There’s no doubt Texas is gaining popularity as a homeport state. Houston, which has seen only a handful of calls since Norwegian Cruise Line stopped using it as a homeport in 2006, has renovated its terminal facilities and is poised to permanently welcome Caribbean Princess next month. Offering more drive-to options for southern cruisers, particularly those from the Lone Star state, Houston will no doubt draw pre- and post-cruise vacationers in droves.
I recently spent a few days in Houston, checking out everything that Space City has to offer. Here are five suggestions of how to spend your time, before or after a Texas-sized cruise.
1. Visit Space Center Houston. The visitor’s center for NASA’s Johnson Space Center, Space Center Houston offers a plethora of events and attractions. You can fill as much or as little time as you need by having lunch with an astronaut, checking out mission control and strolling through exhibits that include ejection seats, lunar modules and several types of space suits.
2. Shop at the Galleria. This oversized mall, the largest in Texas, sees about 26 million visitors annually and boasts 400 stores and restaurants and two hotels. You’ll also find a dozen beauty salons, an ice-skating rink, swimming pools and even a post office, among other conveniences. This is definitely a must-do for anyone in need of some retail therapy.
3. See a show or sporting event. Fun fact: Houston’s theater offerings are second only to those found in New York City. With everything from “Chicago” and “Ghost, the Musical” to “War Horse” and Green Day’s “American Idiot,” there are enough choices to fit almost any taste. For those who crave something a bit more action-packed, check out the Astros (baseball), Texans (football), Rockets (basketball) and Dynamo (soccer).
4. Be a “Chef for a Day.” For any foodie who’s ever wondered what it’s like to be a chef in a real, working kitchen, find a restaurant like Brennan’s of Houston that offers the experience. It’s a bit on the pricey side, but you’ll get a personalized chef’s uniform, a souvenir knife, a cooking lesson from executive chef Danny Trace and dinner for you and up to five other people.
5. Rent a car, and drive to the Kemah Boardwalk. About half an hour from downtown, this family-oriented amusement park has attractions (such as a haunted house, a stingray tank and boardwalk rides), restaurants and shops. Car rental agencies are available throughout Houston, and rates to rent a car and drive yourself are cheaper than what it would cost you to pay for a taxi in both directions.