Houston, the largest city in Texas, is a glossy, sprawling metropolis. It was founded on the oil and cattle industries, and diversified into high-tech, medical and international commerce. Shiny skyscrapers tower over the streets, linked by underground pedestrian tunnels lined with shops and restaurants. Like Dallas, Houston has unique architecture, some of it downright playful. Look for the skyscraper with a Mayan pyramid up top, or for the Medical Center towers that happen to be shaped like giant syringes. This Medical Center, by the way, is the world's largest concentration of institutions devoted to medicine.
However, Houston isn't entirely glitter and metal. Hermann Park, one of the city's oldest parks, is 445 acres of picnic areas and things to see and do, such as golf, pedal boats (on McGovern Lake), explore the Houston Zoo and more. Situated between downtown and the Uptown/Galleria area, Memorial Park is the state's largest urban park and spreads over 1,400 acres. Facilities include a 3-mile loop for walkers and joggers, paved cycling and in-line skating trails, and tennis and croquet courts. East of downtown, Buffalo Bayou Park's lush green rolling hills and plateaus feature exercise trails, sculptures and scenic spots perfect for picnics and relaxing. Canoe or kayak in the bayou, or just enjoy views of the downtown skyline through the black willow and dogwood.
For green a little farther out, Brazos Bend State Park, in nearby Needville, is dense with native trees such as live oak and cypress and has been named one of America's Top 10 State Parks. It has several miles of biking trails and fishing in its lakes and ponds. The park's George Observatory has three telescopes for viewing the night skies. Also, Houston's coast (as well as its rivers and lakes) is prime for fishing and several water sports.
Known as "Space City USA," Houston is the hub for all things NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration). Real Gemini, Mercury and Apollo spacecraft are on display in the awe-inspiring outdoor Rocket Park at NASA-Johnson Space Center and Space Center Houston. NASA-Johnson Space Center is the home of NASA's human space exploration program. Space Center Houston is an educational and entertainment center designed by NASA and Walt Disney Imagineering. Experiencing hands-on, interactive exhibits, such as simulators, and watching films on a 5-story screen bring space exploration up close and personal. Even better are the guided tours to working sections of the Center, like Mission Control Center.
Houston is located in east Texas on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico and can be accessed via I-45 or I-10.