Where can you go for the best in entertainment, sports, cultural arts, shopping, dining and nightlife? Look no further than Houston, Texas. Home to a respected and energetic cultural arts scene, the fourth largest shopping center in the country, the oldest African-American theater in the Southwest and the brains behind United States space exploration, Houston is as diverse a city as they come. As The New York Times stated in a recent feature, “Maybe that’s what makes Houston such an unusual and wonderful place–there are so many different Houstons to see.”
The style-savvy residents of the country’s fourth-largest city and third-largest county (Harris) know that there’s no place quite like Houston. With more than 2.2 million residents, the city attracts visitors and transplants with a wonderful mix of world-class arts, booming business, pro sports and award-winning cuisine.
As the rest of the country discovers what locals have known all along, Houston is finally enjoying the recognition it deserves. Just last year, the city landed on several “best of” lists, including the Travel + Leisure roundup of America’s Favorite Cities and the Hotwire.com index of most affordable U.S. vacation destinations.
See for yourself, here in Houston, where much of daily life happens outdoors, thanks to mild, year-round temperatures. Take time to explore the eclectic, culture-filled neighborhoods, gallery spaces and attractions, which offer diverse flavors that can only be found here.
Take the food, for example. Countless cutting-edge chefs have made a home inHouston, where diners eat out more than residents of any other city. Here, you’ll find James Beard Award winners and internationally renowned chefs serving up innovative cuisine that frequently catches the attention of foodies in Bon Appetit, Food & Wine and Saveur.
But the stylish dining scene is only a slice of Houston’s epicurean offerings—a fact that the city’s culinary masterminds intend to prove with the recently launched Houston Culinary Tours. Each of the intimate, 16-person, chef-led tours aim at showing the underbelly of thecity’s food scene—one taco truck and ethnic market at a time.
Some of the top neighborhoods and suburbs in and around Houston are listed below.
Minutes from downtown, located in the inner loop the Heights is one of the city’s fastest growing neighborhoods. Single family homes, high rises and condos are here to accommodate you.
20 miles of downtown Memorial is one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in Houston, home to the Houston Galleria, the 7th largest mall in America.
Close to downtown, the popular quiet Bellaire is rowing rapidly. Most of the homes in Bellaire are 60’s and 70’s built single family.
Sitting inside the loop, convenient to downtown, the Medical Center, and the Galleria area, River Oaks is the most expensive neighborhood in Houston.
The Woodlands is one of Houston’s more affluent suburbs, located just north of Bush Intercontinental Airport up I-45. The Woodlands is a beautiful, golf coarse filled, fully developed community that has become one of the more expensive suburbs.
Sugar Land is a city Southwest of Houston. Filled with numerous master-planned communities like First Colony, New Territory, Greatwood, and Riverstone, sugar Land has land on the Hottest and Best Places to live list numerous times.
Rice Village/West University
The Rice Village, also known as West U or The Village is one of Houston oldest and most well known shopping areas in Houston. Strip centers with national chains and local trendy boutiques create lively shopping environment. Located near Rice University, popular with students and young professionals.
Montrose is known as the most diverse and eccentric neighborhood in Houston. An artsy community home to many bars, clubs, trendy coffee shops, and tattoo parlors.
Midtown is located in the heart of the city, situated in between Downtown Houston and the Medical Center. You can’t beat the location as you pretty close to everything. Being filled with popular restaurants, clubs, and bars that are all within walking distance of each other has made it extremely popular amongst Houston’s young professionals and students.
Katy is a fast growing suburb west of Houston on I-10. Affordable housing and space to spread out has helped popularity in Katy.
One of the largest master-planned communities in the US, boasting an amazing golf course, water park, and over 7000 planned homes, Sienna Plantation in Missouri City southwest of Houston is great place to call home. Convenient to the Fort Bend Toll Road makes Sienna Plantation an easy commute into downtown or the Medical Center.
Reference the above map for different Houston area.
Venture Downtown during your stay and discover a thriving professional arts scene, with professional resident companies in ballet, opera, symphony and theater; only four other U.S. cities can say the same. And the nearby Museum District stakes its claim as the country’s fourth largest,with 18 cultural powerhouses set within blocks of one another.
