Visitors Guide to Houston, Texas
The city of Houston is America's fourth-largest city and although a
spreading location, much of the appeal is concentrated in the city center,
between the downtown district and the Galleria Mall. Houston is a young and
vibrant city, with a host of restaurants, bars and nightclubs. Close to the Gulf
Coast Cities, Houston is also home to a number of exceptional museums, popular
festivals and regular well- attended sporting events at the city's stadium.
(Also read: Houston Vacation Destination)
Houston is a large and important city, incorporating a number of local communities and historical neighborhoods. Amongst these districts are Downtown - the center of Houston, full of entertainment, shops and restaurants; Midtown - easily reached by the city's light railway; and Uptown - one of the liveliest and most animated areas of the city, featuring the enormous cosmopolitan Galleria shopping mall.
Other notable areas of Houston include the Museum District - home to an unusual concentration of exceptional museums and art galleries; the Theater District - one of America's most notable clusters of top theaters, in central downtown; and also the Heights - on the northwest side of downtown, with many historic buildings and specialty shops.
Tourist attractions in Houston are plentiful, making Houston a particularly enjoyable place to visit. Facilities include many striking buildings and monuments, historical museums and traditional art galleries, must-see sights and numerous recreational activities, which are particularly popular in the city's many parklands, such as Hermann Park, Memorial Park and Sam Houston Park.
Top Houston Attractions include Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens, Downtown Aquarium, Houston Zoo, Space Center Houston and Byzantine Fresco Chapel Museum, Houston Museum of Natural Science (HMNS) and the JP Morgan Chase Tower Observation Deck. Museums worth a visit include Houston's Lawndale Art Center, Museum of Fine Arts, Contemporary Arts Museum and the Rice University Art Gallery. There are also a number of seasonal theater productions that are always popular with visitors to Houston.
Around Houston, public transport is well organized and a number of major freeways and interstates are nearby. The city contains a large train station along Washington Avenue, with regular Amtrak trains arriving and departing each day, traveling to a range of cities, including Los Angeles. Further transport options include Greyhound buses, the local METRO bus network, the METRORail tram service, car rental and taxicabs.
George Bush Intercontinental Airport Houston (IAH) stands around 22 miles / 33 km on the north side of the city center and is an important transport hub. With four terminals and many passengers arriving each day from all over the world, Houston Airport provides a range of convenient ground transport, which includes shuttle buses, taxis and car rental options. Also nearby, the William P. Hobby Airport (HOU) is a smaller airport with mainly domestic airlines, located to the southeast of the city's downtown district.
Being a modern, important and large cosmopolitan city, Houston's accommodation more than meets expectations. With a simply vast selection of well-placed hotels, there is plenty to suit visitors, although advance reservations are sensible. Hotels can be found close to both airports, along nearby highways and throughout the city center, with all main brands well represented. Camping grounds are also available for holidaymakers with RVs, and the Houston International Hostel along Crawford Street is popular with budget travelers.
Dining in Houston is massive and there are around 5,000 restaurants and eateries to choose from in Houston, with a wide range of different cuisines readily available for all palates. Many of the city's most popular restaurants can be found in the downtown area, the Richmond Entertainment district, and in the uptown district – particularly along Richmond Avenue. International cuisine on offer in Houston includes French, Indian, Italian, Mexican, Spanish and Thai, together with traditional Texan dishes and American diners. Houston Chinatown is the place to head for authentic Chinese restaurants and shopping malls have become a popular place to eat in Houston and often include large, open-plan food courts, with a number of options, including fast food.
Houston is an impressive, vibrant shopping destination offering a large selection of shops and stores. Facilities include many popular designer outlets and fashion boutiques, together with well-known department stores and enormous shopping malls. Popular shopping areas include Chinatown, Main Street, Westheimer, Uptown Park Boulevard and Rice Village close to the Museum District. Worth a visit are the River Oaks Center between Woodhead and Shepherd, Alabama and Westheimer, and the University Village, close to Rice University.
The city has a subtropical and fairly humid climate, with sunny, hot summer weather and cooler winters. Temperatures during July and August are at their hottest and can peak at highs of around 35°C / 95°F. Spring in Houston is a mild season and a busy time of the year, when many visitors arrive in Houston. Winters in Houston are cool, although the temperatures stay well above freezing. January is the coldest month when daytime temperatures average around 16°C / 61°F, although lows of less than 10°C / 50°F may be experienced.
About the Author:
Nia Rees writes for World Guides to Houston