There’s nothing under the sun that captures the imagination quite like outer space. With the discovery of water on Mars, the meteoric rise of Matt Damon’s new film, “The Martian”, and the impending release of the new Stars Wars flick, the universe has been, well, everywhere lately.

Back here on the earth, the closest most of us mere mortals will come to outer space is a visit to one of America’s NASA-run Space Centers: the Johnson Space Center, located in Houston, TX, and the Kennedy Space Center, in Cape Canaveral, FL. We wondered, which Space Center location's vacation price is down-to-earth and which one is other-worldly expensive?

To find out, we analyzed our 2015 data for average flight prices to each center's nearest airport from the 30 most popular airports in the U.S. and daily car rental prices, in addition to the average prices for hotel stays in Houston and Cape Canaveral. We also looked at the average ticket prices and, just for fun, how much it would cost to eat lunch with an astronaut, a program offered at both locations.

Here’s what we found it would cost, on average, a family of four for a 3-day, 2-night trip:

Which space center is cheap to visit infographic

In other words, a family of four can save an average of $600 by choosing Space Center Houston over Cape Canaveral, most of which is saved through airfare and Space Center admission prices. Here's how that breaks down, per person:

Cape Canaveral Houston
Avg. RT Airfare $387 Melbourne Intl Airport (MLB) $294 George Bush Intercontinental (IAH)
Avg. Nightly Hotel $144 $116
Daily Admission $50 Adult/ $40 Child $21 Adult/ $16 Child
Lunch with Astronaut $30 Adult/ $16 Child $50 Adult/ $30 Child
Car Rental From $26/ day From $27/ day

While this may appear like pretty steep price tag for a short vacation, both centers offer numerous discount opportunities and are generally all-inclusive. For example, Kennedy Space Center admission includes all exhibits and shows, IMAX space films, the Kennedy Space Center Bus Tour and free next-day admission to the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame when a general admission ticket is purchased. Multi-day packages that can reduce the overall price are also available.

Meanwhile, Space Center Houston offers a CityPASS if you plan to visit other Houston attractions, which allows visitors to save 50 percent on admission to Space Center Houston and four more top Houston attractions: 1) Downtown Aquarium, 2) Houston Museum of Natural Science, 3) Houston Zoo or Museum of Fine Arts, and 4) Houston Children’s Museum or Kemah Boardwalk All-Day Ride Pass. You’ll skip most ticket lines, too.

So while Space Center Houston is inarguably the less expensive of America's two NASA centers, both locations offer multiple opportunities to let your imagination (and inner-astronaut) be free from gravitational pulls for a few days.

Blast off about your Space Center story in the comments below!

Methodology: Hipmunk analyzed 2015 data for average airfare prices to MLB and IAH from the 30 most popular U.S. airports, as well as average nightly hotel prices in both Houston and Cape Canaveral. Car rental prices were the lowest recent price posted on Hipmunk.com departing and returning to MLB and IAH, respectively. All other data was found on each Space Center's website. As always, airfare, hotel, and car rental prices frequently change and Hipmunk does not guarantee that the prices listed in this story reflect what is currently available.

  This article was posted on Hipmunk's Tailwind blog by The Hipmunk on November 11th.

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Houston is a more exciting city than most would expect. There are plenty of great outdoor activities during the summertime and plenty of offbeat sights and activities available year-round. Houston is also a great destination for foodies because the has a vast selection of quirky and delicious restaurants. The city is also home to an ample supply of kid-friendly and pet-friendly hotels. And while it is possible to travel Houston on a budget, the city is much more fun as a luxurious, romantic weekend getaway. With that in mind let's take a look at Houston's most luxurious hotels.

