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Moody Gardens in Galveston
Moody Gardens in Galveston

HOUSTON TOUR: DAY 3

Space Center Houston
Space Center Houston

You've done the urban excursions. Now it's time to head out for a fun-filled day on the coast. But first drive down Montrose Boulevard and pull into La Mexicana for some fabulous breakfast tacos and hot coffee. We loved the picadillo of ground beef and potatoes. Then it's back down Allen Parkway and onto I 45 South. Less than an hour away you'll find major attractions, sandy beaches and excellent fresh seafood. Long a playground for pirates and millionaires, the Gulf Coast has rebuilt from Hurricane Ike's 2008 devastation—and is once again a tourist treasure. Festivals such as Mardi Gras and the Christmastime Dickens on the Strand are once again drawing millions to the area.

First stop: the Clear Lake area for a tour of Space Center Houston. It's NASA's Official Visitors Center, where you'll see actual Mercury, Gemini and Apollo capsules, astronauts training for upcoming Space Shuttle missions and even a simulated space walk. While there, you can also visit Texas' largest IMAX Theater and get a behind-the-scenes tour of the famed Johnson Space Center.

While in the area, be sure to visit the Kemah Boardwalk, a popular waterside town that's home to several seafood restaurants and a myriad of shops, as well as a Coney Island-style theme park with a Ferris wheel and mini train. After strolling the boardwalk try lunch at the popular restaurant the Aquarium, which sports an amazing three-story cylindrical fish tank in the center, not to mention several wall units. The kids will love the sea-circus theme and everyone will enjoy the broiled seafood platter here piled with fresh fish, oysters and shrimp.

Aquarium Pyramid at Moody Gardens in Galveston
Aquarium Pyramid at Moody Gardens

After lunch, keep moving south to Galveston, where you can walk the beach or visit the awesome Aquarium Pyramid at Moody Gardens. Don't miss its Seahorse Symphony or the popular penguin exhibit. To build some rest into your day, consider a harbor tour on the Colonel, Moody Gardens' paddlewheel boat, which gives an industrial view of Galveston's history. Or seat yourself in a dark theater for firsthand accounts of the tragic hurricane that leveled the island in 1900. Called "The Great Storm," the multimedia presentation is always on view at the Pier 21 Theater in the historic Strand District. Finish the day with a walk along the Strand, peeking into its lively shops and restaurants, and have dinner at Gaido's Seafood Restaurant on the Seawall. For nearly a century, the Gaido family has been serving up crab cakes and oyster platters to hungry seaside goers.

After dinner don't head back right away. Check out the live music scene at Old Quarter Acoustic Café on 20th Street or catch a musical at The Grand 1894 Opera House on Post Office Street. There's plenty to do at the beach even once the sun has gone down.

Mustering up the endurance to see all the sights of this high-energy metropolis and its backyard beach is impossible in just three days. But these ideas should at least give you a satisfying taste of the Greater Houston area that almost 5.3 million people call home—and most likely awaken in you the hunger to come back and explore some more.

For more information, visit the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau at www.visithoustontexas.com.

MORE HOUSTON INFORMATION

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* Images from the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau

P111306
(Updated: 03/10/11 NW)

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