Houston, now we have an issue. Or somewhat, we did have an issue. For years, outsiders dismissed the oil-rich Texas metropolis as nothing greater than a sprawling jumble of asphalt freeways, neat suburban houses and bland company HQs that solely David Brent would get enthusiastic about. Lately, nevertheless, the Bayou Metropolis has unbuttoned its shirt, polished its boots and began to have enjoyable.  

The 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landings in 2019 introduced a palpable buzz to town. However Nasa’s Johnson House Heart, which acted as command-post for 1969’s epochal Eagle-has-landed mission, isn’t Houston’s solely declare to fame. It’s additionally, lest we neglect, town that gave us HRH Beyoncé (in Downtown Queen Bey’s lyrics adorn banners within the streets). And except for that, town has loads of cultural charms to pattern. Listed here are a number of the finest.

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What to do 

Pay homage to area heroes

Apollo 17 on the Houston House Heart (Wikimedia)

To have a good time 50 years since Neil Armstrong first took these leaden steps on the moon, Mission Management at House Heart Houston has been painstakingly restored to look precisely the way it did in 1969 (suppose discarded headsets, retro Coca Cola cans, ashtrays and nicotine-stained partitions). As a result of Nasa services are additional than only a small step aside, a 90-minute tram tour (included within the ticket value) whisks guests between websites, together with Rocket Park (house to the dinosaur-sized Saturn V) and buildings the place white-lab-coated scientists mooch about (many of the coaching/planning for Nasa area missions occurs right here). Treasured hours could be spent ogling the gallery of flown spacecraft or discovering out solutions to questions similar to: “How do astronauts poo in area?” 

It’s additionally filled with extra interactivity than you’ll be able to you’ll be able to shake a lightsaber at: guests can contact real moon rocks, eat freeze-dried ice cream or lunch with grandpa-like ex-astronauts. House Heart Houston is a 30-minute drive down I-45 from Houston. Tickets from $29.95 (£24). 

Be dazzled by Houston’s museums

Every time ‘America’s High 10 Cultured Cities’ listicles seem on-line, Houston invariably makes a cameo, partly because of its Museum District. Take a look at Museum of Nice Arts (tickets: $17/£13), a unbelievable primer to postwar American artwork with Pollocks, Warhols and Rothkos galore. 

In the meantime, Houston Museum of Pure Science (tickets: $25/£20) is children’ museum-nirvana, with a planetarium, paleontology wing and ‘Loss of life By Pure Causes’ exhibition showcasing the on a regular basis methods through which individuals can snuff it (you’ll be able to calculate your life expectancy there too). 

Houston has an excellent vary of museums (Getty Photos)

Count on extra grim-reaper larceny at Nationwide Museum of Funeral Historical past (tickets: $10/£8) with its historical-hearses coffin assortment, Day of the Lifeless room and memorabilia from well-known funerals similar to Frank Sinatra and Marilyn Monroe (warning: Jim Henson’s send-off is genuinely tear-jerking). 

Have interaction in some batty behaviour 

Each night time round nightfall, a murky cloud of 200,000 Mexican free-tailed bats soars from beneath Waugh Drive Bridge in Buffalo Bayou Park for his or her nightly insect feed. Very often, there are tons of of individuals there to observe them too. The pageantry of this biblical-like swarm of winged mammals set in opposition to Houston’s skyscrapers is spectacular. Buffalo Bayou Park will also be admired on kayak excursions or Houston’s BCycle bike-share scheme.  

Buffalo Bayou Park (Getty Photos/iStockphoto)

The place to remain 

Houston attracts plenty of enterprise travellers throughout the week, however this implies lodge charges drop dramatically at weekends.  

Decide of downtown digs is Lodge Alessandra, all fanatically polished marble decor, Artwork Deco furnishings and martini carts ordered to your room. The rooftop pool, with its sweeping skyline views and ledge-loungers which might be semi-submerged within the water, affords a much-needed sanctuary from Houston’s subtropical summers (in August the mercury surges to 35C). Doubles from $199 (£159), room solely.  

Lodge Magnolia was in-built 1926 and was beforehand the HQ for the Houston Put up Dispatch and Shell. Not like different stylish boutique lodgings, its complimentary bedtime cookies and convivial comfortable hour lend a welcoming vibe, as does its raffish library and billiards room. Doubles from $159 (£127), room solely. 

Sara’s Inn is Houston’s longest-running B&B. A Queen Anne Victorian house (an architectural type well-liked from the 1890s to the 1910s), it options 11 antique-laden rooms, some with four-poster beds, winding staircases and claw-foot bathtubs. Relax on its Southern-style porch or its period-styled parlor room earlier than exploring the encompassing Heights, arguably H-City’s most charming neighbourhood. Doubles from $109 (£87), B&B. 

The place to eat 

Dimension issues in Houston, as any drive down its endless, SUV-choked freeways will inform you. Town’s meals additionally subscribes to this ‘bigger-is-better’ ethos. Take Goode Co BBQ. Right here, beef brisket is slow-cooked for 14 hours, the ribs appear to be one thing the Flintstones might need gorged on, whereas meals are sometimes five-course affairs. Smoked sausage and pecan pie is washed down with longnecks-on-ice (bottled beer) and gallons of ice tea. For additional immersion into barbecue tradition, go to throughout rodeo season (3-22 March, 2020), when amateurs and professionals compete in nightly cook-offs. 

