This year for Mackenzie’s Spring Break, we decided to do something a bit different and planned a trip to Houston, Texas, and the surrounding areas. I was born in Downtown Houston and lived in many areas north of Houston during my first 14 years of life. After moving away in 1994, this trip was my first time back in Houston. So really, in some ways, it was like seeing it for the first time. But it was also a bit like coming home as well.
Overall, we had an awesome time on our trip. In fact, we look forward to another visit as soon as possible. Here’s a full rundown on our week-long trip, with a special focus on the highlights of our trip into Downtown Houston, Kemah and two of Houston’s awesome museums! And if you visit Houston and plan to visit some of the attractions, be sure to look into the CityPass Houston which offers a greatly discounted entry rate.
View our 48 Hours in Houston video by clicking below:
Day 1 – Saturday, March 10
Saturday was a rather big day in the family, because a few months ago, just days after we booked our flights to Houston, Stefan received an invite from the US Immigration office to interview for his American passport. It has a been a very long wait which we may go into at some point. But there was really no postponing or moving the appointment at this point. Thankfully, they recently opened an office in Fort Myers, so before we left for his 1:15 pm interview, we loaded all of our luggage in the Pilot and made arrangements to leave straight from there for our 6:40 pm flight in Fort Lauderdale.
To our great excitement, the interview went smoothly and quickly, and Stefan didn’t need to use his backup flight ticket to Dallas and find a ride to Houston (yes, we prepare for everything like Boy Scouts). We made it to the airport in Fort Lauderdale with plenty of time to spare…and found it to be a really nice airport with a great small tram running between parking lots and fight terminals…with the most helpful porters ever!
We stopped to eat a pizza just outside the gate of our Spirit Airways flight to Houston Intercontinental (IAH). The pizza tasted good and we inhaled it while sitting at one of the few tables provided by the miniature pizza location.
When we were finished, it was nearly time for our flight. So we made our way down to the gate, filled up our metal refillable water bottles at the fountain, went to the bathroom one more time and boarded the flight.
It was all rather uneventful and we were quite impressed with the flight skills of the Spirit Airlines, with very few bumps or lurches at takeoff and landing. But they were the smallest, least padded seats we had ever been in and we were glad to get off of the flight after 2 1/2 hours.
The arrival at IAH was super quick and painless, and our baggage was on the carousel within minutes. Family awaited us as well and we hit the road for Lake Livingston.
On our way out of Houston, my dad suggested a visit to a Mexican restaurant he knew along the way. Tex-Mex is always a favorite, so we happily agreed.
But as we sat down, I barely had an appetite. I thought perhaps the afternoon of traveling and stress of the week behind us was catching up to me. We’d had a lot to prepare before the trip and a bunch of client projects to wrap up so we could have some time off during our travels. But it meant several long evenings working at home on the couch before we could go away.
I ordered a margarita big enough to swim in and Stefan had a perfectly chilled draft Corona which was amazing. But we settled on a few orders of nachos for the table instead of a big dinner. The nachos smelled and tasted great, but I knew with one bite that I wasn’t going to be able to eat them.
As we hit the road for Livingston, either a stomach virus or a mild case of food poisoning hit and I had a rocky rest of the night with lots of bathroom visits. But I just hoped that whatever it was wouldn’t be contagious or hit anyone else!
Day 2 – Sunday, March 11
I spent most of the morning feeling quite sick and not even able to think about food or getting out of bed until noon. Thankfully Mackenzie was feeling great and spent the time on the nearby playground and walking the family dog. I’m pretty sure that when we left, the dog slept for 24 hours straight because Mackenzie played with it non-stop.
Early afternoon, Stefan came in and announced that he’d been struck by whatever it was I had. But it seems he didn’t fare quite as badly and had a milder case. At this point, we started to think it may have been a slightly off-tasting Sopressa sausage that was on our pizza at the airport. But we really couldn’t be certain.
