The Museum District is the center of Houston’s culture, art, and beautiful parks. With 19 cultural institutions, the pedestrian-friendly neighborhood is the perfect area to spend a Saturday afternoon.
Where to Stay
Houston’s Museum District is home to 19 unique museums with a diverse selection of art, history, science, and culture. Start your Museum District experience with a stay at Hotel ZaZa, a boutique hotel known for its glam décor and gorgeous views overlooking Hermann Park. Hotel ZaZa’s own art collection is worthy of a tour with photographs of the famous and fabulous lining the walls. Paintings and sculpture are also on display – even the elevators serve as gallery space! In a nod to Hotel ZaZa’s swanky past life as the Warwick Hotel, the interior contains original fixtures from the Warwick and a concept suite, named the Warwick Apartment, outfitted with wood floors inspired by its namesake and 1,996 square feet of luxury.
Trip Chandler Trivia: Guests staying in the Warwick Hotel included royal power couples, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor and Prince Rainier and Princess Grace of Monaco. Hollywood legend, Bob Hope, once remarked the hotel offered the most beautiful view in the world!
Aside from a stunning vantage point, Hotel ZaZa features a pool tricked out with cabanas, a spa, al fresco dining and imbibing at the Monarch Bistro, and their Magnificent Seven suites to channel your inner robber baron or disco diva. Complimentary rides within a five-mile radius are provided by the ZaZa’s Denali SUVs sporting longhorns on the grill for an only-in-Texas touch.
Where to Explore
You don’t have to go far to begin your exploration of Houston’s Museum District with the Museum of Fine Arts (MFAH) acting as the area’s welcome mat. A short walk from the Hotel ZaZa will find you at the front door of the MFAH where the collection contains antiquities from all over the world, European classics, and tons of contemporary art. Permanent highlights include the tunnel connecting the MFAH’s two buildings featuring James Turrell’s neon and ambient light-filled installation, The Light Inside, and Cai Guo-Qiang’s Odyssey, a floral landscape drawn with live gunpowder and the assistance of local volunteers who helped the artist create the massive piece in 2010. Be sure to check the MFAH calendar for their special exhibitions, as well as their film schedule full of foreign films, documentaries, and vintage cinema masterpieces.
Trip Chandler Trivia: The neoclassical entrance of the original MFAH building from 1924 is now the backside of the Law Building which you can easily see from Hotel ZaZa’s entrance
Trip Chandler Fact: The MFAH will officially open the plaza to the public on Sunday, May 20. For now, the Cloud Column is visible from the street given its height at 32 feet and shiny, stainless steel surface!
Other art museums in the area include Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, Menil Collection Campus, Houston Center for Contemporary Craft, Lawndale Art Center, Asia Society, Houston Museum of African-American Culture, and Station Museum of Contemporary Art.
For more outdoor explorations, take a stroll in nearby Hermann Park’s 445 acres of green space accented by a Reflection Pool, the Sam Houston Monument, and Miller Outdoor Theatre where free performances are held throughout the year. People watching is at a premium with photo shoots of graduates, engaged couples, and colorful Quinceanera parties making appearances. For a birds-eye view, visit the McGovern Centennial Gardens for a quick hike up the 30-foot garden mount. You can also play a round of golf on the city’s oldest course surrounded by oak trees.
Trip Chandler Tip: Take a ride on the Hermann Park Railroad and you will be rewarded with a trippy landscape by Houston-based artist, Trenton Doyle Hancock, housed in a tunnel only visible to train passengers.
Houston’s Museum District is also home to museums focused on science and history. The Houston Museum of Natural Science (HMNS) combines both with exhibits showcasing paleontology, astronomy, Egyptian artifacts, and live butterflies taking flight in the Cockrell Butterfly Center for a guaranteed moment of glee.
Trip Chandler Tip: Be sure to exit through the HMNS gift shop where the selection of gems and minerals also includes jewelry featuring wearable souvenirs by local designers.
For the historical background of Bob Marley’s song, Buffalo Soldier, pay a visit to the Buffalo Soldiers National Museum. Founded in 2001, this Houston institution is devoted to educating the public about the experience of African-American soldiers whose service spans from the Revolutionary War to the present.
Where to Eat
Dining in Houston’s Museum District includes a variety of options like a casual meal of Korean fried chicken at Dak & Bop or making a reservation for an omakase dinner at MF Sushi. For dining with a historical backdrop, Lucille’s, named after the chef’s mother, features her famous chili biscuits on the menu along with southern fare.
Trip Chandler Trivia: In the 40’s, Lucille B. Smith created Lucille’s All Purpose Hot Roll Mix for a church fundraiser that later became the first of its kind to be marketed in the United States. Lucille’s chili biscuits were also served at the White House and on American Airlines flights when in-flight dining was way more gourmet!
For restaurants offering carefully curated menus to pair with your Museum District experience, try Pax Americana’s modern American fare with a local roster of ingredients. Spanish cuisine plus high design plating can be found at BCN Taste and Tradition, whose name gives a shout-out to the Barcelona Airport.
Feature image courtesy of BCN.