1,500 acres of green space in the heart of the city, Memorial Park is home to a public golf course, swimming pool, tennis courts, trails and more.
Downtown, Discovery Green park is outfitted with WiFi, a farmers market, dog runs, fine dining and ice-skating during the winter—just one more of the 650-plus urban green spaces filling the city.
Not surprisingly, businesses also recognize the allure of Houston’s offerings. Twenty-five companies on the Fortune 500 list callthe Energy Capital of the World home. Aeronautic research is unsurpassed at NASA headquarters—the facility responsible for putting the first man on the moon—and Texas Medical Center remains the largest in the world with 47 highly lauded research and treatment institutions.
Come. Live like a local for a few days and discover why Houston’s mix of international appeal and Southern charm have captured the imagination of tastemakers the world over.
Downtown Houston has become one of the most vibrant areas in the city. More than 50 restaurants and bars have opened within the past several years, and the 7.5-mile METRORail facilitates travel to and from the Museum District, Texas Medical Center and Reliant Park. The new Hilton Americas-Houston added 1,200 guestrooms to downtown Houston in 2003, in addition to the resurgence in boutique hotels such as the Hotel Icon, Alden-Houston Hotel and the Magnolia. Across from Minute Maid Park is downtownHouston’s newest hotel, Inn at the Ballpark.
Whether you are selecting a site for a meeting or planning a weekend family getaway, consider Houston.
Houston After Dark
The Main Event! is Houston’s entertainment district with street cafes and live music. Every Friday and Saturday from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m., Main Street is closed to vehicular traffic between Congress and Capitol streets to become a pedestrian-friendly area for all people downtown’s offerings. The Downtown Aquarium and Bayou Place are also popular downtown entertainment destinations. Downtown’s Houston Pavilion development will open entertainment venues like House of Blues in late 2007. Midtown, on downtown’s southwest border, has emerged as a hot spot. The live-music hangout Continental Club and the Drink bar are both steps away from the METRORail, and hip locals and visitors flock to Red Door for its famed rooftop terrace overlooking the downtown skyline. Rice Village, near Rice University, offers a variety of pubs and bars.
For the Sports Fans
Houstonians have had many reasons to cheer on the home team. The Houston Astros the 2005 National League Champions are making noise down at Minute Maid park. The Rockets are blazing away in their pursuit of post season success. The Houston Texans‘ are one of the most exciting teams in the NFL.
Houston’s professional teams and players are not the only reason sports fans are flocking to the games. Houston offers three of the most state-of-the-art stadiums in the world-Minute Maid Park, home of the Astros; Reliant Stadium, home of the Houston Texans and the annual Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo; and the Toyota Center arena, home to the Houston Rockets, Comets and Aeros. All stadiums are linked by METRORail. Houston’s newest professional team, the Houston 1836 soccer team, will play its home matches at Robertson Stadium, located on the campus of the University of Houston.
Houston is one of five cities in the United States with resident companies in the four disciplines of the performing arts-ballet, opera, symphony and theater. Houston’s 17-block Theater District is home to all of them, as well as musical theater performances by Theatre Under the Stars and Broadway in Houston and innovative local groups like Uniquely Houston and Da Camera. Barry Mandel, president of the Houston Downtown Entertainment District Alliance, stresses the longevity of Houston’s performing arts organizations. “In 2005, the Houston Symphony turned 90, Houston Ballet turned 35 and Houston Grand Opera turned 50.”
Fun for the Family
Whether you’re experiencing a space shuttle landing at Space Center Houston or splashing around in more than two million gallons of water at Six Flags SplashTown, Houston’s attractions are full of adventure. Explore the world’s oceans from inside Moody Gardens‘ 12-story Aquarium Pyramid, then appreciate science and nature in the Rainforest and Discovery Pyramids. Place bets on horses at the Sam Houston Race Park or greyhounds at the Gulf Greyhound Park. Or visit Traders Village on the weekends for food, fun and great finds from more than 800 vendors. For history buffs, visit the San Jacinto Battleground Complex, which marks the spot where Texas won its independence from Mexico, or the Lone Star Flight Museum, a large collection of restored aircraft and photo archives housed in a hanger. Step back in time at the George Ranch, a working ranch, where visitors can experience more than 150 years of Texas history.
