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Houston Means Museums, Gardens and Space
Overview of Houston Attractions
Houston is one of the largest cities in the U.S., and still growing. It's an oil and banking center with one of the largest seaports in the world.

Houston, named for Gen. Sam Houston, whose defeat of Mexican Gen. Santa Anna at nearby San Jacinto sealed Texas' independence from Mexico, was carved out of the bayous of East Texas.

Its metropolitan area encompasses the towns of Katy, Sugar Land, Missouri City, Humble, Pasadena, Deer Park, Pearland, Friendswood, League City, Galena Park and more.

A great place to start in Houston is the Museum District, located amidst modern office buildings and verdant old neighborhoods, not far from Rice University. There are literally dozens of museums and sites of interest within the Museum District.

Just a few highlights: The Byzantine Fresco Chapel features frescoes created on the island of Cyprus in the 13th Century. The Rothko Chapel displays the works of 20th Century artist Mark Rothko.

The Contemporary Arts Museum, Menil Museum and Museum of Fine Arts each feature large and varied collections (many of these museums are within walking distance of each other).

The Japanese Garden is a great place for quiet medidation following a trip to the Holocaust Museum Houston.

Gardens and natural areas are frequent throughout the Museum District, and include the Houston Garden Center. The Houston Zoo houses more than 3,500 animals - your children will love it. They'll also love the Children's Museum of Houston.

But what the kids will really love is the Cockrell Butterfly Center, a six-story building housing around 2,000 butterflies flying around. They often decide to alight on a delighted child - or that child's parent - so make sure before leaving you aren't carrying any extra passengers.

The Butterfly Center is part of the Houston Museum of Natural Science, which also includes the Burke Baker Planetarium and an IMAX theater.

Houston is also a city associated with the U.S. Space Program. NASA's Johnson Space Center and Space Center Houston are located about 20 miles from Downtown. Kids Space Place is another must-visit if you are traveling with children.

The Astrodome no longer plays host to any professional sports teams. The Houston Astros baseball team moved to Minute Maid Park, while the Houston Texans football team plays in Reliant Stadium. But the Astrodome - called the "Eighth Wonder of the World" when it opened in the 1960s - still offers tours and many concerts and other special events.

For more sports, the Rockets are Houston's NBA team, while the Aeros are a well-followed minor-league hockey team. Sam Houston Race Park offers live horse racing and simulcast races from around the country, with pari-mutuel wagering.

San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site is just outside the northeast city limits. Visitors can learn of the battle for Texas independence, and also tour the Battleship Texas, the only pre-World War I dreadnought to survive. It is moored near the park.

The Downtown Houston Theater District boasts a half-dozen or so performing arts venues with eclectic programs. The Houston Arboretum and Nature Center is a 155-acre sanctuary just outside Downtown. And the Museum of Printing History and National Museum of Funeral History are offbeat but interesting destinations.

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