection
- 11. The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
- 12. The Printing Museum
- 13. Space Center Houston
- How To Get Free or Reduced Admission to Houston Museums
- Final Thoughts
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Over the years, Houston has earned a reputation as one of Texas’s most significant cultural centers. The city’s museums are the best proof that this new fame is valid. Whether planning a family trip, a vacation with friends, or a solo getaway, there’s a Houston museum to suit virtually any interest, from cars to history and everything in between.
1. Art Car Museum
First opened in 1998, the Art Car Museum was founded to celebrate artistic and culturally important vehicles.
Affectionately called the “Garage Mahal,” it houses works of art using cars as their medium. Some of the most popular pieces in the museum are “Swamp Mutha” by Ann Harithas and “Phantoms” by W. T. Burge. However, it also showcases more classic yet still unique vehicles, like “Pink Cadillac” by Ann Harithas.
In the years since it opened, the museum has also expanded to showcase other contemporary sculptures, even those that aren’t car-related. The museum also regularly hosts events and special exhibits to celebrate contemporary artists of the past and present.
For example, “Roadside Attraction” by Tom Mitchell Jones uses a bicycle as its base, and “Landscape” is a sidecar. The collection is ever-growing as both national and international artists contribute pieces.
Admission is free for all visitors. The museum is open Wednesday to Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The museum is only available by appointment and advises visitors to call 713-861-5526 for same-day appointments. The nearest bus stop is Washington Avenue at Heights Boulevard.
- Address: 140 Heights Blvd., Houston, TX 77007
2. Children’s Museum Houston
Children’s Museum Houston offers visitors an over 9,000-square-foot structure to learn and create. Dubbed a “playground for the mind,” the museum focuses on creating hands-on and interactive learning exhibits that help children grow their imaginations and learn about science and the world.
To ensure that all visitors get the most out of their visit, the exhibits are divided by age, with some suitable for all children. Others are more geared toward toddlers, preschoolers, or elementary school students.
The “Invention Convention,” “SECRET Spy Game,” and “Power Science Lab” are just a few of the exhibits featured in the structure. However, there are 18 in total, not counting the temporary exhibitions and special events hosted on location. The space is also available to rent for events, and there’s an on-site eatery for a full day of fun.
Admission is free for infants under a year old, $15 for active military personnel and seniors 65+, and $17 for children and adults. The museum is open Tuesday to Wednesday, Friday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Thursday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sunday from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. The nearest bus stop is Main Street at Binz Street, and the nearest light rail stop is Museum District.
- Address: 1500 Binz St., Houston, TX 77004
3. Contemporary Arts Museum Houston
Since being founded in 1948, the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston has been one of the most unique museums in the city. The current iteration of the museum has been open since 1972 to showcase how art has changed over the years.
The facility is considered a non-collecting museum; thus, its collection constantly changes as pieces are acquired, sold, or cycled through the space while on loan. Since the museum is focused on contemporary art, it showcases works from various mediums, from sculpture to photography.
To preserve art history, the museum has even documented its past exhibitions since its first opening. Photos from these exhibits can be seen on its website, such as “Whispering Bayou.”
Admission is free, but donations are welcome to help ensure the museum can continue. The museum is open Wednesday and Friday to Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. The nearest bus stop is Montrose Boulevard and Bissonnet Street, and the nearest light rail stop is Museum District.
- Address: 5216 Montrose Blvd., Houston, TX 77006
4. The Health Museum
The Health Museum has been a Houston staple since its opening in 1969. Aimed at visitors aged 7 and over, the museum teaches the public about health and the human body through its permanent exhibits. Through models, easy-to-read displays, and interactive exhibitions, the museum offers a learning experience to people of all ages.
In addition, virtually all of the information in the structure is available in both English and Spanish, making it an accessible facility to people of multiple cultural backgrounds. It’s also the only completely bilingual science museum in the U.S.