Almost every major cruise line now departs from the Port of Houston or the Port of Galveston for luxurious Caribbean cruises. Before you embark on your journey, spend some time in historic Galvestonat the various art galleries on The Strand or catch a show at the Grand 1894 Opera House.
Houston’s modern climate encourages year-round recreation. Gulf beaches, a boardwalk, lakes, 165 public and private golf courses, countless swimming pools and tennis courts and hundreds of parks make getting out and about a pleasure. Houston has recorded just 14 snow days since 1939. The normal maximum temperature in January is about 62 degrees, and the normal maximum temperature in July is 94 degrees.
The Museum District is within walking distance of Hermann Park–home of the Houston Zoo, Japanese Tea Gardens and Miller Outdoor Theatre–and is adjacent the beautiful Rice University. The Museum District is home to 15 museums including the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the Houston Museum of Natural Science, The Children’s Museum of Houston, The Menil Collection, the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston and many more. Visitors to the Museum District can view one of only two Rembrandt paintings in Texas, one of the most highly renowned Surrealist collections in the country, the top collection of gems and minerals in the world and a 7,400-square-foot model of the human body.
A visit to Houston would be incomplete without a shopping spree. The Galleria is Houston’s premier shopping destination, recently renovated with more than 375 fine stores and restaurants and a full-size ice rink. Several miles from the Galleria are Uptown Park, Houston’s European-style shopping center, and Highland Village, an outdoor upscale center.
Katy Mills Mall, a sprawling shopper’s paradise west of downtown, features the best names in manufacturers and retail outlets with more than 200 stores. Take a scenic drive north of Houston toConroe and shop at the Conroe Outlet Center. With more than 60 stores including Carter’s, Levi’s, Guess? and Nine West, this is a shopping destination you don’t want to miss.
With its dramatic makeover complete, Memorial City Mall pulls out all the stops, delighting shoppers with a wealth of stores, food and entertainment choices. Mixed with a vast selection of upscale shops and anchor stores such as Dillard’s, Lord & Taylor and Target, you are sure to find everything on your list.
For a long while, Houston has had one of the most exciting food scenes anywhere. Home to more than 5,000 restaurants, Houston offers everything from fine dining to hole-in-the-wall Tex-Mex. You’ll find every variety of ethnic food found in America, from a slew of wonderful Chinese restaurants to fine Japanese sushi bars like Rickshaw. Houston’s enormous Vietnamese population has not only led to a boom in good seafood but also in a variety of Vietnamese restaurants. You can get your fill of Gulf Coast Creole food, South and Central American, Cuban, Korean fare and Spanish tapas at a variety of fine restaurants–not to mention Houston’s Italian restaurants of every style.
Off the Beaten Path
Through art cars, oranges and houses covered in cans, Houston embraces folk art and unique spaces. Only in Houston can you find a chicken-shaped coffin, on display at the National Museum of Funeral History, whose tagline is “every day above ground is a good one.” The Orange Show Center for Visionary Art is a major preserver and presenter of Houston’s folk art, organizing the annual Art Car Parade–the oldest and largest of its kind–and preserving notable sites like the Beer Can House and The Orange Show, a 3,000-square-foot monument to the creator’s favorite fruit. Houston has all kinds of hidden gems like these throughout the city-it simply takes a little exploring to find them.
With three major airports, Houston is one of the nation’s premier international gateways, linking the region to more than 185 destinations. George Bush Intercontinental Airport is the eighth busiest airport in the United States for total passengers, facilitating travel to Houston from all over the world.
Houston boasts the world’s largest medical center–The Texas Medical Center. Medicine is a growing economic force in Houston, employing more than 63,000 people and comprising 42+ institutions, with an annual economic impact of more than $15 billion.
Houston has recently hosted national sporting events–Super Bowl XXXVIII, Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game, 2005 World Series and the 2005 Big 12 Conference Football Championship-and received international acclaim and recognition. Houston is looking forward to hosting the 2006 NBA All-Star Game and the NCAA Final Four in 2011, in addition to domestic and international tourists.
