Texas is a big place—and Houston is Texas’ biggest city. So it should come as no surprise that there is an amazingly large number of fun things for visitors to do when in town! Here is a brief look at some of the hottest attractions in Space City that make it a hot vacation spot as well.

• Space Center Houston: The first word spoken on the moon was “Houston,” so it’s fitting that the city is home to one of the finest interstellar museums on Earth. NASA’s Space Center Houston boasts a mammoth number of permanent displays and attractions, but the real star of the show

is the Independence Plaza exhibit, a 747 aircraft with a full replica of the space shuttle Independence mounted above it. In a world first, guests can explore inside both aircraft, from the flight decks to the astronaut living quarters. The space center runs various education programs as well.

• The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston: As one of the largest museums in the United States, there are exhibitions and installations galore. Each Thursday, Houston’s Museum of Fine Arts offers free admission, plus a cash-bar happy hour from 6pm to 8pm—and what better way to experience one of the nation’s most acclaimed art museums than with friends at happy hour? Check out everything from Renaissance art to rare African sculptures with cocktail in hand, before enjoying the resident DJ.

• Buffalo Bayou Partnership: Reaching northwest from Galveston Bay, Buffalo Bayou serves as 10 miles of urban oasis of hundreds of acres of parkland and running trails. Founded in 1986, the partnership has raised millions of dollars for waterfront redevelopment and spearheaded various park protection projects. One of the finest ways to enjoy the bayou’s beauty is from the water itself, starting downtown at Allen’s Landing and working west. Rent a kayak from the Buffalo Bayou Partnership or join one of the company’s boat tours, including history tours and the popular twilight tours.

• La Carafe: The oldest haunt in Houston, La Carafe is an intimate candlelit tavern that has been serving locals for more than 125 years. There are no elaborate cocktails on the menu: it’s still just wine and beer, to be settled in cash at the old-fashioned register. Enjoy a string of immortal jukebox tunes (think Django Reinhart, Edith Piaf and Hank Williams) while keeping an eye out for the resident ghost: an old bartender called “Carl” who’s allegedly still hanging around, possibly waiting for one final tip.

• Houston Museum of Natural Science: The Houston Museum of Natural Science boasts a number of world-class exhibits, including fossils in action. Most major palaeontology exhibits feature dinosaur skeletons lined up one after the other. But this museum, however, tried something entirely different: recreating actual encounters between dinosaurs as they might have occurred millions of years ago. The results are fantastic: skeletal dinosaurs eating, chasing and fighting. The breathtaking jewelry vault and indoor rainforest are also not to be missed.

• San Jacinto Monument and Museum: Towering over the Houston Ship Channel, the San Jacinto Monument is the tallest war memorial in the nation, standing 15 feet taller than the Washington Monument. The 570-foot obelisk—topped by a massive 220-ton Lone Star of Texas—pays tribute to those who fought for Texas’ independence from Mexico in 1836. The outstanding San Jacinto Museum at its base contains a number of fascinating artifacts from the Texas Revolution and subsequent Republic, and is the access point for the all-important elevator to the summit.

• Chinatown: Houston boasts the second largest Chinese population in the U.S. (after Los Angeles), so it’s only fitting to visit Chinatown when in Houston. Head to the thriving district in the city’s southwest for an epicurean adventure. First of all, savor the exotic (and tempting) tastes, sights and smells of the bustling Hong Kong Food Market. After that, nibble on dim sum at Ocean Palace or a steaming bowl of vermicelli soup at Tan Tan. Finish the afternoon with a peaceful stroll around Jade Buddha Temple’s serene lotus ponds, statues and gardens.

For a good time, Houston—the Lone Star State’s biggest city—just can’t be beat.

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