Zoo in Friendswood

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Designed by award-winning architect Gunnar Birkerts, the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston's stainless steel building safeguards a multitude of work designed to intellectual engage viewers and invoke complex reactions. The museum's two galleries, the Brown Foundation Gallery and the Zilkha Gallery, collectively host 8?10 free exhibitions every year.

The Brown Foundation spotlights work by internationally renowned artists and pieces organized around themes; past exhibits include a Kiki Smith survey and a showcase of performance art by black artists. The Zilkha, meanwhile, hosts the museum's Perspective Series, which gathers the work of emerging artists. The museum's Teen Council curates a biyearly edition of Perspectives, unveiling work by young, Houston-area artists that mine for deeper feelings than the normal teenage angst toward parents, teachers, and singing animatronic bears. The Teen Council also contributes to the museum's numerous programs, which include lectures and discussions for each show, as well as Musiqa concerts based on each Brown Foundation Gallery exhibition.

5216 Montrose Blvd.
Houston,
TX
US

At the Houston Arboretum & Nature Center, you might spy budding photographers snapping shots of herons in the wetlands. Situated on the western edge of Memorial Park, the 155-acre nature preserve acts as a sanctuary from the busy city that surrounds it. Visitors can walk along 5 miles of trails, which wind past forest, meadows, wetlands, and ponds.

The nature advocates at Houston Arboretum & Nature Center hope the Center serves not only as refuge from the urban bustle, but also as a constantly changing outdoor classroom. In the Discovery Room, for instance, interactive exhibits help young explorers learn about the Center?s diverse ecosystems. Classes and workshops range from home composting to breaking into the birdhouse-real-estate market. The Center also offers nature camps for kids, as well as other special events year-round.

4501 Woodway Dr
Houston,
TX
US

Dog therapy is common in hospitals and hospice care facilities, but the nonprofit organization Halter, Inc. fills its stables with miniature horses trained in animal therapy. The gentle horses bond with children with special needs and at-risk teenagers, helping them build confidence and express themselves emotionally. The staff has designed riding lessons to teach horsemanship skills to children with special needs?however, all children are welcome to learn?and invites youngsters in third to eighth grade to join its Pony Express Club, a service program in which they assist with toddler horse rides and offsite events, such as petting zoos. They also host camps and celebrate children's birthdays filled with pony rides and games, but the horses have objected to any rounds of Pin the Tail on the Horse.

17410 Clay Road
Houston,
TX
US

The Heritage Society was created in 1954 as part of an effort to rescue the 19th-century Kellum-Noble House from destruction. Since its founding, the organization has taken over the operation of nine additional historic buildings, all of which have become part of a 10-acre museum complex in Sam Houston Park. At each of its buildings, the Heritage Society strives to connect guests to the past, exhibiting and celebrating the region?s diverse history in the process.

1100 Bagby St
Houston,
TX
US

Jaws snap and claws scratch at Crocodile Encounter. Families, school groups, and aspiring zookeepers can enjoy the city's largest reptile show or explore its animalian encampment, meeting massive Aldabra tortoises, alligators from Texas, and Siamese crocodiles, along with pigs, capybara, and eland. To finish off this adventure, guests can pet a live alligator and feel its bumpy skin or watch as it devours a meal.

23231 County Road 48
Angleton,
TX
US

Sculpted onto 55 acres of sprawling plains, including 6 acres dedicated solely to paintball, Oil Ranch entertains visiting families with farm activities, play areas, miniature golf, and paintball areas. The working ranch's friendly staff curates a barnyard full of animals, allowing guests to run their hands through a sheep's soft wool or learn how to milk a chicken. The cheery red-and-blue engine of the OIL Express train chugs around Lake Buenas Noches with passengers in tow, while a green John Deere tractor carts around the hayride wagon. Other activities include a summertime swimming pool, catch-and-release fishing in Lake Buenas Noches, mini golf, and a maze.

Also nestled within the ranch's grounds is a full paintball facility, where varied fields pit groups against each other in friendly clashes of chromaticity. On each field, competitors dive behind mobile cover such as large wooden spools, barrels, and crates, enacting countless tactical situations. All participants must sign waivers don masks, and really, really promise to not stare into the barrels of their own markers before entering the field.

23501 Macedonia Road
Hockley,
TX
US