Destination USA: Offbeat Houston

Ornately Carved, Wood-Paneled Hearse

Ornately Carved, Wood-Paneled Hearse

Houston has plenty of attractions: visit the Johnson Space Center or the Museum District, catch an Astros Game, or shop at the largest mall in Texas. The annual Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo has been drawing in crowds since 1932. There are a number of lesser-known attractions, though, that are worth a little extra effort to seek out. Below are our Top 5, plus a bonus.

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1. National Museum of Funeral History

This quirky museum was opened in 1992 by an undertaker named Robert L. Waltrip. There are a wide variety of exhibits inside, starting with a collection of hearses.  The Deaths of the Popes gallery, which opened in 2008, features John Paul II’s bulletproof Popemobile among other interesting artifacts. Other highlights are a huge 1916 Packard graveyard bus, which could carry a coffin, pallbearers, and 20 mourners. Our other favorite areas of the museum are a collection of fantasy caskets from Ghana in all sorts of themes (animals, fish, fruit, cars, for example) and bright colors. The artistry of the Ga carpenters who created them is truly impressive. We also really like the section on Japanese funeral processions. For more info visit http://www.nmfh.org/

Beer Can House

Beer Can House

Beer Can Gate

Beer Can Gate

2. Beer Can House

Driving up, you can tell right away that the late John Milkovisch, a retired upholsterer for the Southern Pacific Railroad spent an enormous amount of time and dedication on the design and creation of this work of “art.”  The house itself is completely covered with aluminum beer can siding. Flattened beer cans cover all sides of the house as well as the roof. Pull tabs and cut-up cans create melodic windchimes.  ”Ripley’s Believe It or Not estimated that over 50,000 cans adorn this monument to recycling.” Unique landscaping features around the yard were created by inlaying marbles, rocks, and pieces of metal into concrete and redwood. –Source: http://orangeshow.org/beer-can-house/  The Beer Can House can be found at 222 Malone St, Houston, TX 77007

Giant Saxophone

Giant Saxophone

3. 50-foot Saxophone made from Volkswagen Beetles

What more can be said about this one? It’s a 50-foot Saxophone made from Volkswagen Beetles. When we saw it the whole thing had been painted blue. The sculpture is located in a parking lot, with plenty of space to stop and take photos. Punch 6025 Richmond Ave., Houston, TX into the GPS and you’re off.

Presidential Busts

Presidential Busts

4. Presidential Busts

Designed by sculptor, David Adickes, these giant presidential busts are located at 2500 Summer Street, between Washington Ave. and I-10. The spot served as storage and workspace for the artist, but the gates are usually open. We just strolled in and had a look around. In addition to the presidents, the Beatles are on display, along with a number of other giant sculptures. Adickes has two sculpture parks where the busts are on display: one at Willamsburg and one at Mt. Rushmore. We’ve read he may have moved on to work from a space in his hometown of Hunstville, so please leave an update if you visit and the sculptures are no longer there!

Huge Armadillo

Huge Armadillo

5. Giant, Steel-plated Armadillo 

His body looks like it’s covered in mirrors. His eyes glow red and he’s got longhorns! This impressive fellow is located at Goode’s Armadillo Palace, West University, Houston, TX, south of US Hwy 59 on Kirby Drive.We didn’t get the Goode’s BBQ, but it did smell good.

Captain Tom's

Captain Tom’s

BONUS: Capt. Tom’s Seafood and Oyster Bar

The first time we visited, the GPS coordinates were off, so if you can’t find it, have faith. Once you’re nearby, you can’t miss Capt. Tom’s. It’s shaped like the front of a boat. You walk up a ramp upon entering, and climb aboard for the experience. If you’re lucky, you snag a seat quickly, though there’s often a wait. From the seats around the bar in the middle, watch oyster shuckers on hyper-drive, busy at work. Other seats are at a counter around the outside, facing out tot he parking lot. People have always been friendly about squeezing in and making space. Oysters are fresh, cheap and of the large, juicy variety, and at $6-7 a dozen, can’t be beat. I always choose to accompany mine with an ice-cold Michelada.  Captain Tom’s is located at 9651 Fm 1960 Rd W, Houston, TX 77070. There are two additional locations.

Additional photos can be viewed in our Houston’s Offbeat Sites Album on Google+.

About the author

Free-spirited traveler at peace on the slow road. Packs light and treads lightly. Tamara writes about the nomadic lifestyle and slow travel along with budget-friendly tips and destination guides.