One of the first thing most visitors notice about Houston is its mishmash. Giant brick homes overshadowing modest frame houses. A sleek modern restaurant is neighbor to a dumpy auto shop.
The pat explanation is Houston lacks zoning laws. And that’s true. But the real reason is Houstonians hate being told what to do. (Why can’t I cover my house in beer cans?) And that brings us to some of the odd sights to be found in Houston if you have some time to explore.
Beer Can House: John Milkovisch didn’t want to mow his lawn. Solution: pour concrete and then decorate with rocks, marbles and other found objects. Ta-da. What next for a handyman? John began covering his home with flattened beer cans. Not flashy enough? How about a little garland using beer can tabs and use the tops to create a decorative trim? This monument to recycling is open noon-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday (hours are extended during the summer). Admission to the grounds is $2, but you can view the house from the street for free anytime.
Orange Show: Jeff McKissack thought oranges were about the most healthy, enjoyable food in all the world. So beginning in 1956, he began constructing his whimsical monument to the orange. Using found objects such as mannequins, fencing and scrap metal and working alone, he filled more than 3,000 square feet with his folk art; it’s a maze of mosaics, statues and silliness. He worked until his death in 1980. The Orange Show is open noon-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Admission is $1.
Giant presidential heads: Houston artist David Adickes like to sculpt big things. Monster-sized telephones, giant violinists and enormous heads. (His 70-foot-tall sculpture of Sam Houston welcomes visitors to Huntsville.) The works you’re most likely to see around Houston are his presidential busts. For eagle-eyed commuters, there are two -- Washington and Lincoln -- parked downtown near the confluence of I-10 and I-45. And often you can spot several as you drive past Adickes’ SculpturWorx Studio near downtown. 2500 Summer St.
Art Car Museum: Admittedly, the only thing odd about the “Garage Mahal” is its eye-catching chrome and scrap-metal exterior, which always inspires a “What is that?” gasp from folks glimpsing it for the first time. Inspired by the annual Art Car Parade, the museum opened in 1998. Visitors often will find several art cars parked out front. Inside the museum is host to a frequently changing lineup of contemporary art exhibits. The museum is open 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday.
National Museum of Funeral History: Don’t scrunch your nose. It’s not as macabre as it sounds. This huge, warehouse-like museum houses simple exhibitions tracing the history of funerals in the United States. Among its many treasures: elaborate hearsts, a Snow White glass coffin, a coffin built for three and the original “eternal flame” that burned at John F. Kennedy’s burial site in Washington, D.C. The museum is open daily. Admission is $10.
Other uniquely Houston spots you won't want to miss
When people say NASA, they probably mean Space Center Houston, 1601 NASA Parkway, a family destination with exhibits, attractions and theaters. The tram tour takes visitors through part of NASA’s Johnson Space Center.
The shopping mecca, 5085 Westheimer Road, has an ice skating rink in the middle. Nearby is the 64-foot-tall Waterwall, 2800 Post Oak Blvd.
Amusement park rides, midway games, a variety of dining options and specialty shops on the waterfront in Kemah.
San Jacinto Monument/Battleship Texas
The historical site in La Porte features the monument to the Texans’ 1836 victory over Santa Ana’s troops and the resting place for the 100-year-old museum ship; 1 Monument Circle, La Porte.
Once called the eighth wonder of the world, the Astrodome is still standing in Reliant Park between Fannin and Kirby, but it has not been used for years.
The “fill-in-the-blank” museum
Among your choices are the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 1001 Bissonnet; Museum of Natural Science, 5555 Hermann Park Drive; Holocaust Museum Houston, 5401 Caroline; Contemporary Arts Museum, 5216 Montrose Blvd.; the Menil Collection, 1515 Sul Ross; Health Museum, 1515 Hermann Drive; Rothko Chapel, 1409 Sul Ross; and Buffalo Soldier Museum, 1834 Southmore.
The Little Couple’s pet shop
Bill Klein and Jen Arnold, who star in the reality TV series “The Little Couple,” have opened a pets accessories store named for their dogs, Rocky and Maggie, at 2535 Times Blvd. in Rice Village.