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, 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, 2014, and 2015
by the Houston A-List Poll, the museum has accrued a lot of praise. 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.
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.
It might seem strange to see a Gutenberg Bible page pulled using mid-1400s technology, or
the Declaration of Independence being printed on an authentic 19th-century iron hand-press. At The Printing Museum, where local artists give live demonstrations of real, working artifacts, these sights are almost commonplace. In its mission to preserve and share the history of
written communication, the organization functions as part museum and part interactive classroom. A permanent collection highlights preserved prints and
gear from around the world—from ancient
Mesopotamian clay tablets to Civil War-era
newspapers. This collection even includes a display of equipment and documents belonging to Texas' first printer.
However, the museum's four galleries and
14,000 square feet of space aren't just reserved for
relics. Every year, staff curate 12 rotating exhibits that, in the past, have covered the work of
contemporary printmakers and photographers or explored the evolution of modern printing around the world. Meanwhile, an on-site print shop holds hands-on, all-ages workshops in typography,
paper-making, and other forms of print-based art.
Although black soldiers have served in every American war, they weren't formally included in the regular US Army until an act of Congress in 1866. Their regiments—the 9th and 10th Cavalry and the 24th and 25th Infantry—became known as Buffalo Soldiers, a nickname originally conceived as a term of respect by the American Indians they often fiercely fought in battle. Eventually, the nickname came to be used for all black soldiers, even after the military was integrated and the units disbanded.
Located in Houston's Museum District, the Buffalo Soldiers National Museum is the only museum in the nation primarily dedicated to preserving the legacy of African American soldiers, ranging from the Revolutionary War to the Persian Gulf War. Their rich history is too often forgotten when the stories of American conflicts are told. Former slaves and Civil War veterans joined the original regiments, and the soldiers served their country even while they weren't afforded equal rights. The museum features galleries of artifacts from various wartime eras, a historical reenactment, and preserved interviews with the last Buffalo Soldiers, who served in World War II.
At The Health Museum, you are the exhibit—literally. The permanent feature You: The Exhibit lets guests explore the ins-and-outs of their own bodies and the effects of their lifestyles. There's the Body Scanner, which reveals their internal organs. And there's the Feature Change, which can digitally alter one's image to a different gender or ethnicity.
That educational interaction is a hallmark of the museum, which is currently celebrating 20 years of sparking curiosity about health and the human body in visitors of all ages. The exploratory atmosphere continues in the Amazing Body Pavilion's Texas-sized organs, such as a 27-foot intestine, a walk-in brain, and an enormous eyeball. A four-chambered heart display shows how the engine of the cardiovascular system runs, and the Scream Booth lets kids measure the pitch of their shrieks. Through these signature displays, a varied schedule of special exhibits, special events, camps, and corporate rentals, The Health Museum inspires guests to explore their own inner world.
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.