BY Andrew Collins

September 15 2009 9:00 AM ET

HOUSTON 17 RESTAURANT X390 (COURTESY ALDEN HOTEL) | ADVOCATE.COM

Convention Exit Strategy
It should come as no surprise that one of the nation’s leading hubs of commerce should be impressively endowed culturally, but first-time visitors are still often taken aback by the world-class caliber of Houston’s museums and performance spaces. You’ll find some of the best of these in the Museum District. Here the poignant Holocaust Museum (5401 Caroline St.; 713-942-8000) aims to educate visitors about the perils of prejudice against minorities, including gay people. The Museum of Fine Arts  (1001 Bissonnet St.; 713-639-7300) is another stalwart -- it’s one of the world’s largest art collections, with 60,000 works from every corner of the globe. But it’s one of the MFA’s satellite facilities, the tranquil Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens  (1 Westcott St.; 713-639-7750) that especially deserves a visit. This rambling 1920s mansion contains 28 rooms whose painstakingly assembled contents reflect every era of American decorative arts from the early 17th through late 19th centuries. Outside you can amble about the acres of manicured lawns and gardens.

A short drive from the buzzing gay nightclubs and cafés of Montrose you’ll find one of Houston’s hidden gems, the Menil Collection  (1515 Sul Ross St.; 713-525-9400), a striking postmodern structure set along an otherwise genteel, tree-shaded street of vintage cottages. Inside you can tour a phenomenal trove of postwar art, including seminal works by Warhol, Picasso, Magritte, and countless other modernist luminaries. It’s a short walk from here to the celebrated Rothko Chapel  (3900 Yupon; 713-524-9839), an austere 1971 sanctuary hung with 14 enormous paintings created by Mark Rothko specifically for this space.


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