Four Seasons Hotel Houston

This five-star hotel is one of the nicest Four Seasons I have ever had the pleasure of staying at. Centrally located right in downtown Houston, the museum district is nearby as are countless shops and restaurants. Of course leaving the hotel will be difficult. The Four Seasons Houston is home to one of the best spas in town. In addition to relaxing in the sauna or whirlpool, you can also pamper yourself with a variety of options, including massages, manicures, pedicures, facials and body treatments. They also offer couples services, perfect for that romantic getaway. As for the rooms, they are tastefully decorated with a modern, elegant Texan charm and each come with a wonderful city view and twice daily room service.

Hotel Granduca

Designed to resemble an Italian villa, the Hotel Granduca is one of the most iconic and beautiful hotels in all Houston. Of course the beauty doesn't stop on the exterior. Inside guests will be surrounded by the sights and charm of old Italy while being treated with impeccable service by the staff. Designed by Italian-born developer Giorgio Borlenghi, the five-star Hotel Granduca is his crowning achievement. In addition to the plush gardens and a gorgeous courtyard, the hotel comes complete with an authentic Italian restaurant, Ristorante Cavour, serving the finest Northern Italian cuisine. The rooms come in a variety of options, each more luxurious than the last, however all exude a modern Italian warmth that guests have come to expect. They also cater to guests looking for longer stays, especially convenient for anyone traveling to Houston for medical reasons. And for anyone who wants to live like a king, the Granduca's largest suite is a three bedroom Tuscan-inspired villa that will leave you speechless.

St. Regis Houston

With a level of opulence that is unrivaled by any other hotel in town, the St. Regis takes the gold medal as the premiereHouston hotel for the discerning traveler. Their smallest rooms start at 500 square feet (bigger than the studio apartment I had in college) and their largest suite is a whooping 2,500 square feet -- bigger than my house before I became a nomad! Inlaid wood, plush carpet, a desk and work area in every room, spacious bathrooms, granite countertops, state-of-the-art appliances and electronics, as well as an extraordinary view of that magnificent Houston skyline. Yes, St. Regis truly has it all, including a great location just far away enough from downtown to be peaceful without being inconvenient.

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Find it hard to leave your favorite furry friend behind when you travel? Have no fear; thankfully, Houston has a vast selection of pet-friendly hotels in locations all around the city. Regardless of your budget or which amenities you crave, Houston has something for you. So, the next time you find yourself planning a trip to Space City, make sure to check out these amazing pet-friendly Houston hotels.

Hotel ZaZa Houston

Summed up in one word, Hotel ZaZa is simply amazing! Located in the museum district, the hotel is near tons of things to see and do only a few minutes away. Of course, there is no guarantee that you will even be able to leave your hotel once you see how nice the rooms are here. There are seven different options, each distinctly themed and exquisitely furnished. However, they also have a $150 pet fee.

Hotel ICON Autograph Collection

Few Houston hotels can compare to the elegance and sheer style of Hotel Icon. The building dates back to 1911 and was originally a bank. Traces of this history can still be seen in the lobby arches and giant stone pillars. However, the entire building has been extensively remodeled and furnished in nothing but the best modern amenities. Stylish rooms, an impressive wine vault, a private dining room, and a friendly staff make this one of Houston's premiere hotels. Their pet fee is only $20.

La Quinta

With several locations around town -- all of which allow pets -- La Quinta is the budget choice for a pet-friendly Houston hotel. Every location also has free breakfast, free Wi-Fi, a pool, and zero pet fees. However, my personal favorite is the La Quinta Inn and Suites Houston Galleria because of the location and the fact that they also have a fitness center.

Royal Sonesta Hotel

If you're in the mood for an elegant, modern pet-friendly hotel, look no further than the Royal Sonesta Hotel. Strategically located in west Houston near the Galleria, the hotel is surrounded by plenty of dining, shopping, and entertainment options. The hotel itself features jaw-dropping architecture, impeccable rooms, and a top-notch staff willing to cater to your every whim.

Hotel Derek Houston Galleria

Last but not least is the Hotel Derek -- and no, I did not include it on this list specifically because we share the same name. But that was the reason I decided to stay there for two nights last year when I was passing through Houston. And what I found definitely impressed me.

