The biggest city in Texas and fourth-most populous in the United States has fast become a desirable, cosmopolitan and global city. Those words were not always part of the lexicon in the more forthright Houston travel brochures.
Today however, the city with a metropolitan population of close to 6 million stands out as one of the most dynamic, progressive and multi-ethnic in America. Home to more Fortune 500 headquarters than any other city in the country, with the notable exception of New York, big business is indelibly woven into the local culture. Nonetheless, Houston is a terrific tourist destination. These ten must-see attractions prove it.
10. Hermann Park
Though less than half the size of Central Park, Hermann Park plays a similar role in Houston. A popular recreation spot, the park features a slew of landmarks, such as the Sam Houston monument, Japanese Garden and Houston Garden Center.
9. Contemporary Arts Museum
The stainless steel Contemporary Arts Museum of Houston is a jewel in the splendid Museum District. Though devoid of a permanent collection, the non-profit institution features a regular line-up of notable, avant-garde exhibitions.
8. Houston Zoo
A must-see attraction within another one, the terrific city zoo of Houston is in Hermann Park. One of the most popular in America, the zoo draws close to two million people every year and has over 4,000 animals.
7. The Menil Collection
A vast oil fortune, not altogether uncommon in Houston, made Jean and Dominique de Ménil very wealthy people indeed. A good portion of that wealth was spent on a massive fine art collection, much of which is now found in the Menil Collection museum. The beautiful facility is in the tony Montrose ‘hood of Houston.
6. Houston Museum of Natural Science
Another triumph in the Museum District of Houston is the Museum of Natural Science. On the border of Hermann Park, the museum is second only to New York City’s counterpart in non-Smithsonian attendance. That noteworthy achievement results in more than two million visitors every year, on average. Cool permanent exhibits include a Foucault pendulum, Strake Hall of Malacology, Earth Forum and Cockrell Sundial.
5. Bayou City Art Festival
The Bayou City Art Festival has been a staple in Houston for almost four decades. Held in Memorial Park, the event draws a wide assortment of artists, performers and zany characters.
4. Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo
Perhaps the best rodeo and livestock exhibition in the world, let alone Texas and America, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo draws millions of people to Reliant Park every year. At almost three weeks long, the festival is about much more than cowboy and ranch culture, with live concerts, cook-offs and other non-rodeo events.
3. Pro Sports
Houston has one of the best pro sports scenes in the country, bar none. While not quite Philadelphia, Chicago or Dallas for that matter, the city offers some fine options. The Houston Astros for one, have been a top Major League Baseball franchise for some time now and play in first-rate Minute Maid Park.
The team that made Yao Ming a global phenomenon, the Rockets, play out of the Toyota Center throughout the NBA season to capacity crowds of 18,500.
Finally, the new kid on the block since 2002, the Houston Texans, bring the most popular sport in America to awesome Reliant Stadium. Though yet to reach the post-season, the Texans receive solid local support and of course, a pro football game in Texas is always a memorable experience.
2. Theater District
A 17-block area with restaurants, bars, cinemas, leisure and entertainment and of course, theaters, provides visitors to Houston with a great hang-out. The Theater District of the city is a relative rarity in the country and is where people come to see the Houston Grand Opera, Houston Ballet and Houston Symphony Orchestra perform.
1. Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center
NASA’s Mission Control is indeed in Space City, at the Johnson Space Center. The popular tourist attraction in Houston provides daily tours and a peerless glimpse of where real astronauts go to work.