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Explore the lesser-known museum city of Houston, Texas, USA.

Explore the lesser-known museum city of Houston, Texas, USA.

Explore the lesser-known museum city of Houston, Texas, USA.

When you think of which American cities have the highest concentration of museums and cultural centers, Houston isn’t usually the first city that comes to mind. Known primarily as a hub for the oil and gas industry (although NASA’s spectacular Lyndon B Johnson Space Center comes in at a close second), few would choose it as a major center for culture and the arts. However, visitors will find plenty of choice in a city with more than 150 institutions, including some world-class museums that are among the largest and most visited in North America.

The epicenter of culture in Houston is the Museum District, a 1.5-square-mile downtown district comprised of 19 museums and institutions within walking distance of each other. Eleven of them offer free admission year-round, while others offer free admission on certain days of the week.

The district has a park-like feel, something unusual in an American metropolis. It is easy to navigate on foot or by bike and is well served by the subway system. Between visits to museums and galleries, you can also stroll to Hermann Park to enjoy its serene Japanese garden, which offers a respite from the city’s famously humid climate.

Beyond the Museum District, but still in the city centre, is the museum known as The Heritage Society. Located in Sam Houston Park, it encompasses ten historic buildings dating from 1823 to 1905 and offers a rich programme of guided tours and events. A little further from the city centre, in River Oaks, the Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens houses one of the most important collections of American decorative arts from 1620 to 1870 and functions as a satellite of the city’s world-renowned Museum of Fine Arts.

The performing arts receive special support here. Surprisingly, Houston is one of the few American cities to boast resident theater, ballet, classical music, and opera companies. Its 17-block Theater District is second only to Broadway in terms of the number of available seats. As the cultural center of Texas, it rivals major East Coast cities for international traveling events and exhibitions. Best of all, getting a ticket here can be much easier compared to its better-known cultural counterparts.