Houston is the fourth largest city in the United States with a population of over 4.7 million. Texas is a one of a kind destination, from the Schlitterbahn waterparks to the Alamo, you’ll never get bored in the Lonestar State. You can save 49% off the regular admission price to 5 popular attractions by getting the Houston CityPASS. Houston is about a 3½ hour drive from Dallas (240 miles), 3 hours from San Antonio (200 miles) and 5½ hours to New Orleans (350 miles).
Top 11 Attractions
1. Space Center Houston – A large portion of NASA’s activities are performed in Houston, despite their headquarters being in Washington, DC. The Houston visitor center houses actual capsules and command modules that have been in space, a number of artifacts and so much more. Save $3 off admission by buying tickets online. Gate admission is $20.95 for adults and $16.95 for children.
2. San Jacinto Monument and Museum is home to the worlds tallest free-standing monument, a large column (10 feet taller than the Washington monument in D.C.) that rises 567 feet out of the ground. Look out from the observation deck and stop by the museum which commemorates the Battle of Jacinto. Admission is free.
3. Downtown Aquarium– Opened in 2003, currently houses over 200 species in over 500,000 gallons of water. Come face to face with white tigers, alligators and Red-bellied piranhas. Be sure to get a bite to eat at the Aquarium Restaurant, where you can eat while watching sharks, sting rays, eels, and exotic fish in the center of the restaurant. Get aquarium themed merchandise at the shop. Fun Fact: They currently have four locations: downtown Denver, downtown Houston, Nashville in Opry Mills Mall, and Kemah, Texas at the Kemah Boardwalk. Stop by the Nashville or Kemah location to feed sting rays in the Sting ray Reef. Similar restaurants can also be found at SeaWorld Orlando and Epcot at Disney World. Admission is $9.99 for adults and $6.99 for children.
4. Houston Museum of Natural Science – Over two million annual visitors flock to this century old museum. Check out a wide variety of exhibits as well as the Burke Baker Planetarium, the Wortham IMAX Theatre, and the Cockrell Butterfly Center. Admission is $15 for adults and $9 for children.
5. Museum of Fine Art – One of the largest art museums in the country, located in a 300,000-square-foot complex containing over 62,000 works of art. Founded in 1924, this museum remains a “must-see” for art those who like the finer things in life. I found out about this museum in my Texas interview with National Geographic’s Andrew Evans, who highly recommends this attraction. Adult admission is $7 and child admission is $3.50.
6. Schlitterbahn Water Park – We consider the Schlitterbahn Water park in nearby Galveston, Texas to be the best water park in the nation. It first opened in 1979 to later expand as The Schlitterbahn Water park Resort with three water parks, Schlitterbahn West and Schlitterbahn East over 40 rides, 17 slides, nine tube chutes, uphill water coasters, and three lazy rivers. America’s first family of water parks You will be very impressed with this water park and you won’t want to go home. Experience next generation attractions that Schlitterbahn has invented to let you have more fun than ever before. Many have considered this park to be the best water park in the world. Other locations are in South Padre Island, Texas, Kansas City, Kansas and the Galveston Island location is listed below as number five one our list. Another great thing about all Schlitterbahn parks is that guest can bring in their own coolers, and parking is always free. Schlitterbahn Cedar Park will open near Austin, TX by Summer 2012 with the first phase at the cost of $75 million, and once all is completed the total coast will be approx. $360 million. General admission is $29.99 for adults and $24.99 for children.
* Splashtown Houston is more convenient, buy your tickets online for a reduced rate. Admission is $33 for adults and $25 for children.
*A second Aquatica water park (the first being in Orlando) opened in 2012 at SeaWorld San Antonio. Admission is $46 for adults and $41 for children.
7. The Children’s Museum of Houston – Discover nine galleries of fun, yet educational, exhibits in one of the best children’s museums in the world, welcoming nearly one million annual visitors. After recently doubling it’s size to 90,000 square feet of exhibit space, these 14 galleries are every child’s fantasy. Consider coming on a warm day to explore several outdoor exhibit galleries, which include a Weather Station, Eco Station, and the watery Flow Station. Experience a TV studio that lets kids see themselves on camera, read scripts from the anchor desk, and work the control panel. It’s ranked #3 on our list of the 10 Best Children’s Museum’s In America. The admission rate is $8.
8. The Houston Zoo spans 55-acres, home to over 4500 animals of over 900 species, this zoo is truly extraordinary Stop by the new African Forest exhibit, take a ride on the carousel, hear sea lions bark, and watch orangutans play. Adult admission is $12, seniors are $6.50 and child admission is $8.
9. The Menil Collection houses 1/5 of the Menil families collection at a time, showcasing a wide variety of art, free of charge.
10. The Chase Tower Observatory is a 75-story skyscraper rises 1,001 feet, making it the tallest building in Texas; the 60th floor observatory is open to the public, free of charge.
