Checklist: Houston, Texas

The Super Bowl LI isn't all this "it" city has to offer.

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Checklist: Houston, Texas

This weekend, Houston, Texas will see a major wave of tourists, thanks to the 1 million-plus people attending the 2017 Super Bowl. But there’s more this city has to offer than the big game.

Houston has an abundance of southern charm coupled with the flair of a big cosmopolitan city. That’s what happens when a city’s in the South but also happens to be the fourth largest in the U.S., thanks to a population of more than 2.2 million multicultural residents.

Noted as the next “it” city, Houston houses several pro sports teams and will play host to the biggest football event of the year, Super Bowl 51, at its NRG Stadium.

Whether visitors are looking to cheer for their favorite team, experience aerospace technology via a well-renowned space center, shop ‘til they drop at one of the top 10 largest malls in America or eat well (state-shaped waffles, anyone?), they can find myriad culturally rich activities in a city that’s easy to navigate and has year-round warm weather. While Houston is huge, it’s still a gem of a place.

1. Discovery Green

Since Super Bowl 51 resale tickets can be over $15,000 each, visitors may want to opt to attend the fun, free Super Bowl LIVE fan festival on Discover Green featuring concerts, interactive games and more. The festival runs now through Feb. 5. Ongoing and upcoming events at Discovery Green include a French Cultures Festival, roller-skating and an art installation with giant peony bouquets and bright lights that glow at night.

2. The Menil Collection

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Plan the perfect day trip to The Menil Collection, a museum-campus that houses artwork by René Magritte, Pablo Picasso and a rotation of special exhibitions plus permanent collections including Arts of Africa and Medieval and Byzantine Art. The Byzantine Fresco Chapel and meditative Rothko Chapel are also on-site. Prefer the quiet outdoors? Walk around the serene and beautiful campus and plop on any of the abundant lush, green grassy areas.

3. Weights and Measures

Calorie counting is not permitted at Weights and Measures, a restaurant, bake shop and bar wrapped into a whole lot of goodness in Midtown. For brunch, the must-have dish is the fried chicken with old fashioned-style cake donuts, plus a side of spinach or potatoes for patrons interested in fulfilling their vegetable quota. Other notable dishes include Texas-sized French toast, fried eggs with jalapeño aioli, and pizza with pancetta and eggs. Since patrons must pass the bakery bar when entering or exiting, they may be tempted to pick a pastry or two for later—just do it.

4. Space Center Houston

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Housing hundreds of space artifacts; moon rocks; and a full-scale, walk-through replica of the space shuttle Independence and its NASA 905 Shuttle carrier make the Space Center Houston a must-do activity for aerospace aficionados and everyone with an interest in aerospace and technology.

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5. The Galleria

Shop ’til you drop at over 300 stores including big names like Baccarat, Bottega Veneta, Fendi, Jimmy Choo, Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue plus wallet-friendly ones such as J. Crew, H&M and Adidas. After, lace up and show off your figure eights at an indoor ice skating rink in the middle of The Galleria (pictured above), Texas’ largest shopping center and fourth largest nationally.

6. American Cowboy Museum

Original artwork depicting African American, Hispanic and Native American cowboys plus a bevy of lifestyle necessities such as saddles, spurs, hats, chaps and boots make the American Cowboy Museum a cultural retreat for historians and casual observers alike. The museum is also part of the Taylor-Stevenson Ranch Area, an active ranch that offers horseback riding and a glimpse of daily farm life. Visits to the property are by appointment only.

7. Toyota Center

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The Toyota Center is a classic entertainment arena and the home of the Houston Rockets, a NBA team. Visitors should check the arena’s calendar for events, which occur year-round. Upcoming events will include performances by Green Day, Charlie Wilson, The Weeknd, New Kids on the Block and Boys II Men, and Tim McGraw and Faith Hill. Upcoming special events include the Southwestern Athletic Conference Basketball tournament (SWAC) and WWE: Survivor Series event.

8. Hotel Derek

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This boutique hotel located in southwest Houston features spacious vibrant rooms with floor-to-ceiling windows and regional touches such as cow-printed robes and rugs. Guests who like things big can opt for the 1,200-square foot penthouse, which features two bathrooms—both with a toilet and bidet—and a private balcony with unobstructed views of The Galleria and Downtown. Revolve Kitchen and Bar, Hotel Derek’s on-site restaurant, serves Texas-shaped waffles and Migas, a breakfast medley of scrambled eggs, fried corn tortillas, salsa rojo and queso fresco. Visitors who shop too much and are ready to drop can call for the hotel’s complimentary shuttle, which is generally a phone call and five minutes away. When tempted to hop on one of the colorful cows in the lobby, choose a safer route: stand in front of the cow for kitschy photo.

9. METRORail

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This 23-mile light rail makes traveling convenient with lines that run through Downtown, Midtown, the Museum District and more. METRORail fares are $1.25 per ride or $3 for a day pass. For the latter, be sure to purchase a METRO Q pass, an electronic fare card that automatically converts to a $3-day pass fare when used three times in one day. The day pass option includes rides on the local bus and light rail.

10. Miller Outdoor Theatre

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From March to November, the Miller Outdoor Theatre features free concerts, stage plays and cultural celebrations. Spread a blanket on the grass or swing by the box office early in the day of the show for coveted seated tickets.

Carolyn is travel/lifestyle writer and essayist who can pack her luggage in 30 minutes. When she isn’t working on her forthcoming book of essays, she likes to look for doughnut shops in any city she visits.

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