The museum hosts various events throughout the year, particularly for young children. It is available for field trips, school programs, gifted children programs, and more to allow kids from all backgrounds to foster an interest in STEM and health. The museum is available for private events as well.
Admission is free for members and children under 2, $8 for children 3 to 12 and seniors 65+, and $10 for adults. Families can visit for free on Thursday afternoons. The museum is open Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Sunday from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. The nearest light rail stop is Museum District.
- Address: 1515 Hermann Drive, Houston, TX 77004
The Houston Museum District is home to 20 museums, Hermann Park, and the Houston Zoo.
5. Holocaust Museum Houston
The Holocaust Museum Houston opened in 1996 and has held on to its title as the fourth-largest Holocaust museum in the country. The facility is spread out over 3 floors. Its exhibits contain thousands of artifacts, from testimonies and photos to World War II vehicles and boats.
Currently, there are 5 permanent exhibits between those on-site and virtual. However, the museum also hosts several temporary exhibitions and special events each year.
The museum also sponsors several community outreach and educational programs for the public. While the facility focuses primarily on Jewish culture, it has also expanded to embrace people of other heritages, particularly Houston’s Latinx community.
To honor Holocaust survivors, the museum also keeps a record of these brave men and women. It also fosters community among these survivors’ descendants and other loved ones.
Admission is free for members, children 18 and under, and college students, $16 for AARP members, active military personnel, and seniors 65+, and $22 for adults. The museum is open Tuesday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. The nearest light rail station is Museum District.
- Address: 5401 Caroline St., Houston, TX 77004
6. Houston Center For Photography
The Houston Center For Photography (HCP) has been open since 1981 as a free gallery meant to show off the work of local photographers.
The museum aims to foster a greater appreciation for the craft by exposing the public to the photographic art medium. It also encourages aspiring photographers and creates conversations about the world and society.
The gallery is constantly changing to spotlight new pieces. Thus, each visit is virtually guaranteed to offer a different experience. In addition to its galleries, the HCP also hosts lectures, workshops, and classes for artists, art students, and photographers.
Some of the most popular past exhibits to be showcased at the HCP are “Watermelon Sandcastle” by Stephanie Woods and “Picture This!” The museum additionally hosts scholarship programs and contests to help kickstart careers in the arts.
Admission is free for all visitors. The center is open Wednesday and Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. The nearest bus stop is Westheimer Road at California Street.
- Address: 1441 W. Alabama St., Houston, TX 77006
7. Houston Museum of Natural Science
The Houston Museum of Natural Science houses over 1.5 million artifacts that range from gemstones to prehistoric skeletons to educate visitors about science. Since its opening in 1909, the facility has expanded to 13 permanent exhibits with sizable spaces available for temporary displays throughout the year.
Some of the most famous are the “Morian Hall of Paleontology” and the “Welch Chemistry Hall.” In addition to its gallery displays, the museum hosts special educational events for people of all ages, particularly children.
The museum has expanded its facility structures to include a planetarium, butterfly center, observatory, and state-of-the-art screen theater for educational films. The latter is even equipped with 3D technology. It also accepts field trip applications, as well as other private events. Volunteers are also welcome to help out with its programs geared at children.
Admission is free for children under 3, $10 for military personnel, $16 for children 3 to 11, college students and seniors 62+, and $25 for visitors 12+. The museum is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The nearest bus stop is Main Street and Remington Lane, and the nearest light rail stop is Museum District.
- Address: 5555 Hermann Park Drive, Houston, TX 77030
8. Houston Toy Museum
Opened in 2022, the Houston Toy Museum is one of the newest museums in Houston. A couple created the facility to showcase their collection of toys from throughout the years. Since opening its doors, the museum has also acquired new pieces to create a comprehensive history of how toys have developed.
The museum showcases a collection of toys, including Barbie dolls, board games, and Matchbox cars dating back to the 1960s. Additionally, temporary exhibits explore specific time periods.
