Things to See and Do in Houston, Texas

Everything is bigger in Texas, including its attractions. Bigger in entertainment, bigger in taste, and bigger in variety. In fact, you would be hard-pressed to find a city with a wider selection of things to do and see than Houston, Texas.

To give you a peek into the fun to be had during your next visit, below are five essential things to do and see in Houston.

Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo

You can’t visit Texas and not attend a rodeo. If you’re visiting Houston between late February and early March, you can join along with the hoards of hollering fans flooding NRG Stadium to cheer on daily rodeo shows. These shows include bull riding, steer wrestling, bareback riding, tie-down roping, and barrel racing. Also featured during rodeo season are livestock shows. These shows consist of livestock auctions, calf scrambles, and horse shows. Keep in mind that rodeo shows run on a tight schedule. They start at 6:45 p.m. on the weekdays and 3:45 p.m. on the weekends. Ticket prices and availability vary, so check out Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo’s website for the most up-to-date information.

Even if rodeos may not seem like your thing, the local spirit surrounding the event makes it well worth checking out. Plus, worst-case scenario, there are many other attractions, activities, and events surrounding the event that you can fall back on. This includes an amusement park, concerts, parades, barbecue contests, and trail rides.

Source: B Antonio / Shutterstock

Space Center Houston

To allow people to come and see the facilities behind such a monumental historic feat as the Apollo 11 Moon Landing, NASA created the Space Center Houston visitor center. You can walk through replicas of the space shuttle Independence and space station Skylab, get your hands on a rock from the moon, and even meet an astronaut.

For real space enthusiasts, there’s the option to sign up for the Level 9 tour. This tour offers an in-depth look at the behind-the-scenes operations at the Johnson Space Center. Although only a very limited 12 tickets are sold per day, this tour provides exclusive access to such things as the center’s Buoyancy Lab, the ISS Mission Control, simulation labs, and other areas off-limits to regular tours. If you choose this tour, make sure to set aside four to five hours out of your day. For a less in-depth, more convenient way to check out the Houston Space Center, sign up for a NASA’s Space Center Houston and City Sightseeing Tour. This tour includes free admission to the space center, as well as a bonus 1.5-hour open-air bus tour around Houston.

Source: Oleg Anisimov / Shutterstock

Galveston

With plenty of sand to walk through, sun to soak in, and seaside restaurants and shops to explore, a quick, hour drive to the beach town of Galveston is the perfect way to spend a day. If you’re fortunate enough to visit during the warmer months, the beach is must-see. In fact, it offers shallow, turquoise water stretching out as far as the eye can see. Between dips in the water, you can take a walk to the nearby Pleasure Pier for some Instagram-worthy moments. If twiddling your thumbs on the beach doesn’t interest you, explore the town’s deep history, restaurants, shops, and other offerings. Other attractions worth checking out include the Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig and Museum, the Texas Seaport Museum, the Strand Historic District, and Moody Gardens.

If you don’t have a full day to dedicate to visiting Galveston, you can just take an organized tour to the island. For instance, the Houston Sightseeing Tour and Galveston Day Trip tour. It comes with a 90-minute double-decker bus tour of main attractions around Houston, as well as transportation to and from Galveston.

Source: Shutterstock

Buffalo Bayou

If trails, open sky, and plenty of open space sound like a good time to you, then a visit to Buffalo Bayou is a must. Founded in 1986, the Buffalo Bayou Partnership (BBP) has since implemented more than $200 million in improvements for the redevelopment and stewardship of the waterfront. They have spearheaded award-winning capital projects, protected land for future parks and green space, constructed hike and bike trails, and operated comprehensive clean-up and maintenance programs.

In 2015, BBP completed the $58 million Buffalo Bayou Park project. This 160-acres of green space lies west of downtown Houston. It includes:

  • Beautiful gardens;
  • Native landscaping;
  • Hike and bike trails;
  • Paddle craft and bike rentals;
  • The go-to dog park in the city;
  • Public art;
  • A creative nature play area;
  • Two visitor centers and;
  • Gathering places for visitors to picnic, relax, and enjoy outdoor activities.

Together, these different activities, attractions, tours, and programs attract tens of thousands of visitors each year.

Source: Shutterstock

Original Ninfa’s on Navigation

If you had the chance to eat in a restaurant that was created when Texas was still part of Mexico, would you do it? Of course, you would!

Opened in 1973 — when Texas was in fact still part of Mexico — Original Ninfa’s offers a truly unique dining experience. While the authentic decor and atmosphere may be what first pull you in, the food itself is what will make you ultimately stay. From the stiff and delicious margaritas, to the colorful chile con queso, to the perfectly charred fajitas, you’re bound to be delighted no matter what you order from the menu. While Original Ninfa’s on Navigation was sold to new ownership in 2005 after the passing of creator Mama Ninfa in 2001, it still retains the original flavors, atmosphere, and heritage that made it famous in the first place.

The 7 Best Urban Parks in America

When you hear ‘urban park’ and ‘America’ in the same sentence, one immediately thinks of Central Park in NYC, but it may surprise you to learn that all over America there are incredible urban parks. Parks play a key role in making a city desirable for both visitors and locals and it explains why cities are investing more and more money into them. From trapeze lessons on Governor’s Island to the impressive San Diego Zoo located in Balboa Park to parks that host awesome parties and festivals, here are seven urban parks that make these cities even more attractive to both live and visit.

7. Grant Park, Chicago

It is refereed to as Chicago’s “Front Yard”, a 319-acre public park that includes many notable features including Millennium Park, the Art Institute of Chicago and Buckingham Fountain. As well this park happens to be the site of three world-class museums, baseball diamonds, tennis courts, performance venues, gardens and sculptures. The beautiful lakefront recreation center, Maggie Daley Park opened in 2014 as well as the ice skating ribbon, a skating experience unlike any other that winds its way through a rolling landscape with a city skyline as a backdrop. It is also home to the famous shiny reflective bean shaped sculpture that has become both a city icon and popular photo-op.

grant park

6. Schenley Park, Pittsburgh

This beautiful park is worth a visit anytime of the year, but especially in the summertime where free movies play on Flagstaff Hill, or during the fall where the leaves turn brilliant shades of yellow, orange and red. There are enough sports for everyone here, from the 13 tennis courts to the soccer field to the running track, high-jump area to the 18-hole Frisbee golf course. Visitors can also choose to take it slow, wander through the Phipps Conservatory and gaze at the rare miniature orchids or the primitive tree ferns. The free Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix also takes place here during July and 150 sports cars navigate 23 turns around the parks Paddock Drive, while some 200,000 visitors cheer them on.

Joshua Haviv / Shutterstock.com
Joshua Haviv / Shutterstock.com

5. Balboa Park, San Diego

Sitting at just over 1,200 acres, this stunning park packs in more attractions than you could possibly visit in just one day, including the Tony Award-winning Old Glove theatre. It is here where visitors will find the world-renowned San Diego Zoo, the San Diego Museum of Art, numerous hiking and biking trails, a handful of playgrounds and more. There are a ton of restaurants to choose from here including tea pavilions, cafes, grills and pubs. Overlooking the beautiful Pacific Ocean and including buildings so stunning they have been used in movies and television shows, consider yourself lucky if you happen to have this incredible urban park as your backyard.

Balboa Park, San Diego

4. Encanto Park, Phoenix

This 222-acre oasis lies just a few blocks from the busy central corridor and features awesome picnic areas, a lagoon, boat house, swimming pool and more. Rent a paddle boat or canoe and enjoy the lagoon along with the opportunity for fishing and observing ducks. One of the best attractions here is the Enchanted Island Amusement Park, a park that features a ton of rides and activities for the whole family. There are a ton of free things to do as well here such as rollerblading along the paved trails, getting in a good workout at the exercise field, check out Art in Park or toss a Frisbee around in one of many green spaces.

