5 Must Do Things in the Museum District

A person sits in a red chair within bands of sunlight near a fountain at a park
Centennial Gardens in the Museum District | Courtesy of Hermann Park Conservancy

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, Houston’s Museum District is a beautiful section of the city that’s home to a 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

A small group of people walk through a colorful tunnel at MFAH
Tour a tunnel-connected campus for free on Thursdays at MFAH | Photo: Justin Jerkins/365 Houston

Explore art, history & culture…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 Lawndale Art Center, the deeply intriguing 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 restaurants), and Children’s Museum Houston offer free days for either the entire museum or certain exhibits.

Click here for full breakdown of free museums and free museum days.

Patrons sit at an omakase counter as chefs prepare sushi
The Omakase counter at MF Sushi offers a delicious culinary experience in Museum District | Courtesy of MF Sushi

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.

A person reaching out to touch a lizard held by a Houston Zoo staff member
Explore the animal kingdom at Houston Zoo in Hermann Park | Courtesy of Houston Zoo

Make new animal friends & explore the gardens of 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.

Plus, kids will love taking a ride on the Hermann Park Railroad or a pedal boat out on the water.

A wide shot of Miller Outdoor Theatre with people laying on blankets on the hill
Take in a free show from the hillside at the century-old Miller Outdoor | Courtesy of Miller Outdoor Theatre

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, is celebrating its 100th anniversary with 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 in advance online.

A karaoke singer performs in front of a small crowd in the dimly lit bar of Grand Prize
Take to the 2-story patio bars of Museum District mainstay, Grand Prize Bar | Courtesy of Grand Prize Bar

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. Sip mimosas kissed with flavors like elderberry, hibiscus and pineapple at Mo Better Brews; 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 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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Brooke Viggiano
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 .