Houston might be known for its oil companies and rodeo, but it’s also one of the few U.S. cities with resident companies in theater, ballet, symphony and opera. In fact, downtown’s 17-block Theater District has more than 12,000 seats dedicated to the arts — only New York City has more seats gathered in one geographic area. And while the stage lights are dim during the pandemic, lovers of the arts can still find much to satisfy the soul close to home.
Paint the Town
Take a social distancing-friendly tour of Houston’s fantastic outdoor murals. They can be found throughout the region, but a few definitely stand out. Head to Houston’s East End where nearly every building in a few block radius near 2102 Leland Street is painted in colorful street art. Acclaimed graffiti artist GONZO247 painted the “Houston is Inspired” mural located on the side of a historic building at 420 Travis Street across from Market Square Park. The Montrose Paint Wall at 1435 Westheimer Road is a colorful backdrop for selfies.
For more on Houston’s murals, click here.
A Day at the Museum(s)
The Houston Museum District boasts 19 museums, many situated together to create walkable zones so that you can visit several in one day. Each operates on its own schedule, with some reopening at limited capacity. Here are a few that should be on your must-see list.
The Museum of Fine Arts
The Museum of Fine Arts is among the 10 largest art museums in the nation, with a collection of nearly 70,000 works spanning pieces from across the globe. In addition to standing collections, the museum is host to stunning exhibitions that currently include: Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power; Glory of Spain: Treasures from the Hispanic Society Museum & Library; Francis Bacon: Late Paintings; and Radical: Italian Design 1965-1985, The Dennis Freedman Collection.
The Houston Museum of Natural Science
This impressive museum is home to 17 permanent collections that will enchant all ages. From massive dinosaurs at the Morian Hall of Paleontology to mummies and other artifacts at the Hall of Ancient Egypt to the Cullen Hall of Gems and Minerals, the museum offers much to explore. Adding to the experience are special exhibitions — with current displays on Stonehenge, Mars, tourmalines and more — as well as a planetarium, giant screen theater and butterfly center.
Children’s Museum of Houston
Also open at 20 percent capacity with robust cleaning practices in place is the Children’s Museum of Houston. Twenty exhibits cater to a variety of ages, with a Tot*Spot and EcoStation for the youngest visitors to the Maker Annex and Power Science Lab for children ages 8 and up. Special exhibits include the Odd Squad and Epic Adventure.
Holocaust Museum Houston
The nation’s fourth largest Holocaust museum, the Holocaust Museum Houston offers four permanent galleries and two exhibition galleries, as well as classrooms, a research library, café, 187-seat indoor theater and 175-seat outdoor theater. It is fully bilingual in English and Spanish. Charged with educating the public on the dangers of prejudice and hatred, the museum is an educational experience not to be missed.
Other Ways to Enjoy the City
Those not comfortable exploring a museum in person right now can still see the amazing works or take part in virtual events from the comfort of your home. The Holocaust museum has online summer learning experiences while the children’s museum is hosting virtual storytimes and a variety of other activities. The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston offers a #MFAHatHOME Virtual Experience with a variety of online features — art-making activities, chats with curators and more — as well as virtual cinema, programs and classes. Many other museums are also hosting virtual experiences. See the list of museums in Houston’s Museum District here.
And if you want to get out, strolling the shady streets of the museum district is a pleasant distraction. Many of the museums reflect stunning architecture and some have outdoor sculptures. The nearby Hermann Park is a peaceful place to picnic, toss a ball or enjoy the sunshine.