Around 1519, Spanish colonizers introduced two brands that would come to define Texas: cattle and cowboys. Five flags and 500 years later, the state boasts enough stories and lore to fill a library.
Little escapes the reach of Texas ambition. Houston was headquarters for the Apollo 11 moon landing, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2019; West Texas showcases the state’s enduring energy legacy; San Antonio, Dallas, El Paso and more preserve its cultural, artistic and scientific accomplishments.
In proud, independently minded Texas, people and their outsized achievements drive much of the cultural and historical narrative that are immortalized in its many museums.
From astronauts and oilmen to pioneers and war heroes, the legacy of the Lone Star State’s legends and other records of the Texas experience lives on in these seven museums that are guaranteed to both elevate the group agenda at your next meeting and provide a one-of-a-kind Texas event backdrop.
“Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.” This July, Houston celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing on the moon, forever associating itself with Neil Armstrong’s immortal first words from the lunar surface.
At Space Center Houston, the Smithsonian-affiliated museum that serves as the official visitor center of the NASA Johnson Space Center, groups can experience the many pioneering triumphs of America’s space program.
Featuring some 400 space and scientific artifacts, the 250,000-square-foot educational museum and entertainment complex is Houston’s top-ranked attraction for international visitors and a magnet for indoor and outdoor events. From cocktails inside a historic shuttle carrier aircraft to receptions surrounded by moonrocks and spacecraft, it’s inspiration defined.
Rental options abound, with highlights including:
- The Starship Gallery: The 250-capacity space where attendees can dine in the same rooms as the largest moonrock on display, flown spacecrafts from the Apollo and Gemini missions, and more artifacts.
- Astronaut Gallery: Attendees numbering up to 500 can mingle with the most comprehensive collection of space apparel in the world in this gallery.
- Independence Plaza: Home to the Space Center’s newest event space, up to 100 attendees can meet inside a shuttle carrier aircraft and interact with hands-on exhibits that detail NASA’s Space Shuttle Program History.
Founded in 1975 as a modest collection of belt buckles, bandannas and artwork in a Panhandle library, this tribute to the overlooked women of the American West relocated to the preeminent Fort Worth Cultural District in 2002.
National Cowgirl Museum exterior, Fort Worth, Credit: Visit Fort Worth
Completing a $5.5 million renovation this spring, the museum celebrates the “ideals and spirit of self-reliance” of cowgirls in diverse fields of endeavor. More than 240 Hall of Fame inductees include painter Georgia O’Keeffe and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.
Versatile rental options within the museum for private events include the spectacular Rotunda, Hall of Fame, exhibit galleries and film lounge.
Dating to 1926, this Smithsonian-affiliated treasure is focused on fostering “deeper engagement and milestone experiences” in presenting the natural, scientific and cultural story of Texas. Following a sweeping 15-year, $100 million renovation unveiled in March 2017, the Witte reaches deep into the Texas experience with dinosaur skeletons, dioramas and other immersive exhibits in more than 174,000 square feet of renovated and expanded space.
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Set amid six major gardens on the banks of the San Antonio River near downtown, the Witte offers a tranquil setting for meetings, functions and social occasions for 10 to 1,500 guests. Rentals range from the rooftop H-E-B Science Treehouse, overlooking Brackenridge Park, to full buyouts for evening events.
Featuring 900-plus indoor and outdoor exhibits and over 55,000 square feet of space, this three-museum complex uniquely focuses on the human story of the Pacific campaign in World War II.
From the Memorial Courtyard and Plaza of Presidents to the Japanese Garden of Peace, the campus invites reflection on the heroes and legacy of the conflict.
The National Museum of Pacific War, Credit: Marc Bennett
Under renovation until early 2020, the Admiral Nimitz Gallery, offering ballroom and boardroom space, was the birthplace and childhood home of Chester Nimitz, five-star commander of the Pacific Fleet in World War II.
Check the calendar for the Museum’s singular WWII Pacific Combat Program. Presented on set weekends throughout the year, this explosive educational event includes a full battle reenactment with simulated machine gun fire, grenade blasts and flamethrowers.
Offering outdoor event space and free group tours, El Paso Museum of Archaeology is well situated relative to its presentation of the region’s 14,000-year old prehistory—it’s located on the foothills of the rugged Franklin Mountains outside El Paso and set within the Jornada Mogollon, a vast archaeological region rich in ancient rock art.
El Paso Museum of Archaeology, Photo Courtesy of City of El Paso
Recent exhibitions included petroglyphs and pictographs from El Paso’s iconic Hueco Tanks State Park & Historic Site. The museum’s 15 acres of nature trails showcase scenic mountain vistas and 250 different plants native to the Chihuahuan Desert. Plus, the grounds boast vast poppy fields in the spring and a summertime Indian Garden.
Late Texas titan Ross Perot, who passed away this summer, was an avid proponent of science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM education. In 2008, his children donated $50 million in his and wife Margot’s honor to name this $185 million Dallas cultural landmark. Another $5 million went to funding year-round free admission for service members and first responders, along with affordable admission to community members in need and school children.
With 11 permanent exhibit halls, including Energy, Engineering and Innovation, and Being Human, the museum has events down to a science, flexibly hosting corporate, social and other gatherings for 25 to 1,500 guests on five levels. Among its many spaces, some highlights include intimate receptions among gems and minerals on level three and dinners for 180-plus with dinosaur skeletons on level four.
From pirating days centuries ago to the waves of immigrant arrivals in its service as “The Ellis Island of the West,” the port city of Galveston is steeped in maritime lore.
Texas Seaport Museum ship, Credit: Galveston CVB
Managed by the Galveston Historical Foundation, the popular waterfront Texas Seaport Museum includes the 1877 tall ship Elissa. Designated one of “America’s Treasures” by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, this floating National Historic Landmark is a dramatic stage for 500-capacity events.
Offered in conjunction with the museum and its galleries, groups can access Elissa’s decks, galleries and officers’ quarters—and the galley for catered F&B service. The museum’s pier also hosts 300 for seated dinners.
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