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The minute you land in Houston, you will immediately know that you are on Americas Gulf Coast. Lush plantings, bright sunshine and a profusion of flowers hold court all year round. Average temperature in winter hovers around 60 degrees, making this a winter paradise.
The Houston Museum District is one of the most visited and diverse cultural centres anywhere. It consists of 18 museums that provide rich experiences in art, history, culture, nature and science.
The world awaits you at the Museum of Fine Arts. The Museum of Natural Science houses the Burke Baker Planetarium, Wortham IMAX® Theatre, Cockrell Butterfly Centre and a fascinating variety of permanent exhibit areas. These museums along with the Children’s Museum, Health Museum, and Houston Zoo are acclaimed national family attractions.
Get a bird’s eye view of Houston’s grand landscape at The JPMorgan Chase Tower, a 75-storey skyscraper. It is the tallest building in Texas and the tallest five-sided building in the world. For dining and family entertainment, a family-favourite, Landry’s Downtown Aquarium is just a short walk away. Don’t miss out on what you can’t see! Discover a network of pedestrian tunnels lined by shops and restaurants that form Houston’s vibrant underground city.
Don’t forget to shop! The Galleria, Houston Premium Outlets, and Katy Mills provide an exceptional store mix with stunning architecture and window displays.
Today its time to get acclimated to the wonderful outdoor environments of the Gulf Coast. Plan to be delighted by a selection of really wonderful natural settings. Start at Hermann Park, which surrounds the Houston Museum of Natural Science and encompasses the Houston Zoo, a 55 acre lush tropical landscape with more than 4,500 exotic animals. Enjoy the Japanese Garden with waterfalls and stone paths that wander among azaleas, Japanese maples and cherry trees. The Reflection Pool provides the soothing sound of falling water.
Buffalo Bayou, reminiscent of the long fingers of water that penetrate the landscape in Louisiana, is even larger than Hermann Park. It officially starts 35 miles outside Houston, winding through Katy and West Houston. After passing the Barker Reservoir, the bayou runs through 500 acre Terry Hersey Park to the Houston Arboretum and Memorial Park in River Oaks. At Allen’s Landing, the historical birthplace of Houston, the bayou meets the White Oak Bayou. Eight more parks comprise the rest of the bayou. The more adventurous can rent a canoe and float through downtown Houston.
In the early evening, you can take a Twilight Tour of Minute Maid Field, home of the Houston Astros. Expect to see a beautiful view of the ballpark from the Rooftop of Union Station.
Galveston, mostly Texan and very southern, was discovered in 1528. At the time it was occupied by two Native American tribes who camped, fished and hunted on the swampy land. Bernardo de Galvez for whom Galveston Island is named never set foot on his namesake. Turns out the first European settler was a pirate — Jean Lafitte— who established a colony of 1,000 people on theisland in 1817. When he was forced to leave the island, he burned everything behind him.
Ultimately, the city was founded by Michel Menard and Samuel May Williams, whose homes are still standing, in spite of the massive hurricanes that have devastated Galveston on a regular basis.
Moody Gardens, a must stop in Galveston will bring you to the ocean depths in the Aquarium Pyramid to see penguins, sharks and thousands of tropical fish. The Rainforest Pyramid thrusts you into thousands of tropical plants, complemented with exotic fish and birds. The Discovery Pyramid displays the mysteries of science. After exploring the secrets of the Discovery Museum, you can cruise on the Colonial Paddlewheel Boat, a 19th century style sternwheeler which offers a unique view of the Gardens and an enjoyable cruise.
Galveston does a particularly good job delivering guided tours that let you get out onto the water. Take a harbour tour, an Island tour, a Baywatch Dolphin Tour, Carriage ride, the tour train, the party bus or a bicycle ride.
If heritage is your brew, explore a bit of the Independence Trail in the Galveston area. Serving as a Mexican point of entry in 1825, the area was the last retreat for the Republic of Texas government before nearby San Jacinto. By the 1880s, Galveston became Texas’ largest and most prosperous city, still illustrated in the business district.
More of the island’s rich history comes alive at the Galveston County Historical Museum, housed in a restored 1919 bank building. A side trip to Goliad will take you to the charming community on the San Antonio River where in 1836, Mexican forces executed Col. James Fannin and his men. Goliad State Park maintains a reconstruction of the Nuestra Senora del Espiritu Santo de Zungia mission. The former 1871 market is now the Market House Museum. It overlooks the Goliad Community Courthouse.
