HOUSTON --Turkey, pies, football - check and done. You've got out of town guests over for the holiday, so now what else do you do?
Try some of these tips to break out of the norm with those house guests and visitors.
Your friends and family want to see Houston? Take them right to the heart of the city - Discovery Green in downtown Houston. Surprise those out-of-towners with a trip around the ice - actual outdoor ice skating in Texas, no less! This holiday season fun will be around until February. For now, check out the special lighted art installations, Firmament, a vibrant canopy of LED lights by acclaimed Burning Man artist Christopher Schardt, and Enchanted Promenade, ten colorful, giant peony bouquets that come to life through color-changing LED lighting. Let the younger set burn off energy on the playgrounds or playing Pokemon Go.
Sure, we said we'd never eat again after the holiday feast, but you know we lied. We will. And when we do, we want something that doesn't involve turkey. Try Taste of Texas in Katy. It's an iconic steakhouse, and so much more, with a stunning collection of rare Texana historical artifacts so impressive that school children visit their unique museum nearly every day. [PRO TIP: If you're so inclined, show up for their Saturday morning history talks - you just might learn something yourself!]
For something truly different, check out a hidden gem - the Cistern at Buffalo Bayou Park. The former drinking water reservoir built in 1926 for the City of Houston was decommissioned in 2007. In 2010 the Buffalo Bayou Partnership 'discovered' the site, took it over, restored and repurposed it. Now it's open to the public for a program of changing art installations and one-of-a-kind tours filled with fun facts. [PRO TIP: You might get an enthusiastic review of sno cones if you ask the right ticket taker. Well worth a listen.]
PHOTOS: 25 ways you know you're in Houston
Want to impress the city folk with some real Texas wildlife? Take your guests to Brazos Bend State Park. Just 45 miles from downtown Houston, plan for about an hour drive or so. Once there, explore nature, hike, fish, picnic... Oh yeah, did we mention the alligators? This place is famous for them. The park has 37 miles of trails, some of which are wheelchair-friendly. Just be sure to read the alligator safety tips. [PRO TIP: If an alligator hisses, it's warning you that you are too close. Back away slowly.]
How about some wildlife that's not so native to Texas? Try the Bayou Wildlife Zoo in Alvin for a safari-like adventure. Spot exotic animals from around the globe, including many endangered species. [PRO TIP: If the ostriches come looking for a handout, hold tight onto the food bucket!]
Houston is the Space City, so what better place to visit than Space Center Houston. The official visitor center of Johnson Space Center has been described as the Chuck E Cheese of space exploration. You may have to brave the Gulf Freeway to get there, but it's worth the drive. Take a close up view of history in Rocket Park, challenge family members at the landing simulators, tour either the historic or current mission control centers, or, if you're there on a Friday, have lunch with an astronaut! [PRO TIP: Save the Kids Space Place for last as a special treat for the young ones.]
For the over 21 crowd, a good brewery tour is always in season. Try 8th Wonder, St. Arnolds, Karbach and Eureka breweries. For generally less than $10 you can usually score a souvenir glass and several small pours. Try something new!
OUT AND ABOUT: Best beer bars in Houston
MORE: Inside Karbach Brewing's 50,000 annual barrels of beer
Not enough options? Here are some bonus suggestions:
Waugh Street Bridge to watch the bats. Try to arrive about 15 - 30 minutes before the official sunset time for that evening.
Instead of battling crowds for parking at the Galleria, give the shops on 19th street in the Heights a try.
Houston Zoo Lights are always a popular holiday treat.