3 Ways to Explore
Houston Highlights

Many Houstonians relate to Continental Airlines’ slogan “work hard, play hard.” The New York Times said of the city, "Maybe that's what makes Houston such an unusual and wonderful place – there are so many different Houstons to see.” And as you explore and get to know your neighborhood and beyond, the variety and depth of activities will keep you and the family busy all year long. Outdoor recreation also abounds, thanks to our year-long temperate weather. Whether your interest is in sports, the arts, shopping or gardening, the region has a lot to offer.

For many in the region, it’s all about sports. In this category, Houston excels and has a team for every major sport. After all, this is home to the Astrodome, the eighth wonder of the world!

Sports City USA
A look at the sports lineup in Houston since 2004 can tell you a lot about a city and its love of sports. Host to Super Bowl XXXVIII in 2004, site of a Major League Baseball All Star Game and Tennis Masters Cup, site of the 2006 NBA All-Star Game and debut of the city’s first Major League Soccer team in 2006, the city is a sports-enthusiast’s dream. There are also three new stadiums that have been built in the last four years – that’s love of the games and shows the support of its fans.

—Professional Sports
Major League Baseball
The Houston Astros led their city to National League Wild Card victories in 2004 and 2005 and continued on to the World Series after becoming 2005 National League Champions. Hometown heroes Lance Berkman and Roy Oswalt, along with a stellar lineup of ballplayers, fill the stands at Minute Maid Park.

Minute Maid Park, completed in 2000, is the Houston Astros’s downtown home. Minute Maid Park's retractable roof technology brought open-air baseball to Houston for the first time in 35 years, and the natural grass surface and classic architecture provided Minute Maid Park the atmosphere of the great ballparks of baseball's Golden age. (astros.com)

Major League Football
The Houston Texans have been Houston's professional football team since 2002. Later that year, the team surprised many football fans when they became the first NFL team in 41 years to win their expansion debut, stunning the Dallas Cowboys 19-10 before 69,604 fans at Reliant Stadium.

Reliant Stadium is the NFL's first indoor/outdoor retractable roof, natural grass stadium. With 200 suites and 71,500 seats, Reliant Stadium is considered one of the finest stadiums in the country. (houstontexans.com)

National Basketball Association
The Houston Rockets were winners of back-to-back NBA championships in 1994 and 1995, and they continue to be top competitors in the Western Conference of the NBA. Player Yao Ming is the NBA's tallest All-Star at 7-foot-6-inchs. In 2008, the team’s 22-game winning streak broke their franchise record of 15 games in a row and is the second-longest winning streak in NBA history. It ended at 22 games on March 18, 2008 against the Boston Celtics.

The team plays in downtown’s Toyota Center, a 750,000-square-foot arena that offers 18,300 seats for basketball, 17,800 for hockey and up to 19,000 for concerts. (houstonrockets.com)

Women’s National Basketball Association
The Houston Comets won the first-ever WNBA championship in 1977, repeating the feat for the next three years. To the disappointment of many Houstonians’, the franchise suspended operations in 2008 due to financial difficulties. WNBA President Donna Orender said, “At this point we will leave (the future of the franchise) to the market.” (www.wnba.com/comets)

American Hockey League
The Houston Aeros, a member of the American Hockey League, brought the International Hockey League's Turner Cup home to Houston in 1999 and claimed the AHL's Calder Cup in 2003. The Aeros are the primary AHL affiliate of the Minnesota Wild and the secondary affiliate of the Dallas Stars. (aeros.com)

Major League Soccer
The Houston Dynamo, a member of the American AEG and Major League Soccer, was formed when the AEG-operated San Jose Earthquakes MLS franchise relocated to Houston and played their first game on April 1, 2006. The team retained the 28-man roster of players from the Earthquakes and added additional players during the MLS SuperDraft held on January 20, 2006, in Philadelphia. The team is led by 2005 MLS Coach of the Year, Dominic Kinnear. Houston Dynamo won the MLS Cup in 2006 and 2007. (houstondynamo.com)

Independent Women’s Football League (IWFL)
The Houston Energy professional women's football team was formed in 2000 and is one of the longest operating and most successful teams in women’s football. It recently was awarded full membership license to the IWFL after completing nine successful seasons and earning three championship titles in their former league. (HoustonEnergyfootball.com)

—  College Sports

  • Houston Baptist University Huskies – Houston Baptist University has rejoined the National Collegiate Athletic Association as a Division I member. The Huskies will be in their first year of provisional membership with the NCAA in the 2007-08 academic year. (http://hbuhuskies.athleticsite.com/)
  • Rice University Owls – The Rice men’s and women’s teams won 2004 Western Athletic Conference Track & Field Championships, while the Rice baseball team won the 2003 College World Series in collegiate baseball. (http://riceowls.cstv.com/)
  • Texas Southern University Tigers – The Tigers of Texas Southern claimed their first Southwestern Athletic Conference Baseball Title in 2004 (www.tsu.edu/athletics).
  • University of Houston Cougars – With one of the top diving programs in the nation, UH is home to Russian Olympic Diving Coach Jane Figueiredo and three 2004 Olympians. In 2008, Cougars Anastasia Pozdniakova and Yulia Pakhalina represented UH at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. (http://uhcougars.cstv.com/)

—  Adult And Youth Leagues
The Houston Parks and Recreation Department’s Adult Sports division has developed an array of recreational and competitive athletic opportunities that let grown-ups play like kids-at-heart. Each year, the office organizes more than 1,400 adult teams. Men’s, women’s and coed leagues are played during the winter, spring, summer and fall seasons, Monday through Friday, for a five-week doubleheader or 10-week single games at locations throughout the city. Additionally, sports and fitness programs are offered for mature adults, such as water fitness, golf, tennis and circuit training. (http://www.houstontx.gov/parks/adultsports.html)

Basketball leagues are offered twice a year during the spring and winter seasons. Divisions offered are men’s open, men’s industrial, women’s open, and men 35 and over. Games are held on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday evenings for a 10-week season.