Encanto Park, Phoenix

3. Discovery Green Park, Houston

This downtown paradise was made when the city decided to tear up numerous concrete parking lots and turn this otherwise unattractive part of the city into Discovery Green Park. This 12-acre park features awesome amenities such as a man-made lawn, 12-foot high arcing water jets, rolling green lawns and fine dining restaurants. Throughout the year numerous wacky competitions take place here, along with the dog jumping competitions and free classes. During the winter an amazing ice skating rink is open to the public as well as a field of lights, an awe-inspiring art installation that shines against the dark sky. Playgrounds, stages, trails, art installations, gardens, reading rooms and other awesome surprises await visitors at this awesome urban park.

goodcat / Shutterstock.com
goodcat / Shutterstock.com

2. Governors Island, New York City

This former military base off the tip of lower Manhattan has been turned into an amazing urban park, offering visitors and locals of NYC a second choice in awesome parks. It is here where you will find electric arts, food events and even a sandy beach to hang out at. Get here by taking the free ferry ride from Manhattan’s Battery Maritime Building or take the Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 6, which offers stunning views of the skyline and State of Liberty. Circus nerds will go nuts over the trapeze lessons that are offered on the weekends and music fans unite to rock out to some incredible waterfront concerts. The island is car-free so many choose to rent bikes and cycle around, go on Fridays between May and October and even get your bike for free!

Keith Sherwood / Shutterstock.com
Keith Sherwood / Shutterstock.com

1. City Park, New Orleans

This park is as magical and historical as the city of New Orleans itself, boasting the largest collection of mature live oaks in the world. These sculptural-looking marvels include some that have their branches spread out twice as wide as their height (up to 75ft)! There are way too many things in this park to mention, but some of the most notable include the New Orleans Botanical Garden, Big Lake, Art and Sculpture Garden, City Splash and numerous playgrounds and sports fields. Summertime brings genteel parties complete with mint juleps and performances at the Botanical Gardens and live bands at the annual Rock ‘n’ Roll Mardi Gras Marathon. Enjoy the 18-hole golf course, the famous antique carousel and the beautiful Couturier Forest.

City Park, New Orleans

7 Chicken Masters of the South

Like so many have said, there’s no chicken quite like mama’s chicken. But when mama is a master chef of the South…or just a belle who knows how to cook poultry like no other, the other stuff doesn’t even begin to compare. That is, until you head to these fine dining establishments and put her version to shame…not that you’d ever admit it. These master fryers know how to season, cook, serve, sauce, prep, and create chicken like we’ve never seen before. Add in an incredible smell and taste and it’s all uphill from there. In fact, they’re recipes are so tasty, folks rave about them from states away. Whether they’re from the South, or just happened to stumble upon some deliciousness while traveling. Never underestimate the power of a good piece of chicken. And, in our very tasty opinion, here are the seven best places to find them.

7. Busy Bee Café – Atlanta, Georgia

For a city known for its soul food, making a memorable plate of fried chicken is an incredible feat. It’s also one that Busy Bee prides itself on. Since the 40s, they’ve been serving up crispy and tasty chicken. Their secret? Brining the meat for 12 full hours, add a specialty flavored flour, then cook it in peanut oil. Order yours with their signature gravy, and bask it in sides like collard greens or broccoli and cheese casserole. Yum!

Photo by: Busy Bee Cafe-ATL
Photo by: Busy Bee Cafe-ATL

6. Raising Cane’s – Baton Rouge, Louisiana

If you’re looking for a restaurant that does one thing, and does it well, you’re in luck. Raising Cane’s offers home-fried chicken with the convenience of fast food. Their meals come in varying sizes, offering eaters chicken strips, french fries, coleslaw, and Texas toast. As well as their signature Cane’s sauce – a delicious addition to their hot, flavorful meals. Stop by one of their many franchised locations for a quick take on tasty dinners.

Photo by: Shoshanah via Flickr
Photo by: Shoshanah via Flickr

5. Martha Lou’s Kitchen – Charleston, South Carolina

Martha Lou is one example of its namesake working behind the scenes – Martha herself, along with her daughter, Debra, are chicken masterminds. And they’ve been perfecting their method for more than 30 years. Visitors can stop by their pink restaurant – virtually everything is coated in the color – for an added dose of “mama’s kitchen” charm. Fan favorite sides include okra stew and their signature pepper lima beans.

Photo by: Martha Lou's Kitchen
Photo by: Martha Lou’s Kitchen

4. Yardbird Southern Table & Bar – Miami Beach, FL

There’s a reason Yardbird is winning so many awards and public mentions – their chicken is delicious. Order it alone, with biscuits, or go for the full-meal deal and get their chow-chow cheddar waffles and watermelon (our mouths are watering already), which is topped off with hot honey, and bourbon maple syrup for the waffles. Chicken loving heaven. Oh, and did we mention each meal is plated perfectly, too? Sign us up!

Photo by: Yardbird Southern Table & Bar
Photo by: Yardbird Southern Table & Bar

3. Barbecue Inn – Houston, Texas

Self-proclaimed Southern hospitality specialists, Barbecue Inn has been dishing up chicken since the 40s. That’s four generations of incredible cooks who have passed their secrets down the line. Eaters can even choose from Southern versions, all white, or all dark meat when ordering their meal. Guests agree that the taste is virtually unbeatable, and that the crisp alone is worth the trip; chicken is served grease-free.

Photo by: Stephan Rushmore via Road Food
Photo by: Stephan Rushmore via Road Food

2. Beasley’s Chicken + Honey – Raleigh, North Carolina

One of the newer joints around, Beasley’s uses modern methods to reinvent an old favorite. Rather than traditional free-fry, they opt for the help of pressure fryers. It might sound new, but the taste is just as delicious as the old school ways. (Likely less messy, too.) Each piece is then topped with a thin drizzle of honey to bring out the Southern flare. Eaters also recommend a side of buttermilk biscuits to take in the whole honey-loving effect.

Photo by: Beasley's Chicken + Honey
Photo by: Beasley’s Chicken + Honey

1. Gus’s Fried Chicken – Mason, Tennessee

We don’t know who Gus is or how he got so good at frying up birds, but we’ll let him cook for us any day. The original was started in Tennessee back in 1953 and the chicken was so good, places elsewhere just couldn’t wait to get their hands – or mouth – on it. Today there’s locations all over where you can order their crispy, spicy chicken that so many have grown to love.

Photo by: Evan Blaser via Flickr
Photo by: Evan Blaser via Flickr

The 10 Best Chinatowns Across America

America is a melting pot of ethnicities and cultures. Most major American cities have neighborhoods settled by the people who crossed oceans and began an unpredictable journey to America to provide a better life for their children, escaping poverty and war in their homeland. Little Italy, Germantown and of course, Chinatown are all staples of America’s cities, their residents establishing their identities in America while holding onto their native cultures. Among the oldest of these miniature ethnic pockets are the Chinatowns that dot the U.S., from Seattle to Boston, San Francisco to New York City. Here are the 10 best you’ll find in America.

10. Washington D.C.

Though one of the smallest Chinatowns on this list, Washington D.C.’s Chinese neighborhood benefits from a great location-walking distance to many other landmarks and neighborhoods-and a more calm atmosphere than others. Only about a fifth of the neighborhood’s 3,000 residents are actually Chinese, as recent college grads have moved to the area in recent years, attracted to the affordable housing. This does not take away from the authentic Chinese atmosphere, however. Like many Chinatowns, there is a classically styled archway over H Street and 7th Street, just a few blocks down from the Verizon Center, where the hometown Wizards (NBA) and Capitals (NHL) compete. You’ll find a handful of shops selling pastries and little knickknacks, as well as some great restaurants, such as Tony Cheng’s Seafood and Pho DC -one of the best bowls of Pho in the D.C. area.

Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock.com
Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock.com

9. Houston

Not to be confused with the city’s “Old Chinatown” neighborhood, the current community of Chinese residents, shops and restaurants can be found in the southwestern part of town. Unlike most Chinatowns, which usually occupy a number of dense city blocks, the Houston Chinatown is a widely dispersed set of strip malls over 6 square miles. It’s probably the most automobile friendly Chinatown on this list, so if you’re a tourist without a rental car this one would be a tough draw. Chinese food is not the only kind you’ll find here. Filipinos, Indonesians, Japanese, Koreans and more have populated the area, and have brought the cuisine of their home countries with them. Some people are hesitant to even refer to this part of the city as Chinatown, since there are so many other Asian influences present.