The entire hotel features a contemporary yet colorful design. For example, the furniture in my room was purple, orange, and grey. Colors that ordinarily might clash have been perfectly blended by a master designer. The same colorful sense of style is evident throughout the hotel, from the lobby to the restaurant to the pool.

As far as animals are concerned, Hotel Derek has a $100 pet fee with 10% of that being donated to the local SPCA.

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  flickr // ynakanishi

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Most people consider Houston more of a business city than an ideal tourist destination. However recently I found myself back in Space City for the first time in several years and had the opportunity to explore again. Given that Houston is the fourth most populous city in the United States and therefore has millions of people to keep entertained, it should be no surprise that there are loads of exciting things to do there. Here's how to see the best of Houston.

Visit Space Center Houston

This is a must. After all Houston's nickname is Space City and it is because of the fine people at NASA that America reached the moon first and Neil Armstrong is a household name. Nearly a million visitors a year visit here to learn the history of America's space program, see the original Mission Control Center, learn how the shuttles are made and get a peek at what NASA has in store for the future. You can browse dozens of exhibits featuring hundreds (if not thousands) of photos, and even get the chance to meet-and-great real astronauts.

The beer can house, just one of Houston's many offbeat sights and attractions

Explore Houston's Offbeat Side

Like any metropolis Houston has its fair share of offbeat sights and activities. Did you know the National Museum of Funeral History is there? Nothing like facing your own mortality to make for an interesting day. How about a house covered entirely in beer cans? This work of art took 15 years by a local artist that one can only assume was an alcoholic. Although he is no longer with us, his house is.

More Offbeat Sights & Activities in Houston

Downtown Pub Tour

Houston has been a city for hundreds of years and still has a very vibrant historic district. One of the daily activities that occurs there every evening is a the historic Houston pub tour -- yes, tour, not crawl. This is an educational experience to downtown watering holes, some of which date back over 150 years. Learn a little, drink a little, and then leave with a sense of having discovered a bit more about this misunderstood metropolis.

The Hobbit Cafe, just one of Houston's cool and quirky restaurants

Eat Your Way Around The City

Food is a daily necessity but that doesn't mean it has to be predictable or stereotypical. Houston has a wide array of quirky restaurants that will leave you talking as much about the decor as the food. One of my personal favorites is Jus' Mac, which as the name implies serves nothing but macaroni and cheese served in a variety of delicious (and entertaining) ways. The best tacos in Texas can be found here too, as well as Houston's Soup Nazi, a play off the classic Seinfeld episode -- if you know where to look.

Save Some Money

Since you'll be spending so much time exploring the city, there is no reason to splurge on an expensive hotel room that you'll hardly even use. Check out my article on budget travel and hotels in Houston for more or find hundreds of cheap Houston hotels online.

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Houston has countless sights and destinations that are ideal for the entire family but specifically orientated children, such as the Children's Museum, NASA Space Center, and Splashway Water Park. However, no matter how you decide to pass the day as a family, it really makes the trip that much easier if you are also staying at a family-friendly hotel. That having been said, here are my top picks for the best kid-friendly hotels in Houston.

Four Seasons Hotel Houston

When choosing a hotel as a family, it really helps if that hotel makes a special point of catering to kids. The Four Seasons Hotel Houston takes the gold here. Not only do they provide milk and cookies to the young ones while the parents are checking in, but they also give a special gift to each of your little ones. Special kid-themed toiletries and children-sized bathrobes are also included. And if the parents want to escape for a few hours and get an on-site spa treatment or catch an evening show, The Four Seasons can also arrange a babysitter to watch over loved ones.

