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Holiday Guides for North America - United States

Houston Holiday

Houston has rocketed to international fame as the centre of US space travel, though as a must-see city for tourists, Houston has 'no problem'.

Houston, Texas has something for everyone. It offers a wide variety of activities for every age group and is a great place to spend an action-packed weekend or a longer holiday.

Houston is located on the eastern side of the state of Texas, 52 miles northwest of the Gulf of Mexico.

Thanks to an historic commitment to growth, Houston now dominates southeastern Texas and is the fourth largest city in the United States. Its sprawling metropolis is characterised by impressive high rises and shopping malls interspersed with beautiful greenbelts and lively neighbourhoods.

Houston, named after former Republic of Texas president Sam Houston, is an international business hub and the energy capital of the United States, demonstrated by the Texas-size conventions that often fill its major hotels to bursting point.

But the industrial giant and the creative genius can live in harmony in Houston, and as bustling as the city can be, it can also be a great place for a relaxing break.

Thanks to its young and trendy population Houston offers plenty of fashionable bars and clubs, and its many ethnic restaurants add to its cosmopolitan flavour.

During the day, downtown is alive with activity and the sidewalks are filled with busy executives rushing about their business. But don't let the hustle and bustle of the daytime business atmosphere fool you. When the sun goes down, the downtown area takes on an entirely different character.

Entertainment in Houston comes in world class proportions as a result of the city's commitment to the performing arts. Visitors can sample the opera, the ballet, the theatre or the symphony at Bayou Place, Wortham Centre and Jones Hall.

Bayou Place with its restaurants, nightclubs and concert halls is the most popular new addition to the downtown entertainment scene, where visitors can catch a movie, listen to some Latino-inspired live music, or chow down and enjoy some traditional southern specialities.

For those who prefer the quieter aspects of city life, start a walk at Memorial Park in downtown Houston with its botanical garden and stroll along Buffalo Bayou where you can catch impressive views of the city's skyscrapers and admire the many modernist sculptures along the trail. Amble along the beaches of Galveston or challenge yourself to a round of golf on one of Houston's many golf courses.

The best time to visit Houston, according to those who live there, is late spring or early summer, before the sweltering temperatures arrive in July.

However, to make life more bearable in the humid late summer months, much activity has gone underground in the close-packed downtown area. The city centre boasts an air-conditioned seven-mile pedestrian tunnel system bursting with restaurants and shops.

No trip to Houston is complete without a visit to the infamous NASA-Johnson Space Center, which has planned and overseen America's missions into space since 1963 and is where much of the astronauts' training takes place.

A train ride will take you on a tour of the centre, where you can see the Mission Control room, where the Apollo missions were controlled, and the rockets used to send the astronauts to the moon.

Space Center Houston is the museum associated with NASA-Johnson. It offers permanent exhibitions focussing on past and present space programs.

The Astrodome is another must, especially for sports fans. Dubbed the 'eighth wonder of the world', this architectural marvel represents one of the proudest moments in Houston's history.

Built in 1965, the Astrodome revolutionised the concept of sports stadiums in the US. It is home to the Astros, the Oilers and the annual Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo, and it has also hosted many notorious musical performances.

A tour of the Astrodome will take visitors to the gates of Six Flags Astro World, a huge amusement park that will keep children entertained for days.

Houston, ranked the third most liveable city in the United States, is a great place to spend some time. The community warmth and friendly atmosphere are surprising in a city of such size and complexity, and the baffling explosion of urban chaos and cool tranquillity will have you returning again and again.