Rodeo Goat affords comparable carni-nirvana. At this ice-house (old-school beer joint), burgers come stacked with hydroponic sprouts, poblano cheese and candied bacon.   

The Texan penchant for enormity can be on show at MAD, a brand new Spanish-inspired restaurant named after Madrid’s airport code. Impressed by the 1970s’ La Movida Madrileña countercultural motion, its choreographed colors are worthy of an Almodóvar film, whereas the meals is predictably fancy: sautéed child eels, duck tongue tacos, wood-fired paella with socarrat (crust on the backside of the pan; who knew that was even a phrase?) and cacao-coated ‘liquid olives’. So posh it has real Picassos on the wall, there’s a hefty tag to pay for such lavishness: a two-month waiting-list. 

Round 44 per cent of Houston’s inhabitants is Hispanic, leading to some first-rate Latin American meals, similar to Oaxacan restaurant Xochi with its limitless fiesta of moles, together with a try-it-if-you-dare chicatana (ants) model.   

The place to drink

The shirt-soaking humidity of Houston doesn’t stop partying in any respect; individuals simply merely head to their nearest breezy open-air patio, particularly when clocks strike comfortable hour. The beer backyard at craft brewery Saint Arnold isn’t any exception. Not solely is it gargantuan (25,000sqft), however because of its railroad-tracks location it couldn’t be extra yee-haw Western both. Brewery excursions are free, whereas the Pub Crawl pale ale, Fancy Lawnmower kölsch and 14.7 per cent bourbon-barreled stout are each bit as unbelievable as their names counsel.

Visiting a honky tonk bar is a Texan rite-of-passage. On the barn-like Goodnight Charlie’s within the Montrose nightlife district, a rustic band rumbles away, however the true enjoyable is watching good-ole-boys in boots and 10-gallon hats politely asking ladies to bop the two-step with them. For all their jaw-jutting machismo, cowboys actually are fairly chaste.  

A brief stroll away is Current Firm, a bar with low-cost mescal cocktails, retina-scorching neon, palm-tree-festooned patios and an anything-goes vibe (once we visited, some loon was milling about with three monkeys on his arm whereas all people else broke out into impromptu Macarena line-dances). 

The place to buy 

The closest factor H-City has to a hipsterville is The Heights neighbourhood. Dotted amongst its low-rise bungalows, you’ll discover the same old tattoo-clad baristas, avant-garde picture-houses and classic shops. However Manready Mercantile transcends all that; the cowhide-lined emporium sells jerky, unisex denim and in addition has a DIY candle bar, the place patrons make customised soy candles in whisky glasses ($28/£22). If the quirk will get an excessive amount of, nip into second-hand bookstore Kaboom Books, which is like stepping right into a comforting hug. 

On the primary Saturday of each month, food-trucks, craft-stalls and live-music line up The Heights’ 19th Road for First Saturday Arts Markets. 

On the different finish of the procuring spectrum are Houston’s malls, a lot of them so large they’ve inns inside, similar to Three million sqft Galleria, which additionally homes 400 shops and an ice-skating rink. 

For pure Texana, Cavender’s Boot Metropolis sells rows-upon-rows of conventional cowboy boots, Stetsons and Wrangler denim. The boutiques of tony River Oaks enclave – Houston’s reply to Rodeo Drive – are in all probability finest prevented, except $10,000 Brunello Cucinelli coats and Patek Philippe timepieces are your factor. 

Architectural spotlight

Native railroad employee John Milovisch in all probability wasn’t sticking to 14-units every week when he embellished the skin of his house with 50,000 crushed beer cans (if he have been, it could have taken him 137 years to guzzle the lot). Nevertheless, the copious can consumption did produce Beer Can Home, Houston’s folk-art landmark. 

The famed Beer Can Home (Wikimedia/Andrew Wiseman)

Nuts and bolts

What foreign money do I would like?

US {dollars} (USD). 

What language do they converse?

English. Count on mellifluous accents and to be addressed as ‘y’all’.

Ought to I tip? 

Undoubtedly. Usually 15-20 per cent in eating places, 10-15 per cent for taxi drivers and $1 (80p) a drink in bars. 

What’s the time distinction?

Six hours behind the UK, one hour behind New York.

What’s the common flight time?

From the UK, 10 hours 15 minutes; there are 4 flights a day on United and British Airways. From New York, airways together with United, Delta, Spirit and Southwest fly to Houston with a flight time of 4 hours.

Public transport

There are free Greenlink buses within the Downtown space. For additional distances, think about the efficient-but-rarely-used Metro Rail prepare service, linking Downtown to Museum District and past.

Finest view

Essentially the most spectacular Houston views aren’t wanting down from 57th-floor eyries, however gazing at its skyscraper-studded skyline from afar. Apart from Buffalo Bayou Park, take a look at comparable photograph opps from street-art-splattered Graffiti Park (2102 Leeland Road) or Glenwood Cemetery.

Insider tip 

Take a look at the chisel work of native 92-year-old sculptor David Adickes. His Mt Rushmore-style large president heads span George Washington to Obama, and could be present in his studio yard (2401 Nance Road). Don’t anticipate to see the present Potus: he’s mysteriously absent for some cause.