Here’s something we already know about Houston, Texas; it’s one of the coolest and most fun cities to visit in the American South.
1. Houston is huge
Whether walking or taking public transport, plan your journey well because Houston is the most populated city in Texas and the fourth in the United States (after New York, Chicago and Los Angeles). It’s so geographically big, it could fit the cities of New York, Boston, and San Francisco all at once. At 1,635 sq km, it lies east of Austin, south of Dallas and has a population of approximately 2.24million. On top of that, it’s thought to be one of the most ethnically and racially diverse cities in the country, so everyone’s welcome.
2. They have some strange laws
Planning on having a glass of something stronger? You’ll have to go to a bar after noon time if it’s Sunday. Laws in Texas prevent people from buying a bottle of liquor in a shop on Sundays altogether, but stores can sell beer and wine. So your best bet might be to check out one of Houston’s many cool nightlife venues. Not a bad compromise.
SEE ALSO: 15 reasons to visit Houston, Texas now
3. It’s home to the world’s first domed stadium
The NRG Astrodome, often referred to as “The Eighth Wonder Of The World”, started being built in 1962 and was completed in 1965. Home to the Houston Astros of Major League Baseball up until 1999, it’s the first multi-purpose sports stadium and hosts the NBA’s Houston Rockets part-time. After being the first venue of its kind to use artificial turf instead of grass, the artificial turf has become more commonly known as AstroTurf. The dome provided shelter to many victims of New Orleans’ Hurricane Katrina and in 2017 it was named a State Antiques Landmark by the Texas Historical Commission, which means that it cannot be modified without a permit.
4. Houston is the most famous word said on the moon
While there’s confusion around what the exact first words said on the moon were, there’s no doubt that “Houston” was in there. The “Houston, we have a problem” quote was popularised by Tom Hanks’ character in the 1995 movie, Apollo 13, but the more accurate lines are said to be: “Okay, Houston, we’ve had a problem here” and “Uh, Houston, we’ve had a problem”. The city is home to the NASA Mission Control Center so make sure to give the Space Center a visit.
5. The dining scene is a big deal
With the best in Tex-Mex, Asian dishes and food trucks, it’s no wonder people who live in the city dine out so much. Residents are said to eat outside of their home four times per week on average and they’re spoiled for choice with more than 10,000 restaurants that represent more than 70 countries. Some of the best venues to try include Churrascos, Fung’s Kitchen and Gatlin’s BBQ Ribs.
6. Houston is home to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo
The largest rodeo in the world (Feb 27 to Mar 18, 2018), sees approximately 2 million people flock to the action and enjoy entertainment from a variety of musicians. In March 2017, Demi Lovato, With Harmony, Willie Nelson, ZZ Top, Zac Brown Band, Blink 182 and Willie Nelson performed. On top of that, Alicia Keys took to the stage for Black Heritage Day and Old Dominion led Armed Forces Appreciation Day. Don’t miss out on the huge carnival which takes place midway through.
7. It has the first traditional Hindu mandir in the nation
Inaugurated in 2004 by spiritual leader Swami Maharaj, the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir temple was modelled after the architectural scriptures of India from 5,000 years ago and was the first its kind in North America. Its 34,000 pieces of Italian marble and Turkish limestone were hand-sculpted in India, then put together by volunteers and artisans, just like a giant jigsaw puzzle. It took 28 months to build and can be toured by the public each day from 7.30am to 8.45pm.
8. Houston is home to Texas’ largest shopping mall
Since launching in 1970, the Houston Galleria is the biggest mall in the state and has over 375 stores across its four floors, not to mention an office tower, two Westin Hotels, and private health club. Located in the Uptown District, it’s the ninth largest shopping centre in the country and has Neiman Marcus, Saks Firth Avenue and Macy’s among its outlets.
9. More than 145 languages are spoken in Houston
Located north of Mexico, some of the most popular languages spoken in the city (apart from English) are Spanish, Vietnamese, and Chinese. A 2015 US Census reported that at least 145 languages were spoken in Houston – that’s more than the likes of Miami, Boston and Detroit. Only New York and LA beat the city to having a larger variety of languages spoken. In fact, more than one third of people aged over five years speak a language other than English, proving that no matter where you’re from, you can feel at home in Houston.
10. There’s a beer can house
Hoarder John Milkovisch, turned his empty beer can stashing habit into a roadside tourist attraction, which also serves as a gallery and workshop. After launching it in 1968 with a siding for his house, he went on to cover the lawn and fence with coloured glass and marbles, also using the ring pulls from cans to create a curtain for the porch. He worked on it for 18 years and in 2001, the Orange Show Center Visionary Art preserved it as a folk art monument. It’s only US$5 per admission, and tours are available too.
11. You can find previous presidents
You’ll have to keep up with the changing locations to find the carvings of previous presidents’ heads. While Mount Rushmore boasts that of George Washington, Theodore Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson, Houston’s sculptures have Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. Also located around the city are the heads of all four Beatles members (Ringo Starr, John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison), created by David Adickes.
12. You can make the Bayou burp
Beneath the Preston Street Bridge, there’s a red button which makes bubbles erupt, Jacuzzi-style, when pressed. The civic art installation doesn’t have a sign explaining what will come as a result of pressing the button; instead, passers-by are encouraged to act on impulse and be pleasantly surprised by what the 1998 installation by Dean Ruck does.
13. You can walk between most of the museums
Houston may be a huge city but at least you have plenty of museums to discover all in one place. There are 19 museums to choose from, all within a 12-block radius. The Museum District is home to The Children’s Museum and Museum of Natural Science (below), among others, and more than 8.7 million people visit each year. Make sure to check out the city’s first and only 4D theatre and the sixth largest art museum in the US.
14. There’s a drive-thru safari
If you can’t go to Africa or the Middle East for the ultimate safari experience, fear not, because Houston has got the next best thing. The Bayou Wildlife Park takes visitors on a tram which allows them to see free-roaming rhinos, camels, lemurs, and deer in action across its sprawling 86 acres of land. There’s a petting zoo for kids too. Situated in the Alvin neighbourhood, guests are exposed to 500 animals from 60 species of animals and birds, making it a great day out for the family.
15. There’s a great graffiti mecca
Near Almeda Mall (10902 Kingspoint), lies Kingspoint Mullet, a 17,000 sq ft warehouse founded by the late-artist Johnathan Estes in 2010. The front of the space is very much an art gallery while the back is reserved for parties (hence the 80s haircut-inspired name) and it also houses art shop Overspray Art Supply. It’s free to visit and open from sunrise to sunset.
– TEXT BY LEAH SIMPSON
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This article was originally published by Singapore Press Holdings.