Photo by: Capital Realty Group
Photo by: Capital Realty Group

8. Boston

Boston, a city more known for its Irish heritage as seen in films like Good Will Hunting and The Town, is also home to a stellar Chinatown, the only one in all of New England. 70% of the population is Chinese, though there is a strong Vietnamese influence as well, which can be felt in the number of Vietnamese restaurants and food stalls. Located near Boston’s theater district and Tufts Medical Center, Chinatown is a convenient place to stop for an authentic Chinese dinner before a night around town, but its also got enough to keep your attention for a full day. There are some great hot pot (a Chinese fondue of sorts) restaurants, as well as dim sum and some hole in the walls with cheaper options but still quality eats.

f11photo / Shutterstock.com
f11photo / Shutterstock.com

7. Philadelphia

The Philadelphia Chinatown traces its roots all the way back to the mid 19th century, when Cantonese immigrants opened restaurants and laundries in the city center. In the late 1990s, an influx of immigrants from other Asian countries including Korea, Thailand and Vietnam, began moving into Philly’s Chinatown. Like many other Chinatowns in America, there is a Friendship Gate (an archway) that’s built in the colorful style of the Ming and Qing dynasties, which acts as symbol of connection between Philadelphia and its sister city of Tianjin. It’s a beautiful landmark, and well worth a picture or two. Hong Kong style eateries can be found on 10th Street and Race Street, where restaurants serving other Asian fare-Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese-can also be enjoyed.

f11photo / Shutterstock.com
f11photo / Shutterstock.com

6. Los Angeles

Forever immortalized by the 1974 film Chinatown, and also featured in the buddy-cop classic Rush Hour, L.A.’s Chinatown is vast, full of things to see and do (and of course, eat). When the Central Pacific Railroad Co. began work on the country’s first transcontinental rail in the 1860s, they started to recruit laborers from China, who then moved here and settled in what is now known as Chinatown. Among the highlights: a statue of Bruce Lee and Sun Yat-sen (father of modern China); a beautiful Wishing Well, a dragon mural and a main plaza strung with red lanterns. There are restaurants with glass displays of roast duck and pigs, but some of the more popular eateries include an Italian place called Little Joe’s and a French deli called Philippe’s.

LA Chinatown

5. Honolulu

Hawaii might be well known for its East Asian influence already, particularly its Japanese roots, but did you know that Honolulu has one of the best Chinatowns in America? Chinese laborers from the area’s sugar plantations settled here in the 19th century, only to have the entire neighborhood burned down in the Great Honolulu Chinatown Fire of 1900. It has since been rebuilt, a bustling, open space full of fruit stands and restaurants. Given Hawaii’s tropical climate, the Honolulu Chinatown feels like a small city in the south of China. The famed Wo Fat restaurant, known as the namesake for a character in Hawaii Five-O-is now out of service, but its historic façade is still worth a visit.

Honolulu Chinatown

4. Seattle

America’s Pacific Coast has long been concentrated with immigrants from East Asia, and while officially named “Chinatown”, this Seattle neighborhood is more Little East Asia. The bulk of this Chinatown is on King Street, though just off the main thoroughfare is Japantown, which as you can imagine is modeled after a Japanese city. There is a vibrant and lively Chinese New Year celebration with lion dancers and fireworks, and the China Gate restaurant has a beautiful gate modeled after the walls of the ancient Chinese capital Peking (now Beijing). Hing Hay Park is an idyllic outdoor spot with a traditional Chinese Pagoda and chess tables. The Nippon Kan Theatre and the Wing Luke Asian Museum are also must see attractions.

f11photo / Shutterstock.com
f11photo / Shutterstock.com

3. Chicago

Located on the Red Line, Chicago’s Chinatown provides great views of the city skyline as well as a variety of restaurants and landmarks to check out on a fine summer day in Chicago. The Nine-Dragon Wall is a beautiful jade and yellow colored monument built in the style typical of imperial China. Chinatown Square, decorated with statues of the 12 Chinese Zodiac animals, is full of shops; tea shops, traditional medicine shops and massage parlors that have the feel of the dense hutongs (alleyways) of Old Beijing. Lao Beijing and Lao Szechwan are local staples, serving traditional cuisine from those cities, and Hing Kee is a great noodle spot that makes their noodles by hand. Get a foot massage at one of the area’s massage parlors, and visit a Buddhist temple, which can be easy to miss among the abundance of grocery stores, restaurants and gift shops. Make sure to stop by the shop that specializes in swords! The Bruce Lee poster in the front display is hard to miss.

Songquan Deng / Shutterstock.com
Songquan Deng / Shutterstock.com

2. Manhattan

Manhattan’s Chinatown is huge, so huge that it can almost be considered its own mini-city, and it has the second largest population density of Chinese in the entire Western Hemisphere. There are 9 Chinatowns scattered across all of New York City, but Manhattan’s is the largest and the oldest, and it’s easy to forget that you’re still in America, not a metropolis of China. There are fish markets and fruit markets, theaters and museums. There’s a Little Hong Kong, a Little Fuzhou, a Little Guangdong. It’s almost like a Chinatown within a Chinatown within a Chinatown. Between 90,000 and 100,000 people live in Manhattan’s Chinatown, and its easy to get put off by the density and activity, but if you’d like to experience what life in a modern Chinese city is like, and are willing to have an open mind while doing so, then dive right in and take in all it has to offer.

Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com
Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com

1. San Francisco

The oldest in the country, San Francisco’s Chinatown sees more tourists every year than the Golden Gate Bridge. Every September, the neighborhood hosts the Autumn Moon Festival, a Chinese tradition that celebrates the summer harvest, and it’s a must-attend event for those who’d like to experience a traditional Chinese holiday other than the New Year. Boasting two hospitals, a post office, schools, libraries, parks, restaurants and grocery stores, San Francisco’s Chinatown is essentially an autonomous enclave, and is also home to the highest Chinese population outside of Asia. For the most authentic taste of China outside of Asia, San Francisco’s Chinatown is the #1 place to visit.

EQRoy / Shutterstock.com
EQRoy / Shutterstock.com

The 10 Best Children’s Museums in America

In a country that loves innovation and learning it is no surprise that America is home to over 200 children’s museums and it is no wonder that millions of visitors flock to them every year as they offer incredible exhibits, engaging facilities, hands-on learning and fun for adults too. Nearly every city has a children’s museum, but if you want to experience the best of the best, we have rounded up our top 10 in America. From the largest children’s museum in the world to a renovated fish market, there is no excuse not to visit one of these incredible museums in America.

10. Please Touch Museum -Philadelphia, PA

With a name like “Please Touch”, it’s no wonder this is one of the best children’s museums in all of North America. This museum truly invites children to learn through playing and interacting with exhibits. Each section of this museum is designed to create learning opportunities that are completely fun and interactive. The six-themed exhibits include a mini Philly neighborhood, an Alice in Wonderland exhibit, a mock supermarket, construction zone and medical center. Kids love the halls of doors and mirrors, circular mazes and fairytale garden. Don’t forget about taking a ride on the 1908 carousel before you leave. With fair admission prices and enough fun to last all day, don’t miss out on this awesome museum.

Photo by: Jim, the Photographer via Flickr
Photo by: Jim, the Photographer via Flickr

9. Port Discovery -Baltimore, MD

This 80,000 square foot museum resides in a renovated fish market and is truly one of the anchors of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. It just so happens that the Walt Disney Company Imagineers designed many of the exhibits here, so you just know they have to be pretty amazing. Kids interested in farming will love the Down on the Farm exhibit where they can milk cows, plant seeds and brush the tail of a real horse. For the active explorer don’t miss the three-storey treehouse where they can crawl through tunnels, explore a whole room of balls and cross narrow rope bridges. The HiFlyer hot air balloon is one of the favorites as kids get to experience a 15-minute ride above the Inner Harbor. Travel back in time to Egypt in the 1920’s, read one of the 3,000 books or join in a sing-along at this incredible children’s museum.

Photo by: Paul Roth via Flickr
Photo by: Paul Roth via Flickr

8. COSI: Center of Science and Industry -Columbus, OH

This is one of the few children’s museums that actually keep adults just as entertained as their kids and is a welcome relief from the normal kid’s museums. COSI has established themselves as a leader in innovation and features a number of awesome exhibits, including a working television station. The daily live show is a hit among all visitors and features such acts as real rats playing basketball. The 10,000 square foot area for kids under first grade was designed by early education experts and is perfect for the little ones to crawl, play and learn. From exploring space and energy to learning how the mind works to playing with gadgets, this museum takes visitors on a journey through science and innovation. A bit more expensive than others on this list, it is well worth it to visit.

Photo by: COSI Colmbus' Dynamic
Photo by: COSI Colmbus’ Dynamic

7. Minnesota Children’s Museum -St Paul, MN

Over six million parents and kids have visited this museum since it set up shop in downtown St. Paul and it remains one of the most loved children’s museums in all of North America. Here it is all about immersive experiences and encourages children to run and crawl through representations of Minnesota’s different natural habitats. This museum is actually promising to get even better with a $28 million renovation and expansion that is set to be complete in 2017. For now though it is pretty awesome and offers an array of experiences including a water-centric exhibit that allows kids to race boats down flowing streams and make their own recycled paper. A pretend neighborhood and art on the rooftop are hits among the kids. Watch for this museum to become even better in the next few years, but make sure to visit now to experience how awesome it already is.