Flag Football
Flag football leagues are offered during the winter, spring, and fall seasons and teams play a five-week double-header schedule. Divisions offered are men’s major, and men’s B, women's open and co-ed open with league games being held on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings.

Registration is underway for winter adult kickball leagues.

Slow pitch and fast pitch softball leagues are offered during the spring, summer, fall and winter seasons. Divisions offered are men’s, women’s and coed leagues. Games are held on Monday through Friday, from 6:30 p.m.-10:30 p.m., for a five-week doubleheader or 10-week single games.

Adult coed volleyball leagues are offered during the winter, summer and fall season. Leagues are held on Tuesday and Thursday evenings for an eight-week or five-week double-header season.

Water Fitness
Classes are offered for adults and seniors at various aquatic centers throughout Houston. Types of classes offered vary by aquatic center sites. It’s recommended to bring a bottle of water and aqua shoes to the class.

Here are additional adult sports resources:
  1. The IDEA Health & Fitness Association is the world's leading membership organization of health and fitness professionals, with more than 22,000 members in over 80 countries. IDEA's membership includes personal trainers, program and fitness directors, business owners and managers, and group fitness instructors. (http://w2.ideafit.com)
  2. The International Fitness Professionals Association is a professional organization offering certification and continuing education courses for Fitness, Health, Nutrition, Sports Conditioning and Medical Professionals. The IFPA has over 60 certifications and over 100 continuing education courses for Fitness, Health, Nutrition, Sports Conditioning and Medical Professionals. (ifpa-fitness.com)
  3. Known as NESTA, an Association for Personal Trainers, Sports Conditioning, Yoga, Pilates, Integrative Fitness, and Life Coaching Professionals. (nestacertified.com)
  4. The Aquatic Exercise Association (AEA) is a not-for-profit educational organization committed to the advancement of aquatic fitness worldwide. AEA offers certifications and numerous continuing education programs throughout the world. Certifications are currently offered in 8 languages and have been presented in 30 countries. (aeawave.com)
  5. The National Recreation and Park Association is a professional association with the mission to advance parks, recreation and environmental conservation efforts that enhance the quality of life for all people. All across the country, people are waking up to the amazing potential of parks and healthy lifestyles. Explore the many ways in which parks and recreation is making our communities happier, healthier and more livable. (nrpa.org)
  6. The Texas Amateur Athletics Federation is a nonprofit organization established in 1925 to promote and organize amateur athletics in the state of Texas. This site also provides information about TAAF state tournaments. (www.taaf.com/site)

  • www.thesportslineup.com provides current updates on league standings and scores for all sports leagues offered by the Adult Sports Office.
  • www.houstonasa.org is the Houston Chapter of the Amateur Softball Association, the national governing body of softball, provides current rules and regulations for youth and adult softball.

Plenty of Fun Outdoors
With an ideal location and moderate temperatures, the region has a lot to offer the whole family in the way of outdoor activities, including boating, fishing, golfing, tennis, jogging, walking and skating.

— City Parks
Houston is green! According to the Trust for Public Lands, Houston rates first among the nation’s 10 most populous cities in total acreage of parkland and second behind only San Diego in park acreage per capital. Houston has 56,405 acres of total park space, with 27.2 acres per 1,000 residents. The national average is 18.8 acres per 1,000 residents.

As part of the Parks and Recreation Department, Houston has 350 developed parks and more than 200 open spaces that are maintained. Bird migrations pass through Houston in the spring and fall, to the delight of avid birdwatchers. One of nature’s more unusual spectacles is visible from the Waugh Bridge Bat Observation Deck at Buffalo Bayou/Eleanor Tinsley Park. Every night at dusk, thousands of Mexican free-tailed bats take off from their home beneath the bridge to hunt for mosquitoes. Many residents come out at the corner of Waugh Drive and Allen Parkway to watch this daily occurrence.

Explore what the city has to offer. Here are some interesting green spaces to check out.
  • Baldwin Park
  • Discovery Green
  • Cullen Park
  • E.R. and Ann Taylor Park
  • Fonde Park
  • Founders Memorial Cemetery
  • Gragg Park
  • Hermann Park
  • Lake Houston Park
  • Little Thicket Park
  • Mac Gregor Park
  • Market Square
  • Mason Park S.
  • Mason Park Wetlands
  • Memorial Park 6501
  • Sam Houston Park
  • Waugh Bridge Bat Colony
  • Willow Waterhole Greenway

— Boating
Houston residents are less than 50 miles away from Galveston Bay and there are several freshwater lakes throughout the area. Many in the area also enjoy boating, skiing and other water-related activities for many to enjoy. Clear Lake is recognized by the state as the “Boating Capital of Texas” with more than 7,000 slips and 19 marinas offering access to Clear Lake and the Gulf of Mexico.

In addition to power boats and sailboats, Jet Skis, wind surfers, canoes and water ski and parasailing equipment are available. The Houston Yacht Club on upper Galveston Bay sponsors youth and adult sailing programs and has fostered Olympic-level sailors.

To ensure you’re following boating rules and laws governing boating, visit the website at boat-ed.com/tx/handbook/pdf_index.htm to download a PDF version of the “Handbook of Texas State Boating Laws and Responsibilities.” Your boat must also be registered in the state of Texas. More on this information can be found online at www.boat-ed.com/tx/handbook/register.htm. More information about the Texas Park and Wildlife Department can be found online at www.tpwd.state.tx.us.

