Walkable Houston: Zone 4 in the Museum District

Photo courtesy of Houston Museum District

While Houstonians definitely love their cars, there are nooks and crannies of the city that are best explored by foot. In our Walkable Houston series, we traverse those districts to find the prettiest parks, hottest restaurants and bars, coolest local art and shops, and most visit-worthy hidden gems.

Houston’s world-class Museum District is divided into four walkable zones, and each is a thing of beauty. Here, we’ll explore Zone 4, offering a glimpse into the area south of the Mecom Fountain, featuring local gems like the Houston Zoo, Houston Museum of Natural Science, and Children’s Museum of Houston. Check out our Walkable Houston: Menil Campus guide for a look at Zone 1, which includes the Houston Center for Photography, The Menil Collection, and Rothko Chapel; our Walkable Houston: Museum Park for a look at Zone 2, which includes the Lawndale Art Center, Asia Society Texas Center, and more; and the Walkable Houston: Zone 3, which covers the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and more.

Play & Explore

  • Children’s Museum of Houston Housed in a whimsical building off Binz, this fun-loving museum focuses on innovative, child-centered learning. Check out action-packed exhibits, including The Ropes Challenge Course, math-fueled Cyber Chase, environmentally-conscious EcoStation, and hydro-powered FlowWorks, to name a few. And be sure to look out for a lineup of special events and activities, from free family nights and sensory friendly days to holiday celebrations. Admission is $12 (free for children under one) and includes all activities, hands-on exhibits, movies, spotlight performances, and special events. Free Family Nights are offered every Thursday from 5pm to 8pm. Tuesday through Saturday 10am to 6pm; Sunday noon to 6pm; Thursday 10am to 8pm.
  • The Health Museum Off Crawford and Hermann, this museum strives to empower healthy living and foster wonder and curiosity about health, medical science and the human body. Take a larger than life journey through the human body, gear up and travel through experiment stations at the DeBakey Cell Lab, and check out the powerful programs at the McGovern Theater. Tickets are $10 for nonmembers ($8 for children 3-12 and seniors 65+, free for children 2 and under). Free family days run Thursday from 2 to 7pm. Visit Monday through Saturday 9am to 5pm; Thursday 9am to 7pm; and Sunday noon to 5pm.
  • Houston Museum of Natural Science Sitting on San Jacinto and Hermann Park Drive, this renowned museum rocks a super cool dinosaur hall, giant screen theater, planetarium and butterfly house. Roam the Serengeti and walk among the dinos, marvel at live and preserved arthropods and a 50-foot waterfall at The Cockrell Butterfly Center, discover mineral wonders in the Cullen Hall of Gems and Minerals, get lost in an IMAX film at the Wortham Giant Screen Theater, and fly through the universe at the Burke Baker Planetarium. Tickets for permanent exhibits are $25 for adults ($16 for kids 3-11, college students and seniors 65+, $10 for military and groups 10+, free for kids 2 and under, and free for all on Thursdays from 2pm to 5pm.). Entrance to special exhibitions as well as the Planetarium, Butterfly Center and Giant Screen Theatre are available at extra cost. Regular hours are Monday through Sunday 9am to 5pm.
  • Houston Zoo One of the crown jewels of the Museum District is the 55-acre Houston Zoo, where you’ll find more than 6,000 animals in natural habitat-style exhibits—including tigers, cheetahs, elephants, gorillas and orangutans, warthogs, sea lions and more. Animal lovers can visit exhibits like the African Forest, Bird Habitats, and Reptile and Amphibian House, or feed giraffes at daily feedings held at 11am and 2pm. The Zoo also hosts a lineup of fun programming throughout the year, from meet-the-keeper talks to fun annual events like the Halloween Night Prowl and Feast with the Beasts. Tickets are $19.95 for adults, with discounts for seniors and kids; free for Zoo members. Open 9am to 7pm seven days a week (winter hours run from 9am to 6pm).
  • Hermann Park Sitting in the southern end of the Museum District, Hermann Park is one of Houston’s most picturesque and iconic treasures, housing landmarks like the Sam Houston Monument, gorgeous McGovern Centennial Gardens and Japanese Garden, easy-on-the-eyes Mary Gibbs and Jesse H. Jones Reflection Pool, and aforementioned Houston Zoo.
  • Hermann Park Golf Course On the east end of Hermann Park, you’ll find the verdant fairways of the Hermann Park Golf Course. Book a tee time, hit the driving range, check out the fully-stocked Pro Shop, and enjoy the oak-lined course, which is open seven days a week to the public.
  • Miller Outdoor Theater This striking outdoor amphitheater is located atop a hill in Hermann Park, offering free and open to the public programming from May-November. Productions range from children’s performances and a yearly Shakespeare Festival to appearances from the Houston Ballet and popular concert artists. Seating on the hill is open, with some performances offering free assigned seat tickets on a first-come basis while supplies last (these tickets can be snagged at the box office behind the theater on the day of performance between 10:30am and 1pm).
  • Mecom Fountain – You’ll find this dazzling fountain at the center of the traffic circle where Montrose and Main connect. Designed by Eugene Werlin, the showpiece was presented as a gift to the city of Houston from oil magnate John W. Mecom and his wife in 1964 and was the largest fountain in the city when it was built.
  • Rice University Cross Main and you’ll find the beautiful Rice University campus, offering its very own walkable day of fun, including a look at the Museum District’s Moody Center for the Arts. With a striking, contemporary design, the arts center serves as an experimental platform for creating and exhibiting works in all disciplines. The exhibitions spaces are free and open to the public, though some programs and events may require a ticket. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday 10am to 5pm.

