Houston, we don’t have a problem
Father-and-daughter make the most of a layover in Houston by hitting the city’s biggest tourist attractions in a whirlwind
Plan and attack. With only six-and-a-half hours in Houston, that’s the strategy my 13-year-old daughter, Grace, and I embrace to experience Texas’ biggest metropolis.
Rather than eat, drink, shop, read and be bored at George Bush Intercontinental Airport on our long layover we decided to make the most of the day.
So, we hired a car and hit Houston like a whirlwind, visiting the city’s biggest tourist attractions — NASA Johnson Space Centre, Houston Zoo and Houston Museum of Natural Science. First, the zoo. It’s where Hasai likes his salad simple.
Romaine lettuce leaves straight up, no dressing, no croutons, no delicious Parmesan cheese shavings.
And Grace loves hand-feeding Hasai, the elegantly tall and thin male giraffe, his salad.
Giraffe feeding is the most sought-after experience at the zoo.
Twice-a-day a kiosk in the African Forest section of the zoo opens and sells three pieces of romaine to excited kids (and adults) for $5.
Of course, to come face-toface with these gentle giants, romaine-wielding budding zoologists have to climb a flight of stairs to a platform where giraffes pop their heads over the railing for a snack.
Hasai is hungry and Grace feeds him the lettuce so quickly I hardly have time to snap a photo.
We will also catch the elephants bathing, lions lounging, gorillas hanging out and tigers perched atop rock outcroppings.
Texas and Houston have branded themselves so well with ‘Don’t Mess with Texas,’ ‘Everything’s Bigger in Texas,’ and ‘Houston, We have Lift Off ’ catch phrases.
From the zoo we walked across Hermann Park to the Houston Museum of Natural Science to ogle the full-size dinosaur skeletons, the mummy of Neskhons in the Egyptian Hall and priceless Faberge eggs in the special Russian exhibit.
The NASA Johnson Space Centre, Houston’s biggest tourist attraction, is a half-hour drive south of downtown, so to take it in during a layover you really have to race through the place.
This is where American astronauts are trained and Mission Control is located, so it’s the real thing, not a theme park.
Yet, there’s so much for tourists to do from strolling under rockets that have been to space and touch a rock from the moon to touring Mission Control.
Everyone remembers the phrases, “Houston, we have lift off ” as space shuttles leave Earth; “Houston, the Eagle has landed” uttered by astronaut Neil Armstrong in 1969 just before he became the first man to step on the moon; and ‘Houston, we have a problem’ when an oxygen tank exploded in 1970 on Apollo 13 and the mission had to be aborted.
It’s a shame we didn’t have time for Kamah Boardwalk, which a little farther south from the space centre.
We would have gotten our thrill on at the boardwalk’s seven-storey Ferris wheel, the 30-metre Drop Zone and Brave the Bullet wooden roller coaster.
On the drive back to the airport, we stop at Buffalo Bayou Park for the best view of downtown Houston’s shiny skyline.
As an oil, banking and headoffice hub, Houston has grown to 6.5 million population and is the fourth biggest city in the U.S. behind Los Angeles, New York and Chicago.
It might very well surpass Chicago in the next census to become third-largest.
“Houston is primarily a business destination, but we’d love to see more tourists, especially from Canada,” said Visit Houston international marketing manager Celia Morales.
“For tourists we have yearround nice weather, golf, 20 museums, the space centre, Downtown Aquarium, great shopping and hotels and professional sports.”
Baseball’s Houston Astros play in downtown’s Minute Maid Park, basketball’s Houston Rockets call the Toyota Centre home and football’s Texans play out of Reliant Park.
There are non-stop flights to Houston from Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver with Air Canada, WestJet and United Airlines.
Check out VisitHouston.com.
With a population of 6.5 million people, Houston is the fourth largest city in the U.S. behind Los Angeles, New York and Chicago.
NASA Johnson Space Centre is Houston’s biggest tourist attraction.
The coffin of noblewoman Neskhons in the Hall of Ancient Egypt at the Houston Museum of Natural Science.