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Houston’s Cultural Landscape Teems with Hidden Gems

Published Mar 22, 2024 by Keila Rodriguez

Menil Drawing Institute

Menil Drawing Institute

Celebrated for its buoyant metropolis and prolific culture, Houston is a city that constantly surprises. Beyond its renowned culinary scene and towering skyscrapers lies a tapestry of hidden attractions that enrich the city's cultural landscape. 

Among these treasures is The Orange Show at Smither Park, a whimsical mosaic wonderland and a vibrant testament to the city’s folk art. Constructed from recycled materials, the installation’s colorful motifs celebrate imagination, self-expression and ingenuity. Serving as a “center for visionary art,” The Orange Show hosts state-of-the-art workshops, installations and festivals year-round, including the upcoming annual Art Car Parade on April 13. 

Nestled amidst lush greenery in northwest Houston, the Lanier Theological Library houses an array of theological texts and manuscripts, providing a tranquil space for study and research with a comprehensive collection and museum-quality artifacts.

For art enthusiasts seeking to delve into contemporary visual expression, the Menil Drawing Institute poised in the heart of Midtown adjacent to the Houston Center for Photography offers an eccentric lens with its collection focusing on drawings and works on paper. 

Experience nostalgia at the Houston Toy Museum delights, where visitors of all ages can explore its extensive collection of vintage toys and memorabilia. From rare action figures to classic board games and a 19th century teddy bear, this charming, 2-story museum tells Houston’s story through enchanting playthings. Join the nostalgia at the next Lego night on March 24. 

Step back in time to a collection of preserved structures dating back to 1847 and over 23,000 artifacts at the Heritage Society Historic Buildings. From quaint cottages to grand mansions, this novel treasure provides a glimpse into Houston's compelling cultural history. 

Adding a splash of color to the landscape, Umbrella Alley features a canopy of vibrant umbrellas over riveting murals. Photographers and pedestrians delight in the engulfing work of Lee College’s Art Department, nurturing Baytown’s ecology.  

Explore an underground reservoir turned art installation! Beneath the city’s busy streets lies Buffalo Bayou’s Cistern where visitors marvel at expansive chambers and immersive light displays, offering a unique perspective on Houston’s infrastructure. 

Learn more about living in Houston and uncover its many wonders. 

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Living In Houston

Houston a Destination City for Leisure Activities

Renowned worldwide as a mecca for performing and visual arts, complemented by its vast array of parks and green spaces, and award-winning culinary scene, Houston continues to attract people from across the globe for its abundance of leisure activities.   Early projections from Houston First Corporation reveal that the Bayou City welcomed over 51 million visitors last year, earning the title of Most Popular City in Texas for Overseas Tourists, according to Trips to Discover. Additionally, Houston was named one of the top American cities with the most fun things to do by CommercialCafe.  Arts & Entertainment Click to expand At the heart of Houston's allure lies its world-class museums, such as the Menil Collection and The Museum of Fine Arts, which serve as gateways to explore art, history and science. The Orange Show and Smither Park, constructed from recycled materials, stand as mosaic wonderlands, a testament to the city’s folk art. Moreover, recent additions to Houston's art scene, such as Meow Wolf and the Museum of Illusions, introduce immersive installations and exhibits that create unique attractions in the Bayou City.  Click to expand Adding a flare to the arts, Houston's entertainment district provides exclusive access to some of the world’s best musical, dance and theatrical talent, featuring prestigious organizations and theaters such as the Houston Ballet and Symphony alongside the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts and the Wortham Theater Center. Meanwhile, venues like the House of Blues and the White Oak Music Hall provide electrifying concert experiences, showcasing both established acts and emerging talents.  Parks & Outdoors Click to expand With nearly 400 parks and more than 200 green spaces, including the beloved Buffalo Bayou and Memorial Park, Houston also offers plenty of outdoor activities within the city. Hidden in-between downtown skyscrapers lies Discovery Green, a 12-acre urban park, which offers free yoga classes and movie screenings alongside the skating rink and green spaces. Nestled within the iconic Houston Zoo lies Hermann Park, which features a Japanese garden, golf course and modern play areas, making it one of the best city parks in the nation.  Click to expand Among the city’s top attractions are its amusement parks, including Downtown Aquarium, Space Center Houston, Galveston’s Pleasure Pier, Kemah Boardwalk and the Houston Funplex. Great Wolf Lodge, a massive resort and indoor water park, is also expected to open this year.    Sports Click to expand Houston is also a sports city, boasting many major-league teams and venues, including the 2017 and 2022 MLB World Series Champions – the Houston Astros, who call Minute Maid Park home. Among its crown jewels are also the Houston Texans, Rockets and the Dynamos, which occupy NRG Stadium, the Toyota Center, and Shell Energy Stadium. These state-of-the-art facilities will host a series of major sporting events in the upcoming years, including the 2024 College Football Playoff National Championship, 2026 FIFA World Cup, and the 2025, 2027, and 2031 AAU Junior Olympic Games.  Festivals & Events Click to expand The city also hosts several exciting events annually, including the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, recognized as the world’s largest and best fair and rodeo by the Academy of Country Music. In the 2024 season, the Houston Rodeo experienced record-breaking attendance, welcoming more than 2.5 million guests over the 23-day event. Other H-Town known events include the Houston Art Car Parade, the Bayou City Art Festival, Hermann Park’s Kite Festival, the Texas Renaissance Festival and the Chevron Houston Marathon, showcasing a dynamic variety of events with everyone in mind.   Discover more about living in Houston. 
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