As befits America’s fourth-largest city, Houston’s museum scene represents an embarrassment of riches. The city boasts collections ranging from fine art to dinosaur bones to the business of funerals, so there’s a good chance something will tickle your fancy. Most visitors stick to the Museum District a few miles southwest of downtown. It’s a loosely organized grouping of 18 institutions, many within walking distance of one another (most are free, to boot). Travelers wanting to delve into the tremendous diversity of Houston culture will want to set course for the more out-of-the-way museums as well. 1-713-715-1939.
1. Art Car Museum
Residents in the Petro Metro love to dress up their vehicles. Motifs run the gamut from tame sticker collections to a giant motorized red stiletto. The best congregate at the annual Art Car Parade held in May (orangeshow.org). Year-round, see examples at the museum located 3 miles north of the Museum District. Free. 1-713-861-5526.
2. Museum of Natural Science
This 101-year-old institution on the edge of Hermann Park has a collection that will keep anybody with an inquiring mind entertained for hours. Highlights include hands-on displays about fossil fuels, taxidermy displays of animals from Texas habitats, and a three-story indoor rainforest that houses 1,500 live butterflies. Adults, $15; kids, $10. 1-713-639-4629.
3. Center for Contemporary Craft
Rotating installations are largely staged by artists-in-residence whose studios are open to the public. Shows can feature handcrafted jewelry, decorative ironwork, transformed tools, and other esoteric objects. A recent exhibit showcased decorative tea infusers sculpted from metal, shaped from plastic, and made with mixed media. Free. 1-713-529-4848.
4. National Museum of Funeral History
Located near Bush Intercontinental Airport, the museum focuses on traditions surrounding the interment of the dead. It’s stark, but not as morbid as one might expect. The collection includes historic caskets and displays on famous funerals from Elvis to Mahatma Gandhi. Adults, $10; kids, $7. 1-281-876-3063.
5. The Menil Collection
Starting in the 1940s, the de Menil family began assembling this compilation of 16,000 objects, including notable surreal and post-war paintings and sculptures from the U.S. and Europe. The museum rotates installations regularly in several sites spread throughout a verdant 23-acre campus in the Museum District. Free. 1-713-525-9400.
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