The Texas Medical Center’s Health Museum is one of 19 museums in the Houston Museum District. (Photo: Getty Images)
You know the stereotype: 10-gallon cowboy hats and oil spewing from the ground. Well, the people of Houston want you to know the real Houston, where you’re more likely to unearth a place where global cultures intersect. On the hunt for genre-bending art with a side of world-class cuisine? Head to Houston’s walkable Museum District to explore its 19 galleries and exhibitions. Try these four museums to start.
Achieve Menilionaire Status
The Menil philosophy is all about letting art come to you and not allowing intrusive media to guide your perception. The main gallery is home to a permanent collection of contemporary works from international such all-stars as Basquiat and Magritte. Pieces from the Byzantine and Medieval eras and the arts of Africa pack historical punch.
Insider tip: The Menil is open Wednesday – Sunday; admission is always free. Waiting in line at Breakfast Klub for chicken and waffles is a Houston rite of passage. The Menil opens at 11 a.m., so if you’re at the classic soul-food joint by 9 a.m., you’re on track.
Here’s to Your Health
In the heart of Houston, 21 hospitals and numerous research and education facilities are devoted to putting the kibosh on everything from cancer to the common cold. The Texas Medical Center is the largest complex of its kind in the world, so it stands to reason that their Health Museum is more than just a “Magic School Bus” ride through cartoon anatomy. Exhibits take you into a mock cellular research lab, and brain-teaser stations test cognitive prowess.
Insider tip: Admission is free Thursdays, 2-7 p.m. Nothing caps off learning about cardiovascular health like an oyster BLT. Or maybe it’s more of a watermelon arugula salad kind of day. Either way, Lucille’s has you covered.
There Was a Buffalo Soldier…
Houston’s Buffalo Soldier National Museum not only celebrates the culture and resolve of African Americans, it portrays the esprit de corps of the legendary 10th regiment of the U.S. Army. There are fascinating artifacts throughout, including an exhibit on African-American astronauts: This is Space City, after all.
Free Thursday admission, 1-5 p.m. Fresh, hand-held Tex-Mex is the way to go on a Museum District walkabout. Picadillo tacos from aptly named Tacos A Go Go score, and their jalapeño margarita kicks you into high gear.
Find the Far East in the Lone Star State
Houston is the most ethnically diverse city in the nation. The Asia Society Texas Center recognizes the challenge in trying to bring you the story of dozens of individual Asian cultures, but their tranquil sculpture garden and music programs provide both classical and contemporary insight.
Insider tip: Free admission is always a plus. Circle back and eat at places you drive by without noticing at first. Kam’s dishes out genuine Chinese, but the off-menu and unabashedly Americanized egg-foo-young is Clutch City comfort.