In Houston, September beats out July and August for the hottest month of the year—it has nothing to do with the weather, however. The culprit behind the elevated heat level is the Houston Hot Sauce Festival. This annual event brings together exhibitors from across the country to sell and hand out samples of their signature hot sauces, salsas, jams, dips, and other spicy foods. Luckily, vendors also supply plenty of cool beverages, thus eliminating the need for bite-size fire extinguishers.
Live entertainment complements the spicy goods. Blues artists, jazz bands, and other musician play throughout the festival, and each day brings special events, such as salsa eating competitions or fire eating performances.
George Ranch Historical Park, only half an hour southwest of Houston, is more than a representation of Texas history?it?s the hundred-year story of a ranching family who lived their lives on the park?s very soil. The attractions tell their story, beginning with the Jones Stock Farm?a cattle operation circa 1830?where interpreters demonstrate old-fashioned skills amidst a traditional dog-trot log cabin. The Ryon Prairie Home unveils an 1860s image of a Texas Ranch home in the golden age of the cattle drive, and the Davis Mansion contains artifacts from Victorian-era Texas enjoyed by the wealthiest citizens of the 1890s. The final site, the George Ranch Complex, demonstrates ranching life as it happened in the 1930s, including barn structures and daily cattle demonstrations. Guides show off each building and era with historic tours, demonstrations, and living history exhibits such as a working blacksmith shop.
The park?s directors breathe life back into this history with interactive events, as well. They also schedule an array of yearly events such as military reenactments, and holiday-themed history lessons.
If it weren’t for the railroad, there would be no Rosenberg. In 1880 the Gulf, Colorado, and Santa Fe Company extended their tracks across those of another railway, creating a junction that they named after the railway’s president, Henry von Rosenberg. All that remains of this junction’s original depot, from which the town of Rosenberg grew, is the signal tower, which is now the centerpiece of Rosenberg Railroad Museum’s collection of historic railcars and other railway paraphernalia.
Representing the full spectrum of passenger railcars, the collection includes a caboose—the living quarters of a train conductor—and a Canadian government business car, which in the 1920s had been appointed to transport dignitaries and prime ministers in comfort. At the museum’s education center, an HO-gauge model train gives visitors a macro view of a rail network, and, up in the signal tower, an interlocking machine lets visitors play at train traffic control, using the same switches the towerman flipped back in 1903 to make sure only one train was routed through a junction at a time and no trains were routed down the tracks that just led straight off the edge of the world.
While many children learn by performing hands-on tasks, school systems have yet to figure out how to incorporate gardens, imagination workshops, and towering aqueduct mazes into their budgets. With 90,000 square feet of hands-on exhibits, the Children's Museum of Houston, which was recently featured in The Wall Street Journal, sparks creativity by allowing kids to explore 14 learning stations. Ranked No. 1 among the 10 best children's museums in the nation by Parents magazine, named one of the 12 best children's museums in the country by Forbes.com and one of the 10 best by USA TODAY, and voted Best Museum in 2010, 2012, 2013, and 2014 by the Houston A-List Poll, the museum has accrued a lot of praise. The Huffington Post has also given a nod to the Children's Museum of Houston, which encourages children to explore their curious nature with a variety of interactive exhibits. Exhibits include the interactive EcoStation, a solar-powered outdoor utopia with activities such as stream creation and leaf rubbing that inspire kids to think about environmental responsibility. At the Invention Convention workshop, kids can explore engineering possibilities with building blocks, propellers, and even basic robotics. The sprawling cityscape of Kidtropolis invites children to participate in a simulated economy. The experience requires them to earn paychecks, budget money on pretend debit cards, vote for political candidates, and learn how to obsessively check milk expiration dates at the onsite grocery store. Their newest cultural exhibit, Heart and Seoul: Growing Up in Korea, explores the county's fashion, film, music, and cuisine, aiming to bring modern-day South Korea to the Houston area.
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.
After retiring from his upholstering job at the Southern Pacific Railroad, John Milkovisch spent his free time building structures around his house and drinking beers with his wife Mary. But when he ran out of space for building, he decided to use up his extra beer cans to create a shiny siding for his structures and his house. He began in 1968, and within 20 years he had completely covered his property with an estimated 50,000 aluminum and glass cans. The result was both fashionable and functional, with swaying garlands tinkling in the breeze, strings of cans adding a luster to all surfaces of the house, and the protective weight of the cans even helping cut the house?s energy costs. But you can?t have a house this striking and not get noticed. So pretty soon people began making trips to see this can-covered house, and in 2007, it was moved into the Orange Show Center for Visionary Art. Now guests can peer inside the house and examine the structures without getting chased by the owner's beer can-covered dog. The house?s guided tours also feature a documentary that covers the history of the project since its inception forty years ago.