When most people think of visiting the Lone Star State, Houston is one of the first cities to come to mind. With a population of around 2.19 million people as of 2013, Houston has the biggest population in Texas. For visitors and locals alike, this translates into plenty of fun activities to do. Houston offers something for everyone, whether you are an adult or a parent with young children; or prefer science, animals, arts, or something else. The following attractions are the most popular in Houston, Texas for their wide appeal and entertainment value.
The Manned Space Flight Education Foundation Inc. runs the Space Center of Houston, which is actually the top attraction for international tourists. The Space Center first opened in 1992 and since then, it has had 17 million visitors who come to see the educationally fun, and interactive exhibits. One highlight is the largest collection in the world of lunar samples and moon rocks that the public can see. There are even weekly opportunities to meet real astronauts and occasional special events.
The Houston Museum of Natural Science is home to more than just its dozens of permanent and special exhibits. It also hosts a Planetarium and Butterfly Center for those who want to learn more about space or interact with butterflies. Those who want to save money should consider visiting the museum on Thursdays as admission is free. Most people will take at least two hours to see all of the permanent visits, but you can easily spend the entire afternoon, especially if you visit the special exhibits as well.
Those looking for a relaxing attraction in Houston should head to Bayou Place. This entertainment complex is in the middle of Houston's Theater District and includes several event venues and attractions, such as the Hard Rock Cafe, Verizon Wireless Theater, and Angelika Film Center. You will also find many restaurants and bars, including the RocBar nightclub where there is occasional live music. You can either park your car yourself or take advantage of the convenient valet service.
At first glance, the Houston Zoo is just like any other zoo you will find around the country. In reality, this zoo draws in 2 million guests annually to visit their over 6,000 animals. In addition to seeing the wide range of animals at the zoo, your children can also take a ride on the Texas Direct Auto Wildlife Carousel, experience fun and educational 4D films, cool off at the Kathrine McGovern Water Play Park, or even feed the giraffes. Be sure to bring your swimsuit if you plan on playing in the water, but there are changing stalls available.
One of the biggest annual attractions in Houston is the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. This is actually a charity event focused on education and science that also provides entertainment. In fact, since the first event in 1932, this event has donated $375 million to a range of charitable causes such as scholarships and research. The rodeo always includes live music, a run, a horse show, parade, trail rides, and plenty of activities for kids.
As the name implies, Downtown Aquarium is in fact an aquarium, with multiple exhibits, but it is unique. Instead of only displaying fish, the aquarium is designed to be an underwater adventure that your children will love. Exhibits include the Louisiana swamp, shipwreck, rainforest, and sunken temple. There are also games as well as rides such as a Ferris wheel, carousel, and frog hopper. You can even eat a meal at the restaurant or visit The Dive Lounge, the upscale bar on site.
The Children's Museum of Houston is packed with interactive exhibits designed to give your children a glimpse into science, history, technology, different cultures, and more. There is even a Building Zone where children can construct while learning about engineering and physics and a Chevron Maker Annex for working with animation and robotics. With a dozen different permanent exhibits, your children can happily spend hours playing and learning at the same time.
The Galleria is not only one of the most popular malls in the state, but it is also the largest shopping center. You can find 400 restaurants and stores within the 2.4 million sq. ft. of space. Whether you want to go shopping, swimming, ice skating, or visit the post office, the Galleria can help you. With so many stores, you can easily spend the entire day shopping and relaxing. Featured stores include Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Gucci. There are also casual shops such as Gap and J. Crew.
You can find the Houston Arboretum and Nature Center right next to Memorial Park. It spans 155 acres and is a nonprofit nature sanctuary right in the middle of urban Houston. Here you can find fun and educational exhibits and activities that are perfect for all ages. Children will enjoy the Discovery Room in the Nature Center. This is a great option for those on a budget as you can spend a relaxing afternoon on the 5 miles of walking trails for free. There are events and activities geared towards all ages whether you just want your children to have fun, you are looking for adult activities, or want something for the whole family to enjoy together.
Only 20 miles away from downtown, Kemah Boardwalk is perfect for adults, children, and families. You will find rides for all ages, such as a double-decker carousel or train for kids and the Drop Zone for more adventurous riders. There are also a dozen dining options along the boardwalk offering snacks as well as meals of all types, with a focus on seafood. If you want to buy a souvenir from your trip, simply stop at one of the many stores or kiosks. When you plan on visiting Houston, be sure to check out the special events along the boardwalk as even during the winter months, there will be at least some unique event most weekends, such as the Blast from the Past vintage car show.