Eat & Drink

  • Barnaby’s CafeThe Museum District outpost of this local favorite sits off Binz, offering eats from chicken fattoush salad and hickory bbq burgers to huevos rancheros and housemade lasagna.
  • Bodegas Taco Shop Head to Binz to fuel up with tacos and margaritas at this Museum District gem.
  • Dak & Bop Korean fried chicken is the name of the game at this laidback Asian fusion spot, located on Binz. Get twice-fried wings, strips, and drumsticks in flavors from soy-garlic to hot & spicy alongside smothered fries, stuffed bao, fusion empanadas, and loaded mac’ and cheese.
  • Fresh Café at the Children’s Museum The Children’s Museum of Houston’s in-house café offers nutritious eats and treats for all, from fresh sandwiches, pizzas, and salads to granola bars, cookies, and froyo.
  • Lucille’s Hit this charming La Branch restaurant for a taste of Southern comfort from Chef Chris Williams, with offerings from Grandma-style chili biscuits and fried green tomatoes to bone-in fish fry.
  • MF Sushi Known for its incredible omakase tasting, this classy sushi restaurant sits off Binz.
  • Monarch at Hotel ZaZa Housed in the super chic and luxe Hotel ZaZa, Monarch restaurant rocks a gorgeous terrace overlooking the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and the Mecom Fountain. Head here to feast on ribeye with bone marrow butter,                           butter-toasted lobster rolls, and brunch eats from crab cake eggs benny to roasted chicken chilaquiles.
  • Houston Zoo Dining Zoo-goers at the Houston Zoo can take a break for eats at themed food trucks throughout the park, including the Asian-inspired Masakan truck located near the jaguar habitat and the BBQ Americana trailer, offering smoked meats and classic sides. There is also the Macaw Café at the entrance of the zoo, the Twiga Café with views of the giraffes and rhinos, and the Cypress Circle Café, the Zoo’s newest eatery offering locally sourced, sustainable fares.

Shop & Support Local

  • Museum Store at HMNS Hit the Houston Museum of Natural Science Museum Store to shop for gems and minerals, fine jewelry, gifts from current exhibits, dino kits and science toys, butterflies and insects and more.
  • Gift shop at the Houston Zoo Take home memories from the Zoo by hitting up one of its wild and funky gift shops.
  • Fiddle Sticks Toys at the CMS This Children’s Museum gift shop offers games and toys that provide inspiration, encourage invention and nurture the imagination in children of all ages.
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Brooke Viggiano is a food and lifestyle writer residing in Houston. When she's not contributing to publications like 365 Things to Do in Houston, Thrillist Houston and the Houston Press, she's on the hunt for the coolest happenings in the city. You can follow her musings on Twitter @BrookeViggiano .