11. National Museum of Funeral History – This museum houses the country’s largest collection of funeral service artifacts and features renowned exhibits on one of man’s oldest cultural customs. Come discover the mourning rituals of ancient civilizations and explore the rich heritage of the industry which cares for the dead. See John Paul II’s bulletproof Popemobile and an exact reproduction of his triple-nested coffin. Also see a coffin embedded with hundreds of dollars of U.S. coins and currency, Snow White’s clear glass casket, and a coffin made of the same greenish glass used in old Coke bottles. The “casket for three” was made in the 1930s for a married couple who intended to kill themselves after their baby died, but never did. Also see the largest collection of custom-designed Ghanaian coffins outside of Africa. The official state funeral hearses of Presidents Ford and Reagan are also on display. We consider it to be one of the 27 Coolest Museums In America! Admission is $10 for adults, $7 for children, and $9 for seniors.
Houston is ranked by Forbes as America’s #1 best city for shopping, with nearly 17,000 retail locations and an 8.25% sales tax rate.
The Galleria – It’s easy to fill your shopping bags at Texas-sized shopping emporium the Galleria in Houston. Three million square foot of space makes the Galleria to be the largest mall in the state of Texas. It comes anchored by Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue, and two seperate Macy’s. There are 2 Macy’s outposts, along with snazzy retailers like Cartier, Gucci, Tiffany & Co and Louis Vuitton, Westin hotels, tasty restaurants like The Rainforest Cafe, The Cheesecake Factory and The Oceanaire Seafood Room, and even an ice-skating rink under the tall glass atriums. Their ice skating rink was actually the world’s first ever rink to be built inside a mall, which is pretty cool in and of itself. They also have a state of the art children’s play area, two swimming pools, a video arcade, three full-service national and international banks, two tailor shops, 12 beauty salons, and a post office. Yeah, a post office! It takes 1400 parking spaces throughout seven garages just to accommodate all these shoppers! It ranks at #8 on our list of America’s Largest Malls.
Aquarium Restaurant is located inside the downtown aquarium mentioned above. This ocean themed restaurant features a giant aquarium featuring sharks, sting rays, eels, and exotic fish in the center of the restaurant. Get aquarium themed merchandise at the shop.
CK’s Restaurant – This revolving restaurant is located atop the Houston Airport Marriott at George Bush Intercontinental. They specialize in steak, seafood and poultry. The trendy upscale, urban vibe meets a casual and family friendly environment for the perfect dining experience.
Spindeletop – The second Houston revolving restaurant is the original and it is actually located in the heart of downtown, rather than by the airport. This seafood restaurant opened in 1972 and rotates ever 45 minutes to give you the perfect 360-degree of the city. It’s rated 4.5 stars on popular review sites, confirming it’s all around greatness.
Rainforest Cafe – Step into this indoor jungle and discover one of the most realistic indoor rain forests ever created, complete with cascading waterfalls, lush vegetation, tropical rainstorms, beautiful aquariums, trumpeting elephants and wild animatronic gorillas, jaguars, and elephants. A “thunderstorm” goes off every now and then, where the ”animals” go wild and thunder and lightning appear to sound off in a dramatic yet exciting experience. The menu includes a wide variety of options, including pastas, seafood, salads, sandwiches and pizzas. Order their “volcano” sundae and they start yelling “volcano” and make quite a spectacle! Pick up a souvenir on the way out at their large, iconic gift shop.
The Cheesecake Factory – Since first opening in Beverly Hills in 1978, these restaurants have become well known for their fun atmosphere, huge portions and more than 200 menu selections to choose from. They offer 50 cheesecakes and specialty desserts, with some that are only offered seasonally. These include: Key lime cheesecake, Chocolate Chip Cookie – Dough cheesecake, pumpkin cheesecake (available from October – holidays), Pineapple Upside-Down Cheesecake, and after thanksgiving they even have a peppermint Bark Cheesecake!
Buca di Beppo – Owned by Planet Hollywood, Buca di Beppo specializes in immigrant Southern Italian food. Vintage photographs cover the walls, in fact each restaurant is said to have more than 2,500 pictures. The food is served family style, where each item is shared among the dinner party. A select number of locations have a lunch menu, with individual-sized portions. All restaurants have a Pope table, a large table in a room to itself, with a bust of the pope in the center. Most locations also have a room right across from the kitchen, where you can watch them cook – chefs even come over and talk to you and even let you sample dishes.
Hard Rock Cafe – Located in the glittery theater district, a 35-foot replica of the Stevie Ray Vaughan Gibson Firebird guitar lights the way to the most rockin’ place in the city. A wide variety of entrees and a pretty cool atmosphere make this among Houston’s favorites.
2.5 Star- Modern B&B (Avg. price $100-$300) may be a 2.5 star hotel but it actually receives an average of a 4.5 star rating on the popular travel site, TripAdvisor. Large rooms, friendly service, great food and décor come hand in hand to make this one of the cities best hotels.
4 Star- Hotel ZaZa (Avg. price $199-$384) offers style and elegance to make the ultimate getaway. Conveniently located near The Museum of Fine Arts, you’re sure to have a good stay at this urban resort.
4.5 Star- The Icon Hotel (Avg. price $104-$197) truly lives up to its name, offering premium atmosphere reasonable prices.
Goliad State Park & Historical Site – National Geographic’s Andrew Evans calls this Texas’s best kept secret.