Sunday, March 19, 2017

A Trip to Southeast Texas

I recently took a trip to the Houston area in Southeast Texas, meeting up with my parents, brothers, and families. We stayed in Montgomery (about an hour northwest of Houston). Most of the time we spent catching up with each other, but we also found some time for a little sightseeing.
In case there was any question that you're in Houston, this is what greets travelers leaving Terminal A in the airport.
Before this trip, I knew in theory that the Houston area is heavily populated, but being there really gives you a feel for how many people live in and around the city. Wikipedia says that Houston is the 4th-largest city, and the wider metro area is the 5th most-populated, in the United States. We made the drive from the city to Montgomery several times during our stay, and it never felt like we were out in the country. Texas has a whole lot of land, and the people are certainly spreading out across it.
Full-sized shuttle mock-up at the Space Center.
The place we stayed at is a condo complex on Lake Conroe called Villas on the Lake. The buildings are a bit older, but are well enough maintained. There was plenty of room for all eight of us (six adults, two kids) in the three-bedroom condo. There's not a whole lot nearby other than the lake itself, but within moderate driving distance you can find a good number of stores and restaurants.
Memory Park in Montgomery.
Visiting in the middle of March was a wise decision as far as weather goes. Mostly upper 70s during the day and 60s at night. There were a couple of minor rain showers and some fog, but mostly the skies stayed clear. It was easy to imagine just how hot and humid things would be in the height of summer, though. I don't think I'd want to go back in August!
A few hanging fish at the Museum of Natural Science.
We took three trips for sightseeing while we were in the area:

  • Space Center Houston is right across from the NASA Johnson Space Center. It's set up largely like a children's museum, with lots of interactive exhibits and learning presentations. For us old people there's also some displays on the history of NASA's various programs and a full-sized space shuttle/carrier plane mock-up.
  • The Houston Museum of Natural Science has three floors packed full of all kinds of exhibits, from Texan wildlife to Amazon tribal culture to ancient Egypt. We picked this particular museum largely to indulge my niece's love of mummies by visiting the "Mummies of the World" special exhibit. We only spent an afternoon in this very impressive museum, but I could easily have spent twice that long and still not seen everything.
  • On the other end of the sight-seeing spectrum from those large establishments was Fernland Park and Memory Park in Montgomery. Fernland Park is a collection of historic buildings that have been moved to Montgomery from their original locations, some from nearly 200 years ago. I particularly liked the log cabin that was built in the late 1800s. Adjacent to Fernland is Memory Park, a pond surrounded by walking paths with many memorandum signs from those who have donated time, money, and labor to creating the park. 
The hour or two spent to see those small Montgomery parks was a nice contrast to the hours spent at the larger Houston establishments. Nice to avoid the drive through Houston traffic, too.
One of the log cabins at Fernland Park.
This short trip was a nice introduction to some of what Southeast Texas has to offer. If I make another visit, I'd like to see the rest of the museum district, and maybe catch one of the Houston sports teams in town.

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