— Fishing
Along with boating, fishing is enjoyed by many in the area. There is saltwater fishing along the Gulf Coast for redfish, speckled trout and flounder, as well as inland lakes that provide some of the best bass fishing in the South. No wonder that the Houston/Galveston area is considered a fisherman’s paradise.

Resident “all-water” fishing licenses can be purchased at most bait, tackle or sporting goods stores for $38. All licenses expire Aug. 31 of each year, no matter when the license was purchased. A lifetime fishing license can be purchased for $600. Call the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department at 281-931-6471 for a copy of laws pertaining to size and catch limit.

— Golf
Many in the Houston can take advantage of golfing all year round and the availability of courses is never a problem, in fact there are more than 135 golf courses with 18 or more holes. In addition to private, championship courses that are part of private clubs, there are also public courses. The Professional Golfers Association (PGA) recognizes the quality of Houston golf courses by scheduling the Shell Houston Open at Redstone Golf Club, 15 miles north of downtown Houston. Champions Golf Course also has served as host to the PGA THE TOUR Championship.

— Gymnastics
It’s thanks to Bela and Marta Karoyli’s arrival to Houston in the 80s that has made the city a world-class center for gymnastic training. The Karoylis have trained numerous Olympic contenders at their suburban Houston-based training facility, including Olympic gold medalist Mary Lou Retton.

At the 2008 Olympics, Raj Bhavsar and Jonathan Horton of Houston were part of the U.S. men’s gymnastic team that won a bronze medal in Beijing. Noted gymnastic centers in Houston include Brown’s Gymnastics in west Houston and Cypress Academy of Gymnastics. More listings can be found by searching the Web.

— Hike and Bike Trails
Houston offers more than 100 miles of trails within its 18,000 acres of green space. Memorial Park is home to one of Houston's most popular trails, the Seymour Lieberman Exer-Trail, which includes a 2.9-mile jogging trail and six miles of mountain and recreational bike trails. Also within Memorial Park are the Memorial Park Golf Course, rated among the top municipal golf courses in the nation, and the Houston Arboretum and Nature Center.

Hermann Park consists of a variety of Houston's best-loved gems, including the Houston Zoo, Houston Museum of Natural Science and Miller Outdoor Theatre. Joggers frequent the two-mile jogging trail, and bicyclists enjoy one of the longest bike trails in the city.

For the more adventurous sports enthusiast, take a canoe trip along Buffalo Bayou. Tours are offered seasonally and are guided by National Parks outfitter Don Green, an award-winning outfitter with more than 28 years of experience working in Houston to preserve Buffalo Bayou.

— Hunting
Thanks to the region’s coastal location, hunters will find one of the best areas in the world for duck and goose hunting. Pintails, widgeon, gadwall, redheads and bluebills all inhabit the local waters. The waters around Port O’Connor and Seadrift serve as the wintering ground for thousands of birds. Texas also is a hunter’s paradise where you’ll find deer, quail, turkey and rabbit hunting is plentiful.

You can buy hunting licenses and stamp endorsements at approximately 1,700 locations throughout the state, including sporting goods stores, gun shops, department stores, discount stores, bait and tackle shops and grocery stores. Licenses may be purchased by phone or through the Internet by visiting the office of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department online at www.tpwd.state.tx.us.

— Ice Skating/Ice Hockey
Tara Kristen Lipinski made Houston proud at the 1998 Winter Olympics when she won the Olympic god medal in figure skating. Up-and-coming champions as well as amateurs can select from a wide range of local facilities, including the Polar Ice Galleria, located in the famed Galleria shopping center. Other facilities in the region include Sugar Land Ice & Sports Center and the Aerodrome Ice Skating Complex, both offering ice skating, hockey and figure skating classes. The city is also home to professional ice hockey team in the American Hockey League, the Houston Aeros, that play at the Toyota Center.

— Live Racing
For live racing fans, Houston has it covered. Gulf Greyhound Park is the world’s largest and No. 1 greyhound racing complex that offers fast-paced action and is located just South of Houston in La Marque. The air conditioned complex features three levels, each offering a variety of dining and view options.

Sam Houston Race Park is Houston’s premier racing, dining and entertainment destination where fans can enjoy the thrill of live horse facing and exciting simulcasting action from around the world. Plan to spend a night under the stars at The Showgrounds, featuring live entertainment from national bands.

— Polo
For more than 80 years, the Houston Polo Club provides players a full-service facility to enjoy the sport and equestrian activities. Polo tournaments and leagues are played throughout the spring and fall seasons, where you’ll find the playing field lined with spectators numbering in the hundreds for a friendly club match, or several thousand during its International Polo season. Many members enjoy the parties and people watching as well as the game.

— Racquetball
There are numerous clubs to play racquetball throughout the Houston region, with the largest facility located at the downtown YMCA. There you’ll find 17 courts available for play, of which 10 courts have glass sidewalls. Check other YMCA locations at www.ymcahouston.org. Additional facilities include The Houstonian Club, the Metropolitan Club, Northwest Fitness Center and Alvin Community Center.There are numerous clubs to play racquetball throughout the Houston region, with the largest facility located at the downtown YMCA. There you’ll find 17 courts available for play, of which 10 courts have glass sidewalls. Check other YMCA locations at www.ymcahouston.org. Additional facilities include The Houstonian Club, the Metropolitan Club, Northwest Fitness Center and Alvin Community Center.

— Soccer
Representing an eight-county area, the South Texas Youth Soccer Association (www.stxsoccer.og) is a member of the US Youth Soccer organization whose mission is to foster the physical, mental and emotional growth and development of America’s youth through the sport of soccer at all levels of age and competition.

