As the largest city in Texas, there is nothing “small” about Houston. Many people come to visit this fascinating city for its impressive zoo, its entertainment parks, its space center, and its plethora of museums, but there are plenty of local secrets that make Huston an even more fascinating place. From underground shops to mysterious bubbles, here are eight must-see sights that only the Houston locals know about (just don’t let them know we told you).
This was the first Hindu Mandir temple in North America assembled by volunteers in just 16 months with over 33,000 pieces of marble and limestone shipped directly to Houston and hand-carved by skilled craftsmen. This beautiful masterpiece features gorgeous pillars and domes constructed without steel or iron. It is more than a typical place of worship, it also hosts a variety of exhibitions and events to educate the Western World about Indian traditions and beliefs. All are welcome to visit the Mandir, but they are asked to keep in mind that it is a place of worship, so a respectable code of conduct is requested as well as a prohibited use of phones and cameras.
If you’re fascinated with the concept of secret underground structures, you must check this out. The underground tunnel system of Houston is not as creepy as it may sound. The finished walls are filled with coffee shops, restaurants, and gift shops for an underground shopping experience that even many local Houstonians have never experienced. And don’t worry about getting lost, they have an excellent website to show you the list of shops and where they are located within the tunnel system.
If you’re the type of vacationer that loves a good tour to learn a little more about the city you’re visiting, check out Houston Greeters for a customized tour. This non-profit tour organization pairs you with Houston volunteers to give you a two- to four-hour tour of your choice whether that’s a specific museum, a neighborhood, or a view of Houston’s nightlife, you can get a local guide to learn about the aspect of Houston that actually interest you rather than going on a generic tour of the city as a whole.
The Menil Collection
Houston is a city of well over 50 art galleries, more than most cities in the United States, and one this is not to miss is the Menil Collection anchored in Renzo Piano (Pritzker Prize-winning architect)’s first American building. This impressive collection operates with the belief that art is a central part of the human experience with an intimate quality of space and light, a minimal aesthetic of display, and an absence of tour guides or even explanatory wall plaques so that the viewer is not conditioned by other thoughts or opinions about the work. Additionally, this museum is free to the public for an excellent low-budget way to experience Houston’s artistic culture.
This meeting space designed by artist, James Turrell, is a unique Quaker meeting room, which offers a beautiful sky viewing experience with the changing of the light at sunset. This quiet and peaceful space is open to Quakers and non-Quakers alike to enjoy the artistic effects of light and space during sunset. This phenomenon is viewable from 20 minutes before sunset to 40 minutes after sunset. There is also a skyspace piece by Turrell at Rice University, which is an outdoor art space that features a similar art and sky phenomenon.
Located in the Buffalo Bayou beneath the Preston Street Bridge is a strange and silly occurrence that can provide a little unexpected entertainment. Powering the bubble is a red button, open and innocent, without any explanation. When pushed, air is pushed through underwater pipes creating a large bubble in the bayou as a creative way to increase aeration in the waterway.
Dean Ruck, the creator of the Bubble says, “I didn’t want to announce it as a piece of art. It’s an occurrence, an event, a happening. The button itself is up there unannounced, and so it creates a real curiosity to people that come across it – it’s just a red button. Do I push it or don’t I? – You know? What’s it gonna do? So, I liked that idea that it’s not a labeled or plaque piece of art. It’s just something that people discover. Obviously, there’s a certain ephemeral quality to it because it’s not always there to see. It happens occasionally. You have to be here at the right time to see it. It creates a certain mythology of its own by what’s going on there, what it’s for, what its function is, how it’s – how it’s created. So I like that idea of it not being thought of or – or seen as a piece of art, but it just – something in the bayou.”
This non-denominational chapel serves as a meditative environment for people of all beliefs inspired by the mural canvases of painter Mark Rothko. This place is open to anyone and is used for quiet meditation as well as a place for all types of religious ceremonies as a chance to experience and share aspects of all faiths. It also has become a rallying place for human rights supporting purposes. The chapel is open daily except during private events or public programs.
Every night at sunset, almost 250,000 Mexican free-tailed bats fly into the sky to eat mosquitos from the Waugh Drive Bridge over Buffalo Bayou. This is an amazing occurrence to view as this is the only colony that actually stays active year-round and does not migrate south for the winter. Arrive at the viewing locations near Waugh Drive and Allen Parkway about 20-30 minutes before sunset to catch this unique sight.
Do you have any secret Houston sights to share? Let us know in the comments section below!
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