Houston, y'all!

As soon of you may know, I grew up in Houston, but moved to Seattle in 2003. Our family has gone back to visit a few times over the years, but Isabella is finally old enough to really remember our activities. We stayed with a friend this time around, which saved a hefty chunk of change on a hotel, and allowed us to splurge on a few fancier activities and souvenirs. Who would have thought a cowboy hat would cost $45? From what I hear, though, that's a steal. There are/were numerous deals for Houston area activities, such as the CityPASS which can be found in most major cities. We decided to bypass this option for reasons I'll outline below.

Day 1: Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo

• THE event of the year, RodeoHouston is a monthlong event and the largest livestock show and rodeo in the world.

• My friend Norma was able to secure tickets for us through her workplace, so our admission to the fairgrounds, carnival, rodeo, and concert that night were all free!

• Free admission = extra money to spend on souvenirs and overpriced carnival food.

• The concert that night was Tim McGraw, but unfortunately we had to leave before it started. It would have been Isabella's first concert– but we'll just have to leave it on the bucket list!

Day 2: Houston Zoo

• We definitely love zoos. The only request Isabella ever has when traveling is to visit the local zoo, so here we are.

• Unique animals we saw here that were new for us: okapi, bongo, and ankole cattle.

• Hurray for giraffe feedings– something you can count on at almost every zoo! An extra 7 bucks for 3 lettuce leaves.

• Reason #1 for not buying the CityPASS: Our membership to Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle allowed us half price admission here.

Day 3: Armand Bayou Nature Center

• Tucked into a corner of Pasadena lies Armand Bayou Nature Center, the largest urban wilderness preserve in the U.S.

• The ABNC offers a variety of walking tours and pontoon boat rides, including the "Breakfast on the Bayou" we did for $30pp.

• The pontoon cruise drifted carefully through the the winding channels while to naturalists noted the wildlife and history of the area.

• The highlights? Alligators everywhere!

Day 4: Space Center Houston / NASA Johnson Space Center

• The 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing is this year, and space is all the rage on documentary TV channels. What better place and time to visit NASA?

• By sheer coincidence, Space Center Houston was holding a "family campout" event the very weekend we were visiting! What luck!

• Highlights– lunar rocks! Saturn V rocket! So much to see I can't even list it all.

• Reason #2 for not buying the CityPASS: The family campout was a special rate and covered our admission to the Space Center.

Day 5: Houston Museum of Natural Science

• They say the two times in your life when you know the most about dinosaurs is when you're a kid, and when you HAVE kids. ;)

• HMNS has one of the largest collections of dinosaur mounts in the world, over 60 in their main exhibit hall! Amazing.

• In addition to the awesome paleontology hall, the museum also houses a massive Hall of Ancient Egypt and Hall of the Americas, two incredible areas all on their own.

• Reason #3 for not buying the CityPASS: This museum was running a Groupon during our trip, and we got reduced rate admission.

Day 6: Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

• Straight from Amsterdam– the Vincent Van Gogh exhibit opened while we were in Houston! Another stroke of luck.

• This exhibit was set up off the main entrance of the building, and concluded at a second area with interactive hands-on exhibits, like this bedroom you could walk through, and a Parisian cafe to sit within.

• Beyond the Van Gogh exhibit, this museum is world-class, housing an impressive collection of Renaissance through Modern art. We oohed and ahhed several Picassos.

• Reason #4 for not buying the CityPASS: Kids under 12 get free admission to the museum every day, and the Van Gogh exhibit would have been an additional charge anyway.