The Houston Youth Soccer Association (www.hysa.us) is one of the governing organizations for Youth Recreational and Competitive Soccer in Houston and supports a range of programs for young people in the region. It’s part of a hierarchy of organizations that govern recreational and competitive youth soccer in the United States, providing a reasonably uniform set of rules and levels of play for players.

— Swimming
Thanks to the mild South Texas temperatures practically year round, swimming is among one of the favorite family recreational activities. It wasn’t more than nine years ago that Laura Wilkinson of the The Woodlands, Texas, emerged to make regional history several times – 2000 Olympic in Sydney, Australia; 2004 World Cup; and 2005 World Championship.

Check your neighborhood or subdivision to learn about the closest swimming pool near you. In Houston, The Houston Parks and Recreation Department operates and maintains 39 outdoor swimming pools and 13 water playgrounds. To learn more, call 713-670-5501. In addition, the department operates a heated indoor natatorium for citizens with disabilities located at the Metropolitan Multi-Service Center 1475 West Gray. At the YMCA of Greater Houston (www.ymcahouston.org), aquatic programs include swim lessons for all ages and all levels of skill and interest, water exercise, lifeguard certification and water safety. Visit the Web site to find a YMCA in your neighborhood.

— Tennis
Tennis is a favorite sport in the Houston Area and home to the Houston Tennis Association (HTA), which has served the Greater Houston area since 1952. Among its goals is to encourage and promote amateur tennis in the Greater Houston Metropolitan area for all members of and to encourage and promote good health and sportsmanship through the game of tennis. In partnership with the Houston Parks and Recreation Department, it supports the free year-round National Junior Tennis League, an introductory tennis program held at neighborhood recreation centers and parks reaching thousands of boys and girls.

Another local institution is the Westside Tennis Club, owned by Linda and Jim McIngvale, also known as Mattress Mack and founder of Gallery Furniture. As a result of the McIngvale’s involvement in the sport, the club has hosted numerous professional tennis events, including the Women’s Legends event, Men’s Nuveen Tour, US Davis Cup Semi Final, the ATP international event, The US Men’s Clay Court, the ATP Men’s event, The Mater’s Cup in 2003 and 2004, as well as hosting a World Team Tennis pair for two years. These events have brought top-name tennis players from across the world to the tennis club. Broadening its services, the club is now positioned as a premier family sports and fitness facility for people of all ages.

Landscaping And Gardening
Horticulturally, the Houston region is at the southern edge of plant-hardiness zone 9, where plants can withstand 20 to 30 degrees. Since the area is on the southern edge of zone 9, our winter lows generally do not dip below the freezing mark with any frequency.

While winters can be unpredictable, summer temperatures are usually quite warm, making them potentially more devastating than other seasons. Cool weather-loving plants cannot survive our prolonged summer heat, so don’t waste any money buying these plants.

Rainfall can vary considerably. Long-time residents know that rainfall can vary from year to year and even season to season. Although averages tell us little, in most years gardeners can anticipate about 36 inches of precipitation with the summer months having short dry spells. Supplemental watering, particularly during summer, is generally essential for the survival of most landscapes and gardens.

A few words about soils in the region – they can be shallow, poor and challenging. Often referred to as “gumbo,” the soil here usually needs amending for optimal plant growth. Improvements to the soil include organic matter such as compost, peat moss and shredded bark.

Fruit crops that can do well here include peaches, plums, pears, blackberries, figs, strawberries, persimmons, some varieties of apples and a wide variety of citrus.

As for lawns, don't try to grow a bluegrass or fescue lawn. Area lawns are usually planted in either St. Augustine or Bermuda grass, which does very well here. Zoysia and the hybrid bermudas are very beautiful, but demand extra care and are recommended only if you enjoy yard work and don't mind very frequent mowing.

For those who love to plant garden vegetables, this is a great region.Most vegetable crops do well here provided you prepare the soil carefully, plant in full sun and plant at the right time. The latter is especially important for spring crops. Both spring-planted and fall-planted gardens can be highly productive.

Information from Texas A&M
You can order free information from the Texas Agricultural Extension Service concerning all aspects of gardening and pest control in Texas. In Houston, call 281-855-5600.

The Arts in Houston
Support of the arts is important to residents of the region. Since the city’s early days, philanthropy has been part of the culture and that spirit is maintained today. Private as well as public support of the arts in the Houston community continues to solidify the city’s position as an international arts center. All of this is enhanced by the tremendous support of Houstonians and visitors to the many city and regional venues. The Houston Arts Alliance (HAA) reported 9.2 million visits per year for the area’s art and cultural exhibitions. This is more than twice the number of people who attended Houston’s three professional sports teams in 2005 and almost half the number of total annual visitors to the city.

Representing a perfect win-win situation, the nonprofit arts sector in Houston gives back to the community and is a significant industry. According to the most recent data from the Houston Arts Alliance, Houston’s nonprofit arts sector is a $623.3 million industry and one that supports 14,115 full-time jobs and generates $69.5 million in local and state government revenues. The total number of jobs created by the economic impact of Houston’s nonprofit arts sector, including professional artists, is 29,729.

Here are other positive effects of a vibrant Houston arts community:
  • Art event attendees spent an average of $33.49 per person in Houston, not including the cost of admission. This is $11 more than the national average.
  • Cultural tourists spent an average of $82.10 per person, for a total spending of $132 million a year in addition to the cost of their tickets.
  • Houston’s corporate leaders report that workforce recruitment and retention is advanced by the city’s strong cultural sector. The arts are seen as a cornerstone in making Houston an increasingly international and culturally diverse city and in generating restaurant and hotel business.
  • More than 34,000 individual volunteers, from board members to docents, contributed approximately 650,000 volunteer hours with a total of donated time equal to 11.2 million.
Source: Houston Arts Alliance, 2007 Annual Report 

Visual Arts
The heart of the art scene in Houston is its Museum District, which hoses 17 museums and a 50-acre zoological park. They’re all within walking distance of one another and accessible by METRORail to form one of the largest cultural districts in the country, with more than 500,000 square feet of exhibition space. It's also one of the most vital in the nation, drawing six million visitors annually. Here are the gems in the region’s collection to explore and discover.