Omni Houston Hotel

Looking down on the lobby of the Houston Omni Westside hotel in Texas
Photo by Nicolas Henderson via Flickr

The Omni Houston Hotel has taken children's entertainment to a whole new level by provided all kids with a backpack full of goodies upon check-in. Contained within are crayons, an activity book full of fun games and healthy recipes, memory game playing cards, and more. If that isn't enough to keep the youth occupied, then consider booking one of their Kids' Sensory Suites. This attached room is a special little world designed exclusively to appeal to children. It has bright artwork and murals, a Nintendo Wii complete with a collection of kid-friendly games, an art station where kids can release their inner creativity, an assortment of children's books and movies, and even glow-in-the-dark stars on the ceiling. But the best part? One of the walls is a chalkboard that comes with colored chalk so that your kids can make their room truly unique. These suites can even be customized for a boys- or girls-only party if so desired.

St. Regis Houston

For the discerning family, St. Regis Houston offers the ultimate luxury family experience. They have a Family Traditions package that will help you to explore the metropolis in a way that is entertaining to kids of all ages. They can also equip your room with a variety of necessities to make your children feel more at home during their stay -- and even provide butler service assistance to keep mom and dad from getting stressed. A kids pool and youth-orientated dining menus are also staples of the St. Regis experience. Of course, if you ever need to break free from your children for a session of couples pampering at the hotel spa or late night show at the theatre, rest easy knowing that St. Regis has plenty of babysitters and nannies on-call.

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Houston is one of the largest cities in Texas, and as with all big metropolises, there are so many things to do there that it can often be overwhelming to visitors. It is for that exact reason that I have recently been writing so many articles on all the amazing sights and restaurants in Houston, Texas. Now I proudly present the best summer activities to beat the Houston heat and humidity while still having a great trip.

Take A Dip In The Cool, Cool Water

What better way to cool off during the summer than by going for a swim. Houston has no shortage of public pools, however the real place to visit is Wet 'n' Wild SplashTown. They are home to acres upon acres of water slides, rides and pools. Plus if you are traveling as a family then this is one destination that every kid is guaranteed to love, regardless of their age.

Houston Astros game at Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas

Catch A Sports Game

Houston is home to several professional teams, including the Houston Astros, Houston Rockets, and the Houston Texans. Baseball is the sport of summer and football season starts in September, so depending on when visitors will be in town dictates which sports will be in session. Luckily, either way the best deals on tickets to both games and musical performances can always be found with TiqIQ.

Enjoy A Night Out

Once the sun goes down and the temperature cools, outside dining becomes much more enjoyable than it is during the daytime heat. Restaurants like Boheme, The Tasting Room at King's Harbor and Batanga have made a name for themselves thanks to their delicious food and perfect outdoor ambience. The latter two are especially nice for a romantic night out. However, my personal favorite is Cottonwood, which is known for their sprawling patio, impeccable food and refreshing craft beer selections.

The Free Press Summer Fest in Houston, Texas

Go To A Music Festival

Houston summers and the Free Press Summer Fest go hand-in-hand. This annual music festival is held every June and has quickly become one of the largest annual music festivals in the nation. Performers such as Bassnectar, Deftones, and The Naked And Famous have performed here in years past and the 2015 lineup, although not yet announced, is expected to be one of the best thus far. Although you may still find yourself out in the sun during the day, you'll be having too much fun to worry about the heat.

Escape The City

Sometimes it is necessary to escape the urban jungle, even if only for a quick day-trip or one night getaway. Thankfully there are plenty of refreshing parks within the vicinity of north Houston's suburbs. Lake Houston Wilderness Park is the closest option but Sam Houston National Forest is by far the most rewarding. Both parks offer camping and hiking, however Sam Houston covers a sprawling 160,000 acres, as opposed to Lake Houston's 5,000 acres.

If you have any questions on what to do in Houston this summer, please leave a comment below and I'll get back to you.

View the Houston Travel Archives for much more!