HOUSTON AREA INFORMATION AND FACTS
Houston’s mix of international appeal and Southern charm have captured the imagination of tastemakers the world over. Read on for a few insider facts on the nation’s fourth largest city.
At 634 square miles, the City of Houston could contain the cities of New York, Washington, Boston, San Francisco, Seattle, Minneapolis and Miami.
Houston, with 2.3 million residents, is the fourth most populous city in the United States, trailing only New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.
Houston is the nation’s demographic future. In racial and ethnic composition, the Houston of today very much resembles the U.S. nearly 60 years hence.
• 42% Anglo • 33% Hispanic • 18% African American • 7% Asian/Other
More than 90 languages are spoken in Houston.
Houston rates first among the nation’s 10 most populous cities in total acreage of parkland and third behind only San Diego and Dallas in park acreage per capita, according to a study by The Trust for Public Land.
Houston has 50,632 acres of total park space, with 22.6 acres per 1,000 residents.
International trade directly or indirectly supports more than one-third of all jobs in the Houston metropolitan area.
Ninety-two foreign governments have official representation here through consulates or trade offices.
Houston’s cultural events and exhibitions report 9.2 million visits per year.
Houston’s nonprofit arts organizations support 14,115 full-time jobs locally. An additional 12,192 professional artists call Houston their home. In total, 29,729 jobs are sustained by the city’s nonprofit arts industry.
Houston is one of only a few U.S. cities with resident professional companies in the four disciplines of the performing arts: Ballet, opera, symphony and theater.
Houston Ballet – Hailed by The New York Times as “…one of the nation’s best ballet companies”
Houston Grand Opera – Only opera company in the world with Grammy, Tony and Emmy awards.
Theatre Under the Stars is one of the largest nonprofit producers of musical theater in America.
- One of the largest museum districts in the country with 18 museums within walking distance.
- 6.6 million people visit the Museum District annually
- Byzantine Fresco Chapel Museum – Holds the only intact Byzantine frescoes in the Western Hemisphere.
- Children’s Museum of Houston is the highest attended youth museum in the country for its size.
- The Health Museum – Most visited health museum in the country.
- Museum of Fine Arts, Houston – The largest art museum in the Southwestern United States.
- Rothko Chapel – The only ecumenical center of its kind in the world.
The Greater Houston area has 14 major institutions of higher learning.
Houston (Rice University) is the birthplace of nanotechnology.
Janet Gurwitch propelled Laura Mercier to top status in the high-end cosmetics industry from a warehouse in Stafford (a suburb of Houston).
For four generations, the Hamilton family has made high-quality men’s shirts for high-end stores like Barneys New York from a Richmond Avenue storefront.
Elaine Turner has built a thriving accessories business from her Houston headquarters. Today, her designs are carried in more than 200 specialty stores, at Turner’s boutiques, online and Nordstrom.
Former Carolina Herrera executive Greg Fourticq recently returned home to bankroll a children’s clothing line, Moo Boo.
Project Runway winner Chloe Dao has created a popular clothing line from her Lot 8 boutique.
Fashion designer and native Houstonian Cesar Galindo is recognized worldwide for his cocktail and evening wear collections, which have
appeared in print, television, film and the runway of New York Fashion Week.
For more than 60 years, the iconic footwear brand, Bernardo, has been based in Houston. Jackie O and Lilly Pulitzer were loyal supporters, while Reese Witherspoon and Courteney Cox are among the A-listers embracing the brand today.
Houston is considered to have one of the best culinary scenes in the country, with cuisine from around the world. There are roughly 9,000 restaurants in the Houston area with culinary choices that represent more than 60 countries and American regions.
Houstonians dine out more than residents of any other city—4.0 times per week, compared with the national average of 3.2. The average meal in Houston—$32.53—is less than the national average of $35.10.
In 1969, “Houston” was the first word spoken from the moon. The Apollo 11 mission established a place in history for the city when astronaut Neil Armstrong spoke the now-famous line, “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.”
