Why You Need to Visit Houston, Texas
Featured destinations: Houston
Published 13 February 2017
Austin, Dallas, San Antonio – if you’re planning a trip to Texas, chances are these will feature on your itinerary. Often people overlook Houston. In fact, I was guilty of it myself, so when I got the chance to visit the city for a few days, I wasn’t expecting much. “What’s in Houston anyway, apart from NASA?” someone in our group muttered. Our guide looked aghast but, if I’m honest, I was keen to hear her answer to the question. She reeled off a few things, but what really opened our eyes was seeing Houston’s best bits in the flesh, including Mission Control of course. By the end of the three-day trip our views were changed, and here’s why:NASA - Rocket Park image: Alexandra Gregg
It’s home to NASA
So I’ll start with what we all know: Mission Control resides in Houston. But the Johnson Space Center is so much more than one control room – it’s a whole complex of working NASA buildings, where astronauts are trained, new space equipment is created and tested and tourists come to learn about the history of the Apollo missions. To say it’s an inspirational place is putting it mildly. If you have time for nothing else, be sure to take the 90-minute tram tour, wherein you’ll get to visit the 1970s Mission Control building, as well as seeing the astounding Rocket Park.
Houston Museum of Natural Science image: Alexandra Gregg
There’s a huge Museum District
With 19 cultural institutions to choose from, Houston’s Museum District is undoubtedly the most culture-filled neighbourhood in the city. You can choose from history, art, health and even get up close to wildlife at the Houston Zoo. For something that caters to the whole family, I recommend the Houston Museum of Natural Science for dinosaurs, detailed exhibits, 3D movies and even a planetarium.
Boardwalk Bullet image: Alexandra Gregg
You’ll love Kemah Boardwalk
Just a short jaunt from Downtown Houston, the Kemah Boardwalk serves up a mix of restaurants, amusements, independent stores and shows, all atop the beautiful Galveston Bay. But what really stands out above everything else is the 30m-high Boardwalk Bullet – a wooden, twisted rollercoaster that propels you around its track at a staggering 51mph. It looks (and feels) utterly terrifying, but if you and the family are theme park junkies, this will give every ride you’ve ever been on a run for its money. Visit after dark to see the amusements and restaurants all lit up.
Buffalo Bayou Park image: Alexandra Gregg
Houston has more than 300 miles of bikeways. Combine that with beautiful temperatures year-round and plenty of open spaces, and you’ll soon realise this city is perfect for exploring on two wheels. The recently-renovated Buffalo Bayou Park is where you’ll best be able to put your pedal power to the test – it’s quiet, boasts a vast network of paths and even has lots of landmarks to take in; my favourite moment was cycling past the home of a wild bat colony.
Jackson Street BBQ image: Alexandra Gregg
The barbecue is out of this world
Move over Austin – Houston’s barbecue has been busy upping its game; we were delighted to discover dozens of restaurants serving up brisket by the basket load. “Be careful in there you guys!” That was the warning from our driver, Elvis, when we stepped off the bus and into Jackson Street BBQ. One of the most beloved barbecue joints in the city, it sits next to the legendary Minute Maid Park and offers pulled pork, brisket, ribs, sausage and a plethora of naughty side dishes. Suffice to say, after an hour inside, we were all bursting at the seams – we’d ignored Elvis’s words of wisdom.
8th Wonder Brewery image: Alexandra Gregg
Craft breweries are a big deal
Calling all beer buffs! The independent suds movement is really on the up in Houston, with dozens of craft breweries popping up all over the shop. For a good selection of flavours and alcoholic toxicity, we spent an afternoon at the 8th Wonder Brewery – inspired by the iconic Houston Astrodome. It’s located in the Warehouse District and has a huge garden space where you can play hacky sacks with varying levels of success which typically correlate with the amount of beer consumed. Opt for a pint of the 8% ABV ‘Premium Goods’ if you like strong, pack-a-punch drinks.
Visit Texas with Round the World Experts' Texas Highlights holiday, which spends one night in the city.