Houston Museums

Houston Museums are among some of the finest and most prestigious in the United States. Many rival those found in the major capitals of Europe. A large number of these are concentrated in the Museum District, which is a bit south of Downtown Houston and just to the east of Rice Village. There are eighteen excellent institutions. Several of these are free Museums in Houston and all have certain days when admission is free to the general public.

Museums in Houston
Museums in Houston  Image: Greater Houston CVB

Facilities that are free all the time include the Byzantine Fresco Chapel, Contemporary Art Museum, Carl Jung Center, and the Lawndale Art Center. Others include the Museum of Fine Arts, the Buffalo Soldiers Museum, the Children's Museum, the Museum of Natural Science that rivals the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, and the Houston Zoo. You will find many of the best museums in Houston concentrated in this relatively small area.

Nestled in Sam Houston Park in Downtown Houston is the Heritage Society, a complex with a museum gallery and nine historic structures, ranging from an early log cabin and a country church built in 1891 to the charming Victorian Pilot House cottage (built in 1868) and the Kellum-Noble House that was built in 1847 and is the oldest surviving brick structure in the city. This is one of the fascinating free Museums in Houston if you want to stroll the grounds and admire the structures. Admission to the museum gallery is free, and guided tours of the historic building are available for a relatively inexpensive fee.

There are many other Houston Museums in the metropolitan area, as well as institutions in outlying suburbs. A good number of these are dedicated to Texas history, of which Texans are very proud. The Baytown Historical Museum provides insight into the unique history of this oil and fishing center. About two miles west of Kemah in League City is the Butler Longhorn Museum displaying western art, music, Longhorn artifacts, and Texas historical items.

Some of the best museums in Houston are small local historical museums, many of which have free admission. The Fort Bend Museum in the suburb of Richmond chronicles the experience of life on the Brazos River. This museum also sponsors walking tours of the town, which is rich in cowboy culture and early settler history. The Fort Bend County Museum in the same town gives insight into the time that Texas spent as an independent republic. Across Clear Lake from Kemah is the famous Space Center Houston that chronicles the history of manned space exploration and which houses the legendary Mission Control. Further South on Galveston Island, many museums are historic houses and mansions, including the ornate Victorian Bishop’s Palace built in the late nineteenth century. About five miles south of the Museum District is the American Cowboy Museum, and five miles north is the Bayou Bend Collection, with beautiful gardens and a magnificent mansion operated by the Museum of Fine Arts.

Some of the best museums in Houston are quite unique. The 1940 Air Terminal Museum is located at the Hobby Airport south of the city. The terminal is a masterpiece of classic art deco architecture, built as the name implies in 1940, and showcases the area’s heritage of civil aviation. There is a nominal entrance fee to the museum, but you can attend the daily air show for free. There are classic aircraft displays in the even older 1928 Carter Field Airmail Hangar. The ArtCar Museum, nicknamed the “Garage Mahal” by locals is dedicated to the car culture age that blossomed after World War II, and contains numerous elaborate customized stock cars, lowriders, and mobile contraptions of all descriptions. North of the city near the George Bush Intercontinental Airport is the National Museum of Funeral History, with the motto, “every day above ground is a good one.”

If you have run out of free museums in Houston, which could definitely take some time, you might consider purchasing the Houston CityPass. This book is filled with discounts for dining spots, shopping venues, and free passes for museums that normally charge admission. The pass is similar to those you can find in major tourist cities around the world, from Boston and San Francisco to Amsterdam and London.

Other great Houston museums include: the Czech Center Museum (celebrating the cultures of Bohemia, Moravia, Slovakia, and Silesia) the somber and uplifting Holocaust Museum, and the Maritime Museum. More Texas history will be found at the iconic San Jacinto Monument, second only to the Alamo in state history.

Top image: cortneymartin82 (flickr)
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