Houston, the largest city in Texas and the fourth-largest in the United States, is buzzing. Imbued with both Southern hospitality and big-city multiculturalism, it’s thrumming with nightlife, daytime adventures and cosmopolitanism befitting its size. It’s also a capital of enterprise, where NASA’s Johnson Space Center looms large. From Dallas, it’s a three-and-half-hour drive or a one-hour flight to Houston. Giddy up.

The best things to do in Houston

Get out of this world at Space Center Houston

Space Center Houston, Texas

No trip to Houston is complete without a visit to the Space Center. The city is home to NASA, and this location – dedicated to space exploration, recognition and education – is a family-friendly feast for all ages. There are more than 400 space artefacts onsite, including moon rocks and lunar samples; travelling and permanent exhibits (don’t miss the Artemis exhibit, which chronicles civilisation’s return to the Moon); and the opportunity to have breakfast with an astronaut.

Explore the expansive Houston Museum District

Moody Center for the Arts, Texas

With 19 museums and art institutions spanning four zones of the city, the Houston Museum District punches above its weight. For the creatively inclined, Moody Center for the Arts (located on the Rice University campus) is an immersive museum that regularly hosts performances and craft pop-ups alongside its exhibitions. The Houston Museum of African American Culture celebrates African-American creativity while preserving the nation’s often fractured history, with the permanent Jazz Church of Houston exhibit honouring groundbreaking musical culture and artworks in the Stairwell of Memory shining a spotlight on police brutality. The Children’s Museum of Houston provides 90,000 square feet of kid-friendly activities and workshops, from Kidtropolis (where kids quite literally run the show) to the problem-solving SECRET Spy Game and the hands-on Chevron Maker Annex. Plan ahead: 10 of the museums are always free, but the remainder offer select free admission times.

Catch the Houston Astros hit a home run at Minute Maid Park

Minute Maid Park, Texas

Baseball is serious business in this city and catching the home team, the Houston Astros, play at Minute Maid Park is a summertime staple for locals and travellers alike. Known as “The Juice Box” to locals, Minute Maid Park has a retractable roof and real grass, making it the ideal way to celebrate the Major League Baseball season. You can buy tickets to all home games of the 2023 season, which runs until 1 October, online. Less than 15 minutes from the stadium, Truckyard Houston has live music, beers on tap and a rotating roster of food trucks. Tip: food trucks are a lifestyle in this part of the world, so keep an eye on Street Food Finder to see what’s nearby – you might find taco, arepa and even lobster pop-ups.

Hit the Houston Farmers Market then picnic at Buffalo Bayou Park

Just west of downtown Houston, the 65-hectare Buffalo Bayou Park is home to gardens; a nature-focused play area; hiking and biking trails (and a selection of bike rentals, too); public art; and picnic-friendly outdoor spaces. Take the scenic route down the Bayou and rent a paddleboard. Head to the Houston Farmers Market to grab a picnic’s-worth of food – including locally grown produce, hard-to-find spices, and baked treats – ahead of time. Cash is preferred. Tip: start your day early as the market occasionally has live music, yoga sessions, and cooking classes on offer.

Channel your inner cowboy at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo

If everything is bigger in Texas, then it makes sense that the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is the largest in the world. Held annually in February and March, the event promotes the state’s agricultural industry and offers a thick billing of livestock- and farming-related events. While the month-long show involves all kinds of agricultural contests, it’s the livestock and horse shows and the signature 20-day rodeo tournament that attract especially enthusiastic crowds from around the world.

The best places to eat in Houston

Ninfa, Texas

Wedged between the Mexican and Louisiana borders and home to diverse immigrant communities, Houston is rich with eclectic hybrid cuisines, including Tex-Mex and Bayou-friendly seafood, in addition to specific culinary enclaves. For a taste of both traditional Mexican food and the Tex-Mex hybrid, go Ninfa's on Navigation. Founded by Mama Ninfa Laurenzo in 1973, the eatery is widely credited with bringing fajitas to Texas (and, more broadly, the USA). Try the grilled beef skirt steak fajita with rice and beans for a taste of Mama Ninfa’s staple, or chilaquiles verdes (fried eggs with avocado, tomatillo salsa and cotija cheese) for a morning kick. If an upscale dinner is more your speed, 28-seater March has a (currently: Greek-inspired) tasting menu that offers a direct teleportation to the Mediterranean. A huge earthy tapestry by Argentinian artist Alexandra Kehayoglou adorns the ceiling and wall, a nod to the produce sourced for the lamb-belly moussaka or finger-friendly crispy fried smelt with orange-and-dill yoghurt.

The best places to stay in Houston

For a touch of luxury: The Post Oak Hotel at Uptown Houston

Post Oak Hotel, Texas

With 250 stately rooms across 38 storeys, the Post Oak Hotel enjoys views of the Houston skyline, including from the ultra-luxurious two-bedroom Presidential Suite, which has a private elevator and terrace access. If that’s not quite your speed, the Luxury Guest Rooms feature generous beds, marble bathrooms and a soaking tub. There are also nine dining and drinking options onsite offering Tex-Mex fare, seafood gumbos and a cellar with over 30,000 bottles to choose from.

For families: The Houstonian

Kids are catered for at The Houstonian, with child-friendly pools, expansive grounds that will keep little feet busy and access to the athletics club and its events and workshops. The 11-hectare venue also features a spa (for adult pampering, with indulgences including full-body massages and soaking pools), five eateries, and accommodation ranging from suites to rooms with sofa beds.

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SEE ALSO: 15 of the Best Things to Do in Dallas

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