Stay cool and dry at one of Houston's many museums! To find the best Houston Museum for you... here are some favorites, some free museums, some without all the crowds.
Find the list below.
Favorite Houston museums for families
- Houston Museum of Natural Science: This is my favorite museum for all ages. The permanent exhibits are great every day (including the Energy Hall, Paleontology Hall, Texas Wildlife Hall, Egypt Hall and more) and the temporary exhibits are always exciting to see. You can also purchase tickets to the Butterfly Center, Planetarium and Giant Screen Theater.
- Children's Museum of Houston: Kids love this place. There is so much to do you could spend all day (and year) and not get bored. For my tips on beating the crowds, go HERE.
- Houston Zoo: Okay, it's not really a museum but it's right there in the museum district. If you have museum membership or it's free admission day, you could easily park once and visit the Houston Museum of Natural Science, Children's Museum and Houston Zoo. For tips on beating the crowds at the zoo, go HERE.
More great (big) Houston museums
- The Museum of Fine Arts Houston: Much of the museum may be best for bigger kids, but there are programs for little kids. Also, you should definitely go on a free Thursday to see the tunnels that connect the buildings. Also, be looking for family days at Bayou Bend.
- The Health Museum: This is a big museum in the museum district, but usually does not have the big crowds. Learn about health and the body. Also, older kids can conduct experiments at the cell lab.
Small museums (without all the crowds)
- Houston Center for Contemporary: The Craft Museum has rotating exhibits and artists at work in the studios each day. Look for Hands on Houston... it's a free craft event for families.
- Houston Fire Museum: The play area is great for little kids. (It's currently closed for renovations.)
- Houston Police Museum: This museum is located in the lobby of the Central Police Station. Read about it HERE.
- Lone Star Flight Museum: Go see hangars full of planes, fly the simulator and visit the STEM activity center. Read about it HERE.
- 1940 Air Terminal Museum: The museum is housed in the original art deco Houston Municipal Airport building. It's also a great spot for airplane watching. Read about it HERE.
- Art Car Museum: The museum is funky and small (and free and air conditioned), making it just right for kids. The museum’s goal is to “encourage the public’s awareness of the cultural, political, economic and personal dimensions of art.
- Beer Can House: This house belonged to John Milkovisch who was a retired upholsterer for the Southern Pacific Railroad. He was tired of mowing the grass, so in 1968 he started creating “art” by adding marbles and rocks to concrete and making unique lawn ornaments. When the yard was full, he started to cover the house in beer can siding. Over 18 years, John added over 50,000 cans to his house.
- Orange Show Monument: You might not believe your eyes when you drive up a residential street and see this monument on Munger Street. This crazy maze was built by the late Jefferson Davis McKissack, a postal worker who found many of the building supplies around Houston, including tractor seats, wagon wheels, tiles and mannequins.
- Houston Maritime Museum: No big crowds to fight, a guided tour customized for you and a play room for the kids.
- Asia Society of Texas: Look for the family days and festivals.
- Buffalo Soldiers National Museum: Buffalo Soldiers, comprised of former slaves, freemen and Black Civil War soldiers, were the first to serve during peacetime. Learn more at this museum.
- Czech Center Museum Houston: Look for the family events.
- Houston Museum of African American Culture: Learn about the culture of Africans and African Americans in Houston, the state of Texas, the southwest and the African Diaspora at this free museum.
- Moody Center for Arts: Visit this free art museum and the James Turrell Twilight Epiphany Skyspace.
Museums for older kids
All are welcome at Houston museums... but these might be best for teens and adults. Check out the websites and decide for your family.
- Houston Center for Photography: The exhibits change at this free museum.
- Holocaust Museum Houston: This is the museum for older kids and adults. The content is heavy and educational.
- Contemporary Arts Museum of Houston: Get your art guide at the front desk.
- Rothko Chapel: Meditate and view the art. Stay a little longer to enjoy the Rothko and Menil Campus.
- The Menil Collection: This art museum is always free. I do take my youngest kids to the Dan Flavin Installation and we spend a lot of time on the Menil Campus... but the main museum might be best for big kids. (But it is free, so you can try it with any age and just leave if it's not for you!)
- Buffalo Bayou Cistern: This is not a museum... but there are rotating art installations. Kids need to be nine years old and admission is free on Thursday.
Museums just outside Houston
- Houston Museum of Natural Science Sugar Land: Housed in an old prison, this is the smaller version of the Houston Museum of Natural Science.
- Fort Bend Children's Discovery Center: This Sugar Land museum has several of the highlights from the Children’s Museum in the museum district… but not all the chaos and crowds. It is small, but fun!
- Woodland's Children's Museum: Houston has an AWESOME Children’s Museum… but if you’ve been, you know that it is BUSY. As much as my kids love the Houston Children’s Museum, sometimes I just can’t handle the crowds. This is why I like The Woodlands Children’s Museum.
- Galveston Children's Museum: Small, not crazy busy, housed in the Moody Mansion and has lots of fun things to do. My big kids loved the Lego car ramps and the little woodworking station. My little kids love just about everything.
- Galveston Railroad Museum: Located in Downtown Galveston, this museum has an old depot, lots and lots of restored trains, a model train building, concessions and more. On certain days, you can even take a short train ride on an old caboose!
- Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig Museum: The Ocean Star Museum is housed in a retired jackup drilling rig. There are three floors of models and interactive displays that show the history of offshore oil and gas. There are movies, scale models, actual drill bits, vehicles and more. There is also a third floor skywalk to the drill floor of the rig.
- Rosenberg Railroad Museum: The museum has been celebrating railroading in Fort Bend Country for over 160 years. Did you know that Rosenberg was (and still is) a hub for multiple rail lines?
- San Jacinto Museum of History & Battleship Texas: The museum is located inside the base of the monument, and focuses on the history of the Battle of San Jacinto and Texas culture and heritage. While you are there, head to the top of the monument and then tour the battleship (when it reopens).
- Texas City Museum: Learn about the Port of Texas City, how much traffic comes through each day and just how dangerous it can be. There is a kids play room and great model train layout.
Museums with free admission
Some museums are free every day and some have free hours. They are listed below... and you can find the very latest information on the Museum District's website.
Always free admission:
- Asia Society of Texas
- Contemporary Arts Museum
- Houston Center for Contemporary Craft
- Houston Center for Photography
- The Jung Center
- Lawndale Art Center
- The Menil Collection
- Moddy Center for the Arts
- Rothko Chapel
Specific hours for free admission:
- Buffalo Soldiers National Museum: Free Thursday 1-5 pm
- Children’s Museum of Houston: Free Thursday 5-8 pm
- Czech Center Museum Houston: Free last Monday of the month noon-4 pm
- The Health Museum: Free Thursday 2-7 pm
- Holocaust Museum Houston: Free Thursday 2-5 pm
- Houston Museum of African American Culture: Free Thursday 6-8 pm
- Houston Museum of Natural Science: Free Thursdays afternoons (hours change by season)
- Houston Zoo: Free on the first Tuesday of each month, September through May (check the hours)
- The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston: Free All Day Thursday
- Buffalo Bayou Cistern: Free on Thursdays
- Houston Arboretum: It's not a museum... but parking is free on Thursday.
Also, if you are in the Museum District, check out THESE family friendly restaurants.