STS Members Show Off Hometown Houston

Mara B. Antonoff, MD

Two STS members and Houston residents, Mara B. Antonoff, MD and Ara A. Vaporciyan, MD, share a fondness for their city, the destination for the 2017 STS Annual Meeting, January 21–25.

“Houston is a Texas town by geographic location only,” said Dr. Vaporciyan, who has lived there since 1989. “You can find Texas in Houston, but I don’t feel like I live in the south. I feel like I live in a cosmopolitan city.”

With 2.2 million residents, this fourth-largest US city beckons tourists and transplants with its eclectic cuisines, 19 museums in one district, a range of shopping, vast park spaces, diverse cultures, Texas Medical Center with its 21 hospitals, and NASA’s Johnson Space Center.

Ara A. Vaporciyan, MD

Travel gurus finally have caught on to what Houstonians have known for years; Houston was the only US destination in the Boston Globe’s recent list of six places to visit, Travel + Leisure ranked it third among America’s Most Cultured Cities, and Condé Nast Traveler placed it among the Top 15 Places to Go.

A Find for Foodies

It’s no surprise Anthony Bourdain of CNN’s Parts Unknown explored Houston’s foodie scene last summer for an October episode. What Bourdain discovered is what both physicians have long known.

“There is a lot of fusion here, so you’ll find plenty of French-American and French food,” Dr. Vaporciyan said.

Drs. Antonoff and Vaporciyan, who are with The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, said every type of quality cuisine at every price point is available.

“If you want a $300 per person meal, I can give you a laundry list of places,” said Dr. Antonoff, who moved to Houston 2 years ago. “On the other hand, if you want good food in a family-style setting, I can find that for you as well. We have the whole gamut here.”

If you like barbecue, Houston has no shortage of delicious options.

“It’s all about beef in Houston. Even the ribs are beef. You can get a pulled pork sandwich, but it’s not as common as a brisket sandwich here, and the sauce is usually sweet, not vinegary,” said Dr. Vaporciyan, pointing to the city’s iconic and nationally recognized Goode Co.

Dive Into the Museum District

The Hall of Paleontology at the Houston Museum of Natural Science has more than 450 fossils and fossil replicas on display. (Photo: Visit Houston)

With so many museums in four walkable zones, the Houston Museum District, located near downtown, gives you a glimpse of the world’s treasures and history. Among its museums are the Children’s Museum Houston, Contemporary Art Museum Houston, Holocaust Museum Houston, Houston Zoo, and Menil Collection. The Menil Collection’s nearby 445-acre Hermann Park attracts adults and children seeking relaxation after enjoying lunch at Bistro Menil, said Dr. Vaporciyan.

Dr. Antonoff pointed to the offerings at the Children’s Museum and Houston Zoo.

“I’ve been to a lot of children’s museums around the country, and the one here is considerably larger and has a lot more attractive features compared to those elsewhere,” said Dr. Antonoff, adding that the zoo offers a Japanese garden, train rides, outdoor theater, evening events, and a recently added western lowland gorilla exhibit.

Admission to the Menil is free, while other museums in the district have specified free times and days.

From the Space Center to Shopping

Houston’s most famed sight, Space Center Houston, embodies its “Prepare to be Thrust Into an Amazing Adventure” tagline. Located about 25 miles south of the city, the visitor’s center to NASA’s Johnson Space Center is chock-full of NASA artifacts of interest to all ages, but it also gives visitors several ways to interact with the exhibits. Dr. Antonoff offered one insider’s tip.

“It can be deceptive when you arrive because it’s so big, but look for where you can take two tram tours that go all around the facility,” Dr. Antonoff advised. Both tours go to Rocket Park, while one also takes you to Mission Control and the other also takes you to the Astronaut Training Facility.

The STS Social Event will be held at Space Center Houston on Monday, January 23. See related article for more details on this exclusive event.

Houston is among many cities with a fascination for brewing beer, and Saint Arnold Brewing Co., about 10 minutes by car from the George R. Brown Convention Center, offers tastings and tours.

If your desire is to see the beach, Galveston Island is just 1 hour south of Houston. Dr. Vaporciyan suggested taking in the Moody Gardens for its pyramids and indoor garden, the Galveston Seawall, which was built after the 1900 hurricane, and the great seafood straight from the Gulf.

If the drive to Galveston is too off the beaten track, Dr. Antonoff recommends visiting Kemah. About 30 miles southeast of Houston, Kemah Boardwalk is a cool little place right on the water with an amusement park, shops, restaurants, and bars, she said.

No visit to Houston is complete without taking time to shop the Galleria.

“The Galleria is a Texas-sized mall,” Dr. Vaporciyan said. “It’s four malls stuffed together.” Indeed, this megamall spans 2.4 million square feet of space and houses 400 shops and restaurants.

When it’s time to take a break during the Annual Meeting, walk across the street from the convention center to Discovery Green. With January high temperatures of 62 degrees and lows of 41 degrees, Houston will bring comfortable days and cool evenings to your STS Annual Meeting experience.

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