Space shuttle rides in Houston captivate Megan Singleton.

With the exciting news Air New Zealand will be flying from Auckland direct to Houston from December, here are five things to do once you get there.

1. Outer space

Nasa's official visitor centre is in Houston and it is just about to add a new exhibit: the Boeing 747 shuttle carrier with a replica of the shuttle Independence mounted on top. But the coolest thing is that visitors will be allowed inside both aircraft. My tip is to buy your discounted tickets online and avoid queues by going midweek and early in the day.

2. Shopping

The Galleria is huge. The fourth largest shopping mall in the United States is in Uptown and is undergoing a makeover that will include new floors and 35 new stores and restaurant concepts. You know when they say "concepts" that it'll be cool. Already it has 400 stores, an ice rink, a huge kids play area and two hotels for those who love nothing more than shopping until they literally drop.


3. Eat out

There are more than 10,000 restaurants in H-Town so you won't go hungry. But a couple that are turning heads at the moment are Oxheart, which is fine dining meets vinyl records and graffiti art and where tasting menus are $49 for four courses and $79 for seven, and Underbelly which claims to be the story of Houston food, and its culture.

4. Happy hour

Head to Anvil Bar & Refuge for what some modestly describe as the best cocktails in America. If you're a whisky fan, Reserve 101 has more than 100 with your name on them. Monarch at Hotel ZaZa in the Museum District has a fine dining restaurant and bar as well as poolside lounge. Monnalisa at Hotel Sorella comes with a fireplace, poolside lounge and serves tapas.

5 Cruise the Caribbean

Houston is a hub for Caribbean cruising and two cruise lines, Princess Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Lines, operate out of the Port of Houston with weekly itineraries around the western Caribbean. If you can imagine yourself visiting the Bahamas, Grand Cayman, Cozumel, Honduras and Belize, then you might like to bring your sea legs to Houston.