3 Ways To Have The Perfect Space Day In Houston, Texas

When it comes to space technology, Houston might as well be the world capital.

When it comes to space technology, Houston, Texas, might as well be the world capital.

Head outside to Independence Plaza to explore the shuttle replica Independence, which is still mounted on the original carrier aircraft. It’s a wacky and wonderful sight. On the top floor, enter the flight deck for a selfie in front of a replica (but very real-looking) astronaut.

Finally, drive five minutes to Rocket Park, where a massive Saturn V rocket lies on its side in a shed. It’s a jaw-dropping walk from the mighty jet engines at one end to the comparatively tiny space capsule at the other.

Space Centre tickets are US$29.95 (AU$41.50) though a Houston City Pass will get you a 50 per cent discount. Skip the centre’s café and eat at Luka’s BBQ and Steakhouse at 17052 Saturn Lane instead.

Step 2: Fly! Be free!

Back downtown, head to the permanent virtual reality (VR) game in the foyer of the Museum of Natural Science.

The attendant straps you in, fits the VR mask and off you fly through a virtual city. To enter other scenes, you must fly into the side of a building that’s sparkling. I tried, but veered at the last minute (and maybe screamed a little).

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The best part is that game moves with you – tilt down in the “sky” and your body tilts down, too – so your heart rate rises and you feel pressure in your chest similar to that you feel on a roller coaster. The VR mask blocks sound as well as sight, immersing you further.

Ensure you listen closely to the attendant’s instructions on the controls. The game is US$10 (AU$14) for just two minutes, so you’ll want to enjoy every second.

The Museum is open from 9am to 5pm daily at 5555 Hermann Park Drive.

Step 3: Unwind with a virtual reality spa

“Your mind may have wandered,” a woman says. “Don’t worry, it’s perfectly normal.” The woman isn’t real. She’s the wondrously soothing voice that accompanies the VR part of the Natura Bisse Mindful Touch facial at Houston’s Trellis Spa.

The Mediterranean-style spa is part of the stately Houstonian Hotel, former home of President George W. Bush, and is located in a woodsy park in Houston’s Galleria shopping district (home to Texas’ biggest mall).

Wrapped in the fluffiest of robes, a fragrant heat pack was laid around my shoulders and I was escorted to a deep reclining chair. There, I sipped on water flavoured with flowers and fruit, nibbled buttery shortbread, and flipped through an illustrated book on the Texan wilderness.

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My treatment was on a warm bed, contoured to my body. The VR mask was strapped to my face and that extraordinary voice began. It was like she knew what I was thinking before I thought it. The visuals made me aware of my breath, my heart-beat and being present in the moment. During the actual facial, I drifted in and out of sleep.

Afterwards, I was ushered to the Tranquillity Room with cuddly-soft chaise lounges, a flickering faux-fireplace, and the sound of gentle rain. “You can rest here,” staff said.

The Mindful Touch Virtual Reality facial is US$240 (AU$332) for 80 minutes. That includes locker access, afternoon tea, a float pool and access to showers, lotions and potions. Lots of men attend the spa, too.

How to get to Houston

  • Fly with Qantas to Dallas
  • Take a connecting American Airlines flight to Bush Intercontinental Airport, Houston
  • Houston, Texas

(Lead image: Katie Haugland Bowen / Flickr)