The Best Houston Museum Experiences You Can Enjoy at Home
Take a break from Netflix.
Art stops for no one. Neither does history, science, film, or SPACE! While their doors are physically closed for the time being, many Houston museums have opened their doors to virtual experiences while we’re all social distancing. So you can use all that extra self-isolating time to go on 360 tours of your favorite art and history spaces. Or expand your repertoire with that photography course you’ve been meaning to take. Or watch totally adorable animals play with other adorable animals. Or go on a super cool virtual exploration of freaking Mars (as we told you, space stops for no one).
Here’s how to experience Houston’s world-class Museum District from the comfort and safety of your home:
Okay, so you can’t experience Dark Side of the Moon on the big screen in the Planetarium, but you can listen to Pink Floyd and explore the museum in 360, or travel through time and experience the wonder of natural history with HMNS’s online exhibitions. The Google Cultural Institute Collections cover topics like dinosaurs, ancient Egypt, butterflies, sea creatures, and some of the museum’s most unique attractions.
Cost: Free, but donations would be cool, too
MFAH has turned itself into a virtual museum with its #MFAHatHOME experience, available for viewing via Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. Log on to your social media of choice to tune into virtual tours of art installations like “Cloud Column” (Houston’s version of the Chicago bean) or to see what’s currently on the museum’s gallery walls. You can also find virtual tours of the MFAH, Bayou Bend, and Rienzi, online art exhibits, film screenings, artist talks and lectures, and more available via Google Arts & Culture; and access online screenings of MFAH films (available for purchase).
Cost: Free, donations are always welcome
Take a 360 tour, or download the Space Center Houston app (available on the App Store or Google Play) for audio tours, selfie filters, augmented reality experiences, and sweet virtual reality stuff including an exploration of the Moon and Saturn V rocket launch. Then there’s Access Mars, which allows you to legit check out the real surface of Mars as recorded by NASA’s Curiosity rover.
Cost: Free, and you can also show your support
Everybody could use some animal therapy right now (especially after watching and nonstop meming Tiger King). The Houston Zoo’s Facebook and Instagram are LIT with adorable virtual experiences from the animal kingdom, with live-streams from the Zoo currently being hosted every Monday-Friday at 11am. We’re talkin’ behind-the-scenes videos, zookeeper chats, and close-up looks at white rhinos, cougars, tortoises, red pandas, and a giraffe named Bobbie.
Cost: Free, though our animal friends could always use some love
Keeping you and yours healthy is kind of the only thing that matters right now. The Health Museum is here to help, offering a virtual glimpse into health science education, including an online lesson on foods that fuel our respiratory health. Follow along on Facebook or YouTube, and if you’re missing the actual museum experience, take a 360 glimpse of the space.
Cost: Free, and here’s how to donate
International, national, and regional art are always on display at this innovative art museum, and now is no different. Check out its “museum from home” experience featuring virtual open studios, Instagram takeovers, and drop-in art experiences where you can create your own pieces of art work at home. They’ll provide the instructions for pop-up art activities, led by its FAQ Team of artists and historians, so that you can experience its current exhibitions in an unconventional way, i.e. from home where you may or may not be wearing pants.
Cost: Free, but you may consider a donation
This museum basically explores the process, product, and history of making stuff out of stuff like clay, fiber, glass, metal, wood, and recycled materials. Explore it in 360, or try out its virtual programming on social media, with crafting activities every Monday and Friday at 1pm
and exclusive exhibition content on Wednesdays at 1pm on Facebook and Instagram, plus extras like artist studio tours and behind-the-scenes videos.
Cost: Free, though donations are much appreciated
Since no one can actually see you in person these days, it’s time to up your photography game. This contemporary photography center has obviously shut its gallery and classroom doors during the stay-home orders, but online classes are still available for your taking. Browse the Spring 2020 calendar to join and your #tacogram game will benefit immensely.
Cost: Varies by class
Kids love this place, and if you’ve got kids, you will too once you park them in front of an iPad for an hour or two as they enjoy one of the museum’s current virtual learning experiences. CMH is putting out tons of imaginative and fun programming daily, from virtual storytimes to hands-on science demos and experiments. Find it all on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube; and take advantage of the 360 tour, too.
Cost: Free, but you may consider giving to help keep its programs alive
This crucial museum remembers the 6 million Jews and other innocent victims of the Holocaust. You can honor the legacy of survivors and fight hatred even from home by viewing its online resources for learning, including survivor testimonies, educational videos, and virtual exhibitions. You can also go on a virtual 360 tour of the Samuel Bak Gallery and Learning Center, three intimate galleries from artist and Holocaust survivor Samuel Bak.
Cost: Free, and you can give back, too
Buckle up for an enriching look at Asian culture and society via Asia Society at Home. The museum’s current online experience shows off videos; family activities that look at the foods and crafts of Japan, China, Korea, and more; interactive webcasts, short films, and musical experiences, and visit-from-home exhibitions that take you around the globe.
Cost: Free, here’s how to support
Promoting the vibrancy of African and African American art and culture, this learning-driven museum invites everyone to #StayInTheMoment and continue community building on Facebook and Twitter. Its online experience highlights artists via virtual tours, talks, films, lectures and presentations, and a lineup of virtual programming, bringing current displays like “Everyday Strangers” by artist Alonzo Williams with Fotofest and “New Growth” by artist Cedric Ingram to your living room (or wherever it is you prefer to hangout).
Cost: Free, though y’all can also join & give
Missing air travel right now? Explore this flight museum’s left hangar in 360, or “keep your spirits high” (their dad joke, not ours... but we dig it) with its online experience. You’ll find video tours of its planes and exhibits, behind-the-scenes archives, daily aviation-centered motivation, historical flashbacks, and more on its Facebook and Instagram pages.
Cost: Free, donations kindly appreciated
One of the gems of Houston’s Museum District is this outdoor theatre experience, and while you definitely, definitely should not try to congregate at Miller Outdoor Theatre right now, you can still get a taste of the arts via its “Smiles from Miller” video series. The online portal brings you videos of some of Miller’s best stage productions over the years, from jazz concerts to bollywood performances.
Cost: Free, as always!, and donations welcome, as always!
This free center for the human spirit explores the inner psyche, and though its doors are closed, it’s still a forum for dynamic conversations on psychological, artistic, and spiritual topics. Take a look at its online learning resources, which include super useful community meditations, online listen-and-learns, links to calming exercises like breathing techniques and tai chi, and live-streaming classes, from “Compassionate Integrity Training” to “Awakening to Joy in Extraordinary Times.”
Cost: Free to access, with online course prices varying
This aesthetically pleasing, local and regionally focused contemporary art museum has expanded its digital resources in this crisis. Take a video walkthrough of SKY LOOP with Virginia Lee Montgomery, go see VLM’s media takeover on Facebook and Instagram; see performances and public programs via YouTube; and flip through Lawndale’s free publication downloads on Issuu.
Cost: Free, and you can consider supporting, as well
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