This week I’m once again working with Marriott International and my good friend Brendan Van Son, but this time instead of Route 66 we’re exploring more of the great state of Texas. Although I’ve visited a couple of times in the past, I’ve never really experienced very much of the state which is why I was so excited for this new adventure. The first city on my trip was Houston, a destination that I don’t think gets enough attention.
The one piece of advice I received the most before visiting Houston was to eat as much as possible. Over the years the city has developed a well-earned reputation for everything from high end cuisine to BBQ, but my favorite was a local secret that I’m so glad I discovered – The Original Ninfa’s on Navigation. Started by “Mama” Ninfa Laurenzo in 1973, believe it or not but this is where the fajita was first introduced to North America. Not only some of the best Tex-Mex food I’ve ever enjoyed, but also one of the best meals ever, my dining experience here is something I know I’ll never forget.
Houston is about much more than its food culture though, throughout the city there are any number of relaxing getaways both natural and man-made. Buffalo Bayou quickly became my personal favorite and I know that next time I’m in the city I’ll definitely rent a kayak to do some urban exploring. A somewhat unlikely oasis in the city is on the 6th floor deck of the new Marriott Marquis Houston, which features a massive lazy river in the shape of the state of Texas. With palm trees, cabanas and great music, the vibe here is tropical and fun with just as many locals sunbathing as hotel guests.
Around Houston though there are plenty of options, including two that were at the top of my list: Galveston and Space Center Houston. Years ago I read a book about Galveston and ever since I’ve been desperate to visit. Galveston Island has been attracting beach-goers for generations and although it’s reinvented itself time after time, that feeling of laid back fun is still there. As a space geek though, the highlight of the day was Space Center Houston.
Not only is the center the official visitor center for NASA Johnson Space Center, but it’s also a leading science and space learning center in its own right. Almost immediately I knew it was a special place and by the end of my visit I was convinced that it’s one of the best learning centers I’ve ever been to. I call it that because it’s so much more than a museum. Sure, there are many exhibits detailing every aspect of space exploration, but there are also plenty of hands on activities. The highlight of any visit though is a 90-minute trip into the heart of the NASA Johnson Space Center itself, visiting training centers and seeing rockets that were instrumental in our race to space.
Although my time in Houston was short, I was amazed by how much we were able to see and do and I know that this brief visit to the city won’t be my last; if only to try those fajitas one more time.