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH) is the oldest museum in Texas as well as the most prominent. With the opening of the $83 million Audrey Jones Beck Building in March 2000, the MFAH is now the largest museum in the Southwest. Its dramatic expansion has made possible an increasing number of blockbusters, including major exhibitions featuring works from both the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

In terms of its permanent collection, the museum's photo holdings, thanks to a major 2002 acquisition, now exceed 20,000 images, propelling it to one of the top ten photographic departments in the world. In 2001, MFAH founded a Latin American department, one of a handful of U.S. museums to begin collecting in this field and produced the first large-scale exhibition devoted to the emergence and development of avant-garde Latin American art. In 2004, the museum acquired its first piece by Rembrandt van Rijn, Portrait of a Young Woman, one of two Rembrandt paintings in Texas. Also noteworthy: one of the most beguiling pieces of public art anywhere, James Turrell's ethereal light tunnel, The Light Inside, connects the Beck and Law Buildings.

Also part of MFAH is Bayou Bend, the former home of Houston philanthropist Ima Hogg. It houses Houston's early American decorative arts and painting collection and is considered one of the premier collections in the country. The the rare and beautiful objects date from approximately 1620 to 1876 and are installed throughout the 1920s mansion in 28 period room settings.

Another home, Rienzi, opened to the public in 1999. It is the center for European decorative arts at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Comprising a remarkable art collection, a house, and gardens, Rienzi was given to the museum by arts patrons Carroll Sterling Masterson and Harris Masterson III.

Contemporary Arts Museum Houston (CAMH), across from the MFAH, is housed in a gleaming metal structure. CAMH now celebrates more than 50 years of exhibiting cutting-edge contemporary art. Exhibitions of famous art world icons who've shown within its walls includehave included Robert Rauschenberg, Frank Gehry and Cindy Sherman.

The Menil Collection is a five-minute drive from the MFAH and CAMH and is considered to be one of the most important private art collections in the world. The museum, which is placed at the heart of a 23-acre site in the Montrose area, was designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect, Renzo Piano. In addition to the Menil Museum, the campus encompasses the Rothko Chapel, the Byzantine Fresco Chapel Museum, the Cy Twombly Gallery (also designed by Piano) and Richmond Hall, site of a candy-colored rainbow of light sculptures by the late Dan Flavin.

The 15,000-piece collection was assembled by the late John and Dominique de Menil and offers an inspiring selection of art that spans the centuries. Tribal, ancient, Byzantine and modern, including superb Surrealist masterpieces, are brought together in a compelling mix that reveals that great art transcends the boundaries of time and space.

Along the Main Street Corridor, the stunning Houston Center for Contemporary Craft (HCCC) celebrates the red-hot medium of contemporary craft. HCCC opened to much fanfare in fall 2001 (with an inaugural show from New York's venerable American Craft Museum) and has been a significant stop on the Houston art circuit ever since. Its 11,000-square-foot space features lively programming mixing regional and national talents, including Dale Chihuly, Wendell Castle and William Morris. Expect lush original creations in wood, glass, metal, fiber and clay. Artists-in-residence are also on site to share a "hands-on" studio experience.

Steps from the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft, in a handsome 1930s Art Deco structure on Main Street, is one of the most dynamic nonprofit art spaces in Texas—Lawndale Art Center. Lawndale's mission is to discover and showcase emerging Texas talent. The center has monthly rotating exhibitions in its four galleries that present an avant-garde mix of visualists and a variety of media. The vitality of this art center testifies to Houston's national position as a nexus for contemporary artists. The city's celebrated duo, The Art Guys, debuted at Lawndale during the early 1980s before the pair (Michael Galbreth and Jack Massing) catapulted to international fame.

The Holocaust Museum Houston (HMH) is one of the largest and most important institutions in the country dedicated to remembering the significance of the Holocaust. HMH features the poignant permanent exhibition Bearing Witness: A Community Remembers focusing on stories of Holocaust survivors living in the Houston area. Side by side changing exhibits cull art and photography, all reflecting upon aspects of this horrific 20th century event. The museum's newest addition to the permanent exhibit is a 1942 World War II railcar of the type used to carry millions of Jews to their deaths. The railcar was formally dedicated and opened to the public during HMH's 10th anniversary ceremony on March 5, 2006.

Blocks from the Holocaust Museum Houston, the art of nature takes center stage at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, whose family friendly programming attracts all ages. Traveling exhibitions are insightful and intriguing, ranging from the Dead Sea Scrolls to Gunther von Hagens' BODY WORLDS: The Anatomical Exhibition of Real Human Bodies. Exciting permanent features such as the Wortham IMAX Theatre, Burke Baker Planetarium, Cockrell Butterfly Center and the Cullen Hall of Gems and Minerals (the top gemological collection in the world) make this the third most attended museum in the U.S. More than 500,000 school children visit the Houston Museum of Natural Science annually.

The Buffalo Soldiers National Museum preserves and promotes the history, tradition and outstanding contributions of the Buffalo Soldiers. During the 1860s, soldiers of the 10th U.S. Cavalry were nicknamed "Buffalo Soldiers" for their fierce fighting ability and bravery. The museum displays historical artifacts, documents, videos, prints and other historical memorabilia which detail the history of these brave men.

