So, the idea for this blog came about after I booked my trip to London. (which is in two weeks!) While doing so, I encountered countless travel blogs while researching that trip. Between the time I had created this blog and the time I will be leaving for London, I had a quick trip planned for one day in Houston to visit a friend and do a bit of exploring.
Planning For One Day In Houston
While Southwest Airlines is always my go-to-airline for their low fares and awesome rewards, this trip ended up being a bit cheaper with American. I always check Kayak in addition to Southwest, and then whatever I find cheapest on Kayak, I usually can save even a bit more by booking through the airline directly. Knowing that I basically only had one day in Houston, I wanted to hit the key spots in attractions and dining in my time there. As this blog starts, one should know that I am not at all a “fine diner.” I much prefer local hole-in-the wall type places and destination-specific finds.
I scored a great deal on a hotel in Port Arthur through Priceline’s Express Deals, which I would highly recommend. The person I was visiting was in Nederland, TX so I wanted to be close to them, and also knew that I would be visiting NASA which was just over an hour drive away as well. Also through Priceline, I was able to score a great deal on a rental car through the Name Your Own Price bidding tool.
As someone who was convinced I was going to be an astronaut growing up, I knew the main adventure of this quick trip was going to be to the Houston Space Center so I booked those tickets immediately after booking my flight.
Headed Off For One Day In Houston
Living in New York, I fortunately am always able to choose between one of three airports, Laguardia and JFK both in New York City, or Newark Liberty out of Newark, NJ. I had a 5am flight, which meant a 2am wakeup call to head from home into Times Square, and then catch the train to the airport. One of my favorite things abut early morning flights (aside from the great prices) is catching the sunrise from 35,000 feet.
After a bumpy landing into IAH, I took the rental car shuttle (which is a bit tricky to find – ask for help as soon as you see it) to pick up my car and headed into downtown Houston for a little drive-thru tour of the downtown area.
One Day In Houston – Downtown & Ray’s BBQ
With limited time in the city and a set plan of action, I didn’t make any stops in the downtown area, but did drive through it to see the town and take it in. As former resident of Indianapolis, the downtown area reminded me lots of there. About 15 minutes south of Downtown Houston is Ray’s BBQ. While there are a few locations throughout the Houston area, this one was the original and well worth it. I arrived about 15 minutes before opening and there was already a line, which is a great sign. After combing through reviews on their Yelp page, I decided to go with the two meat platter (your choice, I chose ribs and brisket) with sides of baked beans and the fried corn-on-the-cob.
GUYS, IT WAS SO GOOD. The wait was about 15 minutes, hopefully a little longer than usual since they just opened, but it was well worth it. You know those syrup containers you get at a breakfast restaurant to pour syrup out of? Every table is outfitted with one of those, with BBQ sauce of course, and a full roll of paper towels – you’ll need it. The fried corn-on-the cob was great, although I could have gone for a bit more batter, and then baked beans had the perfect amount of Houston kick to them. Both the ribs and brisket were cooked to perfection and had the perfect smoky crust on them. 10/10 recommend – and get there early, I’ve heard the line gets long.
One Day In Houston – Houston Space Center
Before diving a bit more into my experience here, I only feel its fair to state that I am not a big museum person, so did not spend too much time in the central hub that was filled with artifacts and more “museum-y” type things. When you purchase your ticket here, be sure to book times for the trams – they were my favorite part! There are two different tram tours – red and blue. While they have many common visits, blue visits the historic mission control facility, while red visits the Astronaut Training Facility (pictured below) which is super cool – I almost felt like I SHOULDN’T be seeing some of what was going on in there. Check out more pictures of the ATF on our Instagram – such a cool building!
One could easily spend a full day here, especially with kids or if you go see some of the shows or check out the exhibits, but getting a look into the facilities was really what was of personal interest to me.
One Day In Houston – Sea Rim State Park
On my way to the hotel in Port Arthur, I made a quick stop at Sea Rim State Park – primarily so I could add the Gulf Of Mexico to the bodies of water I’ve been in. While its a bit off the beaten path, Sea Rim State Park has the added bonus of being a drive-in beach. After paying a cheap $3 admission, you literally can drive your car right onto the beach and setup shop as close to the water as you’d like! It’s definitely not a clean and pristine “blue water” beach but has lots of great wildlife you can see through a dedicated boardwalk, as well as SUPER warm water – seemed super family friendly in my time there.
I tried to get SO MANY pictures of this guy, and he kept running away, so excuse the super low quality from zooming in! While I wouldn’t say this is a must see for one day in Houston, if you’re within a 30 minute or so drive, its worth the trip. There’s also a public (but much more populated) beach right next to this one, but worth the $3 to avoid overcrowding.
One Day In Houston – Holiday Inn Port Arthur
This hotel was great! One of the nicest Holiday Inn’s I’ve stayed in through all my travels. The staff was quite friendly upon arrival, and I was even able to choose what floor my room was on. When you book a discounted room on Priceline, this rarely happens. The rooms were large and clean and even the basic rooms had a fridge and microwave in them. While I didn’t visit them myself, the hotel has an onsite restaurant and bar that seemed quite nice, but there also are plenty of dining options within a 2-3 minute drive of the hotel. In the middle of the courtyard of the hotel is a great pool and outdoor patio space that never seemed overcrowded and the pool was very well maintained. Some first floor rooms even have access right onto the pool deck! This hotel is a bit of a ways out from Houston city centre, but it was great and affordable. If you’re looking for something closer to the city, check out some great deals on Houston hotels here.
One Day In Houston – Headed Home
One more unique place in Houston that I wish I had time to visit was Galveston, but now I have a reason to go back! There also are a ton of other cities in Texas, that we will highlight soon! Feel free to subscribe to our mailing list to be updated when we add more cities to our One Day Somewhere collection. For now, enjoy this quick time-lapse of landing into Newark Airport and taxiing back into our gate.