Value for Money:
Personality Types that Like it Best
Did You Know … ?
- Houston was the first word spoken by astronauts on the moon (1969).
- Texas Medical Center is the world’s largest medical complex with 106,000 employees.
- Houston Grand Opera is the only opera company with Emmy, Grammy and Tony awards.
- Seven miles of climate-controlled tunnels link 95 downtown blocks in Houston.
- Texas Medical Center performs more heat surgeries than any other facility in the world.
Formerly the capital of the Republic of Texas, Houston is now the fourth-largest city in the U.S. and called the energy capital of the world. Its economy is driven by a Texas-sized medical complex, aeronautics (specifically, NASA), international banking and technology — as well as by the oil business. Although Houston is 55 miles from the Gulf of Mexico, the manmade Ship Channel has made it a major port city, as well.
Houston attracts out-of-towners because of its huge and highly regarded medical center, but for those who come to town as pleasure seekers, NASA’s Johnson Space Center is the most popular destination.
Tourists also like the city’s Wild West image. The George Ranch Historical Park is a manufactured attraction but carved out of a real ranch 30 miles outside of town. On the other hand, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, the world’s largest livestock show, is the real thing. More than two million people are drawn to the event annually.
A multifaceted destination, Houston also appeals to visitors with interests in culture, dining and/or sports.
It’s considered the cultural capital of America’s Southwest because of a varied theater scene (second only to New York for theater seats), a sweeping array of museums (19 within walking distance of one another), the Houston Ballet, the Grand Opera and the Houston Symphony.
Houston is a city of restaurants — and restaurant patrons. Houstonians dine out more than residents of any other American city (4.1 times per week). And choices go way beyond the popular Tex-Mex, enriched by the city’s diversity. The growing immigrant population speaks more than 90 languages.
For professional sports, fans have choices — baseball, basketball, football, soccer, even polo, plus the pregame activities that go with them.
Houston is Texas-sized, too. It covers more ground than Boston, Miami, New York, Minneapolis, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington combined (634 square miles). Beyond that, attractions include nature reserves plus water-based recreational choices around Galveston Bay and on Galveston Island itself.
The region is vulnerable to hurricanes in August and September, which are the area’s hottest and most humid months.
Things to do for Venturers
- Book a four-to-five-hour in-depth behind-the-scenes tour at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. Or, invest less time but still try shuttle simulators, available at the visitor center, to land a shuttle and retrieve a satellite.
- Attend a match at the Houston Polo Club. At halftime, join the divot stompers (who put mounds of earth that have been torn up by horses’ hooves back into place) and enjoy the stomper’s reward, a free glass of Champagne.
- Jog or cycle in the 1,500-acre Memorial Park. It has 20 miles of trails. Or head to an equestrian center for horseback riding.
- You don’t need wheels to view numerous Victorian houses and discover funky bars and authentic Tex-Mex eateries in Houston Heights. Nearby Washington Avenue is known for dives featuring live music. Or, check out the Bohemian Montrose neighborhood, which anchors Houston’s buzzing after-dark scene.
- Camp and fish at Lake Houston.
- For forward-leaning choices, consider the Contemporary Arts Museum with its often-outrageous exhibits in an equally provocative building; the Cy Twombly Gallery, for Twombly’s abstract works in a fascinating building designed by Renzo Piano, or Theater LaB, for cutting-edge theater in a former grocery store.
Things to do for Centrics
- Get some idea of what life was like during the two world wars aboard the USS Texas, which saw duty in both. Climb high on the bridge, control the turrets on the main deck and go below where sailors lived.
- Go for the offbeat — the Art Car Museum, where you see what a bunch of artists can do to convert motorized transport into art, of a sort. Or, how about the National Museum of Funeral History? It claims the nation’s largest display of funeral service memorabilia and artifacts.
- Take one of the city’s chef-led culinary tours and learn why Houstonians eat out so often.
- Drive over the Houston Ship Channel to see the oil refineries lined up along the channel. An enormous oil tanker may be gliding along the waterway, as well.
- Get tickets for a home game featuring the local baseball, basketball or football team. Join lively pregame festivities even if you don’t have game tickets.
- Attend the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo held annually in February or March. Include the show’s country-music entertainers on your dance card. Buy cowboy boots.
Things to do for Authentics
- Make your visit to George Ranch Historical Park, a living history site, as authentic as possible: Book a traditional lunch in one of the ranch’s five historic venues.
- Attend a performance of the Houston Grand Opera. Or choose the Houston Symphony.
- Explore the city’s underground tunnel system.
- If a devoted art lover, commit serious time to the Museum of Fine Arts and the next-door Contemporary Arts Museum.
- When the flowers are a-bloomin,’ travel the Azalea Trail to see some of Houston’s finest private homes and gardens. The River Oaks Garden Club organizes an annual tour.
- Learn to make quilts or hone skills at classes offered during the autumn International Quilt Festival in Houston.
For more information, consult the Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau at www.visithoustontexas.com