In addition to the toys constantly on display, the museum hosts temporary exhibits that delve into more specific periods and types of toys. These exhibitions have covered topics from toys of the Wild West to toys that have caused so much of a stir that they were even banned.
Admission is free for children under 3, $14 for children 3 to 12 and seniors, and $18 for adults. The museum is open Tuesday and Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Thursday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The nearest bus stop is West 20th Street at Yale Street.
- Address: 321 W. 19th St., Suite C, Houston, TX 77008
“Our exhibits showcase a timeline of popular toys throughout the decades and explore how world events and technological advancements impacted toy production and the future of toys. We love that someone from any age or background can spot something from their own childhood and say, ‘I remember that!'”Sara Broussard, Director, Houston Toy Museum
9. Lone Star Flight Museum
Initially a private collection that began in 1985, the Lone Star Flight Museum has since grown to display over 20 different historical aircraft to showcase the evolution of flight.
To accommodate all of the planes, plus any additional crafts that may be acquired in the future, the museum is located on 100,000 square feet of land. This space even includes an airport ramp and protective hangars.
The museum’s notable planes include a Douglas DC-3 2213, a Boeing N2S-5 Kaydet 38490, and a Vought F4U-5N Corsair 121881. The museum hosts various events throughout the year, including parties, airshows, and more.
The Lone Star Flight Museum houses a flight simulator, so visitors can see what it’s like to be in a real cockpit. It also offers flights on the museum’s Warbird aircraft on designated days that can be checked on the facility’s calendar.
Admission is free for children under 4, $12 for children 4 to 11, $15 for children 12 to 17 and seniors 65+, and $18 for adults. The museum is open Tuesday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. The nearest bus stop is Bay Area Park & Ride; however, taking a car or cab is preferable.
- Address: 11551 Aerospace Ave., Houston, TX 77034
10. The Menil Collection
The Menil Collection Museum started as the private collection of its namesake, John and Dominique de Menil.
The collection has expanded over time and now boasts more than 19,000 pieces of art. Most of these works were created by 20th-century artists such as Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, and Jackson Pollock. However, a significant number of antiques are housed within the structure.
The museum showcases a variety of mediums, including sculptures, photos, drawings, and advertisements on display and in the archives.
Some of the pieces housed in the Menil are “Study (Tronie) of a Man with a Collar Plate” in the style of Rembrandt, “The Magic Mirror” by Pollock, and “Seated Woman with a Hat” by Picasso. Additionally, the museum hosts temporary exhibits and pieces from the archives and collections on loan from other facilities.
Admission is free for all visitors. The museum is open from Wednesday to Sunday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. The nearest bus stop is Westheimer Road and Mandell Street.
- Address: 1533 Sul Ross St., Houston, TX 77006
Rothko Chapel is just 1 block from the Menil Collection and features 14 black Mark Rothko paintings explicitly created for the space. The chapel is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., including holidays, and admission is free.
11. The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH) is one of the city’s most important art centers. With a permanent collection that houses over 70,000 works worldwide, the facility pieces together a timeline of over 6,000 years of art history.
The museum’s collection is impressive, and its gallery’s building is also. With over 300,000 square feet of exhibit space available, it’s one of the largest in the world by size. The works of art displayed in the facility range from traditional paintings to antiquities to create a comprehensive picture of the evolution of art.
Some of the most notable pieces in the museum are “Nature Morte au Bouquet” by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, “The Goose Girl at Montfoucault” by Camille Pissarro, and “Saint Clare Rescuing a Child Mauled by a Wolf” by Giovanni di Paolo. The museum also hosts temporary galleries and cultural events throughout the year.
Admission is free for members and children under 13, $20 for youth aged 13 to 18 and seniors 65+, and $24 for adults. Fees are waived for the permanent collection on Thursdays. The museum is open Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from 12:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. The nearest bus stop is Montrose Boulevard and Bissonnet Street, and the nearest light rail stop is Museum District.
