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Houston Attractions - Entertainment in Houston, Texas
Things to Do and See in Houston including Attractions, Museums, Nightlife,
Sights, Events, History, Arts, Theatre, Landmarks in the Houston Area

A huge statue of noted drunk and Texas pioneer Sam Houston commands the entrance to this 407ac (165ha) wooded park, south of downtown. Inside the park, Houston Zoological Gardens feature gorillas, tropical birds, lions, bats and a menagerie of other critters. This large zoo takes advantage of the area's climate to grow many tropical plants and palms. There's an adjoining aquarium.

While manned US space missions such as the Apollo and shuttle programs have their high-profile launches from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the planning and most of the training happens at NASA's Johnson Space Center (JSC), just outside of Houston.

The glory, guts and cigarette butts of the NASA experience have been theme-park packaged as Space Center Houston, the tourist gateway to the JSC. Heavy commercial sponsorship has led to exhibits featuring Saturn automobiles with 'space age plastic components' and a collection of Lego rockets (with kits for making them available at the gift store).

The blocks northwest of Hermann Park, southwest of downtown, are home to Houston's major museums. Old trees overhang the streets, and some of the city's grandest old homes take shelter in the deep shade of over-hanging Spanish moss. Many restaurants and cafes line the district's streets.

Founded in 1900, the Museum of Fine Arts is the oldest art museum in Texas. The large collection features French Impressionists, American Modernists and Texan Postmodernists. The sculpture garden across the street contains works by Rodin and others.

Nothing stays put for long inside the stainless steel walls of the Contemporary Arts Museum. With no permanent collection, the museum presents 10 or more temporary shows a year. Travelers with inner or outer children in tow should visit the crayon-colored playground for the mind known as the Children's Museum of Houston. Adults should have no problem having fun watching the tots milk the mechanical cow.

The Holocaust Museum is an excellent though sobering memorial. 'Our destination was extermination,' says Houstonian holocaust survivor Siegi Izakson on one of the many videos shown at this excellent museum, opened in 1996. The permanent exhibition, housed in a black cylinder meant to evoke the ghastly image of a smokestack, traces the lives of European Jews from before WWII, through the holocaust and after the war as the survivors tried to rebuild their lives.

An often missed gem, this carefully curated museum has rare and unusual printed works that range from the Dharani Scroll, which dates from 764 and is one of the oldest printed works in existence, to the 4 March 1887 San Francisco Daily Examiner, which is the day William Randolph Hearst (of 'They kidnapped my granddaughter and turned her into a terrorist' fame) became a newspaper publisher. If the word 'kerning' means anything to you, you'll enjoy the vast displays of typography through the ages. The museum is in the southern part of downtown.

Beginning in 1954, the late Jeff McKissack began building a monument to honor the orange. Starting with a simple house, he added sculptures, wishing wells, folksy sayings, observation decks and lots of wheels. Everything's painted orange, naturally. Some call it art, others madness: we say it's both.

Home of one of the largest concentrations of recreational boats in the US, the lake isn't all that clear anymore (gasoline has a way of doing that to water), but it's still a great place for a day trip. Surrounding this inlet near the western shore of Galveston Bay are beaches, harbors, jetties and scores of laid-back waterfront joints that attract fun-seekers in droves. Visitors can rent jet skis, go parasailing or head over to Lance's Turtle Club, a rowdy floating bar surrounded by customers' boats. The lake is southeast of downtown Houston and accessible by Metro bus.

It was a late spring afternoon on 21 April 1836, and the Mexican army of General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna was taking a break in the shade of some scruffy oaks. Suddenly Sam Houston and his ragtag army appeared in a surprise attack. The Mexicans surrendered in only 18 minutes, but the killing continued for two hours as Houston's men 'remembered the Alamo'. The final tally was 630 Mexicans dead and hundreds more injured, as opposed to only nine Texan casualties. Victory was total: Santa Anna's troops were routed and Texas had its independence.

Over 1000ac (405ha) of the battleground are now preserved as the San Jacinto Battleground State Historical Complex. Away from the two major sites, the land is pretty much as it was. A walk on one of the trails on a hot day is a good introduction to the conditions endured by the area's early settlers. During the elevator ride to the high observation deck of the San Jacinto Monument, the operator will inform you in typical Texas fashion that the monument is '5m [15ft] higher than the Washington Monument.' There's an excellent view of the surrounding park and the prosaic sight of petrochemical plants stretching in all directions just beyond. On many days you can admire the Houston skyline through the clouds of gaseous emissions.

The museum at the base of the monument has a collection of historical Texas artefacts. An adjoining theatre has a multimedia show called Texas Forever! The Battle of San Jacinto, a 35-minute spectacle narrated by actor and National Rifle Association shill Charlton Heston. The park is east of downtown Houston and is accessible by Metro bus.

The Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo goes for 17 days from mid-February to March. Big-name cowboys ride bulls and broncs in the Astrodome, then there are big-name country music acts in the exhibit halls next door. This event is well worth seeking out if you want to two-step right into Texas culture. April's Houston International Festival is a multicultural celebration of food, art and music that lasts for 10 days, beginning the third week of the month. Events are held all over the city and include the Houston International Film Festival. Also in April, the Westheimer Colony Arts Festival shows off the Montrose District at its flamboyant best, with blocks of booths selling arts, antiques, food and items that defy classification. There's usually a parade or two to keep the nipple-ringed residents amused. Dates vary and the event repeats in October.

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