Hollywood directors frequently film in Houston because of the vastly diverse terrain and unique locations found in the Greater Houston area, from the urban landscape seen in Jason’s Lyric and Reality Bites to the NASA favorites Apollo 13, Armageddon and Space Cowboys.
In fact, Houston’s varied topography can sometimes be unrecognizable. Who would have guessed that the lush, green landscape on the Rushmore campus was not filmed in New England but in Houston just 10 minutes from downtown? Or that Houston doubled for Arlington, Virginia in the thriller Arlington Road?
Other blockbusters filmed in Houston:
- Terms of Endearment
- Evening Star
- RoboCop 2
- Tin Cup
- Flags of Our Fathers
- Mao’s Last Dancer
- Tree of Life
Texas Medical Center (TMC) with 49 member institutions—including M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, the No. 1 cancer hospital in the country—is the largest medical complex in the world.
More heart surgeries are performed in the Texas Medical Center than anywhere else in the world.
The first successful human heart transplant was performed in Houston by Dr. Denton Cooley (1968).
77030, the Texas Medical Center Zip code, is home to 21,000 physicians, scientists, researchers and other advanced degree professionals in the life sciences at 385 medical offices, the highest concentration in the country.
Houston’s Memorial Hermann Hospital is the birth place of Life Flight™ (1976)
HOUSTON AREA TRAVEL
Traveling to Houston has never been easier. As the country’s fourth largest airport system, the Houston Airport System serves over 180 cities worldwide, with Bush Intercontinental Airport ranking fourth among U.S. airports for nonstop destinations.
Houston Airport System
- 4th largest multi-airport system in the country
- 21 airlines serve Bush and Hobby airports
- 49.5 million passengers traveled through the three airports in 2010
- 80 million passengers traveling through HAS are projected by 2020
- Serves 113 U.S. and 67 international destinations
- Houston is the primary gateway to Latin America—No. 1 in the nation in the number of weekly nonstop flights to Mexico.
- Wi-Fi Internet service is available at both Bush Intercontinental and Houston Hobby in most airport public areas, including gates, restaurants, ticketing and baggage claim.
- Houston ranked No. 1 by Travel + Leisure readers for America’s best airports (2009).
Bush Intercontinental Airport
- 20 miles from downtown Houston
- Nonstop service to 113 domestic destinations
- Nonstop or direct service to 67 international destinations
- Houston is the largest hub for the newly merged United Airlines, measured by daily departing seats available.
- More 670 daily departures
- Ranked No. 4 in the country for most scheduled nonstop destinations
- Ranked 8th in the U.S. for total passenger traffic
- Ranked 8th in the U.S. for international passenger traffic
- Ranked 18th in the world for total passenger traffic
- 17 passenger airlines
- 5 passenger terminals
- More than 10,000 acres
- More than 23,000 parking spaces
- New $440 million Terminal E and Federal Inspection Services (FIS) with 84 primary inspection booths that can process more than 4,500 passengers per hour
- One of 20 airports in the nation to deploy a Global Entry kiosk that can turn an hour wait in the customs line into an average of 40 seconds.
- Ranked No. 4 for customer satisfaction among large North American airports in a study by J.D. Power and Associates (2008)
- Voted the No. 4 airport in the country by readers of Global Traveler magazine (2008).
William P. Hobby Airport
- 11 miles from downtown Houston
- Served more than 9 million passengers in 2010
- One of Southwest Airlines’ largest hubs
- Nonstop service to more than 35 destinations throughout the U.S.
- Ranked 40th in the U.S. for total passenger traffic
- Ranked 150th in the world in total passenger traffic (out of 1336 ranked airports or in the top 11.2% range by total airport rankings)
- Acquired by the City of Houston in 1937
- Rated among the top five performing airports in the world by Airports Council International (2009)
- Ranked No. 2 for customer satisfaction among small North American airports in a study by J.D. Power and Associates (2008)
Houston’s Top five carriers and number of flights
- The new United – 4,238 weekly departures
- Southwest – 890 weekly departures
- Delta – 220 weekly departures
- American – 137 weekly departures
- US Airways – 93 weekly departures
TRAVEL AROUND HOUSTON
METRORail offers convenient accessible service within the heart of the city between downtown Houston and Reliant Park, including the Museum District and Texas Medical Center. The red line, which launched in 2004, is 7.5 miles long. One-way fare is $1.25. In FY 2007, boardings grew by 3.3 percent from the year before, including a single day weekday record of 64,448 passengers in March 2008. Click here for route and fare information.
