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Houston Day One

H-town's new Metro light-rail system has transformed downtown Main Street into a hub of popular clubs and nightlife. But during the day, use the Metro to get to Hermann Park for a stroll around the pond and through the park's woody habitat, home to 30 species of birds, including the blue-billed heron and the snakebird.

After exploring the park (and working up a sufficient appetite), you'll be ready for some true Texas barbecue. (Everybody knows the Lone Star State is synonymous with mighty fine 'cue.) At Otto's (5502 Memorial Drive, 713-864-2573), you may find yourself meeting George Bush Sr. over brisket. After eating at Goode Co. Barbeque (5109 Kirby Drive, 713-522-2530), you'll want to do as the sign says and "give some serious thought to thanking your lucky stars you're in Texas." Besides excellent grub, this joint has an old-time jukebox and a self-serve ice chest full of beer.

Burn off any excess calories you indulged in while chowing down at lunch by walking through the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (1001 Bissonnet Street, 713-639-7300, www.mfah.org), which houses an impressive assortment of Impressionist and Expressionist art, including the ­second-largest Jackson Pollock collection in the world. The weekly lectures and films are also worth sticking around for. If you'd rather do your walking outside - and if you like to see and be seen - take a few laps around Memorial Park (6501 Memorial Drive, 713-845-1000, www.texashiker.com/
Memorial_Park_Houston.htm) or try hiking the park's mountain-bike trail, great for hiking and cycling.

While it's hard to believe, after all that barbecue, sooner or later you will be hungry again. O'Rourke's Steak House (4611 Montrose, 713-523-4611, www.finesteaks.com) is a Museum District standout, with an extensive wine list, a talented pianist, and excellent service. Also at the top of Houston dining is Tony's (1801 Post Oak Boulevard, 713-622-6778), where the red-walled dining room and impeccable, attentive staff let you know you're surrounded by Houston's power crowd.