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Where to take out-of-towners in Houston: Best bets in the Bayou City

Where to take out-of-towners in Houston: Best bets in the Bayou City

Lightscape Houston Botanic Garden
Lightscape at Houston Botanic Garden. Photo courtesy of Houston Botanic Garden
Post Houston opening day
Skylawn on the roof of Post Houston. Photo by J. Thomas Ford
Discovery Green Gateway Fountain
The fountains at Discovery Green. Photo by Katya Horner
Art Car Museum
The Art Car Museum. Photo courtesy of The Art Car Museum
1012 main st KKK Fort Worth
Furry friends at the Houston Zoo. fortwortharchitecture.com
Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern
The Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern. Photo by Katya Horner
Bayou Bend Collection Jazz Juleps
Bayou Bend. Photo courtesy of MFAH/Bayou Bend
Lightscape Houston Botanic Garden
Post Houston opening day
Discovery Green Gateway Fountain
Art Car Museum
1012 main st KKK Fort Worth
Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern
Bayou Bend Collection Jazz Juleps

When out-of-town guests arrive, it’s a perfect time to show off the Bayou City. Yet, with so much to do and see here in the Greater H-Town area, where to start?

With that in mind, we’ve rounded up an expansive list to some of Houston’s best cultural and entertainment offerings, from museums to parks, and so much more. These landmarks are sure to turn your guests into Newstonians. 

In addition to these hot spots, check out our picks for holiday lights, holiday plays and theater, and art events.

Attractions

Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern 
One of the city’s premier attractions, the Cistern gives visitors a glimpse of Houston’s former drinking water reservoir. Built in 1926 and decommissioned in 2007, it’s now an architectural space with art installations and a magnificent example of Houston’s past. Private tours are available to book, and public tours take place daily.

Discovery Green 
One of Houston’s downtown gems, this 12-acre park is a great place to stroll and take in the public art installations, check out a concert, kayak on Kinder Lake or visit one of the park’s restaurants. There’s a dog run, a playground, a putting green and ample space to picnic and relax.

Houston Arboretum and Nature Center 
Tucked next to Memorial Park, the Houston Arboretum and Nature Center is home to plants and animals. Visitors will find wildflowers, shrubs, butterflies and other insects along the winding trails. Take a self-guided hike and marvel at the natural beauty that exists right within our busy city.

Houston Botanic Garden 
Engage the senses at this beautiful natural space featuring plants from around the globe. Walk the winding path through the garden, encountering everything from wetland habitats to a fragrant pine grove to prairie environments. The garden beckons visitors with a lane lined with live oaks, helping to heighten the transition from Houston’s hustle and bustle to the lush quiet of this spot.

Houston Zoo 
More than 6,000 species call these 55 acres in Hermann Park home, and it’s a terrific place to explore and learn about wildlife and wildlife conservation. The daily Keeper Talks schedule is updated each morning and allow guests an up-close look at giraffe feeding, the sea lions and giant river otters, among other Zoo residents. Those who want a more VIP experience can opt for an Animal Encounter, getting some face time with orangutans, gorillas, Galapagos tortoise, sloths and more. 

Space Center Houston 
It's easy to spend a full day at this space exploration and learning center. From kid-friendly, hands-on exhibits to the NASA tram tour, there are more than 400 things to see and do. Dedicated to chronicling the U.S.’s space exploration journey, visitors will find everything from moon rocks to space suits to the control room that helped put man on the moon. There are several permanent exhibits, including rockets and a space shuttle replica, and rotating ones.

Family Friendly Ideas

Children’s Museum Houston 
This “playground for your mind” is a great place to engage young people, from tots to tweens. Hands-on exhibits allow kids to see how things work, create their own inventions and let their imaginations run wild. Whether kids are into math or art or anything in between, they’ll find something that’s sure to spark their interest.

Kemah Boardwalk 
Head south to this family entertainment complex that features rides, shopping and dining. Cruise out into Galveston Bay aboard the Boardwalk Beast, or ride the Boardwalk Bullet rollercoaster. Feed the stingrays and check out the arcade games. It’s easy to spend a day here – and still want to come back for more!

Main Street Theater’s Theater for Youth 
With its lineup of shows designed specifically for young people, Main Street Theater’s Theater for Youth programming is perfect for kids and parents alike. Several stories are based on popular children’s books, and the fully staged productions are among the country’s finest.

Moody Gardens
Spend a day. Spend the weekend. But certainly make time for this Galveston favorite that has plenty for the whole family. There’s an aquarium, a rainforest, a museum, 3D and 4D theaters, not to mention season offerings throughout the year. Stay-and-play packages are offered by the adjacent hotel.

