Top 10 things to do in Houston, Texas

From boot-scootin' and BBQ joints to honky tonk saloons and a space centre, Houston is your American adventure that's just waiting to happen.

1. Launch yourself into Space Center Houston

Did you know that the first word spoken on the moon was "Houston"? From a space travel perspective, this city is permanently fused to moon landings, Apollo missions and space stations. At NASA's Space Center you can wander through decades of once cutting-edge NASA equipment and spacecraft, including a 747 airplane with a replica of the space shuttle Independence mounted on it. The NASA Tram Tour lets you check out astronaut training facilities, Mission Control and more.

2. Tuck into a plate of crawfish

The quintessential southern eat is crawfish. Essentially fresh-water lobster, these little mudbugs (also called crawdaddies) are around from February to May. For those who are prepared to get their hands sticky, working through a big plate of crawfish is an exercise in deliciousness. If you're travelling with kids, they'll love this hands-on approach to eating. Good choices include Hot and Buttered, Boil House, South X Saigon (for Viet-Cajun style crawfish) and Ragin' Cajun.

3. Find a live band

Houston's music scene spans from rap and hard rock to country, folk and dirty blues, so a pub-style night of live sounds and Southern food is essential. Reliable venues include House of Blues Houston for blues; Anderson Fair for singer-songwriters; Boondocks for low-key chill; The Big Easy for blues and zydeco; Big Top Lounge for larger gigs; The Continental Club for a range of music styles; and McGonigel's Mucky Duck for country and folk. If you want to flex your feet with some boot scootin', Neon Boots Dancehall & Saloon in Spring Branch is always rarin' to go.

4. Admire the Menil Collection

The world-class Menil Collection is Houston's pride and joy. It includes around 17,000 pieces gathered by Dominique and John de Menil, who arrived in the city in 1941 after fleeing Nazi-occupied France. Free to see, the collection ranges from Palaeolithic works and medieval art through to Cy Twombly abstract paintings and Dan Flavin installations. Bistro Menil, the museum's restaurant, serves food that qualifies as culinary artwork.

5. Catch a game at Minute Maid Park

Minute Maid Park is the home of the Houston Astros. From April to October you can catch live games at the park and experience the cultural splendour of Major League Baseball, hot dogs and all. During batting practice the Astros hit homers into the stands, so you can bring a glove and try to catch a ball to score some Astros souvenirs.

6. Tour the mansions of Galveston

An easy drive from Houston, Galveston is a coastal city with an amazing collection of historic mansions. It was once the principal port and gateway to the USA's southwest, so no expense was spared when the city was built. Today you can tour the Bishop's Palace, East End and Strand historic districts, Bryan Museum and the Texas Seaport Museum, which includes the Tall Ship Elissa. A number of operators provide day tours to Galveston from Houston.

7. Get some air at the Houston Arboretum and Nature Center

Houston has done a beautiful job of balancing its hustle and bustle with beautiful pockets of greenery, like the Arboretum and Nature Center, which are hidden away in the impressively large Memorial Park. You can stroll along the winding wooden pathways for a lazy afternoon, or stop by at night for the chance to see some local nocturnal creatures.

8. See a show at Music Box Theater

Discover Houston's famous stage show scene with a night out at Music Box Theater, where comedy and music collaborate for a highly entertaining live experience. The in-house band conjures up jazz, pop and rock 'n roll, while the on-stage performers prove they can sing, dance and do stand-up. You can buy tickets online to be sure of your seats.

9. Lick your fingers at a barbecue restaurant

Barbecuing and smokehouse slow cooking are a serious business in the USA's Deep South, so you can look forward to juicy brisket, succulent ribs, perfect pork belly and incredible special recipe sausages. When picking a barbecue joint, check out the online reviews first. We've heard you can't go wrong with Lonestar Sausage & BBQ in North Houston; Burns Original BBQ, much-loved by the late Anthony Bourdain; Gatlins BBQ, for St Louis-style meats; and Feges BBQ in Spring Valley, famous for its side dishes.

10. Take a walk in the park

Every great city has a great park. In Houston, it's Hermann Park – 445 acres of nature trails, gardens, playgrounds and water features. Within the park's boundaries there's also a zoo, a two-mile miniature train circuit and a lake with pedal boats. McGovern Centennial Gardens is the newest feature, opened in 2014 to celebrate the park's centennial. It includes a procession of themed garden areas along a central lawn.

Keep exploring Houston