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Houston to Do: What to do and see in Houston, Texas
Houston is Big, Really Big
If you're planning a trip through Houston, or if you're in town doing business or just looking for a road trip or weekend idea, there are plenty of things to do and see in Houston. Depending on your timetable and what part of town you're in you, there are many worthwhile sights, restaurants and scenes to check out. Houston is big, really big. With a surface area spanning over 600 miles Houston is bigger than New York City and Chicago....combined. As the fourth most populated city in the country, Houston also has a lot of people. Due to its proximity to Mexico, it's influence in the world energy markets, Houston is truly an international city. Consistently ranked as the top city for practically anything related to housing, employment, growth, affordability, etc....there is plenty this city has to offer. Keep in mind though, this is a working man's town, so tourism takes a back seat behind making money and saving a sinking US economy. With that said, there is still plenty to see and do to make a trip here worthwhile.
Overview of the Neighborhoods
Houston is divided geographically by direction, North, Northwest, West, Southwest and South, and Southeast. The majority of the population lives in these locations. The areas to the NorthEast and East are primarily less populated as they are closer to the industrial heart of the city.
Galleria Ice Rink
Anchored by the Houston Galleria, this district located just outside of loop 610 about 10 miles West of downtown, is home to the largest mall in Texas, and 8th largest mall in the United States. This area is the retail hub of the city and as a result, is a popular place to stay. Due to the trendiness of the area, you'll find all of your high end retail shops, some of the best restaurants and plenty of things see.
The Galleria Mall itself, located on Westheimer and Post Oak Blvd, in itself can keep you busy for hours. The hallmark of the mall, is its ice rink, that is open year round.
Another site to behold while you're in the area is the Houston Waterwall. The waterwall is a 180 degree fountain the stands 64 feet tall and rushes water down from dawn till dusk.
The Galleria is marked by these unique silver arches that line the streets and silver rings used for street signs. During Christmas, this is the hub for Houston as all of the streets are lined with Christmas Trees, lights and decorations. This truly is a beautiful part of the city, and gives you a sense of the wealth provided by the oil industry.
Also keep in mind, fun fact, that Williams Tower, which stands 64 stories tall, is the largest skyscraper in the US not in a central business district, although, the Galleria does have more office space than most US cities have for their entire downtown.
Check out the waterwall
Take a drive down Westheimer and Post Oak Blvd
Shop, Shop, Shop.
Houston Galleria Arches
The Menil Collection
Rain Forest Conservatory
Houston Museum District
Located just South of downtown Houston, the Museum District is the place to go for the culture of the city. Once you drive through Herman circle, you'll feel that you're no longer in this corporate all about business city and immediately get a sense of calm. This area is lined with 100 year old oak tree's and really is the old part of the city. Boasting over 19 different museums, it is easy to spend a day here. If you're short on time however, there are 2 must-see museums. The Menil Art Museum and the Conservatory at the Museum of Natural Science.
The Menil Collection. What makes this museum special, is that it is the personal collection of one family, the de Menil's and they offer their display to the public, for free. The collection includes paintings from Matisse, Picasso, Magritte as well as some out of this world pop art.
The second choice, would be to skip the Museum of Natural Science, but visit the Conservatory. This indoor rain forest boasts dozens of free flying butterfly species. Fun fact. there are more butterfly species found in Houston than anywhere in the United States.
Hermann Park Houston Museum District
Houston Medical Center
The Houston Medical center is a sight to see, simply because it is the largest centralized medical center in the world. By pure square footage, the medical center is the 8th largest business district in the US behind Philadelphia and Seattle.Located adjacent to the Museum district. This is the place to be if you're not feeling so well. Also in the area, are some beautiful fountains and common areas.
Clear Lake and NASA
Continuing South of the city, if you head down US 45 about 20 miles, you come to the suburb of Clear Lake. Home to NASA Space Center and Kemah, a trip down this way makes for an entertaining day. At NASA you can take a tour around mission control, and get a sense for the history of the space program. You can then head over to the Kemah Boardwalk for some coastal cuisine and shopping. If you're looking to avoid the tourist trap, this probably won't be for you, but it is nice to eat right on the water and watch the boats and eat some oysters.