Photo by: minnemom via Flickr
Photo by: minnemom via Flickr

6. Boston Children’s Museum -Boston, MA

This award-winning museum has been operating for over 100 years and offers plenty of fun for the whole family. This museum welcomes guests with its huge 40-foot high red-and-white milk bottle out front. It is one of the only museums to really focus on toddlers and preschoolers, with attractions such as the rock climbing wall that caters to kids aged three to five years old. A favorite permanent exhibit with kids is the Construction Zone, an exhibit allowing children to jackhammer, walk on high beam girders and ride in a real bobcat. Back in 2007 this museum became the city’s first “green” museum with its eco-friendly addition and landscaped waterfront park. The fully functional Japanese house, the three story climbing structure and the countdown to Kindergarten room are all huge hits among visitors. Families are welcome to bring in food into the lunch room or dine outside on the Milk Bottle Plaza, a great alternative for budget conscious families.

Photo by: Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism via Flickr
Photo by: Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism via Flickr

5. Children’s Museum of Denver -Denver, CO

It first opened in 1973 in a converted school bus but since has expanded into one of the best children’s museums in all of North America. Kids who love to build things will head right over to the assembly plant where they can use screwdrivers, saws and clamps to create their own one of a kind creation, which they can then take over to the art studio to paint. The fire station has to be a favorite as it features a real fire truck, 911 call centers, dispatch station and even a fire pole. The new outdoor adventure is a whopping 30,000 square feet of dynamic outdoor fun featuring ruins and forts, caves, hills, bridges and streams. A zip line, sand dunes, tunnels and waterfalls will keep kids running all day long. Stay tuned for new exhibits coming in late 2015, such as a teaching kitchen, three story climber, hands-in water lab and extreme energy station.

Photo by: Chlidren's Museum of Denver
Photo by: Chlidren’s Museum of Denver

4. The Strong -Rochester, NY

It calls itself the national museum of play and this awesome 100,000 square foot museum certainly makes well on that promise. One of the most popular exhibits with both kids and adults alike is the year-round indoor butterfly garden that features lush tropical plants and over 1,000 free-flying tropical and native butterflies. Between the aquariums, the toys hall of fame and the reading adventureland, it can be hard to choose what to visit first. Wee ones will go nuts for the Sesame Street exhibit as well as the life-sized dollhouse. Comic book heroes, e-games, a rock wall and a theatre complete with a stage are just a few of the permanent exhibits that kids go wild for. There are also plenty of food choices in the spacious food court or a sit-down style restaurant in the atrium, making sure everyone’s needs are met.

Photo by: Lee Ruk via Flickr
Photo by: Lee Ruk via Flickr

3. Children’s Museum of Houston -Houston, TX

This elaborate children’s museum recently doubled its size to 90,000 square feet and features both inside and outside exhibits. Kidtropolis is a highlight for kids, a huge pretend city where kids run the show and features its own bank, news center, vets office and more. It was designed to help kids understand occupations and economics and go with the expectation that your kids will never want to leave. Several outdoor galleries include a weather station and watery flow station which is a hit on those hot and humid days. The invention convention encourages budding inventors to create their own gadgets while the TV studio lets kids see themselves on camera, read scripts from the anchor desk and work the control panel. The smaller kids under three won’t be left out as they have their own padded play area and awesome ball bit. A bargain at just $9 for adults and kids, this museum is definitely worth checking out.

Photo by: sikeri via Flickr
Photo by: sikeri via Flickr

2. Brooklyn Children’s Museum -Brooklyn, NY

This New York City landmark is the world’s first and oldest children’s museum and remains one of the best in North America. It features over 100,000 square feet of exhibit space and costs only $9 to explore. The Neighborhood Nature exhibit is a hit among kids as they can explore the natural habitats that can be found throughout the nation, such as woodland fields and ocean tide pools. Youngsters will enjoy the 1,700 square foot totally Tots Area where they explore the sand spot, baby patch and peek-a-boutique. The museum features nearly 30,000 natural history specimens and cultural objects that will thrill both parents and kids. The coolest thing about this museum may just be the entrance, located underground in the side of a hill through an authentic 1905 New York City trolley kiosk.

Photo by: Rubenstein via Flickr
Photo by: Rubenstein via Flickr

1. Children’s Museum Indianapolis -Indianapolis, IN

It is hailed as being the best children’s museum in all of North America and the massive facility that measures over 472,000 square feet does not disappoint. It sits on 29 acres and is the largest children’s museum in the entire world. The Dinosphere exhibit is perhaps the favorite of all and features a working paleontology lab, hands-on simulated fossil digs, life-size simulated dinosaurs and one of the largest collections of real fossils and dinosaur art in the nation. Also this museum has a working 1927 carousel, the largest water clock in North America and a 130-seat planetarium. It is all about hands-on learning here and children are encouraged to touch, play and learn as they make their way through this huge museum. If you happen to be out of town visiting, make sure you spend at least an entire day here.

Photo by: Snassek via Flickr
Photo by: Snassek via Flickr

The 14 Longest Non-stop Flights in The World

Flying from one end of the world to the other takes a long time, but luckily for passengers it is taking much less time with the introduction of non-stop flights. What used to be a two-day journey from New York to Hong Kong can now be done in just about 16 hours. Engineers have worked hard over the years to come up with innovative ways to make airplanes go faster and longer distances, without having to stop. Although these 16 hour journeys may take a long time, there are plenty of on-board amenities to keep passengers happy. Discover 14 of the longest non-stop flights in the world, and why flying long distance is easier than ever.

14. Chicago to Hong Kong: Cathay Pacific

Residents of the windy city can take a 15.5 hour journey all the way to the bustling metropolis of Hong Kong, a journey that covers 7,793 miles. Cathay Pacific is known around the world as one of the favorite airlines to fly and it’s no wonder they now have daily flights, as well as an extra direct flight three times a week between these two cities. While their planes don’t have the fully enclosed suites in first class, they still offer one of the best products out there for passengers who want to fly in style. Expect to spend the 15 hours sleeping in the ultra comfortable beds, in the provided pajamas while watching an unlimited amount of movies and television shows. One thing to note about this flight, if you do need something make sure to press the call button as the flight staff like to leave you alone as much as possible to get the rest that most people want.

Eric Hui / Shutterstock.com
Eric Hui / Shutterstock.com

13. New York to Taipei: EVA Air

This 7,808 mile route started back in 2011 and has only grown in popularity, despite the fact that it takes a whopping 15.5 hours to reach Taiwan’s booming capital from the Big Apple. Passengers aboard this flight will have three options of classes from regular Economy to Elite Premium Economy to the much loved Royal Laurel Class. Taking a flight and sitting in the Royal Laurel Class is unlike any other 15.5 hour flight as it offers one of the most comfortable sleeping areas. Each seat can convert to a two-meter long fully flat bed complete with lush linens and pillows. Added touches such as the shoe cabinet, retractable armrest and closet space just add to the experience. In-flight dining complete with champagne and fresh lobster are what passengers will find here. Economy passengers will still be subject to delicious dining, comfortable reclining seats and touch screen entertainment.

Taipei 101, Taiwan

12. Toronto to Hong Kong: Air Canada

It is the longest flight originating out of Canada and sits at 7,810 miles and takes a total of 15.5 hours to complete as passengers make their way from Toronto to Hong Kong. The aircraft for this long flight is Air Canada’s Boeing 777 that is complete with the loved Executive Pod Business Class cabins. With 48 of these classic pods, passengers can lie-flat, watch their own personal touch screen TV’s and charge any electronic devices in their personal power outlets. There is only the choice of economy and business class on these aircrafts but economy passengers can expect a wider seat pitch than others, a power outlet in-between the seats and access to the in-flight entertainment. Enjoy a hot meal with complimentary wine and spirits as you take the long journey from Toronto to Hong Kong.

Top Cities 2013 - Hong Kong

11. Los Angeles to Melbourne: United

What was once a route run by Virgin Australia, who moved its fleet to its L.A-Brisbane route, is now a route run by United, and this 7,921 mile journey takes about 16 hours. United flies its Boeing 787 Dreamliner which seats 252 passengers divided into three classes; Business, Economy and Economy Plus. Passengers in business class can expect seats that transform into lie-flat beds, an ottoman in front of the seat featuring storage and in-seat power with USB and reading light. Passengers aboard this 16 hour flight will have access to 150 hours of entertainment including movies, RV programs, music and games. Service with a smile, friendly passengers and enough options to keep you occupied for those 16 long hours, makes flying with United both easy and pleasant.

