Have you ever seen something and just been in awe of the human beings behind its creation? That’s how we feel when we visit these Houston area spots that were amazingly made by humans. What a feat! And we’re not talking about Whataburgers...though we could.
Here are some of the Houston area’s most gorgeous, awe-inspiring and one-of-a kind and man-made landmarks.
BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir
The BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir is a traditional Hindu temple and a hidden gem of sorts, located in the Houston suburb of Stafford.
Carved from Turkish limestone and Italian marble, the temple’s many arches, pillars, domes and walls are covered with breathtakingly ornate depictions of Hindu deities, flaura, fauna and more. Hand carved in India, the components for the temple were shipped to Houston in over 33,000 pieces and assembled like a three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle largely by a group of volunteers.
The Mandir is available for public tours daily. There’s a gift shop and Indian restaurant on site.
1150 Brand Ln., (281) 765-2277; baps.org
San Jacinto Monument
Located on the Houston Ship Channel, the San Jacinto Monument, a 567.31-foot-high obelisk, looms over the battlefield where Sam Houston’s Texian army won Texas its independence back in 1836. As is oft said and oft proven true, everything’s bigger in Texas, and the San Jacinto Monument is no exception. The monument is both the world’s tallest masonry column and the world’s tallest war memorial. It weighs approximately 70 million tons. The 34-foot tall Texas Lone Star sitting atop the monument alone weighs approximately 220 tons.
Up on the observation deck, situated at an altitude of around 480 feet, gaze down at the 8.4-acre reflecting pool and the Houston Ship Channel below before moseying on back to the base of the monument, which houses The San Jacinto Museum of History. The museum, chartered in 1938 to “preserve and revisualize the history of early Texas,” spans more than four centuries of early Texas history, from the beginnings of European activity in the New World through Texas’ history as a state in the United States. For a more concise Texas history lesson, simply look to the walls of the monument’s base, which are inscribed with the story of the War of Texas Independence, writ large and in under six hundred words.
For an even more immersive Texas history experience, attend the San Jacinto Day Festival, which takes place on site each April and includes historical reenactments and living history demonstrations.
1 Monument Cir., (281)479-2421; sanjacinto-museum.org
Once billed the “Eighth Wonder of the World,” the Astrodome is arguably Houston’s most iconic landmark.
With its 9.5-acre footprint, domed roof and electrifying scoreboard, the gleaming Astrodome, officially named the Harris County Domed Stadium (it didn’t stick), debuted in 1965 as the world’s first multi-purpose, domed sports stadium. Sealed off against Houston’s less than ideal weather, the futuristic, climate-controlled space was considered the first air-conditioned event venue of its size.
For nearly forty years, the gargantuan structure played host to baseball, football and basketball games, Muhammad Ali boxing matches, rodeos, concerts by stars like Elivs Presley, Bob Dylan, Judy Garland, the Rolling Stones, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Paul McCartney, Madonna and Selena, and memorable events like tennis champion Billie Jean King’s legendary triumph over Bobby Riggs in the “Battle of the Sexes” tennis match and the 1992 Republican convention where Houston resident George Bush won the Republican presidential nomination.
For a time, the Astrodome was among the most-visited man-made attractions in the country, outranked only by the Golden Gate Bridge and the Mount Rushmore National Memorial. But by 1996, the Houston Oilers had abandoned the Astrodome, and the state, for a new name and better prospects in Tennessee. And come 1999, the Astros ditched the stadium for Enron Field. The Astrodome fell into disrepair and has sat largely vacant since 2005, when it was briefly reopened as an emergency shelter for thousands of New Orleans residents fleeing Hurricane Katrina.
In 2014, the Astrodome was listed on the National Register of Historic Places both for its architectural and cultural significance. In 2017, it was designated a state antiquity landmark, joining the auspicious ranks of the Alamo and State Capitol.
The Astrodome is closed to the public.
3 NRG Pkwy., nrgpark.com
1892 Bishop’s Palace
Known both as the Bishop’s Palace and as the Walter Gresham House, the Victorian stunner sitting at 1402 Broadway in Galveston was built for attorney, railroad magnate and Civil War Veteran Colonel Walter Gresham, who relocated to Galveston from Virginia with his wife following the war. Designed by famed Galveston architect Nicholas J. Clayton between 1887 and 1893, the home is one of the island’s last surviving structures from its great era of mansion building. Constructed of steel and stone, the three-story structure survived the Great Storm of 1900 almost unscathed. The Catholic Diocese of Galveston-Houston bought the house in 1923, and for many years it served as the seat of the local bishop (hence the name Bishop’s Palace). The Galveston Historical Foundation bought the mansion in 2013
Considered one of the country’s finest examples of Victorian architecture, Bishop’s Palace is listed by the U. S. Department of the Interior as a National Historic Landmark.
The Bishop’s Palace is available for public tours daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
1402 Broadway Avenue J, (409) 762-2475; galvestonhistory.org
The Johnson Space Center is home to a number of spacecraft, including a Saturn V, the launch vehicle used on the Apollo missions. At 363 feet tall, the massive spaceship is stored on its side in a building at Rocket Park. When fueled and ready for launch, the rocket can weigh up to 6.2 million pounds. The gargantuan rocket is the tallest, heaviest and, unsurprisingly, the most powerful rocket ever flown.
Used between 1967 to 1973, the rocket launched 26 astronauts into space. On its final mission, Saturn V launched Skylab, America’s first space station, into orbit.
The Saturn V rocket in repose at Johnson Space center is one of just three on display in the world.
1601 E NASA Pkwy., (281) 244-2100; spacecenter.org
The Beer Can House
Austin talks a mighty big game about keeping it weird, but we’d go as far as to say Houston’s plenty weird -- and quite possibly weirder than the Capitol City. Austin, you can talk the talk but Houston walks the walk. Case in point: The Beer Can House, Houston’s famous monument to recycling. The home is adorned with some 50,000 beer cans. Started in 1968 as a project for its late owner, the house has become one of the city’s most recognizable folk art icons.
The Beer Can House, now open for tours, is quite a sight to behold.
222 Malone St., (713) 926-6368; orangeshow.org