Took a trip out to Houston for the weekend to explore a bit and enjoy some Texas BBQ. Come along for the recap.
Houston is the 4th largest city in the United States and while I’ve traveled through Houston via its airports several times, this was the first time putting “feet on the ground” and it was just to scratch the surface of what there is to do in and around Space City. The trip started out early Saturday morning at Orlando International Airport where I met up with my son for our weekend in Houston and we had booked the round trip flight on Frontier Airlines for our first time with that airline. Bare bones for sure, but they got us to Houston and home the next night (although with a four hour delay on the way home).
Once we picked up our rental car (99.9% of the time we use Enterprise for rental cars and they typically make everything hassle free), we had a couple stops planned before heading down to Space Center Houston. First up was a quick visit to Snowflake Donuts, followed by a stop by Dutch Brothers Coffee for one of their special super sugary, caffeinated drinks and then another stop for doughnuts at Lake Donuts.
Many of the locally owned doughnut shops in Texas have a variety of kolaches in addition to their doughnuts.
Having been to Kennedy the Space Center Visitor Complex (the home of Space Shuttle Atlantis) here in Brevard County quite a few times and having seen the other two retired shuttles that went into orbit numerous times (Endeavor which resides in Los Angeles, CA at the California Science Center and Discovery which is in Chantilly, VA at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center) along with Enterprise (a prototype used for testing which can be found at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in Manhattan, NYC) and Inspiration (the a full scale mockup of a Space Shuttle Orbiter which can be found at Kennedy Space Center’s Shuttle Landing Facility in Florida), we were looking forward to seeing Independence at Space Center Houston. The fact that it’s sitting on top of the NASA 905 Shuttle Carrier is a huge bonus!
If you’ve been to the KSC Visitor Complex and you’ve seen all of the exhibits there, you’ll soon see that it doesn’t take anywhere near as long to go through Space Center Houston. While Independence and the giant 747 it’s sitting on are probably the highlight, there’s plenty of other stuff to see and explore. You can visit their website for more info about all of the different exhibits.
This is the SpaceX Falcon 9 booster used in the CRS-11 mission to the International Space Station and it was the first Falcon 9 first stage to land at LZ-1 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.
Inside the “Starship Gallery” you’ll find several capsules including the Apollo 17 Command Capsule. Apollo 17 was the last of the manned missions to the Moon.
This is the actual Lunar Rover Trainer astronauts used to prepare for driving those on missions to the Moon.
This is the Mercury 9 Faith 7 Capsule that was piloted by Gordon Cooper.
You’ll also see the Gemini V Capsule which saw Gordon Cooper in orbit once again and he was joined by Charles “Pete” Conrad.
Inside the cockpit of Space Shuttle Independence.
This is the actual Orbiter Access Arm from SLC-39B at Kennedy Space Center that was used for shuttle missions from that pad.
After finishing up at Space Coast Houston, we needed to grab some lunch at Rudy’s BBQ & Country Store which is a regular sight to see in Texas. It along with Buc-ee’s shows just how good “gas station” BBQ can be and Texas seems to be the birthplace of it!
We still had a little exploring to do including one more stop for Texas brisket and our first brewery of the trip so we headed north to the little town of Spring.
Spring, Texas is a little town north of downtown Houston that has a wonderful quaint little downtown area filled with numerous shops, but it’s also the home of Corkscrew BBQ. The place had a line over a dozen people long (which typically means great things when it comes to restaurants) and the line stayed consistently that long the entire time we were there.
We also stopped by Excalibur Brewing which was a couple blocks away from Corkscrew BBQ, for a pint and a little break. This was a sour that was infused with watermelon Now & Later candy.
I had spied Spring Donuts on the way into town and we stopped to try our third locally owned doughnut shop of the day on the way out. The owner of the shop was there and he’s owned it since 1971!
My son’s primary reason for this trip was to see the Houston Symphony and they were playing that night. We hadn’t even checked into our hotel yet so we headed that way to rest up for an hour or so before finishing up this first day in Houston.