  Hipmunk has published a large number of my city guides to destinations around the world on their site. Check them out for more!

  flickr   //   clockwerks   in_rainbows69

Published in United States

Houston is a vibrant city with plenty of fun sights and excursions to entertain both American and foreign tourists. From sports games to shows to nightlife, there is something for everyone in 'Space City', a nickname the city earned because of the NASA research center. The city is great for last-minute travelers on a budget. Here are some tips for a successful trip to Houston.

How to Get Around Houston

There are plenty of transportation options around Houston, most predominantly the METRO bus system. Their 1,200 buses cover every part of town that you want to visit (as well as some you wouldn't). Another option is the METRORail, which although it only has one line does manage to run right through the heart of the city. Finally there are taxis, useful for short trips or if the weather is foul, but certainly not the most cost-effective option for long distance journeys.

Where to Stay for Less

Houston has no shortage of hotels to choose from and many of them cater to budget-conscious travelers. One of my personal favorites is Comfort Inn Southwest Parkway. Not only is it conveniently located and accessible via public transportation, but a stay here won't break the bank. You can also find a much more extensive list of cheap hotels in Houston on Hipmunk. Airbnb has plenty of options as well, most of which are geared toward groups or families as opposed to individuals.

The Houston Rodeo

What to Do in Houston

Depending upon the time of year, Houston has a variety of annual events. These include the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, which is open every year in February and March, and iFest, an art and music festival held every April. However, the pinnacle is the Houston Art Car Parade, an event that must be seen firsthand to truly believe. It is exactly as it sounds: fully functioning cars and motorcycles turned into decadent works of art. And the best part? It's completely free!

Excursiopedia also provides themed tours of Houston. Consider touring one of the many museums, over a dozen of which are free year-round. Several others offer free entry days once a week.

The Houston Astros vs Cincinnati view from right field

Must-See Events and Theatre

The sport lovers will be happy to know that Houston has several major teams. First and foremost are the Houston Texans, a football team in the AFC Southern Division. For basketball lovers the Houston Rockets are very well-known team that has had some great players through the years. And of course we cannot forget the Houston Astros, the city's baseball team. Whichever sport you prefer, be sure to check ScoreBig for cheap tickets.

Or if theatre is more your thing then you'll be happy to know that the city has so many theatres it actually has a theatre district located downtown.

Of course there are also plenty of other theatres scattered around town. Ultimately, regardless of when you visit Houston or where you stay while there, budget is of little concern if you plan ahead. If you have any questions than feel free to ask me.

View the Houston travel archives for much more!

  As a writer for Hipmunk, many of my city guides from around the world have been published there, including my overview of hotels and attractions near Rice University. Be sure to give it a read before your trip!

  flickr   //   rgkikuchi pahudson joshbousel

Published in United States

Houston, Texas, is a humongous city that often overwhelms visitors and leaves them uncertain where to go, what to eat and what to see. Luckily, as a native Texan, I've spent a great deal of time exploring the city and finding some of the most unique, hidden, offbeat and off the beaten path destinations — some of which not even local residents know about.

National Museum of Funeral History

National Museum of Funeral History in Houston, Texas

Museums related to our own mortality are always intriguing, despite sometimes being a bit macabre. All that aside, this is one of the most captivating and engrossing museums I have ever visited. From the history of embalming to an entire collection of hearses to a coffin built for three, you really never know what to expect around the next corner.

The Beer Can House

The Beer Can House in Houston, Texas

The late John Milkovisch was confronted with a conundrum. His house needed to be painted, but he didn't want to do it. His solution? Cover the entire thing with over 50,000 beer cans. He started in 1968 and didn't finish until 15 years later. While the place is definitely quirky and a must-visit for any beer enthusiast, one can only assume that Mr. Milkovisch must have passed away from cirrhosis of the liver.

BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir

BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir outside of Houston, Texas

Located just outside of Houston in Sugar Land, this magnificent Hindu temple seems out of place, as if it has been transplanted here from somewhere in India or Southeast Asia. In fact, it is the first traditional Hindu temple in the United States. Be sure to come hungry as the food here is the best and most authentic Indian food in all of Houston. For visitors unfamiliar with visiting religious sites such as this, please do not forget to take off your shoes before entering.

