5 Must Do Things in the Museum District

Photo: Peter Molick/Thomas Kirk III | Courtesy of Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

In our Must Do Things Around Greater Houston series, we take a look at Houston’s vast array of communities, neighborhoods and destinations to bring you five fun, tasty, surprising and enticing reasons you should give each one a visit.

Just southwest of Downtown, the Houston Museum District is a beautiful section of the city that plays home to an collection of 20 museums, galleries, cultural centers, and community organizations.

It’s hard to believe the tree-lined streets were once in disarray, but thankfully, a grassroots community movement in the late 1970s turned things around, creating the gorgeous, pedestrian-friendly ‘hood we know today. With so much culture and beauty, there’s no shortage of entertainment here, including these 5 neighborhood musts.

Note: For the purposes of this list, the Museum District is defined as the area represented in this map.

5 Must Do Things in the Museum District

  1. Explore art, history, and culture at the museums… for FREE – While visiting Houston’s lineup of renowned museums is pretty obvious, the free museum days they offer may not be. Some, like the innovative Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, locally and regionally inspired Station Museum of Contemporary Art and Lawndale Art Center (plus, their Mural Project), the deeply intriguing The Jung Center, and the craft-minded Houston Center for Contemporary Craft are always free. Others, like the Houston Museum of Natural Science, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (which houses two fantastic new restaurants), and Children’s Museum Houston offer free days for either the entire museum or certain exhibits. Click here to get a full list of the free museums and free museum days.
  2. Hit the chef’s table at MF Sushi – Any meal at this impeccably fresh sushi restaurant is a good one, but it’s the omakase tasting at the sushi bar that takes the cake. Omakase basically means “trust chef,” and with Chef Chris Kinjo—a.k.a. “Magic Fingers”—behind the concept, you can be sure you’ve put your trust in the right hands. Each course is as aesthetically pleasing as it is tasty, from the classic preparations to novel delights. Click here for directions.
  3. Feed giraffes and explore the gardens at Hermann Park – The picturesque Hermann Park is the place to bring anyone visiting, but locals should take trips here, too. For starters, it houses the Houston Zoo, where you’ll find more than 6,000 animals in natural habitat-style exhibits, including fan favorites like monkeys, elephants, and cheetahs. Guests can even feed giraffes at daily feedings, held at 11am and 2pm. Afterward, take a walk through the beautiful Japanese and McGovern Centennial Gardens. Kids will love taking a ride on the Hermann Park Railroad or a pedal boat out on the water. Click here for directions.
  4. Cozy up for a free show at Miller Outdoor Theatre – Fact: you’re not a Houstonian until you’ve enjoyed a free show at this striking outdoor theater, which becomes even more striking once illuminated at night. The theater, also located in Hermann Park, puts on a variety of seasonal programming, ranging from children’s productions and a yearly Shakespeare Festival to performances from the Houston Ballet and popular concert artists. Bring a blanket or a chair, grab some snacks from the concession stand, and enjoy the show. Covered seating is also available for free, with some evening shows requiring tickets for covered seating. For those performances, assigned seat tickets are available and can be reserved online. Click here for directions.
  5. Unwind with a drink – Though you may come to this neighborhood for its beauty and culture, trekking through all of those museums can be quite draining. Good thing you can relax and quench your thirst at one of the district’s finest watering holes. If you’re feeling fancy, the sultry bar at Hotel ZaZa should fit the bill quite nicely. City Cellars is a fresh, cozy spot to sip wines alongside burgers and flatbreads; and for superb eats and drinks, you’ll want to check out Chef Chris Williams‘ Lucille’s, a Southern kitchen offering a great patio, weekday happy hour, and the occasional live music. Those looking for something more divey can seek solace at Grand Prize Bar, a two-story haunt set just outside the borders of the ‘hood. But don’t be fooled, just because GPB has cheap drinks doesn’t mean the bartenders don’t know how to craft a mighty fine cocktail. Be sure to check out their menu while you’re there.
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Watch the elephants at the Houston Zoo | Photo: Justin Jerkins/365Houston

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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 .