The Heritage Society is the city's only outdoor, interactive historic museum and park. Nestled in 19 acres of beautiful green parkland in the heart of downtown Houston, the Heritage Society boasts eight historic structures dating from 1823 to 1905. Each historic structure is authentically restored to reflect its original magnificence. Every year, The Heritage Society hosts countless school-aged children and visitors from around the world. Visitors come to learn about the families and the lifestyles that inhabited these historic homes and learn about what life was really like in frontier times for early settlers in Houston.

Nearby are the campuses of Rice University, the University of Houston and Texas Southern University, each with its own galleries. Rice University Art Gallery, the Sarah Campbell Blaffer Gallery at the University of Houston and the Texas Southern University Museum feature local and touring shows.

Within easy walking distance, the Children's Museum of Houston (CMH) is a hands-on educational and entertaining family-oriented destination. Adults and kids alike will go crazy about the playful building (designed by renowned architect Robert Venturi) and wondrous and ever changing exhibits of CMH. Ranked among the top two children's museums in the country by Child magazine and No. 1 by MSN.com, this joyous venue with its whimsical garden has been cited by Texas Monthly as the best cultural attraction for kids in Texas (December 2001).

The John P. McGovern Museum of Health & Medical Science, also known as the Health Museum, is Houston’s most interactive science learning center and a member institution of the world-renowned Texas Medical Center. The museum’s main event is the Jim Hickox Amazing Body Pavilion, a larger-than-life walking tour through the human body.

The Jung Center of Houston, a nonprofit education institution, houses one of the Southwest's finest collections of work in psychology, spirituality and comparative mythology. Founded in 1958, the Jung Center offers more than 100 courses, programs and conferences every year that address the critical social and spiritual issues of our time, as well as the need for personal growth and development.

Another educational organization, the Houston Center for Photography (HCP) deepens the understanding of the photographic arts. Through exhibitions, publications and educational programming, the center supports emerging and mid-career artists and their audiences. The center provides a forum for the exchange of ideas and promotes the study of photography, both as a medium of expression and as a tool of cultural investigation.

A project of the Weather Research Center, The Weather Museum provides a facility for people of all ages to learn about the weather, its history and public safety. Exhibits include: Weather Wizards Corner; Touch a Tornado; Rain Rain Go Away and What Meteorologists Do. The museum also houses a computer classroom to allow visitors a chance to surf the Internet for past and current weather information, a video room for meetings and weather safety seminars, and the Clayton B. Crooker Library so visitors can research weather information from more than 100 years ago.

The Czech Center Museum Houston celebrates the culture of Bohemia, Moravia, Slovakia and Silesia with events and exhibitions. The center features language classes, a museum, archives, genealogy resources, event facilities, library and an ecumenical chapel. Exhibits include Czech crystal, glass, porcelain, pottery, antique furniture, jewelry, folk costumes and fine art.

An exciting live animal adventure set in a 55-acre tropical landscape, the Houston Zoo adds adventure and animal magnetism to the Museum District. A popular feature, the Wildlife Carousel, has 64 hand-carved animals representing endangered species. Make sure to visit Natural Encounters, the highly anticipated $4 million renovation of the Zoo's small mammals building, which reopened in February 2005. Natural Encounters features meerkats, otters and until recently the long awaited return of the Zoo's vampire bats.

Two other unique venues, the Art Car Museum and The Station are sited respectively near the Houston Heights and in the midtown corridor (between the Museum District and downtown). These lively, privately funded museums showcase the adventuresome and the avant-garde. The Art Car Museum is dedicated to the fun, funky and outrageously exuberant Art Car movement (Houston's spring parade is the oldest and largest in the country). It's also the only museum in the country where you'll find vehicular attractions such as Rex the Rabbit or Swamp Mutha. Art Car's sister space, The Station, highlights Texas, national and international artists whose art tackles tough political issues.

A shining example of urban renewal, Project Row Houses is located in the heart of Houston's historic Third Ward, minutes from the Museum District. Its restored, turn-of-the century shotgun-style houses occupy a once blighted inner-city neighborhood. No more. Twice yearly they're transformed into art installations as internationally prominent artists join with Texas and Houston-based talents to create site-specific works that challenge traditional notions about art being confined to elite cultural institutions. The award-winning Project Row Houses has been profiled by The New York Times, Chicago Tribune and CBS Radio and is now a model for similar programs around the nation. In addition, four Project Row Houses artists were featured in the 2006 Whitney Biennial.

Learn about early Texas history with a visit to the San Jacinto Museum of History in La Porte, Texas within an hour’s drive from downtown. The Museum’s collection spans more than four centuries of early Texas history, from the beginnings of European activity in the New World through Texas as a state in the United States. While there, experience the San Jacinto Monument, a memorial to all those who fought to win the independence of Texas.

Another fun stop is visiting the folk art environment called the Orange Show Monument, which is a Houston postman's creation that extols the virtues of his favorite fruit. The outdoor 3,000-square-foot monument is maze-like in design and includes an oasis, a wishing well, a pond, a stage, a museum, a gift shop and several upper decks.

Space Center Houston is a place where people can experience space – from its dramatic history and exciting present to its compelling future. Space Center Houston is the only place on earth that gives guests an out-of-this-world journey through human adventures into space. Located approximately 25 miles south of downtown Houston in the NASA/Clear Lake area, Space Center Houston’s unparalleled exhibits, attractions, special presentations and hands-on activities tell the story of NASA’s manned space flight program. It is the only place in the world where visitors can see astronauts train for missions, touch a real moon rock, land a shuttle and take behind-the-scenes tour of NASA.

— Niche and Noteworthy
The following visual arts venues and attractions may be more off-the-beaten path, but are still worth knowing about and exploring. They’re all a part of the region’s rich history.

