If a trip to China is out of reach, head out to Katy and Forbidden Gardens for the next best thing. This outdoor museum includes miniaturized exhibits of the Forbidden City (1/20th scale) and a 1/3rd scale model of the tomb of Emperor Qin (pronounced “Chin”), the first Chinese Emperor. Just as it is in China, the Emperor’s tomb is “guarded” by an army of terra cotta soldiers in formation. The 6000 terra cotta soldiers at Forbidden Gardens were made in Xi’an, the ancient capitol where the Emperor’s tomb was discovered in 1974.
Other exhibits feature a scale model of the city of Suzhou, known as the Venice of China, and replicas of ancient Chinese weaponry, architecture, and conveyances. The attention to detail in the exhibits will amaze you.
A 20-minute video tells you about Chinese history and Forbidden Gardens. It runs continuously during museum hours. Guided tours are offered at 11 a.m. and noon, and self-guided tours may be taken any time during museum hours.
The museum was privately funded by Mr. Ira Poon, a businessman and Hong Kong native who made the U.S. his adoptive home. Katy, Texas was chosen as the museum’s location due to its proximity to Houston (with the third largest Asian population in the United States) and the many rice fields which reminded Mr. Poon of China.
Because Forbidden Gardens is an outdoor museum, dress appropriately for the weather. The museum closes during severe weather, so check the weather forecast or call ahead before making the trip to Katy if the weather looks iffy.
23500 Franz Road, Katy, Texas
Open Fri.-Sun., 10 a.m.-5 p.m. (Hours are seasonal and subject to change. Call or check the website.) Private group tours available other days by appointment.
Admission: $10 Adults, $5 Seniors 60 and over, $5 Children 6-18, $3 Children 5 and under. Groups of 20 or more, $5 per person.
From Houston, go west on the Katy Fwy (I-10) to the Grand Parkway (Hwy 99) exit. Turn right on the Grand Parkway, then left on Franz. The entrance is on your immediate right.