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Why you shouldn't make Houston a one night stand

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Why you shouldn't make Houston a one night stand

story by: Anna Sarjeant

Somewhat unfairly, Houston is often considered the city for 'passing through'. A one night stand in between the airport and Austin or New Orleans. Well hold your horses, you eager jet-setters, you. Houston is full of charming surprises, many of which deserve three or four days of your time. 

Here are our recommendations for every type of traveller:


For: Families
Space Center Houston

Space, it’s what Houston is all about. You can’t possibly visit this city without indulging your inner nerd at the Space Center Houston. As you wander from the prototype of a full scale space shuttle to the flight deck of an actual rocket, you’ll really start to wonder ‘what’s out there?’ Peruse the theatre you’ve seen a thousand times: NASA’s Mission Control room; delve into the complexities of the Space Shuttle Program and eye up an astronaut in his big white suit. The NASA Tram Tours take guests behind-the-scenes at the Space Center, and are quite simply, unmissable. Visit on a Friday and you’ll even meet a real Astronaut; speaking about their career, missions and what it’s really like to go into space. For something extra special, book lunch with an Astronaut to hear first-hand stories. For the ultimate VIP experience, book a Level 9 Tour where you will get to see where astronauts train and both historic and ISS Mission Control.

 

For: Food lovers
Pondicheri Restaurant

If the USA’s food proportions are renowned for being super-sized, then Houston lives up to its NASA name for being out of this world. Prepare for huge dinners with a side serving of lunch. The choice is also ample, from brunch bars to upscale fine dining. One of our faves is Pondicheri. A modern take on traditional Indian fare, plates are a colour explosion of fresh, flavoursome recipes that crossed the Atlantic centuries prior. Particularly good if you’re vegetarian, veggies dominate the menu. With a very cool vibe and a fun bar, Pondicheri is split over two levels, with the Indian restaurant taking the bottom level, and a cute but industrial-bakery taking the upper. Come morning, load up again - on Indian style chocolate chip cookies and a freshly pressed juice. 

 

For: Active relaxers
Buffalo Bayou ​Park

In a city where a car is an absolute necessity, it’s nice to be able to ditch the four wheels and swap it for a two-wheeler. Bike along the Buffalo Bayou and you’ll cut a route ​across Houston which you won’t be able to appreciate by car. Slicing its way through all of the city’s green spaces, the ​8km trail flanks the waterway and soaks up many urban cityscapes. Hire a bike from Bike Barn Bayou Rentals and meander past parks, jetties and water fountains, stopping for a picnic on a shaded grassy knoll. ​You’ll be in need of refreshment. In which case, we recommend you take a slight detour and descend on the Bayou's namesake brewery. The Buffalo Bayou Brewing Company are open to the public every Saturday from midday to 3pm. They take a hands-on approach to every stage of the brewing process; one which they’ll be more than pleased to ​demonstrate. ​There is also a restaurant at the 4km mark called Kitchen at The Dunlavy providing a glass tree house dining room setting, or grab lunch to go and picnic in the park.

 

For: Romance seekers
The James Turrell Skyspace

​Sunrise and sunsets were made for romantics. As was The James Turrell Skyspace, located on the city’s Rice University campus. The "Twilight Epiphany" is a light show (of sorts) that fully encompasses the architecture of this contemporary structure. Best described as a pyramid, it’s constructed of grass, concrete, stone and steel, and come dawn and nightfall a series of LED lights are projected across the ceiling. Due to the large rectangle hole punctured into the roof, the artificial lighting complements the natural light and an artsy spectacle of illumination floods across the spectators sitting in the pyramid’s auditorium. A great place to sit and enjoy one another’s company. Or propose… Just sayin’.  

 

For: Designer shopaholics
The Galleria

This one comes with a warning. Two actually. Firstly, the sales here (and US prices) are phenomenal, so you will save a lot of money. However, with so many upmarket brands to choose from, you'll also spend 99% of your pay check, so it’s ​hard to know who’s winning; your wardrobe, definitely; your credit card, not so much. The second warning is that you should consult (or even print off) a map. The Galleria boasts three floors and 400 shops, 50 dining outlets, a skate rink and oddly, a jogging track on the roof (for the ever suffering husbands and partners perhaps?) What we're saying is that it’s easy to get lost. If you find yourself misplaced and your plastic maxed out, just head to the roof and retrieve a man. 

River Oaks District

There’s also the River Oaks District to explore - the newest outdoor, luxury shopping precinct – think Dior, Hermes Tom Ford and Stella McCartney. Shop from the finest brands while strolling along picturesque tree-lined streets, and dine at one of the cool new eateries.


For: Thrifty shopaholics
More Than You Can Imagine

Your one stop shop for all things that make a shopper squeal, More Than You Can Imagine is so much more than a thrift shop. A wonderland of pre-loved goodies, we prefer to call this enclave of curiosities a boutique. Run by Vicki Rizzo, a gem in herself, the store specialises in second-hand designer clothing, accessories, shoes and homeware; you’ll find anything from designer dog collars to Louboutin heels. Somewhat a well-kept secret in these neck of the woods, only a few savvy shoppers frequent the boutique in search of beautiful, rare finds. But once you shop, you just can’t stop.

 

For: Quirky types
The National Museum of Funeral History

Bored of brunch and brioche? Tired of ascending space needles and descending museum stairs? We hear you obscurity-seekers, and this one’s just for you.

The National Museum of Funeral History. Embrace it. This kooky place is jam packed with hearses and coffins, as well as artefacts and relics which aim to “educate the public and preserve the heritage of death care”. We’d like to mention here that it’s not morbid, but it is mesmerising. Exhibits include the story of the embalming process and a feature which highlights the process by which a pope is buried. You’ll learn about the funerals from presidents to movie stars and musical icons, and if you so wish, there are also various ‘selfie spots’ to whip out your phone and take a quick funeral snap. Perhaps the biggest highlight of the experience is the gift shop, which offers numerous death related branded merchandise.

 

For: ​The sports mad
NRG Stadium

You know you’re a big deal when a) you’ve performed at the Super Bowl, or b) you’ve hosted the Super Bowl. Houston’s NRG Stadium is a very big deal. As well the infamous SB, it’s also played host to soccer matches and quite fittingly, the world’s largest Rodeo. Well, you are in Texas. Quite the sports’ giant, in both scale and prestige, if you’re sporty by nature, the NRG is a mecca worth your pilgrimage. Take a tour and you’ll be treated to field side views of the retractable roof and removable grass field, as well as the locker room, weight room, press box and premium seating area. Close your eyes and imagine the roar of a deafening crowd, the thwack of a ball and the applause of 71,000 screaming fans – upon realising that the Super Bowl starlet is, wait for it… lip syncing!!!

 

For: Culture vultures
The Museum of Fine Arts
The city with a lil something for everyone, Houston delivers in every area, including the arts. Thought you had to travel all the way to Europe to immerse yourself in vast collections of Italian Renaissance paintings and French Impressionism. Wake up and smell the turpentine. The Museum of Fine Arts boasts the largest and most eclectic art collections in the south-western United States. With almost 64,000 pieces covering all genres, from Impressionism to photography, decorative arts to African craft and pre-Columbian gold, it really is a mixed bag of global talent. If you have a penchant for history, painters and their masterpieces, spend a day at The Museum of Fine Arts. 


Tempted? Your next holiday to the USA is here. 

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