Greetings, Internet Stranger, and welcome to 24 hours in Houston, Texas! When you hear the word Houston, I bet one of the first things you think of is the phrase, “Houston, we have a problem.” Well, today we’re going to head to the place where that phrase was first heard.
That’s right, we’re heading to the number one attraction in Houston (probably, I am too lazy to look up the real numbers), the Space Center. It’s a massive attraction, and it’s not near the center of town, so we’re going to spend all morning and afternoon here. Then we’ll see the lovely city itself on a fabulous food tour. It’s going to be a blast, so let’s not waste any more time!
24 Hours in Houston
Where to Stay?
Houston is a fairly spread out city, so I was looking for a convenient location for my 24 hours in Houston, right in the heart of downtown.
That’s why I chose the Hampton Inn Houston Downtown. It was right in the middle of the city, near all the best murals and the Minute Maid baseball park, aka the Juice Box. The staff was extremely pleasant and the breakfast was free every morning. The perfect hotel for me!
If you want a great deal on this hotel, click here. And if you’d rather explore great deals on over 1000 other hotels in Houston, click here. This search engine will help you find the most affordable and convenient hotel during your 24 hours in Houston.
24 Hours in Houston
- An excellent small cell charger so you can keep taking pictures of your 24 hours in Houston
- My favorite guide to Texas, including Houston
- My book Get Lost, that I wrote myself with all my best travel tips. This book will show you exactly how solo travel can take your life from BLAH to amazing!
- Want to learn how I saved enough money to travel 16 weeks a year? Check out my top secret How to Afford Travel digital system.
- I always travel with travel insurance from World Nomads. You never know when something might go wrong, especially in this day and age. But with travel insurance, you’re protected even if you’re attacked by a wayward rocket ship during your 24 hours in Houston.
24 Hours in Houston
Morning: Space Center Houston Tram Tours
So, this is a bit of a departure for this blog because I’m going to suggest that you spend the entire 24 hours in Houston at one attraction. But we’re going to mix it up a bit because we’ll spend the morning taking tours of the Space Center, and the afternoon seeing the cool Space Artifacts they have to offer at the Space Center.
The tours are included with the price of admission to the Space Center, so they’re really easy to take. When I was there, you used your phone to line up for a virtual line for the tours. There was a white tour that takes you to Mission Control, and a red tour that takes you to see the shuttles. I suggest you do both.
24 Hour Tip
I suggest getting the Houston CityPass if you’re going to stay more than 24 hours and want to see other attractions. It will save you 50 percent if you see all the attraction available on the CityPass, which includes the Space Center. You can buy the pass easily right here.
Then just hop on the white tour bus to Mission Control and get ready for…
Approximately Top 5: Space Center Houston
1) Mission Control
The first thing you’re going to want to do is hop on the Mission Control Tram tour and set a course for the 1960s. Remember, the Space Center is a real NASA facility, not just a museum, and Mission Control is really where all those wonderful Apollo missions were launched that took us to the moon.
Of course, “Houston we have a problem,” is from the famously failed Apollo 13 mission starring Tom Hanks and Kevin Bacon. But the exciting part of visiting Mission Control is that they’ll put on a special light show for you that will show you what you would have seen if you’d been in Mission Control during the successful Apollo 11 mission, the first mission that landed a man on the moon.
No photo taking or video is allowed during this show, and I don’t want to spoil things for you! You’ll just have to go to Space Center and see for yourself.
This is super Texan, but I still wasn’t expecting to see Longhorns at the Space Center. Are they Space Cows? Do they have Longhorns on the moon? But apparently the Longhorn Project is a real thing at NASA.
They wanted to give back to the community, so they breed Longhorns here, and they teach local kids how to take care of them and develop a useful skill. I’m sure knowing how to take care of Longhorns is a more useful skill in this day and age than being an astronaut.
Honestly, I don’t know which sounds scarier, getting up close and personal with those horns or going to the moon. Or should I say, moooooon?
3) Astronaut Training Facility
So, after Mission Control, head on the next tram tour that will take you to the Astronaut Training Facility. Here, you can visit the Space Vehicle Mockup Facility, where you’ll get to see mockups of space shuttles as well as mockups of all the modules they use on the International Space Station. Mockup starts to sound like a funny word when you say it so many times.
Of course, mockups mean fake, so these are not the real space shuttles or modules. But they’re as close as you’re going to get to the real thing as long as you’re stuck on earth, you landlubber. Being so close to the mockups you start to feel like you’re Neal Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, or Michael Collins. (I always mention Michael Collins, the poor astronaut on the Apollo 11 Mission who didn’t actually get to step on the moon.)