For nature lovers, 32 miles of Gulf Coast beaches await. Try boating, fishing, surfing or one of the beach parks. Galveston’s 10.4 mile seawall is the worlds longest continuous sidewalk. The area is one of the top locations for birding in the United States.
The highlight of the Lake Charles area is the 180-mile Creole Nature Trail All American Road, where alligators, birds, wildlife refuges, marshland, Gulf beaches, hunting, fishing and Cajun culture abound.
The Creole Nature Trail is a journey through a wild and rugged terrain unique to Louisiana, America and the world. Pack a picnic lunch, load up the car, and don’t forget your binoculars. On the west side of the trail, you can venture to the Sabine National Wildlife Refuge and take a stroll through the marsh on an elevated boardwalk to experience Mother Nature first hand. On the east side the Cameron Prairie National Wildlife Refuge and its newly renovated and interactive exhibits will spark the imagination before driving along Pintail Wildlife Drive.
Culturally rich New Orleans marches to the beat of its own drum. A stop at the French Quarter Visitor Center unit of the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park introduces you to the traditions and life in the area. Rangers lead daily walks through the French Quarter to tell the story of this special place and its ties to the Mississippi River. You’ll hear the terms Cajun and Creole used time and time again. They are two very different cultures, both integral parts of the “cultural gumbo” that makes up New Orleans.
Settled in 1718, New Orleans was the commercial hub of the Louisiana Territory purchased by the United States in 1803. Before that, it went back and forth between the Spanish and the French until it was bought by Napoleon who ultimately sold the land to the United States. New Orleans dominated trade between the US and the Caribbean for decades accounting for the many residents who are descendants of West Indian families. You can learn the whole story of the city at the Historic New Orleans Collection, a museum, research center and publisher dedicated to preserving the history and culture of New Orleans and the Gulf South region.
Located in the Garden District, Longue Vue House and Gardens was born of the aspirations of Edgar and Edith Stern, pillars of the New Orleans community. The Classic Revival house is three stories and a basement, unusual in New Orleans where most of the land is below sea level. You can tour the 20 main rooms, complete with original American and English antiques, European and Eastern European carpets, art collections, and Chinese and other pieces of priceless pottery.
For music, try the Maison Bourbon Jazz Club or the House of Blues — here it’s real! Also check to see if there are performances scheduled for Preservation Hall. You can also get messy at the Cafe Beignet, eating those wonderful just made, powdered sugar covered doughnuts or dine at Antoine’s, Brennan’s or the Cafe Du Monde. Magazine Street is great for shopping, including antiques.
One of the main attraction in Mobile, Alabama is Bellingrath Gardens, an oasis built by the president of Mobile’s first Coca-Cola bottling plant. He bought the property in 1917 and transformed the overgrown acreage into one of the top public gardens in the United States. The fields of fall chrysanthemums, sixty-thousand in fact, filling flower beds and flowing over bridges and balconies are sure to awake your inner gardener. In 1935, he built an opulent home here, which today is a museum filled with art, antiques and the country’s largest collection of Boehm porcelain.
The USS Alabama, a decommissioned World War II era Battleship, is surrounded by a submarine, aircraft pavilion, flight simulator and other interesting military artifacts.
Right off the coast of Mobile, Dauphin Island, first mapped by French Explorer de’Iberville in 1699, is home to the Audubon Bird Sanctuary, historic Fort Gaines and an inter-island boat trip. The Estuarium located at Fort Gaines highlights four key habitats on the coast of Alabama. A living marsh boardwalk lets you experience the habitat up close and personal. The other attraction in Mobile that will draw you in, is food. Whether you want Bar-B-Q or seafood, this is the place to be. The Brick Pit in Mobile serves up tender pork ribs, cooked for at least twelve hours. Or there is Mary’s Place in nearby Coden. Founded in 1935 by Mary Hunter, this rustic eatery offers Creole soul food and all-you-can eat seafood buffets.
Gulf Shores is a place where you can slow down, let loose, rediscover yourself and savour your loved ones. Today we encourage you to get out on the beach or out on the water.
The Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge Beach, next to Fort Morgan, has over 6 miles of hiking trails. Exploring Fort Morgan, you can almost hear the command of Union Admiral Farragut charging into the Battle of Mobile Bay, “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!”