After that much needed recharge, we wanted to stop at another brewery just outside of downtown and then grab dinner before the concert.
Saint Arnold Brewery is a massive complex and that evening the side that’s open to the public for drinks and dining was packed. There’s a huge covered outdoor seating area along with a pretty impressive area inside.
Next up was dinner at the POST Market Food Hall in downtown Houston which has numerous options to fill your tummy. We chose to enjoy some Filipino food at Soy Pinoy along with a Thai tea and then it was time to head over to see the Houston Ballet and the Houston Symphony perform Swan Lake to end the day.
Yeah that’s a LOOONG way down.
That was a pretty full day of exploring, but we had much more to do the next day so we went straight back to our hotel to get some sleep.
Our second and last day on this trip to Houston would see my son and I head down to Galveston to visit the USS Texas while it is in drydock for a much needed bit of restoration as well as to visit the Galveston Naval Museum and the Galveston Railroad Museum. We had hoped to visit a brewery while down there as well, but time ran out as we needed to head back north into Houston for a couple more stops before our flight home that evening.
We did stop by Black Rifle Coffee Company and V&K Family Donuts for a little morning refreshments on the way.
The USS Texas had been moored at San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site east of downtown Houston where it was set up as a museum, but it was moved down to Galveston for a massive refurbishment in August of 2022. We will have a separate feature about the USS Texas, the Galveston Naval Museum and the Galveston Railroad Museum coming soon.
The USS Texas was commissioned in 1914 and saw action throughout both WWI and WWII before being decommissioned in 1948. She was the only battleship in WWII to support the amphibious landings in North Africa, Normandy, Iwo Jima and Okinawa. She was also the first battleship to become a permanent museum ship (in 1976) and she’s the only remaining WWI battleship.
The Battleship Texas Foundation is currently offering dry dock tours to the public for $150 apiece that allow you to get a view of this ship like you never have and you likely never will again. At first we had decided not to spend the money, but I surprised my son with this tour because we’ll never have this opportunity again.
Next we drove a half mile down the road to the Galveston Naval Museum where the USS Cavalla (a WWII era Gato Class submarine) and the USS Stewart (a WWII era Edsall-class Destroyer Escort) sit on land at Seawolf Park. You can go on self guided tours of both ships. We’ll have many more pictures of these ships coming in that separate feature.
After finishing up at the Galveston Naval Museum, we drove into town for a quick visit at the Galveston Railroad Museum and you could easily spend a few hours exploring everything there is to see.
It was time to get headed back toward Houston and we still had a few stops to make before heading back home to Florida and can you visit Texas without stopping at a Buc-ee’s? I don’t think so.
There’s just something about that Buc-ee’s chopped brisket and a couple of these sandwiches made their way back home with me on the plane.
Another stop that we had to make was at an H-E-B Plus which is the larger version of a very prominent grocery store chain in the Lone Star State. We’ve been to at least one H-E-B on every trip to Texas since discovering them and one of the highlights in the stores is when they are making fresh and fluffy flour tortillas. Another are the fresh marranitos (Mexican gingerbread cookies in the shape of pigs). You might think that it’s weird to think so highly of a grocery store. At least you might think so until you walk into one of these.
True Anomaly Brewing Company is a space themed brewery located just south of the George R. Brown Convention Center and it was the last of the breweries we would try on this visit. And yes some cans did make the trip back to Florida.
Mi Tienda is a huge Latin grocery store owned by H-E-B and it was our last stop on this trip. Honestly words can’t describe how amazing it was from the fresh corn and flour tortillas to the juice bar to the hot food options (including the made to order tacos outside where the meat was being cooked over an open fire) and then there was the massive selection of fresh Mexican cheese and the meat department. The video below only gives a glimpse at how magnificent this store is.
Of course we had to try those tacos as we walked outside.
This was a very eye opening couple days just scratching the tip of what Houston has to offer and we will be back.
Next up is a trip to South Florida for some relaxation without so much running around and then a trip to Boston for yet more exploring of a new (to us) part of the country.