Keep in mind this facility is still really where astronauts train, so they make you be quiet while you’re walking through this area. But I think a little silence is worth it to see something so special.
4) Rocket Park
OK, this is probably the coolest thing to see during our 24 hours in Houston, aside from Mission Control. Rocket Park actually features real rockets that were used in space missions, not just mockups. You can walk around and get up close and personal with the biggest, toughest rockets you’ll ever see.
For my money this rocket that you see above, the Saturn V, is the most special. It is the tallest, heaviest, and most powerful rocket that has ever been launched into space. Who says size doesn’t matter? Certainly no one at NASA!
These rockets were used in the real Apollo Missions, but they weren’t involved in the entire mission. They’d help launch the Apollo spacecraft and the lunar lander, and then after a few hours, their work was done. They were kind of like spider moms, I guess, only living a short time after they release their babies into the wind. At least, that’s what Charlotte’s Web taught me.
5) How About Salad?
As you can imagine, the Space Center isn’t really a fine dining destination. However, since we are spending all day here, you’re going to have to eat something! I suggest picking up something light at The Food Lab, which is just a science-y way of saying the food court.
Get something light like my perfectly adequate chicken caesar salad. We’ve got a massive evening of eating ahead of us on our 24 hours in Houston.
24 Hours in Houston
Afternoon: Explore Space Center Houston Main Building
OK, now that we’ve seen everything there is to see on the tram tours, it’s time to explore the exhibits at the main building before we end this part of our 24 hours in Houston.
Each tram tour will drop you off at Independence Plaza, so that’s where our tour will begin. I hope to get you a little excited about the Space Center and also teach you…
Three Fun Facts: Space Center Houston
1) Um, what is that airplane doing?
Did you know that Independence Plaza was sponsored by Boeing? Well, you won’t be able to avoid it when you visit because Boeing’s name is everywhere. But don’t let the blatant product placement stop you from enjoying this fantastic exhibit.
At Independence Plaza, you can actually walk around inside a full replica of a space shuttle, which is nestled on top of a completely real shuttle aircraft carrier. Not a mockup or a replica! Real! It’s the only chance a normal non-astronaut person has to go inside a shuttle on a real aircraft carrier.
2) Um, why is that man naked?
Skylab, which is inside the Space Center’s Main Building is one of the coolest and definitely creepiest features of the Space Center. Skylab was the first American space station–kind of the parent to the contemporary International Space Station. It’s just what it sounds like–a scientific lab in outer space!
Here, scientists would conduct experiments on how humans and other life forms would react to be in space for extended periods of time. That sounds like it could go horribly wrong. What if being in space for a long time turned you into a serial killer? I mean, we know now that it doesn’t, but we didn’t know that back then.
Also, I think someone should let this naked man out of Skylab so he can put some clothes on and go back to his family.
3) Um, what is that?
That’s a toilet, Internet Stranger! I hope you have seen one before! Of course, this is the special kind of toilet that they used in the International Space Station because if there’s one thing that’s a potentially terrible combination, it’s toilets and zero gravity. I can’t lend you visit the Space Center during our 24 hours in Houston and not show you a space toilet.
But that’s not the only cool object they have at Space Center Houston. They also have a section with tons of Very Real astronaut suits. Yup, these aren’t mockups either. (To be fair, I don’t think the Space Potty is a mockup.) My favorite astronaut suit was the one worn by Judith Resnick, one of the first women in the astronaut corps. This blue outfit is super stylish, and I would consider wearing it for fun.
On a more serious note, you can see photos of the crews of all NASA’s manned missions in the back. If you see a black band on the picture, that means it’s of one of the crews like the Challenger or the Apollo I mission, where all the astronauts were killed.
I tend to make jokes about a variety of subjects, but even I would not make a joke about these heroes, and I encourage you to take a moment to notice them. Such sacrifice shouldn’t be forgotten.
24 Hours in Houston
Evening: Astroville Food Tour
We’ve spent all morning and afternoon of our 24 hours in Houston at Space Center Houston, which isn’t even really in the main part of the city. So let’s get out and about exploring the wonder that is Houston with the Astroville Food Tour.
This tour will hook you up with a local guide so that you can taste special Houstonian treats and learn the hidden secrets of the city. We’ll even get to peer into Houston’s awesome tunnel system.
You can book this fantastic tour yourself by clicking here. Then get ready to dive into…
Approximately Top 5: Houston Food
1) Lauren’s Garden
I first encountered the city of Houston in a really lovely movie called Local Hero that I strongly recommend you check out. But the movie makes Houston look incredibly cold and modern in comparison with this adorable Scottish fishing village that seduces the uptight, businessman hero. (Also there’s a mermaid. It’s seriously a very good movie.)