American Spirit / Shutterstock.com
American Spirit / Shutterstock.com

10. Dallas to Doha on Qatar Airways

This 7,931 mile journey takes passengers from Dallas, Texas to Doha, a new destination in the gulf region for Qatar passengers. This route debuted in July 2014 after the success of the Houston-Doha route that has been operating since 2008. Passengers will pass the 16.5 hours by using the awesome on-board entertainment system, getting some shut eye with the provided sleep mask or upgrading to the generous Business Class seats. This trip doesn’t come cheap though and passengers should expect to pay around $2,000 for a round trip economy ticket. It also happens to be one of the last of the 7,000 mile journeys on this list

Ivica Drusany / Shutterstock.com
Ivica Drusany / Shutterstock.com

9. New York to Guangzhou: China Southern

China’s biggest airline launched this flight in 2014, hoping to attract transit customers coming from other countries who will connect in Guangzhou. The journey from New York to Guangzhou is just over 8,000 miles and takes about 16 hours to complete. Along with the launch of this service came the delivery of their new 777-300ER aircraft that can carry 309 passengers in the four-class configuration. Featuring First Class, Business Class, Premium Economy and Economy, passengers now have an array of options on how they want to travel. Although you won’t find the same luxuries as Emirates, for example, there are still plenty of in-flight options, power outlets and food and drink choices to keep passengers happy. This route also happens to be very budget friendly and those looking to score a great deal, should look at China Southern.

Canton Tower in Guangzhou, China

8. Houston to Doha: Qatar Airways

It takes a total of 16.5 hours and covers over 8,047 miles taking passengers from Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport to the megacity of Doha, on the cusp of the Persian Gulf. Luckily this Boeing 777 comes loaded with options such as the flat-bed first class suites, generous economy seats and flat seats in business class. Every passenger here is treated to an amenity kit complete with eyeshades, socks and other essentials. The acclaimed Oryx Entertainment system is available to all passengers on this flight. Most likely this plane ride will be full of business travelers as they fly from the oil-rich Houston area to the Middle East. For six years this flight has been in operation and demand continues to grow for this airline which operates 131 planes to over 137 destinations worldwide.

JPRichard / Shutterstock.com
JPRichard / Shutterstock.com

7. New York to Hong Kong: Cathay Pacific

On this flight from New York to Hong Kong, passengers will actually fly close to the North Pole, before descending back down south over Russia Siberia. At 8,072 miles, this journey takes about 16 hours. Cathay Pacific happens to be one of the best airlines to fly in Economy Class, good news for those not wanting to shell out big bucks for Business or First Class. Economy seats feature extra width and legroom compared to other airlines as well as a plethora of in-flight entertainment options. Small touches such as a printed menu with food options the same as in First Class, a USB and power outlet, along with a well-designed seat back, makes flying this 16 hour journey easy!

New York

6. Dallas to Hong Kong: American Airlines

It is one of the most recent routes on this list as it only launched in May 2015 and now features the incredible Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft. The journey from Dallas to Hong Kong is approximately 8,123 miles and takes about 16.5 hours. The custom designed Dreamliner aircraft is unique to American and offers Business Suites with fully adjustable lie-flat seats and direct aisle access for all. Every passenger here will enjoy the onboard Wi-Fi, power outlets and personal in-flight entertainment with up to 250 movies, 180 TV programs and 350 audio selections. It became the first flight from Dallas to China as a whole and we expect it won’t be the last.

Ivan Cholakov / Shutterstock.com
Ivan Cholakov / Shutterstock.com

5. Houston to Dubai: Emirates

This 8,168 mile journey from Houston to Dubai takes about 16. 5 hours, but for those oil tycoons who can afford to fly in style, it certainly won’t feel that long. First class brings “do not disturb” signs, personal mini-bars and on-demand dining. Business Class features privacy screens and leather seats that transform into beds, complete with a built-in massage feature. Even in economy, passengers are treated to the onboard entertainment system that features up to 1,500 channels of content. It is easy to book a seat on this flight as Emirates offers two connections between the cities daily, often at bargain rates at just over $1,000 round trip. This is one long journey that you may want to splurge on First Class, trust us, you won’t regret it.

Sophie James / Shutterstock.com
Sophie James / Shutterstock.com

4. Los Angeles to Dubai: Emirates

This 16.5 hour flight that covers over 8,339 miles flies from one end of the globe to the next, although you wouldn’t know it on arrival as these two cities both boast deep blue seas, luxurious hotels, fashion malls and miles upon miles of beaches. The aircraft used here is a double-decker A380 which features 14 First Class suites, 76 flat beds in Business Class and almost 400 seats in Economy. Premium fliers also get access to the exclusive upstairs cocktail lounge. Emirates is typically known for its over-the-top amenities on their flights and expect thousands of entertainment choices, a generous baggage allowance and both Wi-Fi and mobile phone connectivity on-board. If you happen to be taking this flight in first class, amenities range from bottles of Dom Perignon, in-flight shower spa sessions and 27-inch flat screen TV’s.  You may never want to leave this aircraft!

Sorbis / Shutterstock.com
Sorbis / Shutterstock.com

3. Los Angeles to Abu Dhabi: Etihad

The third longest non-stop flight in the world also takes just over 16.5 hours and covers over 8,390 miles; connecting the desert boom town of Abu Dhabi with L.A. This flight is one of the most comfortable on this list though as Etihad offers generous legroom in all of its classes. Passengers will choose from three different classes including the award-winning Diamond First Class suites, Business Class flatbed seats and Economy class. Expect 6-foot reclining beds and 23-inch flat-screen TV’s in the First Class suites as well as your own personal closet. For families that are flying this route, they may want to take advantage of the “Flying Nanny” program, where parents are given a break from their little ones. Wherever you sit on this plane, expect first-class service, excellent in-flight entertainment and a lot of hours in the air.

Lukas Rebec / Shutterstock.com
Lukas Rebec / Shutterstock.com

2. Atlanta to Johannesburg: Delta

Anyway you cut it, it is a long way from the United States to South Africa and at 16.5 hours, this flight covers over 8,439 miles. The 777 Boeing planes that are used to make this long flight provide awesome comfort though, if you are willing to spend a bit of extra cash. The business elite class is the favorite amongst many as it features lie-flat seats that allow your feet to face the aisle and offer the ultimate privacy, and as an added bonus every seat has aisle access. Even in economy, the new seats on these aircrafts provide enough room to stretch out and sleep. Economy comfort is also a great choice, not near as expensive as business class but still offers extra leg room and alcoholic beverages. The flight crosses over the entire breadth of the Atlantic Ocean before touching down in a country that teems with culture and wildlife.

Johannesburg South Africa

1. Dallas to Sydney: Qantas

At a whopping 17 hours this is currently the longest non-stop flight in the world and travels an insane 8,578 miles between the two cities. This route also boasts the biggest passenger plane in the skies; the double-decker A380. Qantas can fly this route in either direction and passengers have their choice of four different classes on-board. Choose from one of 14 seats in first class, 64 seats in business, 35 seats in premium economy or one of 371 seats in coach. Either way, expect more leg room, ergonomically correct seats, better in-flight facilities and even a self-serve snack bar. The on-demand entertainment systems ensures passengers have access to over 100 movies, 500 TV programs, 800 music options and 18 radio channels; ensuring this 17 hour flight will whiz by.

Circular Quay Sydney Australia

The 10 Best Cities to Use Uber

Uber is a rapidly growing car sharing system all over the world that is taking cities by storm and seemingly putting taxi services out of business. The question becomes, where is the best place to use Uber and what factors come into play when passengers choose to use this service over a regular cab? Cities that offer low fares, reliable rides and quick pickup are often thought of the best cities to use this service. Combine that with friendly locals, inconsistent weather and the legality that surrounds this company and we have found you the 10 best cities in which you should be using Uber.

10. Nashville

It is a city that has truly embraced this ride sharing program and thus is a perfect city to use Uber. It became the first city to allow passengers to be picked up from the airport legally by an Uber driver. The city of Nashville doesn’t make it easy for residents or visitors to get around by public transportation and that is where Uber has really come in handy. The average ETA for an Uber pick up is just four minutes here and the average fare is under $10. Home of many concerts, festivals and late nights; it seems this city and Uber can work perfectly together.

Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock.com
Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock.com

9. Sydney, Australia

If you happen to live in the land down under or you are simply visiting and looking for a cheaper way to get around, Uber is the perfect answer. In just one year Uber drivers gave over a million rides to riders in Sydney and the average wait time for pickup was an incredibly short 4.1 minutes. What’s even better; many Uber drivers in Sydney have supercars that they will pick you up in. The main reason this city is great to use Uber; it is far cheaper than using a traditional cab and much more reliable. There are no Uber ‘horror stories’ floating around the internet about Sydney, instead there is praise for the drivers and vehicles. Plus as a visitor to the city it’s great to use this service as the driver can normally recommend restaurants, clubs and other local interests that tourists may miss out on.

Sydney Harbour Bridge

8. Toronto, Canada

Uber is here to stay says the mayor of this city, which is a great relief to many of the users who are already using this ride sharing service. Using Uber in Toronto is a great way to get around the city as it often seems traditional cabs are few and far between. Uber riders also use this service to get to and from the airport as the public transportation that runs to the major airport is unreliable and inefficient. So far, it is not illegal to call for Uber to pick you up from the airport in this city. Toronto has been at the heart of the Uber controversy for the past year and the time to use it is now; just in case it becomes obsolete. Did we mention that it is also normally cheaper than the average taxi ride and these Canadians are just so darn nice?

Toronto

7. New York City

Although New York City is one of the most expensive places to use Uber, it is also one of the best; mainly because the amount of users is so high. You can expect five star rated drivers here in New York and vehicles equipped with everything from the latest iPhone charger to vomit bags in the backseats; just in case. Using Uber in NY means shortcuts down side streets, avoiding traffic and paying to ride in a nice, clean car rather than a sometimes dirty taxi. It means talking to the friendly locals who give tips on where to eat, what to do and where it’s safe to be at night. Uber has exploded in this city and it’s easy to understand why. Plus with the wicked weather that often hits the city, it is a great way to keep dry instead of fighting for umbrella space while walking down the sidewalk.

New York City, USA

6. San Francisco

The birthplace of Uber makes this list and it’s really no surprise. San Francisco is the original home of this ride sharing service, which started to give the public a different option than cabs and other public transit. This city has one of the highest numbers of drivers which makes catching a ride both fast and easy. The taxi business in this city has dropped about 65% since Uber came in and fewer and fewer cabs can be seen around the city. Due in part to lower costs for rides by Uber and the caliber of vehicles that are picking passengers up. Uber is so present in this city that you won’t even think about calling a cab. Plus due to strict laws, using Uber ensures that you are the only passenger in the vehicle snagging a ride. Expect nice vehicles with plenty of amenities when you call for a ride in this city.

San Francisco bridge

5. Houston

This city is perhaps one of the safest cities to catch an Uber ride as in recent months it started requiring drivers to obtain special licenses. The long time debate Uber has faced is the lack of laws and rules it set forth. In Houston now drivers are required to go through physical tests, drug tests and have their car inspected. As an Uber rider in Houston you can be sure you are riding in a car less than 7 years old, by a driver who has no criminal history and no drug use and who has been licensed as a driver. Something you will not get in other cities currently. Add in the fact that Uber here is cheap and quick and especially reliable and this is definitely one city that has embraced this ride sharing program and made it easy for both riders and drivers to feel safe.

Houston

4. Washington, DC

In a recent study this city was rated the best city to be an Uber driver but it also happens to be a great city to be an Uber rider. Washington, DC comes in at number four on this list for a number of factors. Slashed fares often pop up in this city and it becomes incredibly cheap to use Uber. The government on the other hand hasn’t been so quick to hop on board but all that means for other riders is better availability of drivers. Washington is also one of the only cities with Uber Family; an option that allows families to order a car with a car seat.  They have also recently hooked up with Fuhu and are installing two Nabi kids’ tablets into these family cars. Families love that the kids are both safe and entertained.

Washington DC

3. Boston

There is no shortage of drivers to pick you up in Boston and they are constantly fighting for your business. Which makes using Uber even more convenient. Gone are the days when you had three to four taxi drivers hassling you when you hailed a cab. Now it’s simply a few touches on your phone and you have a clean, reliable car to pick you up. This city also sees its fair share of reducing fairs and many studies have shown that it is significantly cheaper to use Uber here than a taxi. It doesn’t hurt matters that the governor is an avid supporter of this ride sharing program and is doing his best to make it safer for both drivers and passengers. Plus you can find some stellar coupons and discounts to score free rides around this city.

Boston Bay

2. Los Angeles

Using Uber in Los Angeles is easy and cheap, much cheaper than using a taxi, and significantly more efficient than using public transit. Plus there always seems to be a number of choices for drivers that are around you. With the promise that Uber will be allowed to pick up passengers from LAX shortly, there is no reason not to use this ride sharing service in this city. Plus it gets awful hot in the summertime here and with all that shopping you do, you will need someone to carry it all home. This city also offers UberEATS; where you can order in your favorite food from their curated menu. It’s as easy as requesting a ride including the cashless pay system.

Los Angeles

1. Chicago

Chicago has long been the cheapest place in the USA to use Uber, although it is not fully understood why. If you’re planning on using Uber in any city; this would be it. Chicago is also the perfect place to use this ride sharing system because of its weather. Wind and rain often pelt the city and waiting for a city bus or hailing a cab just isn’t fun. Uber drivers come up in a big way by being especially quick and reliable. The local drivers also know their way around town, where to eat dinner and how to get you to your destination as fast as possible. UberEATS also recently launched in this city and is currently offering lunch time service only, with a choice of two options, and promised to be delivered in just 10 minutes.

Andrey Bayda / Shutterstock.com
Andrey Bayda / Shutterstock.com

12 Things to See and Do in Houston

Described as a big-time city with a small town southern feel; Houston is a top destination in terms of activities, thrills and entertainment without the high price tag. Whether you are showcasing your vintage cowboy boots through one of the greatest malls in America, sampling some succulent southern BBQ or blasting off into space; this city offers up fun for children and adults alike. Discover why so many visitors come to Houston each year to shop, play and eat until their hearts content. With everything being bigger in Texas, hold on to your ten-gallon hat while you discover the 12 things you must see and do on your visit to Houston.

1. Space Center Houston

Our first stop and perhaps the most popular on our list is the Houston Space Center. This enormous educational entertainment complex hosts almost one million visitors annually. Designed for hands on learning and fun, the Space Center is made up of interactive displays, space artifacts, theaters and ever changing exhibits. Be sure to hop aboard the tram tour to witness the launching site, Saturn 5 Rocket and other areas outside the main museum. Audio tours can be purchased for an additional price and will guide you through each part of the center. For an extra special experience take the level 9 tour which includes a visit to the astronauts dining hall, a special mission control visit and any and all questions answered by a knowledgeable guide. Whether you want to be an astronaut, want to learn more about planets or just see some really interesting space artifacts; Space Center Houston will fulfill all your needs.

Space Shuttle Apollo pod

2. Shop at The Galleria

If you’ve come to Houston to shop (like so many do) there is only one place you need to visit. The Galleria offers 2.4 million square feet of shopping and dining space. From budget stores to upscale boutiques you will find anything you are looking for. Stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue, Macy’s and Nordstroms are just a few to get you started. Located in the center of the Galleria sits an indoor ice rink. If you are lucky enough to be visiting Houston in December you will see a spectacular Christmas tree set up on the rink and all the shops outfitted for the holidays. Window shop, splurge, dine or people watch and enjoy an entire day at The Galleria.

Houston Galleria

3. Gerald D. Hines Waterwall Park

When you are all shopped out from The Galleria walk over to Waterwall Park for some relaxation and serenity. In the middle of the park is a 64-foot semicircular fountain that re-circulates 11,000 gallons of water per minute. Watch as it cascades down the inner and outer walls of the structure. The park is full of large oak trees and benches to relax on while you take in the cool breeze. Waterwall Park is the perfect photo opportunity whether you go in the day or after dark when the fountain is lit up in beautiful colors. Just make sure to visit before 10pm when the lights are turned off. A truly unique structure located in the heart of uptown Houston, it is definitely worth a visit.

