Travel: Postcard from Houston

Outside the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston is an outdoor space with sculptures and a rooftop garden. | Dennis Lennox

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the country’s fourth-largest city has plenty to offer visitors.

But, then again, we’re talking about Houston. After all, the Texas city doesn’t exactly come to mind when you think of big cities.

Yet, Houston exceeded my expectations. It’s the perfect destination for a weekend getaway or what I call a citycation.

I based myself on the edge of the fashionable Museum District in the massive Medical Center neighborhood. Pretty much everything to see and do was within walking distance of the Westin, the rather generic chain hotel where I stayed.

I really enjoyed my early morning walks to the Rice University campus, which features a central quad with Byzantine-style buildings, and the 445-acre Hermann Park.

The Museum of Fine Arts anchors the Museum District.

The landmark museum has a notable collection with more than 70,000 works of art, including a significant amount from antiquity. A special exhibit running through August 2023 displays Spanish colonial-era paintings from the collection of Carl and Marilynn Thoma. Outside, the slightly disjointed campus features a plaza with sculptures, including works by Auguste Rodin, a showcase fountain and even a walkable rooftop garden that reminded me of the Opera House in the Norwegian capital of Oslo. As one would expect, the people watching in and around the fountain is superb.

A short walk away is the Natural Sciences Museum. Visitors here find everything from a butterfly center and planetarium to a permanent exhibit covering Egypt during the time of the pharaohs in Egypt.

The architecture of Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church in Houston is inspired by a 15th century church in Venice, Italy. | Dennis Lennox

Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church, a relatively overlooked landmark, faces the Rice campus.

Built in the early 1920s, the church takes its interior design from the 15th century Church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli in Venice, Italy. It stands in stark contrast to the multifaith Rothko Chapel, which is renowned for its high modernist architecture. The nearby Chapel of St. Basil at the University of St. Thomas, a small Roman Catholic college, is dedicated to Basil the Great, a bishop in the 4th century. While similarly modern, it is thoroughly Christian. The interior is flooded with natural light from an asymmetrical glass cross on the west wall.

Be sure to also explore the architecturally striking Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern and the Heritage Society at Sam Houston Park, which features restored buildings that tell the story of Houston.

If you go

Book a room at the Westin Houston Medical Center or Hotel ZaZa Museum District.

Most visitors will arrive by air at Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport. Avoid the hassle of a rental car and take Uber or Lyft when walking isn’t an option.

Dennis Lennox writes a travel column for The Christian Post.

Dennis Lennox writes about travel, politics and religious affairs. He has been published in the Financial Times, Independent, The Detroit News, Toronto Sun and other publications. Follow @dennislennox on Twitter.

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