Forbidden Gardens, in Katy, Texas is a fascinating outdoor museum replicating some of China’s major historic scenes. Guided tours take you back to the third century B.C. to view the first Emperor’s amazing 6,000 piece terra-cotta army replicated in one-third scale. The tour continues to the intricately detailed miniatures of the famous Forbidden City in Beijing that served as palaces for nearly 500 years of imperial rule.

Fort Bend Museum provides a journey through time and allows visitors to experience life on the Brazos River and the Fort Bend story through exhibit galleries, historic homes, and walking tours of historic Richmond. The Texas Historical Commission has proclaimed the Fort Bend Museum ‘one of Texas’ best local history showcases.

Houston Fire Museum is listed on the National Register of History places. Exhibits include a 1937 Chevrolet pumper, an 1895 Ahrens Fox horse-drawn steamer, a 19th century hand powered pumper, as well as a 1938 REO fire truck. Upstairs, you’ll find a prized collection of 18th to 20th century fire service artifacts that are rotated every quarter.
Houston Railroad Museum, Gulf Coast Chapter, features an interesting collection of railroad locomotives, cars and other artifacts as well as model railroad and research library.

Houston Police Museum consists of two floors exhibiting many early uniforms and gear, with some artifacts dating back to the late 1880s. Though the Houston Police Department was established in 1841, there are no known artifacts from its earliest period.
Katy Heritage Museum displays vintage farming equipment and artifacts from Katy’s agricultural and pioneering history, along with scores of old photographs and fascinating antiques.

Lone Star Flight Museum in Galveston displays more than 40 historically significant aircrafts and many hundreds of artifacts related to the history of flight. The museum’s collection is rare because most of the aircrafts are flyable.
The Museum of Printing History displays a collection of historical documents, fine art prints and antique printing equipment. In addition to exhibits, the Museum hosts exhibitions, lectures, workshops and demonstrations.

National Museum of Funeral History
is dedicated to preserving the rich heritage of the funeral industry. With exhibition space of more than 35,500 square feet, it is the largest educational center in the U.S. with a focus on funeral heritage.

Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig and Museum is located in Galveston and illustrates for visitors the story of offshore oil and gas from seismic technology to exploration and production. Scale models of production platforms, actual drill bits and remotely-operated vehicles, as well as videos and exhibits explain drilling, geology, seismic, well servicing and production.

Rice University Art Gallery presents installation art fives times a year by inviting an artist to create a single work of art that transforms the space. When you walk into Rice Gallery, you enter the art and move through it.

— Folk Art/Eclectic
As you explore the Houston region, you might stumble upon a few unique and eclectic sights that may cause you to stop the car in admiration or awe. Whether you call it folk art or junk, they’re expressions of creativity from an urban population. Here are a few famous sites that may interest you.

Beer Can House is a folk gallery/workshop featuring more than 50,000 beer cans collected over more than 20 years. (222 Malone near Memorial Drive and Wescott)

Bradford House is home to artist mark “Scrap daddy” Bradford, renowned art car artist. If you stop by, you may find Bradford working in his studio or he’s out hunting and scavenging for scrap metal to make a new creation. (143 Heights Blvd. near Washington)

The Flower Man, aka Cleveland Turner, is a folk artist who has dedicated his life to creating a place for uncommon beauty. His home and yard in the Third Ward are full of flowers and scavenged junk and found objects. Some consider it wacky; others think it’s colorfully sublime. (317 Sampson, one block south of Elgin just southeast of downtown)

Tempietto Zeni in Houston’s West End (5420 Floyd at Detering) is the home and studio of artist and architect Frank Zeni. The temple-like residence uses metal pipes for columns and other scrounged materials. “I have reinvented the house,”Zeni once remarked.

Pigdom could be called a shrine to swine. The brightly colored home of Victoria Herberta and Judy Ganske is more than a monument to a pig – it’s a memorial to a swimming pig that saved a boy’s life and an art project in process. (4208 Crawford near Binz)

Culture-specific arts scene
Thanks to the many diverse populations in the region, Houston has an abundance of culture-specific art organizations. The list includes:

Asian Heritage Tours takes visitors through the heart of Houston Chinatown. Enjoy a dim-sum lunch or visit a Buddha Temple. It is a perfect opportunity to explore the Asian Culture without having to travel to Asia.

BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Houston is a Hindu temple in Stafford, Texas, and it was the first traditional temple of stone and marble to be constructed in the U.S. It was created entirely according to ancient Hindu architectural manuscripts and also meets all modern regulations of today.

Community Artist’s Collective
leads change in service to the community through the arts. The collective creates and facilitates increasing opportunities and experiences that edify, educate, promote and preserve evidence of African cultural traditions, values and aspirations in the natural and built environment.

Kuumba House is a performing arts company that preserves, creates, teaches and presents the cultural experience of African art forms through dance, theatre, music and other creative expression. “Kuumba” is a Swahili word that means “creativity.”

MECA (Multicultural Education and Counseling through the Arts) is a community-based, non-profit organization whose mission is to promote the healthy social, cultural and academic development of at-risk, inner-city youth through education in the arts. The organization offers classical and ethnic arts education and support services to approximately 1,300 students a year through in-school, after-school and summer arts programs.

Talento Bilingue de Houston has evolved into a Latino Cultural Arts Center that has offered programs and activities such as mariachi, ballet folklorico, video and film production, professional theater, art exhibitions, festivals and photography.

Tien Hou Temple is in the heart of Chinatown, just north of downtown Houston. The temple features elaborately carved dragon columns, altars and symbols of Buddhist, Taoist and other Eastern ideologies.

Performing Arts
In true, Houston style, there are a multitude of high-quality performing arts venues from which to select. Many of them are located in Houston's downtown Theater District, which spans 17 blocks and has 12,948 seats in a concentrated downtown area. Outside of the skyscrapers of downtown, a diverse array of smaller companies call Houston home, offering a unique blend of cutting-edge performing arts and well known classics in a variety of intimate settings. The latest figures show that more than 4 million people experience the magic of live theater in Houston annually. 