It was in the 60s outside and we couldn’t bear the thought of getting up for more than a few minutes at a time. So we thanked our lucky stars that family was there to take care of Mackenzie while we slept and let our stomachs recover.
Day 3 – Monday, March 12
As we woke up the morning, we still didn’t have much of an appetite…but we were now able to hold down food without trouble. I had hoped to meet up with some friends from 8th grade who I hadn’t seen in 25 YEARS! But Stefan and I were still feeling so crummy that even the thought of a one-hour drive into the city at rush hour was terrifying and exhausting. So I had to put in a raincheck.
After breakfast at home, my dad suggested that we head out and get some fresh air at the Lake Livingston State Park. We jumped at the chance to force ourselves to finally get out of the house, and absolutely loved the 1-mile hike through the pine forest trails.
While we were walking, I remembered that I have the Geocaching app on my phone. So I turned it on and we found a quick little cache along the trail as well.
After our hike, we made a stop at the small general store located in the park and were amazed at their selection. We all grabbed an ice cream bar to refuel ourselves and sat watching the many fishermen on the docks.
They also had a very neat informational area include a live beehive behind plexiglass. It was incredible!
If you stop at the Lake Livingston State Park, make sure to climb to the top of the observation tower. The view is wonderful.
We also drove past the local dam and took a few shots there as well. It was incredible to see how much water was pouring through there and the strong current which flowed downstream.
To round out our expedition, we went into Livingston for dinner at Catfish King which was rather delicious although our appetites were still not quite back to normal.
Day 4 – Tuesday, March 13
Finally feeling human again, we got up super early and tried our hand at Milky Way photos. It was a chilly 42 degrees at 5 am as we made our way across the street to our photography spot. Armed with a tripod, remote corded shutter, several layers of clothes and hats; we were ready for whatever may come.
Although we didn’t get to fire off many shots before clouds moved in and covered everything up, we did get a few good ones that made us want to keep shooting the Milky Way when the new moons roll around.
We went inside a bit to warm up and once the sun was up, I had to go out and take a few sunrise photos too. The sky was just lit up with tons of pinks and puffy clouds which I couldn’t resist.
We also tried to do a little fishing but we didn’t even get a nibble. It was nice just enjoying the outdoors, though. We did a little exploring locally and reconnected with an old family friend before decided to not make a late night of things.
Day 5 – Wednesday, March 14
Our next day held more adventures as we drove into Houston (about a 1-hour trip) to stay at the Hyatt Regency Houston in Midtown. We parked with the valet service ($36 for a day with in/out service) and found out that we may be able to check in earlier than expected (without any extra charges.)
Our room was on the 26th floor and was really lovely with two queen beds.
The view was fantastic as well.
As we were getting ourselves settled, Stefan asked if I had brought my extra camera batteries and charger. And I realized I had not. So a new excursion was added to our list of things to discover. We ended up at the amazing and wonderful Houston Camera Exchange which hooked me up with the battery I needed and an extra charger. That store was an absolute dream and they had an awesome collection of…well everything. Camera bags, tripods, cameras, lenses…whatever you needed, it was there. And many things that were also just really, really nice to have. (As it turned out, once we got back to the room again, I realized I did have the charger with me. So now I have a backup for each camera bag I may be traveling with! Ugh.)
If it hadn’t been for our camera excursion, though, we would never have known to stop at Dogarz Doner, offering Turkish doner wraps. This specialty is usually only something we’ve found only in Germany (although there are a few random ones sprinkled around South Florida) but they have several in Houston. The food was really delicious and just what we needed to fuel up before our long adventure into the museum.
At the Houston Museum of Natural Science, prepare to bring some time. We spent 4 hours inside and it was not nearly enough time to see all the standard exhibits. We didn’t even consider going to the butterfly exhibit (we didn’t realize that there were 10,000 live butterflies or we would have paid for the upgrade) or the planetarium. Most of our time was spent in the paleontology hall which was just outstanding and a massive yet wonderfully organized collection.
