This sprawling city hums with the energy and independent spirit that turned it from swampland into the fourth-largest city in the U.S. Everything is big, from the towering skyscrapers, to the huge sports arenas - Reliant Park, Minute Maid Park and Toyota Center that host the Houston Texans, Astros and Rockets, respectively, to the city’s prominence in aerospace, energy, shipping and finance. Even the architecture makes big, bold statements, like the medical center towers that resemble two giant syringes.

A thriving business center, the city has become increasingly cosmopolitan, with an influx of diverse ethnic groups and a strong emphasis on the arts, sporting events and the outdoors.  Opera, ballet, symphony and theater are all top-notch, and the museums are considered some of the finest in the nation.  The midday heat is easily escaped inside the numerous attractions and shopping areas, particularly in the pedestrian-friendly 6.5-mile underground city.  Since you’re in the place that broadcast man’s first step on the moon, you may want to pay a visit to Space Center Houston, where you’ll be whisked into outer space through simulations and films.  Once back on earth, you can take a short drive to the Kemah Boardwalk

Houston ranked 6th best sports city in the U.S. by Sporting News (2005). Houston is home to the Houston Texans (NFL), Rockets (NBA), Comets (WNBA), Astros (MLB), Aeros (NHL) and Dynamo (MLS). Houston also has an annual marathon that draws nearly 200,000 spectators. The city plays host to a variety of other professional and amateur sports events.

One of the more significant annual events in Houston is the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo™. Since 1932, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo has committed more than $265 million to the youth of Texas and provided a premier venue for agricultural exhibition. With the help of more than 24,000 volunteers, the Show is the world’s largest livestock show, world’s largest indoor rodeo and one of the world’s most significant concert venues.

RodeoHouston™ annually invites the world’s top rodeo athletes in each event. With more than $1.5 million in prize money in 2011, the RodeoHouston BP Super Series (March 1 – 19) hosts the best in bareback riding, barrel racing, bull riding, saddle bronc riding, steer wrestling, team roping and tie-down roping.

The RodeoHouston stage features the biggest names in the music industry, from nearly all genres of music. There are plenty of Western shopping opportunities in Reliant Center, in addition to shopping, great food, and a thrilling carnival. Kids can experience pony rides, petting zoos, a live animal birthing center, a Fun on the Farm exhibit, mutton bustin’ and other agricultural displays.

 For the three weeks of the Show every year, Western spirit fills the city of Houston. Since coining the phrase “Go Texan” in the 1950s, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo has dedicated itself to preserving and celebrating the area’s rich Western heritage through events such as the trail rides and the Downtown Rodeo Parade. Special events spotlight the diverse cultural achievements and heritage in the city of Houston and the state of Texas, including Black Heritage Day, Go Tejano Day, and International Days. With the opportunity to dress up in Western attire, it’s no wonder visitors love the chance to Go Texan at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo!

Learn more: http://www.hlsr.com/

Houston is every diner’s dream offering more than 5,000 restaurants to choose from. With more than 90 languages spoken throughout the city, Houston offers varied, cultural cuisine. Houston dining represents more than 35 countries and American regions. From old-fashioned favorites to the latest culinary creations, Houston-area chefs aim to please all who visit restaurants in Houston .

Houston is a dynamic city that is constantly adding exciting new areas for entertainment, culture and dining. Two of the city's newest features are:

Discovery Green is a 12-acre park in downtown Houston created by a public-private partnership between the City of Houston and the non-profit Discovery Green Conservancy. With more than 400 events per year, there is something for everyone at Discovery Green! Most events are free and open to the public. In its first three years, the park welcomed more than three million visitors and hosted more than 800 public and private events. In less than four years, the site that became Discovery Green was transformed from an undeveloped, concrete eyesore into one of the most beautiful and vibrant destinations in the City of Houston.  

Discovery Green offers classes, workshops, live music, outdoor movies and other events that appeal to a broad audience. The park is also home to two restaurants:

The Grove is Discovery Green’s signature restaurant under the direction of Robert Del Grande, one of the greatest chefs in America.  Whether one is in the mood for a leisurely meal in the park, or drinks and appetizers on the second floor “treehouse” deck, The Grove is a unique setting for gatherings of all types and sizes. It is the definitive see-and-be-seen culinary hotspot in Houston’s urban core and has redefined downtown dining since opening in January 2008. The Grove combines gorgeous views with a fabulous menu, and overlooks the 100-year old live oaks on the south side of the park near Lamar Street.  

The Lake House offers fast, casual dining with a diverse menu of juicy hamburgers, beef hotdogs, sweet potato fries and basil lemonade. Settle yourself deck-side overlooking Kinder Lake or near the White Promenade for some terrific people-watching.

Learn more: http://www.discoverygreen.com/

Houston Pavilions is the premier entertainment, dining, retail and office hub in downtown Houston. Bordered by Dallas Street to the north, Polk Street to the south, Main Street to the west and Caroline Street to the east and connected by two signature “Sky Rings,” Houston Pavilions spans three city blocks. The pedestrian and dog-friendly, open-air retail entertainment center is comprised of 300,000 square feet of retail space, 260,000 square feet of office space and a 1,600-space parking garage. Houston Pavilions is open seven days a week: Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Sunday, noon to 6 p.m.

Houston Pavilions is located at 1201 Fannin Street, Houston, TX 77002 and is the home to House of Blues and other exciting venues.

Learn more: http://www.houstonpavilions.com/

For an online map showing a few places to get you started, click here. The map has a special emphasis on downtown and the west side.