Old Macdonald’s Farm 
With a petting zoo, pony and train rides, a swimming pool, and playgrounds, this spot in Humble offers lots for kids to do and see. Guests are welcome to pack a picnic or snacks, and will also find a concession stand. In the fall, the farm offers a pumpkin patch from mid-September to the beginning of November, while a Winter Wonderland highlights November through the second week of January.

Museums

Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens 
Located in the former mansion of Miss Ima Hogg, this collection of furnishings and decorative arts provides a glimpse into Houston’s past. The gardens are meticulously maintained and guests can stroll its 14 acres. Across the year, the museum offers special events including concerts and talks.

Holocaust Museum Houston
Recently renovated, this museum's exhibitions showcase the dangers of prejudice and hatred in society. Among the collection is a 1940s Danish fishing boat, similar to the ones that carried Jews to safety during World War II, and a 1942 German railcar. The museum's sobering message carries with it tremendous hope for a better world. 

Houston Museum of Natural Science 
Located in Hermann Park and popular with all ages, this museum showcases everything from dinosaurs to artifacts from Egypt. The Cockrell Butterfly Center allows guests to stroll through the living environment, and the planetarium offers astronomical selections and movies. There’s also an IMAX theater, with an ever-changing selection of shows.

Lone Star Flight Museum
Celebrate the Texas’ proud history with the great blue yonder in a pristine, $38 million, state-of the-art facility at Houston’s Ellington Airport. The museum houses dozens of historic, can’t miss aircraft; vessels here at the 130,000-square-foot destination range from a 1940 Anderson Greenwood AG-14 to a Predator craft which is remotely flown. Meanwhile, enthusiasts can check out the Texas Aviation Hall of Fame and myriad, dynamic exhibits. Kids of all ages will love the flight simulators. For an added gift, book a flight in one of the historic planes, a treat for pilots, fans, and anyone who loves to take to the skies. 

The Menil Collection 
Always free, this incredible collection of artwork from around the globe is popular with Houstonians and out-of-towners alike. Nearly 10,000 artworks were gathered by founders John and Dominique de Menil, and its size has nearly doubled since 1997, now boasting 17,000 pieces. Guests can view sculptures and paintings, drawings and other art, with an emphasis on the contemporary.

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston 
Home to one of the largest collections of art in the country, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston has paintings, sculpture, photography, and objects d’art from around the globe and across history. Its Museum District complex houses both permanent and changing exhibits, ensuring each visit to the museum is unique. The MFAH Shop is the perfect place to find unique and eclectic gifts, while Le Jardinier, the museum’s signature restaurant, is a great spot for dinner after a day of exhibit viewing.

Rienzi 
This collection of European decorative arts is housed in the former home of philanthropists Carroll Sterling Masterson and Harris Masterson III, and was designed by prominent Houston architect John Staub. Look for paintings, furnishings, porcelain, and miniatures throughout this exquisite space. The intimate experience requires that tickets be purchased in advance, and it’s a must-see for art lovers.

Uniquely Houston

Art Car Museum
One of Houston's most-loved events is the annual Art Car Parade. This museum houses several of the cars that have rolled down the parade route. It's engaging as it is entertaining, it will give visitors a new way to think about what's considered art, and how creativity can run wild.

The Houston Farmers Market
Located in the east side of The Heights, this is Houston’s oldest and only daily market. More than 40 local vendors currently offer produce, spices, herbs, chilies, exotic fruits and vegetables, coffee, tea, seeds, and plants. Take your guests shopping in a market oasis nestled in a urban setting.

National Funeral Museum
Unfurling across more than 30,000 square feet, this museum touts itself as the largest educational center for funerary customs in the country. On display are antique hearses, exhibits on embalming and presidential funerals, an epic Day of the Dead display, and caskets from around the world.

The Orange Show Monument
This East End attraction is an epic maze of folk art. Constructed of concrete, brick, steel and found objects including gears, tiles, wagon wheels, mannequins, tractor seats and statuettes, it's the sort of place that has to be experienced more than explained. All of it was constructed by a former postal worker, Jefferson Davis McKissack, who built it between 1956 and 1979. Tours are given every 30 minutes. 

POST Houston
Boasting 16-acres and 550,000 square feet, this new downtown facility serves up a diverse selection of offerings in the sprawling, first-floor food hall. A focal point (and Instagram favorite) are three bottom-to-top stairwells that unite the design. The roof opens to stunning and scenic views of the downtown skyline, with lush greens offering spots to lounge, the arts atrium, fountains, a covered pavilion, and the verdant, 210,000-square-foot rooftop park and urban farm.

Project Row Houses
The shotgun houses and structure that make up PRH are designed to foster community engagement and a deeper understanding of the arts. An ever-changing series of installations and exhibits makes each visit unique and offers plenty of reason to return. 

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