Anyway, Houston is a modern city with a whole bunch of glass buildings, but there are some lovely, greener parts of the city as well, like Lauren’s Garden. This tranquil spot is dedicated to a woman from Houston who was killed on September 11th. As someone from New York City, I was glad to come by and pay my respects.
2) La Calle
OK, time for some actual food because a garden is not food. We’re stopping at an authentic Mexican restaurant called La Calle for some spicy tacos served with corn and cotija cheese. (That’s the mild white cheese.) These tacos were actually spicy like they make them in Mexico, not mild and Tex-Mex.
The decor of the restaurant looked very much like Mexico City with lucha libre masks on the wall and things of that nature. It was just one of the first reminders we’re going to get that Houston is a multicultural city.
If you want a drink, go ahead and pay for a margarita or a pina colada. (I recommend the marg, which was delightfully potent.) It’s not included in the price of the tour, but everyone who got one was happy about the choice.
I know what you’re thinking! A tunnel is not food. Also this tunnel in my photo looks sterile and creepy, like Hannibal Lecter is waiting on the other end to enjoy your liver with fava beans and a nice chianti.
Well, none of those things happened on the food tour. Instead, our guide, whom I shall call Altuve, said that Houston gets a lot of extreme weather, so they have this underground tunnel system so the shops can stay open and people can get around no matter how hot it is. It’s like the skyways in Minneapolis, only underground.
Altuve also pointed out Houston landmarks on the map of the tunnels, like the Toyota Center where the Rockets like to lose and the Minute Maid Park where the Astros like to cheat. (Her words, not mine!) I did not point out that this is also where the Astros lost to the Atlanta Braves in the World Series because that would not be kind behavior from a guest to her fair city.
4) Flip N Patties
After the tunnel excursion where no one was murdered, we had our second food stop at a Filipino restaurant called Flip N Patties. This place used to be a food truck, but it was so successful that they moved on up to a brick and mortar operation.
Our treat here was pupu chicken, which reminded me of General Tso’s chicken. It was moist on the inside and sweet and crunchy on the outside. I ate absolutely all my chicken, but even a champion eater like yours truly could not finish the rice. Never force yourself to eat when you are getting full! Also, we still have our biggest food stop left to go.
3) Birra Poretti’s
Our final stop on our food tour is Birra Poretti’s which you can probably guess is an Italian restaurant. So that’s three different cuisines represented on the food tour, and I think having one Latino, one Asian, and one European, is probably a great representation of the variety of foods you can expect to find in Space City.
At this spot, we got to sample three of their most popular dishes. First, there was pizza with fresh veggies. As a New Yorker, I am fairly picky about pizza, but I liked that this was light and not greasy, and the veggies on top were a unique touch.
With this, they brought out just a taste of their Fettuccine Alfredo, which was also not too heavy. This was just a classic pasta dish. Like, if I went out with my boyfriend on date night and we got a bottle of wine and some pasta, this is the sort of place I’d want to go to. (I don’t currently have a boyfriend, but this would also be a good place to take an imaginary boyfriend.)
And finally, one more classic–a creamy cheesecake! Look how pretty it is with all those strawberries on top! You almost feel like you could reach through your computer screen and lick it. (But please don’t.)
There’s so much more to find on the food tour, and of course, you’ll want to eat these treats yourse,f so just head on here to book the tour yourself. And on that note, our 24 hours in Houston comes to a close. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.
24 Hours in Houston
How to Get There?
By Car: This is an easy way to get to your 24 hours in Houston, if you are coming from somewhere else in Texas. You can drive here easily from Dallas or other major Texan cities.
However, I don’t know how to drive, so this wasn’t an option for me. Fortunately Uber is widely available in Houston. If you need to rent a car, you can use the search engine Expedia to find the best price from the available car rental companies.
By Plane: Fortunately, there is an airport in Houston! In fact, there’s more than one, but you’ll probably be flying into the George Bush Airport. (Again, I recommend using a search engine like Expedia to search for the best prices on flights.)
By Bus: You can use the Megabus to get to your 24 hours in Houston from nearby cities like Dallas. It’s a pretty cheap ride–if you are car-free and coming from a fairly nearby destination, this might be the way for you. I used the bus to get to Dallas, and it worked perfectly.
That’s a Perfect 24 Hours in Houston!
What would you do with 24 hours in Houston? Would you ever try a space toilet? Is Hannibal Lecter waiting at the end of that tunnel? Please email me at [email protected] and let me know!
Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that while each article is about how to spend 24 hours in a place, that doesn’t mean you should ONLY spend 24 hours in Houston.