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Texas is home to hundreds of museums that cover an array of fascinating topics, from the National Museum of the Pacific War to the Children’s Museum of Houston. Whether you’re interested in art, nature, history or science, these family-friendly museums provide the perfect activity for a hot summer day. Offering interactive and engaging educational experiences for museum-goers of all ages, here are the best museums to visit in Texas.
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The Houston Museum of Natural Science is home to the Burke Baker Planetarium, Wortham Giant Screen Theater, and the Cockrell Butterfly Center, in addition to permanent exhibits that cover topics such as astronomy, science, Native Americans and Texas wildlife. Founded in 1909, this is one of the most heavily attended museums in the country, where two satellite facilities, the George Observatory in Fort Bend County and The Houston Museum of Natural Science at Sugar Land rounds out this comprehensive facility. Permanent exhibits at this museum range from a Hall of Paleontology with a Tyrannosaurus Rex to the Farish Hall of Texas Wildlife and Hall of Ancient Egypt.
A fascinating excursion for history enthusiasts, the National Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg is designed to reflect and commemorate those who served in the Pacific War. Featuring an array of exhibits spread across a number of buildings, here you can walk through the Admiral Nimitz Museum, admire the Plaza of the Presidents and find peace in the beautiful Japanese Garden of Peace. Explore the different corners of this complex and meander through the interactive and educational exhibits that serve to offer visitors an insight into the events of WWII in the Pacific.
Exploring the life, assassination, and legacy of President John F. Kennedy, The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza in Dallas is a multi-media experience for visitors within the context of the social and political landscape in the early 1960s. Reflecting on November 22, 1963, when Lee Harvey Oswald’s gun echoed through Dealey Plaza, this green space in downtown Dallas is immortalized with a range of exhibits that detail JFK’s life, presidency, and assassination on the sixth floor of the former Texas School Book Depository. Here you can find touch screens that detail the events of that tragic day, along with a live streaming webcam and audio guides.
The Official Visitor Center of NASA Johnson Space Center, Space Center Houston is a nonprofit science and space learning center. It’s here that you can feel like a real-life astronaut and experience space and see astronauts train for missions, touch a moon rock and get a behind-the-scenes tour of NASA. Highlights of this museum include a chance to see the original shuttle carrier aircraft NASA 905, walk inside a massive Skylab Trainer and explore a spacesuit collection that was actually worn on the moon. A 250,000 square foot educational complex, both kids and adults alike will delight in the chance to receive a commemorative stamp in their Visitors Center Passport and indulge in the hands-on, immersive activities that offer a unique look into technological advances in the field of space.
Containing over 24,000 works of art, the Dallas Museum of Art covers art from a long list of cultures and time periods spanning third millennium BC to present day. Located in the vibrant Arts District of downtown Dallas, the Museum holds work from ancient Mediterranean art to 18th-20th century European and American art, famous artists like O’Keeffe, Pollock, Warhol and Van Gogh. The collection here is dynamic, with a gallery that is ever-changing, where visitors can watch conservators preserve and restore pieces of work with cutting-edge techniques. Offering fun programs for kids and after-hour events, the museum plays host to lecture series with authors, poets, and visionaries.
Located in Austin, the formal name of this museum is the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum, but most know it as the LBJ Presidential Library. Here you’ll have the Oval Office to yourself and experience the life of LBJ. Walk through the Great Hall to see four floors of archives that contain more than 45 million pages of documents from the Johnson administration, listen to private phone calls from LBJ and Martin Luther King and Jackie Kennedy, and explore the museum’s fascinating artifacts. Permanent exhibits range from a Legacy Gallery dedicated to the impact President Johnson had on America to a reproduction of the Oval Office.
Opened in 2012, the Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas is a sight to behold. With over 180,000 square feet, this spectacular museum has five levels with 11 permanent exhibits. Here you’ll discover displays that cover anything from building and programming a small robotic vehicle to state-of-the-art video and 3D computer animation and life-size dinosaur skeletons, offering plenty of attractions to engage visitors of all ages. Designed to stimulate curiosity in visitors, the hands-on activities, educational games and interactive kiosks are hard to resist. Even the little ones can get in on the fun, as the on-site children’s museum and outdoor play space keeps them entertained.
Located in Fort Worth, the Kimbell Art Museum is not only noted as one of the country’s finest small museums but is internationally renowned for its collections and architecture. With collections that range in period from antiquity to the 20th century, here you can browse European masterpieces by Michelangelo, Monet, Picasso, and Matisse. You’ll also discover that the museum is home to Egyptian, Asian, Mesoamerican and African art in addition to special and traveling exhibits throughout the year. Beautifully designed by Louis Kahn with a combination of technology and natural light, the architecture of the building has been regarded as a significant achievement in the modern era.
A must for anyone interested in the history of Texas, the Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin offers three floors of expansive exhibition space that highlights 700 original artifacts. Exploring the Lone Star State’s fascinating past with artifacts such as the original Goddess of Liberty statue to a space suit worn by the astronaut Edgar Mitchell, here you can also find the largest IMAX screen in Texas in addition to a 4D Texas Spirit Theater showcasing short films. Special exhibits offer a unique look into some of the state’s culture, from an electronic gaming experience to stepping back in time to the Prohibition era at a re-created speakeasy.
Nestled on 23 acres in University Park in northern Dallas, The George W. Bush Presidential Library is home to a range of textual, audiovisual and electronic records from the 43rd presidency. A 14,000 square foot museum offers displays of events that occurred when Bush was the President, from interactive exhibits to a replica of the Oval Office. Take a somber look at the 9/11 exhibit, where a piece of the World Trade Center will move you or gain insight into the education reform and economic crisis of that time period.
Home to an astounding 65,000 pieces of work, the historic Museum of Fine Arts in Houston dates back to 1900. One of the largest art museums in America, art lovers can meander through the 300,000 square feet of space to discover a range of fascinating displays. From African art to the Glassell Collection of African Gold, European paintings and sculptures, Impressionism/Post-Impressionism collection and Native American art, those interested in seeing artifacts, textiles, drawing, prints and photographs will find that they are spoiled for choice at this museum. When you’re tired of browsing the beautiful artwork on display, relax in the museum’s 18 acres of public gardens.
Consistently ranked one of the best children’s museums in the country, the Children’s Museum of Houston is designed to provide innovative child-centered learning through fun educational exhibits. Boasting 90,000 square feet of space, this is the perfect attraction to take the kids on a rainy day. Here you can run wild at the FlowWorks water exhibit, visit the bustling Kidtropolis metropolis and learn about economic concepts or climb the PowerPlay, a three-story climbing exhibition. With state-of-the-art technology and displays that you won’t find anywhere else, battle good vs. evil and be the hero at the thrilling CYBERCHASE or explore innovation at the workshop of gadgets and gizmos at Invention Convention.