— Houston Theater District
Houston is one of only a few U.S. cities with permanent professional resident companies in opera, ballet, music and theater. The longevity of Houston's performing arts organizations speaks volumes – Houston Ballet, at 38 years, is the city's youngest resident professional company. The Theater District, with its five major performing arts venues, is home to these companies, as well as four other internationally recognized performing arts presenters. The area also features numerous restaurants and clubs, where one can sip on a pre-theater cocktail while listening to live music, or enjoy a leisurely dinner after the show. 

— Alley Theatre
Alley Theatre is a professional resident theater company and recipient of the 1996 Special Tony Award. Having forged alliances with such international luminaries as Edward Albee, Vanessa Redgrave and Frank Wildhorn, landmark theatrical events at the Alley have included the world premieres of Jekyll & Hyde, The Civil War and Not About Nightingales (an undiscovered Tennessee Williams play). 

— Houston Ballet
Performing in the spectacular 2,500 seat Wortham Theater Center, Houston Ballet is America's fifth largest ballet company, producing numerous contemporary works and full-length world premiers such as Dracula, The Snow Maiden and Cleopatra. Australian choreographer Stanton Welch assumed the helm of Houston Ballet in 2003, which, since 1976, had been led by Englishman Ben Stevenson. 

— Houston Grand Opera
Houston Grand Opera (HGO) has long been known for its innovative works and imaginative presentation of traditional masterpieces. HGO's numerous world premieres have included Florencia En El Amazonas (the first Spanish opera by a Mexican composer to be commissioned by a major U.S. opera company) and Nixon In China, which garnered an Emmy and a Grammy. 

— Houston Symphony
The Houston Symphony is the oldest performing arts organization in the city, celebrating its 97th birthday. This season, the Houston Symphony performs in the largest (more than 2,900 seats) and arguably most impressive space in the theater district, Jones Hall. Currently under the leadership of Hans Graf, the Houston Symphony’s impressive list of conductors has included Leopold Stokowski, Andre Previn and Christoph Eschenbach. From Brahms and Beethoven, to pop concerts with special guests such as Debbie Reynolds and Shirley Maclaine, the Houston Symphony offers something for every musical taste.

Performing approximately some 170 concerts a year at Jones Hall, Miller Outdoor Theatre and the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavillion, the Houston Symphony also tours internationally. The symphony also sponsors more than 300 separate educational and community service performances each season. Its concerts for schoolchildren, a 50-year-old tradition, have introduced more than 1 million students to live performances of symphonic music.

— Da Camera Of Houston
Da Camera brings to Houston performances by leading American and international musicians, ranging from intimate chamber quartets to jazz and contemporary ensembles. Under the artistic leadership of Sarah Rothenberg (herself an acclaimed pianist) since 1994, Da Camera's performances often connect music to other art forms in originally conceived multimedia productions. Da Camera presents performances in a variety of locations, including the Wortham Theater Center and the Menil Collection, a wonderfully serene and sophisticated art museum west of downtown.

— Society For The Performing Arts
Houston's Society For The Performing Arts (SPA) presents a dizzying variety of musical, dance and theatrical performances by artists from around the world. SPA has presented more than 600 artists and companies representing virtually all performing arts disciplines, including the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and the Martha Graham Dance Company.

— Theatre Under The Stars
Theatre Under the Stars (TUTS) is Houston's acclaimed musical theater production company. With more than 275 musicals to its credit, TUTS makes its home in the beautiful 2,650-seat Hobby Center for the Performing Arts. Over its 40 past seasons, TUTS’ founder and CEO Frank Young has produced many local, national and world premieres, including Disney's smash hit Beauty and the Beast. According to Young, “TUTS is recognized as one of a very small group of theaters who create and produce new musicals at a Broadway standard.”

— Broadway In Houston
Broadway In Houston, part of AT&T Wireless Broadway Across America, offers the biggest hits direct from the Big Apple and London's West End. Like TUTS, the Broadway series has also found the perfect venue in the Hobby Center. 

—  Uniquely Houston
Zilka Hall in the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts is the home of this unique performance series dedicated to nurturing the professional development and long-term growth of Houston's finest small to mid-sized arts organizations. The series features local community programs in music, dance, theater and educational outreach alongside distinguished artists from around the world.

Outside Downtown: Houston's "Off-Broadway"
Not unlike New York's Off-Broadway, tickets to productions at Houston's numerous theaters outside of downtown often come at a considerably lower price than their Theater District counterparts, and the groups boast legions of loyal patrons from throughout the surrounding areas. Be sure to check out the Fresh Arts Coalition, a collective organization of Houston's many fascinating performing and visual arts companies outside of downtown. 

— Dominic Walsh Dance Theater
Dominic Walsh Dance Theater (DWDT) was founded in 2002 by retired Houston Ballet principal dancer Dominic Walsh and filled a void in Houston for contemporary dance. As Dance magazine noted, “At last, Houston has a contemporary dance company on par with its symphony, opera and ballet companies.” The company is comprised of Houston ballet dancers as well as independent Houston-based dancers. DWDT performs at the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts.

— Diverseworks
Certainly among the most unique venues in Houston, Diverseworks is one of the few contemporary art centers in the U.S. which commissions cutting-edge contemporary performing, visual and literary arts. Located in a converted warehouse north of downtown, Diverseworks collaborates with local, national and international partners to present a unique vision of contemporary art and culture. 

— Main Street Theater
Performing in both a converted comedy club in Montrose and a former dry cleaning store in "West U" (near Rice University), Main Street Theater offers a lively repertory of intriguing new p
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