Planning a trip to the South Central United States this year? Put your cowboy hat on and head to the Lone Star State, the second-largest U.S. state in terms of population and area, and the largest in the contiguous United States. Two of the state’s largest and most popular cities are Houston and Dallas, which are roughly 230 miles away from one another. The former is home to 337 parks, 12 professional sports teams, scores of popularly visited museums including The Museum of Fine Arts, and long-running annual events including the annual Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, Houston Greek Festival and Houston Pride Parade.
Dallas, meanwhile, boasts more than 400 parks including the 260-acre Fair Park, which has hosted the annual State Fair of Texas since 1886; six sports teams including the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks and NFL’s Dallas Cowboys; and an active arts scene highlighted by such noted venues as the Dallas Museum of Art and Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center, both nestled within the 68-acre, 19-block Dallas Art District in the heart of the city. Read on for a roundup of fun attractions in each city as well as great choices for lodging that lie near them.
Attractions in or Near Houston
1. Bayou Place: Set in the heart of Houston’s Downtown Theater District, this 130,000 square foot megaplex is one of the city’s premier hot spots for dining and entertainment. Savor an authentic taste of Italy at Mingalone Italian Bar & Grill, enjoy a film over a glass of wine at the Angelika Film Center, or dance into the early morning hours at Rocbar, a rock and roll nightclub featuring live music from around the world. Bayou Place is approximately six miles away from the Sheraton Brookhollow Hotel, which is convenient to both George International Airport and Hobby Airport.
2. Galleria Mall: Set beneath glass atriums, The Galleria boasts more than 375 fine stores and restaurants, not to mention an impressive ice rink. Texas’s largest mall and the fourth largest in the nation, Houston Galleria’s shopping complex encompasses the finest names in retail, from Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom to Saks Fifth Avenue and Louis Vuitton. The mall is situated outside the 610 loop in Houston’s Uptown District, just two blocks away from the all-suite Sheraton Suites Houston and three blocks away from sophisticated Hotel Derek.
3. Houston Zoo: Roughly 1.7 million visitors flock to this 7th most visited zoo in the nation each year to get up close with its 4,500 animals. Spend the afternoon ambling through the zoo’s beautifully landscaped grounds or enjoy a more hands-on encounter by scheduling a guided tour. Among the facility’s most popular draws are the recently renovated jaguar exhibit and Kipp Aquarium. Great for people of all ages, the zoo makes an ideal setting for a picnic, birthday party or other special event.
4. Splashtown: This water park features a wealth of slides, a wild wave pool that holds more a half million gallons of water, and Crocodile Isle, an interactive children’s play area equipped with kid-friendly slides and a pirate ship. The park also hosts special events year-round. Splashtown is minutes away from Ramada Bush Intercontinental Airport, a full-service hotel featuring an outdoor pool and 24-hour fitness center, and Econo Lodge Houston, which offers guests free continental breakfast to start their day off right.
5. Downtown Aquarium: Interested in learning about sea creatures? Look no further than Houston’s Downtown Aquarium, where you’ll be able to explore more than 400 species of marine life. Guests can take a fun train ride through the Shark Voyage and gaze at countless sharks as they swim inside a 200,000 gallon tank. You can also check out white tigers lounging about in Maharaja’s Temple. Before leaving the aquarium, head to the Aquarium Restaurant, where a feast for the eyes – and palate – is a sure thing. Visitors can indulge in a variety of seafood specialties and pasta dishes while seated around a 150,000 aquarium containing reticulated rays, shovel-nosed guitarfish and other creatures of the deep. What’s more, the venue is conveniently located near Comfort Inn Downtown Houston.
Attractions in or Near Dallas
1. Six Flags Over Texas: Open year round, this 212-acre park features a host of rides ranging from pulse-pounding roller coasters like Batman The Ride to gentler options like Bugs Bunny’s Spirit of St. Louie. The park also offers mouth-watering food and loads of entertainment, including concerts and Celebrity Karaoke at the Lone Star Gazebo. Six Flags Over Texas is located in Arlington, midway between Dallas and Fort Worth, at the intersection of Interstate 30 and Highway 360. Some 20 minutes from downtown Dallas, Six Flags Over Texas is located near La Quinta Inn & Suites South Grand Prairie, TX, yet another property that offers complimentary breakfast, and the Gaylord Texan Hotel, which boasts a 25,000-square-foot spa and Southwestern themed pool.
2. Dallas Arboretum: Even if you aren’t big on nature, the Dallas Arboretum makes the perfect lush setting for an afternoon stroll, wedding, or other special occasion. Located on White Rock Lake, just outside of downtown Dallas, the Arboretum features colorful gardens all year long, and tours are available daily. Concerts at the Arboretum, each showcasing the best in Dallas/Fort Worth music, have become a long-standing tradition. Travelers can book at the nearby Days Inn Dallas East Mesquite, set just four miles away.
3. Dallas Zoo: Situated just 2.6 miles away from the historic Adolphus Hotel, the Dallas Zoo offers 95 acres of fun for the whole family. The zoo was founded in 1888, making it the first zoological park in the Southwest. It is widely renowned for its Wilds of Africa exhibit, Lacerte Family Children’s Zoo, and award-winning Jake L. Hamon Gorilla Conservation Research Center. Standing a whopping 67 1/2 feet tall, the giant giraffe sculpture marking the Zoo’s entrance is hard to miss!
4. American Airlines Center: Sports buffs and music junkies should not leave Dallas without experiencing a game or live show at this venue. Set in the Victory Park neighborhood near downtown Dallas, The American Airlines Center is home to the Dallas Stars of the National Hockey League, Dallas Mavericks of the National Basketball Association, and the Dallas Vigilantes of the Arena Football League. The arena is also used for concerts and other live entertainment, hosting such big names as Nickelback and Bon Jovi. The previously noted Adolphus Hotel is approximately one mile southeast of the arena.
With so many fun attractions awaiting you in these Texan cities, who says you have to bask in the glitz and glamour of Las Vegas or putter around Miami’s beaches to have a good time?