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Travel Logs April 2018

Compulsive Traveler

The Best of Houston, the Space City

By Sandra Scott

Think of Houston as “Sport City Central” with five professional teams and four stadiums. Minute Maid Stadium has a retractable dome; get there early to watch the Astros’ batting practice. It also hosts many sports-related events including Olympic soccer tryouts.

Houston is the most populous city in the southern United States and best known as the home of the Space Center where the iconic phrase, “Houston, we have a problem,” was first
spoken.  It is also referred to as the “Bayou City” because four major bayous pass through the city.

  1. Houston Space Center: Besides the Space Shuttle outside and the many indoor exhibits, there are several presentations. One of them, “Mission Control: The Unsung Heroes of Apollo” features a behind-the-scene look at Mission Control. Other videos, talks, and displays deal with the Orion Mars Mission. Work is on schedule for the first manned mission which will send astronauts to Mars.
  2. The Houston Natural Science Museum: There are 16 permanent exhibits including the Burke Baker Planetarium, the Cockrell Butterfly Center, and a giant-screen theater. The newest exhibit, the Wiess Energy Hall includes technologically advanced exhibits on science and energy.  The “Geovator” takes visitors on a virtual reality voyage down into the earth and back a few million years to the time petroleum was formed.  Energy City, a 3-D landscape of Houston and the surrounding Gulf coastal area, pinpoints various types of energy and shows how energy is delivered to the city.
  3. Rodeo: The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, the largest event of this kind in the world, is Houston’s signature event. The 20-day celebration kicks off with the Downtown Rodeo Roundup, Rodeo Parade, and the World Championship Bar-B-Que.  There are a variety of happenings from pig racing to a wine competition and concerts by high-profile performers.
  4. The Museum of Fine Arts: The MFAH is located in Houston’s Museum District and is one of the largest museums in the United States with art pieces from every corner of the world. The museum also offers live musical presentations, workshops, and lectures. Visit on Thursday when it is free. Across the road is the Museum of Contemporary Art which is always free.
  5. Bush Ranch: The ranch is where visitors can discover 100 years of Texas history. The 20,000-acre historic park is a working ranch with historic homes, costumed interpreters and livestock. Visitors can participate in hands-on activities. It offers a variety of workshops, special events, and a historic food program that can include a chuck wagon breakfast.
  6. Houston Downtown Aquarium: The multi-use, six-acre site features a dining complex, fun rides including a miniature train and horse-drawn carriage, and several habitats including the Louisiana swamp, a rain forest and a 500,000-gallon aquarium. Young and old love petting the sting rays.  A favorite exhibit is the White Tigers of the Maharaja’s Temple. 
  7. Nature parks: It is easy to commune with nature while in Houston. The Houston Arboretum and Nature Center has five miles of walking trail. The 160-acre Buffalo Bayou is home to numerous urban parks with hiking, biking, and kayak trails, plus a unique underground cistern that brings to mind Istanbul’s Cathedral Cistern.
  8. Sports: Think of Houston as “Sport City Central” with five professional teams and four stadiums. Minute Maid Stadium has a retractable dome; get there early to watch the Astros’ batting practice. It also hosts many sports-related events including Olympic soccer tryouts.
  9. Galveston: Not far away, in the resort island of Galveston, there are several beaches on the Gulf of Mexico along with a slew of restaurants and other diversions. It is home to the largest Mardi Gras celebration in Texas with musical events, races, and, of course, the parade. The Island Express connects Galveston and Houston with three trips on weekdays.
  10. Helpful tips: City Pass includes tickets to the main attractions at a savings of nearly 50 percent and eliminates standing in line. The Metro Rail connects downtown to the Museum District, and with the Metro and Green Link buses everything is in easy reach.  Besides taxis there are also Uber, Lyft, Zipcars, and short-term rental bikes.

 

Sandra Scott travels the globe recording the top attractions at every destination.

Meet Sandra