Alabama Point is a great spot for serious relaxation as it’s surrounded by the glistening turquoise water you always see in magazines. Gulf State Park has a natural beach that is usually not crowded and there are many other public access points to the ocean in Gulf Shores.
Beaumont, Texas is home to three very interesting and completely different outdoor experiences. Gator Country, Texas’ only alligator theme park is more than that. Every guest has the opportunity to have a hands-on experience helping to feed the gators. Big Al, the largest alligator in captivity is certainly Texas sized!
Tyrrell Park encompasses the Beaumont Botanical Gardens, with themed gardens connected by a paved Friendship Walk. The Warren Loose Conservatory is the second largest in Texas.
Tourism has existed in the Big Thicket National Preserve outside of Beaumont since 1845 when a spa at Sour Lake served the likes of Sam Houston. Some call this area the biological crossroads of North America. The preserve was established to protect the remnant of its complex biological diversity. Once vast and covering a huge area, the combination of pine and cypress forest, hardwood forest, meadow and blackwater swamp is but a remnant, although a 100,000 acre one!
Major North America biological influences bump up against each other here, south eastern swamps, eastern forests, central plains and southwestern deserts. Bogs sit near arid sandhills.
The life of a powerful Texas is on display at the McFaddin-Ward House in Beaumont, Texas. Completed in 1906, the striking and distinctive Beaux Arts and Colonial style mansion is furnished to reflect the family that lived there for more than 75 years. As was the custom of the day, the house included the latest in electrical, water, heating and indoor plumbing.
When the family occupied the house in 1907, Beaumont was still enjoying the economic effects of the Spindletop gusher, where Mr. McFaddin owned part interest in the land where oil was discovered. When the Lucas Gusher on Spindletop Hill exploded, shooting oil hundreds of feet in the air, the explosion was so intense that nine days later the oil column was still gushing nearly 200 feet high, producing around 100,000 barrels a day. Over the next few years, dozens of oil companies were chartered. Six wells were erected on Spindletop Hill, helping make the US the world's leading petroleum-producing nation. Spindletop became the first major oil field and the largest in American history, ushering in the Petroleum Age.
Today, Beaumont is in the midst of another boom, creating an old-style Texas town with a modern twist. Central to Crokett Street, built around the same timeframe as the McFaddin-Ward House, the Dixie Dance Hall was once a famous brothel in Beaumont’s red light district. It was recently voted Southeast Texas # 1 honky tonk. An enormous dance floor has plenty of room for boot scoottin.’ Other clubs include Rio Rita’s Cantina, Antone’s, Ten Lounge, Black Cat Lounge, The Spindletop Restaurant, Texas Star Bar and Grill and The Neches Room.
For an out-of-this-world experience, take a journey into space at the world famous Space Center Houston to see where astronauts are trained, the US space missions control room, and a real Gemini rocket. You can even touch a moon rock!
If space travel isn’t in your stars, think about going a little more cowboy at The George Ranch Historical Park. This 480-acre living history site, with more than 100 years of Texas history, offers hands-on experiences, authentic locations, historic homes and costumed historical interpreters.
Today, the George Ranch is a 23,000-acre working ranch. Plan to spend a full day discovering this Western tale.
Houston offers a variety of nightlife to suit everyone’s tastes. Looking to finalise your day out with a Southern touch? Goode's Armadillo Palace hosts live Texas music and dancing, as well as a full menu of Texas comfort food. Or choose to end the day at Bayou Place and take in the Verizon Wireless Theater, a variety of restaurants, and Live! At Bayou Place. An instant local favourite, Live!
At the Bayou Place features world-class establishments including PBR Houston, a Cowboy Bar with beautiful décor, cold beer, hard drinks, and a little bull ridin’. If waterfront dining, activities, specialty shopping and family friendly attractions are on the evening agenda, visit the nearby Kemah Boardwalk which offers a range of cuisines from Texas fare at Saltgrass Steakhouse to Mexican favourites at the Cadillac Bar and variety of fresh seafood options.
You may decide you want to extend your stay and exlpore further inland. Maybe you want to spend a few days in Austin or Dallas.
Call the travel specialists at Bon vOyage to discuss your ideal America's Sunny Southern Seacoast adventure.
Our travel consultant Amanda has been very helpful in arranging our visit to the US and Canada in October. Amanda is very knowledgeable and enthusiastic. She appears willing to go the extra mile to try to meet requests. For example, she secured a booking at one hotel we were keen on stay at after initial enquires indicated there was no availability.
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