METRO has continued work on finalizing the selection of preferred alignments for five new light rail lines. Construction began in 2008. Click here to view a map of the planned light rail lines, which are scheduled to be completed in 2012.
What is there to do in Houston along the METRORail? Click here to find out.
METRO offers several types of bus service in Houston.
Local service runs mostly on city streets, stopping at every other corner along its route. One-way fare is $1.25.
Park & Ride service is for long-distance commuting. METRO’s 28 Park & Ride lots provide bus service to key destinations in the service area. One-way fare ranges from $2 to $4.50, depending on distance.
Bus Fleet – 1,211
Service area – 1,285 square miles
Miles of light rail – 7.5
Planned additional miles of light rail – 30 (to be completed in 2012)
Local one-way fare – $1.25
Houston has more than 2,200 taxis in its fleet.
$6 Cab Fare Anywhere Downtown
The City of Houston has authorized a flat taxi fare of $6 for all trips in the downtown area. This $6 fare will apply anywhere within the Central Business District, bounded by Interstate 45, Interstate 10 and U.S. 59. The fare, in addition to increased downtown taxi stands, provides an easy alternative to driving to lunch, business meetings and activities throughout the downtown area. No surcharges will apply to the fare, which can accommodate multiple riders under the $6 total rate.
The number of downtown taxi stands have increased. These taxi stands are designated areas where cabs can “stand” and wait for a fare. Additionally, there are at least 30 “hailing cab” icons on various downtown streets, which mark that particular site as a three-minute zone where taxis can briefly stop to pick up and drop off passengers.
Approximate cab fares from George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH)
Reliant Park Area $54
Texas Medical Center $50
Greenway Plaza $50
Approximate cab fares from William P. Hobby Airport
Reliant Park Area $27
Texas Medical Center $27
Greenway Plaza $32
*Above rates include up to four people per cab.
Houston has a fleet of 30,000 rental cars with every major rental car company represented. Click here for a listing of GHCVB member rental car agencies.
Houston Highway System
Houston is well-served by a system of radial and ring highways that provide excellent access to markets outside the region.
In the Houston Consolidated Metropolitan Statistical Area (CMSA), 575.4 miles of freeways and expressways (55 percent of the planned system) are in operation.
Houston is the crossroads for Interstates 10 and 45. Other major highways serving Houston are Loop 610, U.S. 59, U.S. 290, U.S. 90, Texas 288, Texas 225, Hardy Toll Road, Sam Houston Tollway and the Grand Parkway (Texas 99).
Houston also lies along the route of the proposed I-69 NAFTA superhighway that will link Canada, the U.S. industrial mid-west, Texas and Mexico.
Every freeway in the city has at least two names, so it’s quite likely that visitors can be confused by this. Here’s a list to help associate the freeway names:
Beltway 8: Sam Houston Tollway
Interstate 10 West: Katy Freeway, West Freeway
Interstate 10 East: East Freeway
Interstate 45 North: North Freeway
Interstate 45 South: Gulf Freeway
Interstate 45 through Downtown: Pierce Elevated
Interstate 610: The Loop, often preceded by North, South, East or West
U.S. 59 North: Eastex Freeway
U.S. 59 South: Southwest Freeway, Sen. Lloyd Bentson Highway, Future Interstate Corridor, NAFTA Superhighway, I-69
U.S. 75: See Interstate 45
U.S. 90 East: Beaumont Highway
U.S. 90 West: See Interstate 10
U.S. 290: Northwest Freeway, Hempstead Highway
Texas 6: Highway 6, Addicks Howell Road, Alvin Sugar Land Road, Addicks Satsuma Road, Hempstead Road
Texas 3: Galveston Road
Texas 225: La Porte Freeway
Texas 249: Tomball Parkway
Texas 288: South Freeway, Nolan Ryan Expressway
Source: Greater Houston Partnership