Although I’m not originally from Houston, I’ve lived in this city much of my life. It has always surprised me that most people never consider visiting this incredibly cosmopolitan city, especially since it’s the fourth largest city in the United States. But recently, Houston has been receiving some astoundingly great press: last year, Forbes touted Houston as the coolest city to live in the United States; and even Texas Monthly got in on the act, giving an impassioned, somewhat tongue-in-cheek argument why the Texas state capital should be moved from Austin to Houston — and to be honest, once you read the article, it’s really hard to disagree with its logic.
Having spent most of my adulthood in this city, I’ve had the opportunity to really fall in love with the place — and photograph much of its coolness in the process. And so, without further ado, here are the top 10 reasons you should add the Bayou City to your future travel plans.
THE MUSEUM DISTRICT
Houston has some of the best museums in the country, from the award-winning Museum of Fine Arts, to the Contemporary Arts Museum, to the inspiring Children’s Museum, to the ultra-charming Menil (shown above) — and that’s just for starters. There are many more. No matter what your passion, you’ll find it here in Houston.
THE THEATRE DISTRICT
You want culture? Oh, Houston’s got culture: The downtown theatre district has more concentrated seating for arts events then any place except for Broadway. We have internationally renowned opera, an amazing ballet, and more plays and symphonies than you can shake a baton at.
THE HOUSTON LIVESTOCK SHOW AND RODEO
It’s hard to think of Houston without thinking of cowboys, and during early spring, Houston comes alive with the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo — a bonanza week of roping events, livestock competitions, and some of the best music concerts you’ll ever see.
SPEAKING OF SPRING …
… while there is no denying that Houston summers are oppressive, there is really nothing more beautiful than a Texas spring day. And April is when city and surrounding areas are covered in bluebonnets, the state flower. Also making an appearance is that showy southern favorite, the azalea, and every spring you can follow the Azalea Trail, a home and garden tour of some of the most beautiful gardens you’ll ever see.
If you do visit Houston in spring, be sure to plan some time in some of our amazing green parks. Memorial Park is on of the largest urban parks in the United States, with a golf course and facilities for tennis, softball, swimming, track, and even trail biking. Hermann Park (shown above) has beautiful fountains, an amazing Japanese garden, and, of course, the 55-acre Houston Zoo. And those parks are just the beginning.
One of my favorite parks in Houston is Discovery Green, located right downtown — home to a couple of great cafes, an awesome water park, and a stage featuring free entertainment. You can even take an occasional yoga or kayaking class here, too! It’s a great place to beat Houston summer heat.
THE RESTAURANT SCENE
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Houston’s best-kept secrets are its restaurants — even the New York Times says so. Name your favorite cuisine, and I guarantee you that there’s a restaurant here that will serve you the best meal of your life, with money to spare.
ART CAR PARADE
Perhaps, when you travel, you prefer to see the weirder side of a city. Well, honey, if weird is what you want, look no further than Houston’s annual Art Car Parade, where car owners get downright creative with their cars.
Not visiting Houston during Art Car Parade time? Never fear, my friend. There’s an Art Car Museum, where you can visit some of the more impressive cars up close and personal.
And if art cars aren’t weird enough for you, then perhaps you should check out David Adyckes’ exhibit of giant U.S. presidents’ heads, each 16-20 feet tall.
Yeah, baby. Now that’s strange.
And finally, no trip to Houston would be complete without a visit to The Johnson Space Center, home of the one and only Mission Control. Because let’s face it: there is very little cooler than outer space, and mission control is where it all goes down.