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Houston: Space City

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Galleria Houston
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Space Center Houston
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Houston: Space City

story by: Tom Ricketts

Air New Zealand have just announced their fourth destination on mainland North America, the Texan city of Houston. While it may not spring to mind like Vegas and New York do when dreaming up your North American holiday, the city’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport is a major hub to Air New Zealand’s Star Alliance partner United Airlines, so chances are you could be flying through there when connecting onwards. It is also the gateway to Texas and the southern United States. So why not take a few days to check the city out?

Houston is a surprisingly young city, and only pre-dates Auckland and Christchurch by ten years or so. However its proximity between the oilfields of Texas and the Gulf of Mexico have ensured the city’s economic success and the population has boomed to nearly 5 million people, making it the fourth largest city in the US. It’s also an incredibly diverse city with about 44% being Hispanic/Latino, and 25% each for White and African American. Throw in Chinatown and you have a real mix of cultures which flows through to the city’s restaurants, bars and shopping.

Being a relatively new city, the CBD is not dominated by heritage buildings, but is the domain of high rise office towers. Because of this, come 5.00pm on weekdays, and all weekend, the CBD empties out and is pretty quiet. Instead, stay in the CBD fringe suburbs of Uptown or the Museum District where the majority of hotels are located. As the name suggests, the Museum District is home to many of the city’s museums and galleries. In fact there’s a whopping 20 to choose from, ranging from Fine Arts to Natural Science plus a Children’s Museum and the city zoo. Definitely something to please everyone! Of course, there’s plenty of shops and restaurants to cater to visitors too.

Uptown is where Houston comes to shop. Anchoring the whole area is Galleria, one of the largest malls in the US which attracts over 24 million shoppers annually and was even voted amongst the best malls in the world by Forbes magazine! All the major American brands such as Macy’s, Abercrombie, Gap and Tiffany’s have a presence here alongside the major global brands such as Prada, Louis Vuitton, Apple and Sony. But if you want something different, the surrounding streets house the city’s own boutique stores which are sure to please. The majority of the city’s restaurants are also located here, and if you’re making an evening of it, the adjacent suburbs of Midtown and Neartown (they’re almost as original as us Kiwi’s when naming places) are some of the best nightlife spots in town.

Probably the most famous of Houston’s attractions is the Lyndon B Johnson Space Center. Made famous by the line ‘Houston, we have a problem’, the Space Center is still a fully operational NASA facility, but they do have a large visitors centre which is great for all ages. Here you can learn all about the history of the NASA space program, see real space craft, see and touch rocks from the moon and even have lunch with a real astronaut! Further afield you have the historic cities of New Orleans and San Antonio, the twin cities of Dallas and Fort Worth, and the vibrant state capital Austin.

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