Everything about Houston is huge: it's population, populace and popularity. With world-class culture, a cosmopolitan setting, renowned sports teams and even a space centre, here's why you should visit...
Humongous Houston is deservedly named after a larger-than-life figure: Sam Houston, former president of the Republic of Texas who led the fight for independence from Mexico in 1865. Everything about Houston is enormous: its population (6 million), its populace (now the most diverse city in America), and its popularity (GQ magazine recently dubbed it “the new capital of Southern cool”). Houston has world-class cultural and medical facilities, and its immense international population contributes to a cosmopolitan setting with world-renowned corporations, sports teams and restaurants.
Read on for why you should visit...
Fifty years after the July 1969 Apollo 11 moon landing, the words “That’s one small step for man...” still cause Americans to beam with pride. NASA’s Mission Control in Houston was the nerve centre for this and other outer-space missions from 1965-95, and remains there to this day. This year, it’s celebrating its monumental 50-year legacy with events throughout 2019. Space Centre Houston provides tram tours of iconic NASA buildings—including a visit to the intricately restored Mission Control room—and hosts an out-of-this-world visitors centre that showcases the rockets, moon rocks, and celestial stories that shaped Space City.
Images courtesy of Houston Space Centre
The words 'historic' and 'Houston' aren’t often used together. But they should be. Despite the city’s reputation for boldly plowing forward, Houston has an under-appreciated architectural heritage. In the Downtown area, visitors and locals flock to Market Square Park to escape the concrete jungle via shade trees and local delicacies. Explore nearby historic buildings housing Warren’s Inn (the ultimate dive bar), Treebeard’s Cajun cuisine, and the reportedly haunted La Carafe bar. For more historical inspiration, stay at the 1926 Lancaster Hotel – remodelled for the modern day while reflecting its 20s' spirit – or discover Houston’s rich Mid-Century Modern architectural legacy. You can even take a walking tour with Preservation Houston, a non-profit historic preservation advocacy and education group, who can guide you past key historic buildings.
Houston recently surpassed New York City as the nation’s most diverse urban area. That doesn’t surprise locals, who’ve been enjoying multi-cultural activities and restaurants for decades. One of the best representations of this phenomenon is Saigon House, which features Vietnamese and Cajun cuisine—a uniquely Houston combination. Another distinctive approach that works wonderfully is the Indian-inspired Italian food at Bombay Pizza Company. Brennan’s is also a local legend, combining French Creole seasonings with traditional Southwestern fare.
Ever heard of mutton-bustin’? How ‘bout a calf scramble? These Texas-worthy activities—highlights of the annual Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, which happens each March—feature kids riding on sheep and chasing cattle across a dusty arena floor, with all the chaos and smiles you’d expect. The rodeo is perhaps the purest Texas event imaginable, with bull-riding competitions, barrel racing and calf-roping accompanied by traditional carnival fare (fried Oreos, turkey legs, funnel cakes) and good ol’ fashioned country-western concerts.
After the devastation of 2017’s Hurricane Harvey’s direct hit on Houston, the city’s spirits needed some serious lifting. Enter the Houston Astros, the rebuilding baseball team that hit the stratosphere at the perfect time. This endearing squad of ballplayers took Houston and America on an amazing journey to the ultimate stage by winning the World Series and the hearts of the nation. That energy and enthusiasm continues each summer at home games in downtown’s welcoming Minute Maid Park.
Houston is known for its humidity, but it has a perfect remedy for sweltering temperatures: dozens of distinctive craft breweries. One of the most popular is 8th Wonder Brewery, named for the city’s iconic Astrodome (once dubbed the '8th Wonder of the World'), the original home of the Houston Astros. Sip on a Hopston IPA, Rocket Fuel Vietnamese Coffee Porter, or Dome Faux’m Cream Ale while taking an Instagram-worthy selfie under the famous “We <3 Houston” statue.
Houston’s impressive art museums are befitting of the nation’s fourth-largest city. The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, draws two million people annually for its remarkable collection of nearly 64,000 pieces of art representing all major continents and styles. The Contemporary Arts Museum of Houston features intriguing, captivating and occasionally provocative modern art around every corner in a distinctive stainless-steel building. The Menil Collection includes several buildings containing paintings, sculptures and photographs that are all free to observe. Be sure to experience the nearby Rothko Chapel – a disarmingly stark structure that provides serenity in a public sacred space.
Colourful walls are a common sight in Houston. Street art plays a big part of the culture, with bright and bold murals plastering the walls from The Heights to East Downtown. Perhaps it's no surprise then that Houston hosts a biennial mural art festival, with the next event taking place this Autumn. HUE (standing for Houston Urban Experience) features artists from around the world, transforming Houston’s cityscape from concrete to colour. Artists will have approximately 190 hours to create their designs using various tools, while spectators can look on as the murals come to life. If you aren't in town for the festival, don't worry: the city is still a work of art throughout the year. Just stroll the streets and you'll come across beautiful graffiti of all kinds – just don't forget your camera.
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