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Houston

Updated: Sep 13, 2011 03:36 PM EDT
Houston's downtown skyline & downtown aquarium (©Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau/Jim Olive) Houston's downtown skyline & downtown aquarium (©Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau/Jim Olive)


By David Baird, Eric Peterson & Neil Edward Schlecht

Everything's bigger in Texas, and Houston is no exception: it's the biggest city of them all. Begin a tour of this cosmopolitan metropolis at Space Center Houston, where interactive displays recreate the challenges of space exploration. A thriving Museum District preserves Houston's rich cultural treasures, while an abundance of parks preserve the city's green spaces. The cow-wrestling days may be over in Houston, but you don't have to look far to find traditional Texas culture: its remnants can be found at Gilley's honky-tonk and barbecue joints everywhere.

Things to Do

"Houston, we have a problem." Space Center Houston brings to life this and other memorable moments in space exploration with lunar simulators and anti-gravity environments. More earthly subjects fill the exhibits at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, including a recreated rainforest and glittering geodes. The attraction forms part of the extensive Museum District, which also includes the Czech Center Museum, the Health Museum, and the Children's Museum of Houston.

Nightlife and Entertainment

The quintessential Texas honky-tonk, Gilley's packs its dance floor with more cowboy hats and oversize belt buckles than you can possibly count. Although the club is large and famous, you'll find a more authentic vibe at Blanco's, including many of the state's best bands. Classical music fans will find plenty to love in Houston, too. The city's thriving cultural scene is centered in the Theater District, including symphony, opera, ballet and theater.

Restaurants and Dining

Sauce-laden barbecue, fresh seafood and spicy Tex-Mex enchiladas fill traditional restaurant menus across Houston. Order up an icy glass of sweet tea or beer and you'll be eating like a local. Houston's favorite local burgers, enormous and served with milkshakes, are beloved at Beck's Prime. The city's landmark restaurant is elegant Brennan's, with Creole redfish, flame-roasted Gulf shrimp and grilled Angus beef steaks.

Active Pursuits

Houston sizzles in the summer, when much of the city finds a way to swim at the beaches of Galveston. Buffalo Bayou draws hundreds of outdoor enthusiasts to its watery banks, lined with bicycle and walking paths. The 3-mile loop takes in views of the gleaming Houston skyline and is dotted with outdoor sculptures. A longer (10 miles) but no less pleasant pedestrian path lies southwest of town, at Brays Bayou.

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