I also thought the Cabinet of Curiosities was very cool with all of its oddities. But everyone was getting a bit worn out so we breezed through them and past the African wildlife and into the gems. There we remained transfixed for about 30 minutes until our feet were worn out.
We retreated back to the hotel for a short break before heading out for a photo excursion and some food. We hoped to fly the drone over Sam Houston Park at sunset but ran into a little bit of a flight snafu when the drone took off without us (never forget to calibrate your drone before flying, especially if you’ve traveled across the country.)
So we strolled over to Bovine and Barley which we’d read good things about. It offered great food and cold locally brewed beer! Plus they had a game room. It was a great way to wind down our night.
We grabbed an Uber back to the Hyatt Regency and enjoyed our view once again before calling it a night. We had a big day ahead tomorrow!
Day 6 – Thursday, March 15
The next morning, we were up and out of the hotel at 8 am. We were quite excited to get to the Space Center Houston, and it’s about a forty-five-minute drive from midtown-Houston. The museum was already bustling with spring break visitors and there was a lot to see and do.
When we first arrived, a museum greeter informed us that a female astronaut would soon be speaking. So we made our way to the theatre. Dr. Anna Fisher, one of the first women and mothers in space, gave a short talk about what life was like as an astronaut and how she found her way to outer space.
We spent the next 6 or so hours pouring over the moon walks, shuttles and campus tours. It is a simply amazing museum and we really enjoyed all aspects of it. The rocket center and the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory were really incredible and awe-inspiring. But I definitely decided I was never cut out for the astronaut life.
We stayed at the museum so long that we thought they were going to kick us out. But there were still so many guests that they seemed to be operating on super-extended hours.
We were fairly close to Kemah now and had booked a hotel near the waterfront for the night. The Holiday Inn Kemah was a very nice, clean, modern hotel which seemed to be efficiently run and expertly manicured. Our room was great and had ample storage to unpack for an extended family stay or business traveler. There was also a great view of the lighthouse (and great room-darkening curtains that blocked out all the light from it.)
One of the best parts about the hotel is that it is just a few blocks walk to nearby restaurants, bars, and Kemah Boardwalk. The location can’t be beaten. Starved after our trip to the moon and beyond, we had received a tip on our bus to the Buoyancy Center from Mike the Electrician that we were determined to check out. He said that the burgers at Tookie’s were legendary, and he was a guy that loved to eat, so we put our name on the list for a table and waited. It was 100% worth the wait and undoubtedly the best burger I’d ever eaten (for the Texan with chili!)
After dinner, we took a stroll through the Kemah Boardwalk and Mackenzie had to hit up some of the rides. We had All You Can Ride day passes with our CityPass Houston, so we were happy to let her get it out of her system. It was Spring Break week so the lines were rather long, but Mackenzie had a great time and kept going until the park closed down at 11:00 pm.
Day 7 – Friday, March 16
We’d been talking about donuts all week, so with our last full morning in Texas, we scoured google until we found Snowflake Donuts in Kemah. It was just down the street from the hotel and oh so amazing. The eclairs were great, but the fresh glazed donuts were the absolute best.
On our way back through Houston to Livingston, we were able to reconnect with one of my friends from 8th grade. It was so amazing to see her and catch up on that has transpired in the last 2.5 decades.
Driving in Texas on the highway is a pleasant and stress-free experience. I so appreciate that people understand the concept of passing on the left and slow traffic stays right, like in Germany.
Although we had eaten many things on our trip, BBQ had still evaded us. So we made our way to the acclaimed Hitch N Post in Livingston. The BBQ Ribs Sandwich was as big as Mackenzie’s head, but she still managed to polish it off. In fact, all of us devoured the delicious vittles.
We returned to Florida on Saturday, March 17th, excited about all of our travels in Texas and looking forward to another visit soon.
If you go to Houston for more than a few days, have a look at the CityPass Houston which will get you into all the locations we mentioned in our video and this post at a heavily discounted rate. And it’s good for up to 9 days!
Please also stay tuned for more info about our trip to and attractions in Houston, Kemah, and Livingston.1