Houston in 5…

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America’s fourth-largest city is the perfect place for a family vacation or much needed getaway. A cosmopolitan center of the state of Texas, Houston offers a variety of fine dining, arts, shopping and other attractions, many of which are free. Southern charm meets city life in Houston and there is always something to do.

Here are five things to explore while in Houston.

1...Sail down the Houston Ship Channel
To learn more about the city of Houston, take a free 90-minute boat tour along the Houston Ship Channel. Named for the military commander who led the fight for Texas independence from neighboring Mexico, the M/V Sam Houston holds up to 90 passengers and features an outside standing deck with beautiful views of the city and surrounding waters.

2…Folk art
Enjoy some of the nation’s finest folk art at the Orange Show Center for Visionary Art. Located in Houston’s East End, the 3,000 square foot, outdoor, maze-like center includes an oasis, wishing well, stage, museum and gift shop. Created by Jeff McKissack in honor of his favorite fruit, the building is made of bricks, tiles, fencing and a variety of materials, which make the center unique.

Another attraction at the Orange Show is the Beer Can House, which is made of more than 50,000 beer cans. This project helped McKissack keep down his family’s energy bills and includes various brands of his favorite beers.

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If you are visiting in May, check out the free, annual Art Car Parade. The weekend-long event features folk art, fine art and the famous Dirty Dozen Brass Band.

3…Dining is divine
Stylish dining is just one part of Houston’s restaurant scene. Top chefs lead culinary tours and stops include taquerias, a pig butchery, Houston’s only Polish restaurant and even vegetarian tours are available. Taste a wide-variety of the city’s finest delicacies and enjoy home-style cooked meals.

4…Museums mania
Houston is home to 17 museums, many of which are reachable by public transportation. Visit the Museum of Fine Arts to see a collection of more than 64,000 works of art from across the globe.

Houston also houses the fourth largest Holocaust museum in the United States and a contemporary arts museum in the heart of the museum district. Experience an interactive science center at the Health Museum. Learn about the human body in a larger-than-life exhibit and see what you will look like in 30 years with the museum’s appearance-aging machine. Kids will enjoy a stop at the Children’s Museum, named America’s Number 1 children’s museum by Parents Magazine. With more than 90,000 square feet of interactive and action=packed exhibits, the museum is the perfect place for families to visit.

5…Space City
An attraction that cannot be missed is the museum that gave Houston the name Space City. The Space Center’s Blast Off Theater allows visitors to truly experience what it is like to launch into space like a real astronaut. Also catch a behind-the-scenes look at astronaut training and see how NASA develops its technologies. Visit the Historic Apollo Mission Control Center and the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory. Some visitors are lucky enough to catch a glimpse of astronauts training for upcoming missions.