- Address: 1001 Bissonnet St., Houston, TX 77005
12. The Printing Museum
The Printing Museum in Houston opened in 1982, but it was officially founded in 1979 as a passion project of 4 printers who wanted to showcase how the industry changed throughout history. The museum uses a mixture of artifacts and print art to create a comprehensive educational experience about printings.
Some of the collection’s historical highlights include cylinder seals from Mesopotamia, bits of papyrus from the 4th century BCE, and illuminated manuscripts from the 1200s. The museum even has the first-ever printer from Texas’ early settlements.
Additionally, modern advancements in printing technology are also represented. A Xerox 914 and an original Macintosh 512K from Apple are housed and on view for the public. Temporary exhibits are also hosted, which take a closer look at periods of printing history and the art forms that depend on printers, like photography.
Admission is free for members and children under 6, $6 for children under 18, $9 for seniors 60+, and $12 for adults. All admissions are free on Thursdays. The museum is open Thursday from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The nearest bus stop is Elgin Street and San Jacinto Street.
- Address: 3121 San Jacinto St., Houston, TX 77004
13. Space Center Houston
The Space Center Houston is part of the Houston NASA Johnson Space Center. First opened to the public in 1992, it displays over 400 artifacts from NASA’s history, from Apollo 17 space capsules to the Saturn V spacecraft.
Museum visitors can explore Independence Plaza, where they can get up close to and even walk around inside space shuttle replicas. There are 10 other exhibitions to check out, ranging from tram tours to a presentation center that provides updates on NASA’s current missions. Not only does the museum showcase NASA’s past, but it also presents projections for the administration’s future.
Additionally, the center offers several events throughout the year for people of all ages. In particular, it aims to get children interested in STEM subjects through day camps, field trips, and “lock-ins” inside the museum. The facility also hosts corporate team-building retreats.
Admission is free for children under 4, $29.95 for kids 4 to 11, $32.95 for seniors 65+, and $34.95 for visitors 12+. A $5 discount is available if tickets are purchased online. The museum is open Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
- Address: 1601 E. NASA Parkway, Houston, TX 77058
We’ve indicated with each museum whether or not children, students, or seniors receive free or reduced admission. Several other programs offer similar concessions.
The Museums for All program offers free or reduced admission to museums through the U.S. for those receiving food assistance (SNAP benefits). Participating attractions include Children’s Museum Houston, the Houston Toy Museum, The Printing Museum, and more.
Bank of America’s Museums on Us program offers cardholders free general admission on the first full weekend of every month to the following Houston museums: the Children’s Museum of Houston, Houston Museum of Natural Science, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.
Capital One cardholders can enroll in a complimentary 6-month membership with The Cultivist (through June 22, 2024) and receive access for themselves and a guest to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.
Participation is subject to change; please verify participating museums and entry conditions before your visit.
No trip to Houston would be complete without visiting at least a few of the city’s museums. From the educational exhibits of The Health Museum to the artwork displayed at the Contemporary Art Museum, there’s something for everyone in Space City. We hope this list has helped you determine which of Houston’s museums you should add to your must-visit list.
Featured Image Credit: Adrian N via Unsplash
Frequently Asked Questions
What day is free at Houston Museums?
Not every museum in Houston offers free visitation days. However, those who do waive their usual ticket fees typically do so on Thursdays. This is often only applied to afternoon entries, so morning tickets still require payment. Some other exhibits are always free.
What is Houston, Texas, most known for?
Houston is known for a lot of things. It’s the largest city in Texas, so it’s a hub for industry and culture. It’s also at the heart of Texas’ cowboy culture.
Is Houston Museum District walkable?
The Museum District neighborhood in Houston is quite easy to get around. You can walk, take a bike, or use public transportation, depending on your mobility. Remember, though, that you’ll likely need to take public transportation or a car to get here first.
What is the most visited museum in Houston, Texas?
The Houston Museum of Natural Science is the most popular museum in the city, mainly because it appeals to a wide range of visitors, from children to adults. Children’s Museum of Houston is also extremely popular among local and visiting families.
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