Houston, Texas is a city of bluebonnets nodding a welcome as you cruise along highways of rainstorms cleansing the air of sun-drenched dust. Houston is a diverse city, preserving and displaying its history in museums and restaurants, and progressive in its medical, technological, and artistic accomplishments. Houston is also a city with a fast-paced lifestyle across a sprawling landscape and a city with an intimate town atmosphere with vibrant and rich and blends of neighborly friendliness and city pride. Visiting Texas is a must for anyone traveling to the southern U.S.
Things to do in Houston
Houston promises to delight every single one of your senses, and often simultaneously. The city boasts more than 500 cultural and visual arts attractions, such as the Galleria, the 5th largest mall in the nation. There are over 22,000 concerts, plays, exhibitions, and cultural programs presented annually, including the Houston Symphony, the Houston Grand Opera, Alley Theatre, and the Houston Ballet among others.
Landmarks and Attractions in Houston
A visiting must is the NASA Johnson Space Center, training base for all the nation’s astronauts and NASA’s largest installation anywhere. The designated visitor-friendly Space Center Houston provides interactive education and entertainment. Be sure to also visit the vast Houston Museum District, including the Museum of Natural Science, the Fine Arts Museum (including art schools and a Sculpture Garden), and the art galleries of the Menil Collection. Remember the infamous Alamo and visit San Jacinto State Park, which celebrates Texas’ 1836 independence from Mexico. Take a stroll through Hermann Park and catch the annual week-long Houston Fringe Festival.
And of course, don’t miss the 20-day Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo (the world’s largest) with more than 2 million annual attendees! Houston resonates with performances, parades, marathons, food and drink competitions, livestock auctions, and concerts by top stars such as Brad Paisley, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and Taylor Swift. If you want a true taste of Texas, a great family outing would include calf scrambles and the many rodeos available in and around the city.
For the outdoor enthusiast, the city boasts more than 100 miles of hike and bike trails and more than 56,000 acres for parks including the 10-mile scenic stretch of Buffalo Bayou. Avid sports fans will find cars gunning through Sam Houston Race Park, baseballs whizzing in Astros Baseball field, sailboats and yachts skimming Clear Lake, and golf balls soaring above 165+ driving ranges. Fishing and hunting are also popular outdoors activities for Houston travelers.
Houston Nightlife and Family Fun
A lovely family retreat is the 55-acre Houston Zoo (be sure to check out the local iPhone App offering twitter feed recommendations and maps) or Astroworld for some amusement park fun. The Downtown Aquarium also features an amusement park and restaurant, while the Children’s Museum of Houston has been commended as America’s top museum for kids. Other popular options are the Baywatch Dolphin and Harbor Tours, outdoor marketplaces like the Traders Village Marketplace, annual festivals such as the Bayou City Art Festival. You’ll also find dozens of parks full of theaters, playgrounds, and gardens like Forbidden Gardens, one of Houston’s popular garden hotspots.
The fun continues till dawn! Houston celebrates with musicals, film festivals, and music clubs in venues like Music Hall and The Bronze Peacock Room at House of Blues. Go bar hopping or clubbing, unwind with jazz at King Biscuit Patio Café (no cover charge on Tuesdays) or enjoy friendly company at West Alabama Ice House.
Off the Beaten Path in Houston
The Rothko Chapel - The only ecumenical center mingling art, architecture, and religion has been listed as one of the top 10 U.S. places to see before you die so visiting this beautiful place should definitely be on your list. You could also get the chills by visiting The Old Hanging Oak, a 400-year old crime-scene (from 19th Century hangings) in one of the shadiest spots downtown. And for the most breathtaking view of the Houston skyline, climb the 75-story JPMorgan Chase Tower. You can view the city easily from Sky Lobby on the 60th floor on weekdays.
Houston, TX Restaurants and Shopping
With more than 11,000 restaurants of various styles and cuisines to choose from, you’ll never leave Houston hungry. Savor local Texan delights (think Taste of Texas, Goode Company Barbeque, or the Black Walnut Café) or exotic tastes from around the world such as France (French Riviera Bakery & Café), Brazil (Fogo de Chao Churrascaria), or Hong Kong (dim sum at Dim Sum King). Other tasty exotic foods can be found from Greece (calamari at Alexander the Great Greek), Pakistan (chicken korma at Royal Restaurant), Japan (try the Japanese Food Market), and the Middle East (falafels at Zabak’s Mediterranean Café). Immerse yourself in culinary diversity from enchiladas and seafood pancakes to croissants and kolaches. Don’t forget the delicious Acadian Bakers and Candylicious.
If you love to shop, you can find great deals at places such as Heights Station Antiques or Wolf’s Department Store & Pawn Shop. You can also explore exotic shops like Penzey’s Spices and vintage clothing stores like Replay on 19th St. For unique finds be sure to check out local flea markets, farmers’ markets, and festivals as well.
Photos provided by: Bill Jacobus, Patrick Burke