1. They serve some of the best food in America
The city is well known for its barbecue dishes and Tex-Mex offerings, not to mention award-winning restaurants like Goode Co. Barbeque (below). Must-try meals include chicken and waffles, ribs, juicy cheeseburgers and steak, on the American side of things. But you can’t come so close to Mexico without trying some fajitas and tacos too. Houston is also famed for its good offerings of dim sum and pho, so it’s worth seeing for yourself what all the hype is about.
2. It’s full of culture
The museums and art exhibitions are something you shouldn’t miss, and there’s plenty more where that came from, with many music and sporting events taking place in the city, year-round. The theatre district is buzzing with events, big and small, and the city is so full of history that visitors shouldn’t leave without doing an architecture-inspired tour. You’ll see the Houston Cotton Exchange, Houston City Hall and the Brochstein Pavillion (below), a 6,000-sq ft space that’s great for chilling out and socialising.
3. Some of the best experiences are free
There are many free things to do in the city, including visits to the Art Car Museum, Lawndale Art Center and Waugh Drive Bridge, where 250,000 bats can be seen emerging at dusk. But the highlights are as follows: The Houston Arboretum and Nature Center (below), where you can walk five miles of trails to learn about protecting plants and nature. Plus there’s a 90-minute boat tour of the Port of Houston and the Rothko Chapel; a non-denominational space in the museum district where many people go to meditate.
4. There’s great shopping
Whether you’re looking for locally owned boutiques or big-name brands, Houston has it all. Firstly, it’s home to the fourth largest shopping mall in the United States, The Galleria (below), but if you don’t favour retail therapy all under one roof, get your cowboy gear at Pinto Ranch, new designer rags at Tootsies and everything in between at Sloan/Hall. Best of all, international visitors will get their new purchases tax-free, so why not go all out with the gifts for your loved ones? The Houston Visitors Center will provide all the belt buckles, barbecue sauces and other mementos you need.
5. Its vibrant nightlife scene
Think honky tonks, sports bars, quiet wine joints and packed nightclubs – there’s so much on offer all over Houston. Washington Avenue attracts the youthful crowd with its mix of offerings, while Downtown and Midtown pulls in professionals winding down after work.The Montrose neighbourhood (below) is one for hipsters and edgy types, while the River Oaks and West University areas are known for their laid-back venues that are popular with residents.
6. The outer space history is incredible
“Houston, we have a problem.” The phrase didn’t come from nowhere, so it’s no wonder Space Center Houston (below), the Official Visitor Center of NASA Johnson Space Center is the city’s top attraction. It has more than 400 space artefacts on display, which includes the largest collection of moon rocks. On top of it being a great place for families to visit (you can have lunch with an astronaut!), budding moonwalkers can come here to take part in educational programmes.
7. It’s an exciting place for kids
Besides the Children’s Museum of Houston, which caters to kids above 12 years old, and Splashtown, the city’s biggest waterpark, there are other attractions that both little ones and adults can enjoy. Think Houston Zoo, which houses more than 6,000 animals from 800 species, Main Street Theater (below), dedicated to children’s art performance, and the Kemah Boardwalk that features a 36-ft carousel and 65-ft Ferris wheel.
8. There are excellent professional sports games
With the Super Bowl 2017 taking place at NRG Stadium (below), it’s no surprise that Houston is the perfect place for professional sports fans to take in a game. With 71,500 seats, the venue is home to the Texans American football team, with drinking parties taking place four hours before the game kicks off. The basketball team, the Houston Rockets, plays at the Toyota Center, where fans who purchase VIP tickets can get access to the Lexus Lounge for a post-party – Beyonce and Oprah have been spotted there in the past. The retractable roof at Minute Maid Park makes watching baseball team, the Astros, a good decision no matter what. Meanwhile, Major League Soccer fans can see the Dynamo and Dash teams play at the BBVA Compass Stadium.
SEE ALSO: 10 fun things to do in Houston, USA