Photo by: Anthony George
Photo by: Anthony George

4. Attend the Rodeo

Houston is home to the world’s largest livestock show and largest live entertainment show. A twenty-day event, it would be a shame to travel to Houston during that time and not attend at least one day. From championship rodeo action to parades to concerts to carnivals to pig racing to everything else in between; the Rodeo is a unique event. With some of the world’s biggest performers taking the stage; this is Houston’s signature event. Indulge in gigantic turkey legs, funnel cakes, extra-long hot dogs and plenty more mouth-watering food choices throughout the grounds. After all; everything is bigger in Texas. Come for the rodeo competition or the music or simply spend your whole vacation here; there is enough to keep you entertained for days at the famous Houston Rodeo.

Houston Rodeo

5. Visit a Museum or Two

The Huston Museum District offers visitors the chance to learn and celebrate art, history, nature and culture from around the world. With twenty museums making up the district whether you are taking the kids along or whether you want a peaceful afternoon you will find it here. Museums are located within walking distance of one another and are surrounded by plenty of dining options for lunch (insiders recommend Eatsie Boys for lunch). We recommend visiting The Museum of Fine Arts where you will have the opportunity to walk through 10,000 plastic tubes that hang down from the ceiling. If you are bringing the kids along, make sure to stop at the Children’ Museum where they will laugh, play and learn all day long. Stop by the Museum District for a day of educational fun.

The San Jacinto Monument

6. Indulge in the Best Texas BBQ

Known as the little house that cranks out “old school” Texas barbecue; Gatlin’s BBQ and Catering is one of the best places in Houston to try the delicious BBQ this state boasts about. First things first we recommend you go early and be prepared to wait in line as this joint is busy. They close at 7pm or when they run out of everything. Must tries are the brisket, sausage and ribs. Succulent, juicy and flavor-loaded are how we describe the food. Paired with an organic ginger peach tea you really can’t go wrong. Take your food to go as seating is very limited and enjoy what is known as one of the best BBQ joints in town. If you happen to miss out on this place we do recommend visiting another southern BBQ restaurant; you really can’t leave Houston without trying this quintessential southern cuisine.

BBQ Ribs

7. Purchase an Authentic Pair of Cowboy Boots

You can’t leave Houston without scooping up a pair of authentic cowboy boots and we have just the place for you to find that unique pair. Head over to Texas Junk Company where cowboy boots are a dime a dozen. You won’t find any brand new shiny boots here though, this is where you will find the “new to you” boots for a reasonable price. A few tips for shopping at Texas Junk Co: make sure to call before you head over as the owner keeps odd hours, bring cash as there is no debit or credit card machine on site, and most of all; listen to the owner, he knows his stuff when it comes to boots. He will explain about sizing, location, boot style and everything else you need to know. Yes the store may be dusty, yes the owner is quirky but it is hands down your best place to find a vintage pair of boots for less than half the price. Happy shopping!

Cowboy boots

8. Discover the Strange in Houston

Houston offers no shortage of strange and unique things to see in the city. Visit the Beer Can House where over 50,000 flattened cans of beer form the aluminum siding for the house. Check out the front and back yard that is completely covered with marbles, rocks and pieces of metals. Learn about the history of the Beer Can House through exhibits and a short film. If that isn’t strange enough for you, come during the annual Art Car Parade where hundreds of cars or anything on wheels are transformed into mobile pieces of art. Entries from all over the United States and Canada attend this event and hundreds of thousands of people come to join in this fabulous free event.

Photo by: Clem
Photo by: Clem

9. Spend a day at Discovery Green

A park nestled in the middle of a city draws visitors and locals every day of the year. Discovery Green is home to all things “free” in the heart of downtown Houston. Take a jaunt over on one of the free Yoga days and spread out amongst the grass for a peaceful and serene hour. Or visit during the summer when they offer free kayak classes in the pond located in the park. Thursdays are free concert days and be sure to bring your lawn chair and picnic basket for an afternoon of live music. Bring the kids and let them run through the splash pad and climb on the playground. This truly “green” park offers something for everyone so you won’t be disappointed when you end up spending an entire day here.

goodcat / Shutterstock.com
goodcat / Shutterstock.com

10. Kemah Boardwalk

Located just twenty miles from downtown Houston sits a bodacious strip of fun for all ages. Kemah Boardwalk runs along the beautiful Galveston Bay and is packed full of rides, shops, music and dining options. Visit the aquarium that is full of sea life and wonder at the amazing creatures. Thrill seekers can climb aboard the roaring roller coaster or take in the views of Houston from atop the Ferris wheel. Cool off in the water on a hot summer day and hop onto the Boardwalk Beast for a thrill as the captain dunks you into the water at speeds of 40 miles per hour. Nighttime brings out the performers during the summer for the “Rock the Dock” music sessions that are held here. Day or Night; the Boardwalk is a great place for the whole family to have some fun.

Kemah Boardwalk

11. Old Town Spring

Go back in history to the 1900’s, or at least that’s what it feels like in Old Town Spring. A community comprised of shops, restaurants and museums; Old Town Spring is the perfect place to shop for antiques, catch a live music performance at the Jailhouse Saloon or try your hand at photographing some historic buildings. Host to five major festivals throughout the year, you’re in luck if you are in town during any one of them. Our personal favorite happens to be the crawfish festival where over 70 tons of crawfish is consumed to the likes of music ranging from indie rock to electric to country. Throw in carnival rides, games and some education and you have yourself a party. Whether you come for a stroll in the day or happen upon a festival, it’s worth the visit to Old Town Spring.

Photo by: Old Town Spring
Photo by: Old Town Spring

12. Hermann Park

Play a round of golf, paddle boat in the lake, hop aboard the train or visit the zoo. All these things and more are located in the 445 acres of Hermann Park; a public green space that hosts more than 6 million visitors a year. Wander along the scenic trails throughout the park stopping to marvel at the numerous statues and pieces of art that live here. Take in the beauty of the many fountains in the park or walk high above the grounds on the suspension bridge. Head to the outdoor amphitheater for a free concert or dine in the cafe that overlooks the lake. One day just isn’t long enough to discover all this park has to offer.

Hermann Park Houston

Top 10 Cities to Invest in Real Estate in the US for 2014

With the recession growing more distant as each day passes, it’s the perfect time to set your sights on investing in real estate in the United States. Affordable housing, low vacancy rates and low interest rates make this market attractive to all types of investors. Cities are finally experiencing population growth, job growth and expansion of international markets which is making the real estate market finally begin to rise. The time to get into that market is now and here we show you the ten best cities to invest in. Whether you’re buying a vacation home, rental property or a place to call home; these cities can offer up a great place to invest.

1. Houston, Texas

With a booming economy and adequate room for expansion, Houston is number one on our list of top cities to invest in. Being the fourth largest city in the United States and an international business hub; it is the gateway to Latin America. With affordable housing options, low cost of living and high quality of living; this city is begging to be lived in. With its growing population and job growth that will continue into 2015; Houston has ever growing industries. Being named the energy capital of the world with over half of Fortune 500 companies being headquartered in Houston; this city is moving forward and the right time to invest in it is now.

Skyline of Houston, Texas in daytime under blue sky

2. Orlando, Florida

Being one of the hardest hit cities during the recession, Orlando is still struggling to bounce back into the forefront of the market. In saying that; it’s also one of the top cities to grab up real estate right now. With low priced homes along with low interest rates; investors can score big on buying. High rental rates make Orlando more attractive to investors and with a massive tourist industry; rental units are a top investment choice. Along with the tourist industry, Orlando boasts an above average job growth and booming health science industry; both leading to further growth in this sunny destination. With prices on the rise and the country coming out of the recession; we suggest you get in the game now!

Orlando downtown welcome sign with tropical scene

3. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

During the recession, Pittsburgh proved to be one of the most resilient cities in the country and that is one of the reasons investing in real estate here is a great choice. With growth in medical, banking and education industries; Pittsburgh is seeing an increase in both in-town and out-of-town investors. Historic low vacancy rates and affordable house prices lets buyers into the market without breaking the bank. With a growing demand in the oil and gas industry, this city is proving to be unstoppable in terms of growth and stability.

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

4. Minneapolis, Minnesota

The time to invest in real estate in Minneapolis is now. The strong diverse economy and low housing prices together with the low rental vacancy rates makes this city desirable for all types of investors. Currently out of town investors are snapping up huge chunks of apartment buildings in the core center. Although this means housing is harder to come by than some of the other cities we have mentioned, the value of real estate is quickly rising. Younger generations who don’t want to leave the Midwest are flocking to Minneapolis after graduating. The time is now to buy in this quickly growing market where one can choose to pick a long term investment or “turn and burn” a property to make money.

