Seven days a week, the Houston Museum of Natural Science cultivates knowledge with interactive exhibits that shuttle minds into such far-flung realms as tropical rainforests and outer space. Permanent exhibits house everything from the skeletons of brachiosauruses in the recently expanded Morian Hall of Paleontology to artifacts from ancient Egypt and the Americas. Housed inside three stories of glass, the museum's butterfly habitat teems with more than 1,500 winged wonders from around the globe, which frolic around a 50-foot waterfall, flutter through exotic plants, and?most amazingly?pull nickels from behind children?s ears. Visitors can also gaze skyward in the Burke Baker Planetarium, which casts more than 10 daily shows with curve-mirror projection technology. Eyes marvel at the planetarium's 30'x18' full-dome digital theater, capable of transporting families to the aurora borealis in the Arctic Circle or to the nougat-flavored center of a black hole.
When Houston Maritime Museum founder James L. Manzolillo moved to Houston in 1979, he found the city to be an ideal location for establishing a living, breathing monument to maritime history. As a host to the second-largest port in the United States, Houston provides a fitting backdrop for an institution that preserves the legacy of the intrepid individuals who explored the waters about which Manzolillo has always been passionate. Housed inside the former home of retired Navy lieutenant commander John Luykx, the Houston Maritime Museum's collection contains 150 model battleships, paddleboats, and submersibles as well as 100 maritime artifacts such as astrolabes, nautical quadrants, and sextants. An exhibit dedicated to the Port of Houston displays the port's history through artifacts and photos, and illustrates the port's significance to the local and national economy. Guided tours are conducted with advanced registration to allow visitors to learn little-known facts without having to forge the naval-officer secret handshake.
John and Dominique de Menil began collecting art in the 1940s, shortly after they had relocated from France to the United States. It didn't take long for the couple to amass nearly 16,000 paintings, sculptures, drawings, photographs, and rare books. Tired of tripping over Byzantine statues on the way to the kitchen, the de Menils decided to share their collection with the world.
The result is The Menil Collection, which opened in 1987 and has since become a fixture of Houston's Museum District. Here, visitors can browse priceless artworks and artifacts with origins that span the globe. With its minimalistic exterior and sweeping stretches of glass, the building itself is also something of a masterpiece. This is no accident?Dominque de Menil made sure that its design allowed for plenty of natural light to enhance visitors' experience and help the artworks grow big and strong.
Art can foster a sense of community and inspire social change. It is this belief that drives artists Reginald and Rhonda Adams, who founded Museum of Cultural Arts, Houston in 1999 when they noticed a lack of community participation in the arts. Using their vibrant center as a springboard, the couple and their staff have brought art programs to more than 30 public schools and 15,000 underserved youth, helping the youngsters unleash their innate creativity and heighten their social awareness. Within the museum, rotating exhibits, such as May’s Queens of Creativity Mother Earth Exhibition, carry pertinent social messages such as the importance of calling Earth’s core on Mother’s Day. Community projects such as a recent mural painting for a school and collaborations with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society help carry out the museum’s mission as a vehicle for expression.
Nestled within the original art-deco terminal at the William P. Hobby Airport, The 1940 Air Terminal Museum traces the heritage of civil and business aviation throughout the 20th century. Memorabilia such as photographs and silver service items chart aviation’s progress, and outside the terminal building, guests can monitor airport activity or marvel at the museum’s daily air shows and plane versus bald-eagle drag races. Elsewhere onsite, the newly restored 1928 Carter Field Airmail Hangar—closed on most weekends—shelters historic aircrafts including a Lockheed Lodestar and a volunteer-restored St. Louis Helicopter. Throughout the year, the museum also hosts frequent annual events, including a monthly Wings and Wheels open house with static airplane and automobile displays.
The John C. Freeman Weather Museum, which was founded by a meteorologist whose lengthy resum? includes forecasting and research for the U.S. Army Air Force and the U.S. Weather Bureau, hosts a variety of exhibits and experiences. Groups of up to 50 people explore nine exhibits devoted to various aspects of Dr. Freeman's field, either on self-guided or meteorologist-guided tours. The attractions include the WRC-TV weather studio, where guests are encouraged to create weather forecasts using interactive weather maps and green screen technology, the cyclone room which displays images of past hurricanes and computer models of possible future storms, and a tornado chamber where guests can witness and touch a tornado created in water vapor while learning how a vortex forms.