Kanomwan

If you are a fan of Thai food then this little restaurant should not be missed. It is a favorite of local Houstonians who all know their favorite dishes by the letter and number combination, such as H5 or S11. The original owner of this restaurant is lovingly referred to as the Thai Soup Nazi (a reference to the Seinfeld episode about the Soup Nazi); however, he passed away in 2010. Luckily, the restaurant remains relatively unchanged and the food is still as delicious as ever. Plus, it is BYOB so how can you go wrong.

The Orange Show

The Orange Show in Houston, Texas

From the mid-1950s until his death in 1980, local Houston postal worker Jeff McKissack created this impressive monument to honor his favorite fruit, the orange. It covers an impressive 3,000 square feet and will suck you in from the moment you begin walking along the maze of pathways. Nowadays, it has become a folk art favorite not just of local Houston residents but art lovers across the entire USA.

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Have any offbeat additions? Share your thoughts below!

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As the fourth largest city in the United States, Houston has no shortage of delicious and diverse restaurants. However some stand apart from the crowds because of their unique menus, quirky designs or intriguing owners. With so many one-of-a-kind options at your fingertips, why would anyone want to stick to the chains? Make the most of your trip to Space City by trying something new and exciting like these five places.

Kanomwan

Kanomwan Restaurant in Houston, Texas, USA

If you are a fan of Thai food then this little restaurant should not be missed. It is a favorite of local Houstonians who all know their favorite dishes by the letter and number combination, such as H5 or S11. The original owner of this delicious restaurant is lovingly referred to as the Thai Soup Nazi (a reference to the Seinfeld episode about the Soup Nazi), however he passed away in 2010. Luckily the restaurant remains relatively unchanged and the food is still as delicious as ever. Plus, it is BYOB, so how can you go wrong?

Just Dinner

Another great BYOB Italian restaurant is Just Dinner. The name comes from the fact that this restaurant is literally only open for dinner, from 6pm to 9pm every day except Sunday. Because of that, it is highly recommended you make a reservation first. The building is actually a house turned restaurant with a cozy, intimate feel and delicious menu. I recommend the Prime Beef Filet Mignon -- simply to die for!

Hobbit Cafe

The Hobbit Cafe in Houston, Texas, USA

This Lord Of The Rings themed restaurant is a must-try for any visitor to Houston, but especially for Lord Of The Rings fans. The restaurant is full of all kinds of Tolkien items from movie posters to figures to photos. However the menu is completely normal, albeit a bit heavy on the vegetarian dishes. Meat lovers need not fear though, there are plenty of options for you as well. Despite the fact I have never seen any of the movies, I really enjoyed the Hobbit Cafe, even if it was a little cramped.

Jus' Mac

As the name implies, Jus' Mac serves nothing but macaroni and cheese dishes. The menu is divided into two categories, Radical and Conservative. On the radical menu there are dishes like the Hangover, perfect for a Sunday morning brunch, or my personal favorite the Cheese & Chong. The conservative dishes might be better for those who are not the most adventurous of eaters, but even those are unique twists on this classic American comfort food.

Brothers Taco House

Brothers Taco House in Houston, Texas, USA

Given the state's proximity to Mexico, it should be no surprise that tacos are a staple of most Texans diets. Brothers Taco House is well-known by Houston locals for having the best tacos in all of town. From top-notch breakfast tacos to vegetarian favorites like rajas con queso and classics such as barbacoa, there is something here for everyone.

Wherever you decide to eat, make sure to find a cheap hotel in Houston near the restaurant of your choice because once you stumble on out of any of these places, the first thing you are going to need is a nap!

View the Houston travel archives for much more!

  Hipmunk has published a large number of my city guides to destinations around the world on their site, as well as plenty of hotel guides like my overview of hotels and attractions near Rice University. Check them out for more!

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