Houston’s space exploration
Fans of “Apollo 13” and other space exploration films know that during the golden age of NASA, Houston served as a primary operations center for journeys to the moon and other space flights. Groups that visit the area can do some exploring of their own at Space Center Houston, the official visitor facility for NASA’s Johnson Space Center.
The 180,000-square-foot museum offers visitors numerous glimpses into NASA’s ground operations, as well as its expeditions into outer space. Exhibits range from a re-creation of the moon’s landscape to the SkyLab Trainer, a massive piece of equipment that was used to prepare astronauts for their trips to the actual SkyLab.
Shows at the museum include a demonstration of daily life in space and the Blast Off Theater, which simulates the feel of a shuttle launch.
Groups can also make arrangements with the space center to take a behind-the-scenes tour of NASA’s Johnson facilities. The tram tours take guests to the historic Mission Control Center, Hangar X and the Space Vehicle Mock-up Facility.
Austin’s live music scene
Austin bills itself as “The Live Music Capital of the World,” and for good reason: With 200 live-music hangouts throughout the city, Austin has more music venues per capita than any other city in the nation.
Groups can enjoy wandering from club to club in the walkable South Congress Neighborhood or Sixth Street, where they’ll find an eclectic mix of country, rock ’n’ roll, indie and other musical styles every day and night of the week. For a special experience, groups can also arrange to attend a taping of “Austin City Limits,” the music showcase that has become a staple of public television.
Several large festivals throughout the year amplify Austin’s music experience. The Austin City Limits Music Festival in October features more than 100 bands from around the world. Another event, South by Southwest, has become one of the largest music festivals in the country, with 1,800 bands performing on 80 stages around town.
Lubbock’s ranching heritage
When you think of Texas, you probably think of cowboys — the image of ranch hands on horseback rounding up longhorns is a permanent part of the Texas ethos. At the National Ranching Heritage Center in Lubbock, groups can learn about this legendary aspect of the state.
Set on property owned by Texas Tech University, the heritage center has a collection of nearly four-dozen historic structures from ranches around Texas. Visitors can walk through numerous barns and stables or see a blacksmith shop, a cookhouse and a commissary. Several homes demonstrate the diversity of ranch living experiences, from rough dugouts and log cabins to the luxurious Barton House.
In addition to the historic village, the heritage center has a broad collection of art and historic artifacts. Highlights include authentic cowboy boots, spurs and six-shooters, as well as fine-art paintings and sculptures immortalizing the cowboy image.