Morning view of Minneapolis, MN skyline

5. Atlanta, Georgia

More homes were seized in Atlanta than any major metro area in the country according to CoreLogic Inc, which makes this city a buyer’s market. With its usually warm winters, home of a dozen fortune 500 companies including Coca-Cola and Home Depot; Atlanta offers up a great place to invest in real estate. With a cost of living less than half that of Manhattans and a multitude of houses available; this city is the perfect place to grab some real estate. If you don’t mind getting your hands dirty, there are plenty of opportunities to buy a fixer upper well below the average price of $200,000 for a single dwelling unit.

Downtown Atlanta, Georgia, USA skyline

6. Seattle, Washington

As the economy continues to rebound; this city shows no sign of slowing down. Seattle is filled with not just rainy days but world renowned coffee and massive companies such as Amazon, Boeing and Microsoft. Always being a great city to buy property, Seattle remains true to its origins and is still a top choice to invest in real estate. Young people are flocking to this city to work for giant companies and the city is shifting from suburban to urban and there’s no sign of this city’s growth slowing down. Do yourself a favor and invest in an apartment, house or commercial property. It will be well worth it.

Downtown Seattle as seen from the Kerry park in the evening

7. Raleigh, North Carolina

Affordable cost of living and job growth in stable fields have propelled this city into our top ten list. Raleigh prides itself on being the hub of education and with job stability comes a great market for real estate investment. A low foreclosure rate and strong commercial real estate opportunities will propel Raleigh into a strong future. Real estate investors will feel confident in this city as there is nowhere to go but up.

Skyline of Raleigh, NC

8. Phoenix, Arizona

Sun lovers are scooping up real estate in this now trending city; one of the hardest hit cities when the housing market bubble burst. Bargain prices, plenty of availability and a steady job growth makes Phoenix an attractive place to invest. Top companies such as Walmart and Intel support the job growth and housing market. Investors are choosing secondary markets such as Phoenix over major cities where real estate markets are flooded. Take a page from their book and get your hands on some sun soaked property here, but act quickly; this housing market is only going up. With big banks such as Wells Fargo and Bank of America employing people; this city is bouncing back.

Phoenix Arizona

9. Manhattan, New York

By far the most expensive city to buy real estate in this list, Manhattan nonetheless is an excellent city to invest in –if you can afford it. With thousands of employees coming to work at the World Trade Center; the market is booming, especially in the financial district. Couple that fact with New York’s ever growing population and notoriously trendy “Hipster” neighborhoods; there doesn’t seem to be a bad time to invest in this city when it comes to real estate. You will have to have deep pockets to invest here, but in the long run this Empire State will make it worth your while.

Aerial view of Manhattan skyline at sunset, New York City

10. Dallas, Texas

One of the fastest growing cities; Dallas rounds off our list of top cities in The United States to invest in real estate. With houses priced below 12% of their actual value, it’s a great time to buy in Texas. Constant job growth, the ability to profit from future gas and oil development and home to the third busiest airport in the world; there is no shortage of growth in this city. With the ever growing technology industry taking place in Dallas; this is the place for people looking for long-term economic stability. Invest in real estate here today and in ten years you will wonder why you didn’t invest sooner.

A View of the Skyline of Dallas, Texas, USA

The 20 Dirtiest Cities in America

At the end of 2012, Forbes.com released a list of the 20 American cities considered the dirtiest in terms of groundwater pollution levels and air quality. Economic hardships have only exacerbated the problem in many of these metropolitan areas, and high pollution levels are detrimental to the overall quality of life for residents.

For those of you who aren’t aware, the Sperling rating below are based on an index where 1 is the worst and 100 is the best.

20. St.Louis, MO

Over 150 industrial sites dot the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers in this area, and chemicals are dumped into the rivers on a regular basis. The local Sperling Air Quality Index is 24, and the Sperling Water Quality Index is 44.

St. Louis MO

19. Cleveland, OH

The ArcelorMittal metals plant is a large source of toxic emissions in the Cleveland area. The Sperling Air Quality Index is 29, and the Sperling Water Quality Index is 35.

Cleveland OH

18. Baltimore, MD

The nearby Patapsco River and the Chesapeake Bay carry high levels of arsenic, phosphorous and other harmful chemicals from Baltimore’s poultry processing plants. The Sperling Air Quality Index is 14, and the Sperling Water Quality Index is 49.

Baltimore MD

17. Los Angeles, CA

The LA metro area is ranked the worst in the nation for ozone levels. The Sperling Air Quality Index is 2, and the Sperling Water Quality Index is 58.

Los Angeles CA

16. Louisville, KY

Louisville is home to the Cane Run Coal Plant, which spews high levels of harmful pollutants into the air. The local Sperling Air Quality Index is 37, and the Sperling Water Quality Index is 19.

Louisville KY

15. Akron, OH

The local Sperling Air Quality Index is 20, and the Sperling Water Quality Index is 36. Akron is situated along the Cuyahoga River, which has caught fire in the past due to surface pollutants.

Akron OH

14. Baton Rouge, LA

Coal-burning power plants are a major source of air pollution in this city, and recent initiatives have begun for stricter emissions control regulations. The Sperling Air Quality Index is 29, and the Sperling Water Quality Index is 27.

Baton Rouge Lousiana

13. Houston, TX

Houston houses the biggest number of oil refineries and chemical plants in the country, and it ranks quite high for ozone pollution. The Sperling Air Quality Index is 18, and the Sperling Water Quality Index is 51.

Houston TX

12. Sacramento, CA

California’s capital has high rankings for air particle pollution and ozone levels. The Sperling Air Quality Index is 9, and the Sperling Water Quality Index is 48.

Sacramento California

11. New York City, NY

High levels of pollutants from oil spills, industrial development and chemical dumping plague New York City’s and Northern New Jersey’s groundwater supplies. The Sperling Air Quality Index is 23, and the Sperling Water Quality Index is 34.

New York City NY

10. Milwaukee, WI

Industrial development and manufacturing have created high concentrations of pollutants in the Milwaukee River as well as in the air. The local Sperling Air Quality Index is 26, and the Sperling Water Quality Index is also 26.

Milwaukee, WI

9. Stockton, CA

Lack of funding for clean-up has resulted in high ozone levels in this central California city. Its Sperling Air Quality Index is 15, and the Sperling Water Quality Index is 35.

Stockton CA

8. San Jose, CA

This city’s silicon manufacturing has resulted in toxic chemical leaching into the groundwater over the decades. The Sperling Air Quality Index is 13, and the Sperling Water Quality Index is 30.

San Jose California

7. New Haven, CT

The Sperling Air Quality Index is 6, and the Sperling Water Quality Index is 44 in New Haven. The city is located close to Yale University’s flight school and a major intersection of two interstate highways.

New Haven CT

6. Riverside, CA

The Riverside-San Bernardino area has a Sperling Air Quality Index of 1 and a Sperling Water Quality Index of 49. Drinking water supplies have been contaminated by the manufacture of rockets, motors and explosives.

Riverside, CA

5. Modesto, CA

This central California city ranks 11th in the nation for ozone pollution, and it also shoulders one of the country’s highest unemployment rates. The Sperling Air Quality Index is 6, and the Sperling Water Quality Index is 34.

Modesto California

4. Bridgeport, CT

Connecticut is one of the wealthiest U.S. states, but local car part manufacturing has lead to contamination of the wetlands with various toxic chemicals. Found contaminants include dangerous levels of lead and asbestos. The Sperling Water Quality Index is 32, and the Sperling Air Quality Index is 8.

Bridgeport, CT

3. Philadelphia, PA

The City of Brotherly Love is situated on the banks of the Delaware River, which has been lined with operating chemical refineries for several decades. High concentrations of pollutants get released into the river water each year, and the area has a water quality index of 12 as well as an air quality index of 22.

Philadelphia, PA

2. Bakersfield, CA

Bakersfield’s main employment sector is the oil industry, and the local area has a Sperling Air Quality Index of 1. The Sperling Water Quality Index is 42. Emissions from oil production facilities are largely the cause of these high pollution levels.

Bakersfield CA

1. Fresno, CA

A major local industry is agriculture, which has lead to the leaching of pesticides and other harmful chemicals into the groundwater. Residents suffer from adverse health effects from the poor groundwater quality, and Fresno also has the 5th worst ranking for air particle pollution. The city’s Sperling Air Quality Index is rated 1 and the Sperling Water Quality Index is rated 22.

Fresno, CA