A couple of weeks ago, I took my first trip to Houston, and I was impressed by the convention center, hotels, restaurants, and parks. It will be a great city for the 2012 NAFSA Annual Conference!

The George R. Brown Convention Center is well laid out and colorful—large red pipes are visible from the outside as well as indoors - giving it a bit of a nautical look. It’s across the street from Discovery Green, a two-block park with flowers, shrubs, trees, walkways, and a lively fountain. Next to the park is the Hilton America Hotel, with more than 1,000 guest rooms and a stunning lobby. The Hyatt Regency Houston is just a couple of blocks away—another stunning hotel. A variety of smaller boutique hotels are close by. They are part of the downtown area, with its skyscrapers and wide boulevards.

Houston is a wonderfully diverse town—of its 2.3 million residents, 42 percent are European-American, 33 percent Hispanic, 18 percent African American, and 7 percent Asian and other groups. Ninety languages are spoken in Houston! The city has miles of parkland, enjoyed by walkers, bikers, runners, picnickers, and others. Houston is also home to NAFSAns at 34 institutions of higher education.

We had a chance to see the museum district, with 18 museums within walking distance of each other, in a park-like setting. The Museum of Fine Arts is the largest art museum in the southwestern United States, and the Houston Museum of Natural Science has dinosaur skeletons, a butterfly garden, and a large gem and jewelry gallery, to name just a few of its highlights. Houston also has a ballet, opera, symphony, and theater.

Houston is a town for “foodies”: It has more than 8,000 restaurants, with culinary choices representing 35 countries and American regions. We had dinner at Mark’s American Cuisine, a fabulous restaurant housed in a former church.

It will be great to have NAFSAns filling the convention center, streets, sidewalks, hotels, restaurants, and parks of Houston May 27-June 1, 2012. Don’t miss it!