The biggest city in the Southern USA, makes a big deal out of big events, writes Leila George
It doesn't get much more Texas than a rodeo — and the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo has been an institution since 1932. Held over three weeks every March, the festivities kick off with a parade, as trail riders mosey into town to set up camp at Memorial Park. The show welcomed a record-breaking 2.6 million visitors this year, with the next instalment bound to be even bigger.
Held in the run-up to the rodeo, the World's Champion Bar-B-Que Contest will get your mouth watering like nothing else. With the sweet aroma of slowly cooking meats drifting over the metropolis, there's no resisting it. And if you just can't get enough, there's also the Houston Barbecue Festival in April, showcasing the best barbecue the city has to offer.
ART CAR PARADE
Houston's Art Car Museum is a must-see — an eccentric collection of intricately decorated vehicles. To see the collection in all its glory, time your visit to fit in with the annual Art Car Parade in April. More than 250,000 spectators line the downtown streets to see the folk-art extravaganza — the largest event of its kind in the world. It all began in 1986 with a bright orange 1967 Ford station wagon and some plastic fruit.
Houston is a great city for any sports nut to visit and there's no better way to get in the thick of it than by attending an NFL game at NRG Stadium. A highlight is bound to be when home team, the Houston Texans (an unimaginative name, but they have a great badge design), host the Kansas City Chiefs — dates for the grudge match are yet to be announced but the NFL season starts in September.
WINGS OVER HOUSTON AIRSHOW
See the US Air Force Thunderbirds pull off some impressive aerial antics at Wings Over Houston, held over two days in October. Modern aircraft are on display and you can meet the pilots and crews of some of the planes. It's also a history trip, with dozens of World War II, Korean War and Vietnam War-era aircraft to see — some of which you can tour inside, or even walk along a wing.
TEXAS CHAMPIONSHIP NATIVE AMERICAN POW WOW
In its 28th year, the annual Native American Pow Wow draws representatives from dozens of tribes for a celebration of culture and heritage. For visitors, there are arts and craft shows, tepees, honouring ceremonies and lots of singing and dancing — a great introduction to these rich and varied cultures. Traditional food will be on offer all weekend long so be sure to try some authentic fry bread — see how the Native American version compares with the Maori style.
INTERFAITH THANKSGIVING SERVICE
Celebrate the uniquely American Thanksgiving holiday at Houston's Rothko Chapel— a work of modern art that's well worth visiting at any time of the year. The chapel is non-denominational and the Thanksgiving service, held every November, invites the varied faiths of Houston to connect. The 33-year tradition brings together nine religions, including Jainism and Zoroastrianism.