What was once the former home of famed Houston philanthropist Ima Hogg (yes, that was her real name, if you can believe it) is now the Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens, a museum for decorative arts and paintings from 1620 to 1870. Located in the lovely, historic River Oaks neighborhood, the museum is part of the Museum of Fine Arts, and it's known as one of the finest showcases of American furnishings, silver, paintings, and ceramics in the world. Here's everything you need to know before you visit, including hours and admission costs, parking info, what to see, how to get there, info on guided tours, and general tips for visitors.
The History of Bayou Bend
Situated on 14 acres of lush woodland, Bayou Bend is a serene sanctuary that feels like a world away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Houston. This stately 1920s-era mansion was built by commissioned architect John F. Staub, between 1927 and 1928, for Ima Hogg and her brothers, William C. and Michael Hogg. Hogg was very devoted to Houston’s early cultural, civic, and educational institutions. As such, throughout her life, she amassed a massive collection of 4,700 objects that reflect stylistic and historical periods from 1620 to 1870, all of which she collected in the hopes of donating one day. She also created a series of eight gardens that were designed to extend the entertaining areas of the home outdoors and highlight the beauty of the surrounding woodlands.
What to Expect at the Museum
re-In the late 1950s, Ms. Hogg donated her estate to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston—and since then, Bayou Bend has become known for its world-class collection of American art, furnishings, and decor. Each of the museum’s 28 rooms and galleries represents a different period of American history, reflecting the country’s taste and style from pre-Revolution through the Victorian era. Even if you’re not into decorative arts, it’s well worth a visit to Bayou Bend to check out the gorgeous gardens and grounds. The property is verdant, wooded, and brimming with native plants and shrubs. Each of the gardens has a different theme: For instance, the Diana Garden is defined by walls of evergreen yaupon hedges, the Euterpe Garden pays homage to the goddess of music, and the White Garden features a variety of white blooming plants. Interestingly, thanks to the River Oaks Garden Club, Bayou Bend practices organic gardening methods; and, they are the only formal public garden in Texas to do so.
Be sure to stop by the Bayou Bend Visitor Center on the corner of Westcott and Memorial Drive. Designed by local architect Leslie Elkins, the award-winning Lora Jean Kilroy Visitor, and Education Center is a stunningly sleek, glass-and-steel building with a two-story lobby and lovely, expansive views. The building houses a retail shop, a library, meeting rooms, exhibits, public terraces, and more.
Admission and Hours
Admission provides one of two options for visiting: you can opt to do the house and gardens or just the gardens. Tickets are available online and on-site, and prices for both options are listed below:
|House & Gardens||Gardens Only|
|Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Members||$10||N/A|
|Children (9 and under)||Free||Free|
Bayou Bend is open year-round from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday, and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday. It is closed on Mondays.
You can schedule a docent-led tour in advance of your visit. Discounts are offered for groups of more than 10. Bayou Bend also provides free school tours throughout the week that focus on small-group discussions and historical thinking skills. Garden tours are self-guided, and guests may use their phones to listen to an audio tour or refer to a selection of tour handouts. If you’re doing a visit, be sure to wear comfy walking shoes and arrive at least 10 minutes earlier than the scheduled tour time so that you have time to store your belongings.
Tips and Info for Visitors
- Babies are welcome, and strollers are permitted.
- When touring the gardens, be sure to bring your phone and headphones for the optional audio tour.
- If you have kids, look into Camp at Bayou Bend, a summer camp series for children ages 9 to 12.
- And speaking of kids: Bayou Bend Family Days are free days for families, usually on the third Sunday.
- And, if you’re lucky enough to be in Houston during the springtime, don’t miss the vibrant display of pink azaleas at Bayou Bend—Ms. Hogg is credited with bringing azaleas to Houston. The sight of all those pink blooms is breathtaking.