For a city not known as a tourist mecca, Houston has a surprisingly large number of attractions. From folk art icons and soothing green spaces to mega-museums and macabre collections, the city and its suburbs offer many diversions for visitors.
Here are some recommended sights:
Beer Can House
John Milkovisch didn’t want to mow his lawn. Solution: pour concrete and then decorate with rocks, marbles and other found objects. Ta-da. What next for a handyman? John began covering his home with flattened beer cans. Not flashy enough? How about a little garland using beer can tabs and use the tops to create a decorative trim? This monument to recycling is open noon-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Admission to the grounds is $2, but you can view the house from the street for free anytime. 222 Malone St., orangeshow.org.
Jeff McKissack thought oranges were about the most healthy, enjoyable food in all the world. So beginning in 1956, he began constructing his whimsical monument to the orange. Using found objects such as mannequins, fencing and scrap metal and working alone, he filled more than 3,000 square feet with his folk art; it’s a maze of mosaics, statues and silliness. The Orange Show is open noon-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Admission is $1. 2402 Munger, orangeshow.org.
Located on the Rice University campus, James Turrell’s “Twilight Ephiphany” is a pyramid-like structure whose LED lights complement the natural light to create an ever-changing color canvas. The space was designed and its acoustics engineered to be used as a lab for music students. publicart.rice.edu.
Houston artist David Adickes likes to sculpt big things. Monster-size telephones, giant violinists and enormous heads. The works you’re most likely to see around Houston are his presidential busts. For eagle-eyed commuters, there are two – Washington and Lincoln – downtown near the confluence of I-10 and I-45. And often you can spot several as you drive past Adickes’ SculpturWorx Studio near downtown. 2500 Summer St., adickes.net.
Art Car Museum
Admittedly, the only thing odd about the “Garage Mahal” is its eye-catching chrome and scrap-metal exterior, which always inspires a “What is that?” gasp from folks glimpsing it for the first time. Inspired by the annual Art Car Parade, the museum opened in 1998. It’s host to a changing lineup of contemporary art. Open 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday. 140 Heights Blvd., artcarmuseum.com.
Once called the eighth wonder of the world, the Astrodome is still standing in Reliant Park between Fannin and Kirby, but it has not been used for years. See it while you can; Harris County may demolish it.
In the blocks between downtown and the Texas Medical Center, visitors will find 19 museums. A few recommendations: Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 1001Bissonnet; Museum of Natural Science, 5555 Hermann Park Drive; Contemporary Arts Museum, 5216 Montrose; Menil Collection, 1515 Sul Ross; and the Children’s Museum, 1500 Binz. For maps, hours and admission, see houston museumdistrict.org.
The shopping mecca, 5085 Westheimer, gets more than 26 million visitors annually. It boasts more than 400 stores and an ice skating rink in the middle. 5085 Westheimer, 713-622-0663. Nearby is arguably Houston’s most photographed attraction: the 64-foot-tall Waterwall, 2800 Post Oak Blvd.
National Museum of Funeral History
Don’t scrunch your nose. It’s not as macabre as it sounds. This huge, warehouse-like museum houses simple exhibitions tracing the history of funerals in the U.S. Among its treasures: elaborate hearses, a Snow White glass coffin, a coffin for three, and the original “eternal flame” that burned at John F. Kennedy’s burial site in Washington. Open daily. Admission is $10. 415 Barren Springs Drive, nmfh.org.
Downtown Aquarium, Kemah Boardwalk and the Pleasure Pier
These Landry’s Restaurants-owned entertainment centers offer amusement park rides, midway games, a variety of dining options and specialty shops. These family friendly venues often host events from beer and wine festivals to live music.
Downtown: 410 Bagby, aquariumrestaurants.com.
Kemah: 215 Kipp Ave., kemahboardwalk.com.
Galveston: 2501 Seawall Blvd., pleasurepier.com.
When people say NASA, they often mean Space Center Houston, 1601 NASA Parkway, a family destination with exhibits, attractions and theaters. The tram tour includes part of NASA’s Johnson Space Center. Admission is $17.95 (discounts for children and seniors). 1601 NASA Parkway, spacecenter.org.
San Jacinto Monument/Battleship Texas
The site in La Porte features the monument to the Texans’ 1836 victory over Santa Anna’s troops and the resting place for the 100-year-old ship; 1 Monument Circle, La Porte. 3523 Independence Parkway in La Porte, 281-479-2431.