A Typical River Oaks Estate
River Oaks and Memorial Drive
If you've never been to Houston, I suggest you take a drive down Memorial Park from the Beltway 8 west, straight through Memorial, River Oaks and then onto Allen Parkway. This truly is where the money is in this city and million dollar homes line both sides of the street for almost 15 miles. It truly is a remarkable sight to see 20,000, 30,000 square foot homes one after another, after another. Starting West of the City, enter Memorial Drive heading East from the Beltway. You'll come upon the Galleria district but keep going under loop 610 into Memorial Park. The droughts of 2011 severely damaged the trees in this park, but it still is a popular park to run, jog, play golf or simply get some fresh air. After you get through Memorial park, take a left on Kirby until you reach the Allen Parkway. The treat from this road is that you come up a hill, around a turn, and then out of nowhere you find yourself right at the doorstep of the Houston Skyline screaming out at you. It truly is a breathtaking sight if you enjoy skyline views.
View from Allen Parkway
Houston Theater District
Downtown Theater District
Now that you're downtown, check out one of the Broadway shows playing in Houston. Covering 17 blocks and over a dozen stages, Houston ranks 2nd only behind New York City as the largest theater district in the United States.
City Center and Highland Village
Two of the more popular and trendy areas for the refined professionals crowd are City Center located in the West side of town near the Beltway and I-10 and Highland Village, inside the loop 610 off Westheimer. Both of these areas offer very trendy restaurants and bars with abundant outdoor dining options to enjoy a nice warm summer night.
These areas a designed for pedestrians with parking on the outside of the "City" and dining in the middle and down the pedestrian streets.
City Center Houston
Located to the North of Houston, The Woodlands is a master planned community that simply is designed perfectly to balance suburban life with a big city feel. While technically independent of Houston, many locals live in the Woodlands and work in Houston. Directly North on US 45, the Woodlands boasts tremendous shopping and dining venues, all connected by a waterway, similar to the San Antonio river walk. Easily a place you can spend an afternoon and evening if you want to get away. The Cynthia Woods Pavilion, tucked underneath the towering pine trees in the area hosts many popular music artists and events.
The Woodlands Waterway
Minute Maid Park
Sports Sports and more Sports
Houston is home to several professional sports teams. The Rockets, Astros, Texans and Dynamo representing the NBA, MLB, NFL and MLS. Each time plays in an arena or stadium that are all state of the art, built in the 2000s with the latest technology. The Toyota Center where the Rockets play, boasts the largest video board in the NBA, while the Texans are in the process of constructing the largest video board in the US. While there may not be on the field success, going to one of these venues is as good as it gets in each respective league. The fan experience is top notch.
Antique Shopping: Montrose and Old Town Spring
Houston can be eclectic. There is a high concentration of antique shops located on Westheimer near Montrose. It is easy to park your car, and walk from shop to shop and browse antiques and then find something to eat in the numerous places in the area. A favorite would be Empire Cafe where every Monday is half-off cake.
To become even more inundated, venture North on US 45 and head to Old Town Spring. Old Town Spring is a 100 + year old small town of primarily pedestrian streets that span almost 20 blocks. There are literally dozens of small shops and boutiques selling almost everything and anything imaginable. Grab some Chicken Fried Steak at Wunsche Bro's or some fried cheesecake at one of the street vendors.
Montrose Antique Shops
Joel Osteen and Lakewood Church
In what used to be the Compact Center where the Houston Rockets played, you'll find Joel Osteen and his mega church, Lakewood Church. It's worth it just to go and hear Joel, and best of all, it's free. Surprising, for 14,000 people at a church service, parking is relatively easy. Best bet, go on a Wednesday or Saturday night, or 8:30am on a Sunday and it will only be a third full. The music is great, and Joel is easily one of the most energetic and inspiring people of our time. Definitely worth the trip.
Be Careful. Traffic is really this bad
Houston is spread out in concentric rings. You have downtown which is wrapped around by US 45 and US 59, then completely circled by loop 610, which is then further completely circled by the Beltway. There are roads running straight through the city and diagonally in each direction and no matter where you are going, if you leave between 7am - 9am and 4pm -6pm, plan on giving yourself an hour. Because Houston sprawls over 600 square miles, Houston is a very car friendly, rather, truck friendly city. Everyone drives everywhere. Public transportation is limited, although you can make it work if you plan ahead. Ideally, for ease of your visit, it would be best to rent a car. The good thing is, the roads are huge so it is easy to get around.
Houston Weather: Hot Hot Hot
If you like Hot and Muggy weather, Houston is your place. From May until September, the forecast is easy. Upper 90's, Lows in the 70's, mostly sunny and sporadic rain. Unlike Florida which typically gets a few popcorn showers in the afternoon, Houston will go a two or three weeks in a row without rain with scorching heat and humidity blown up from the Gulf of Mexico. Consider this though, while Northerner's stay indoors during the winter months, most Houstonians simply stay in the AC during summer months. On the flip side, if you're visiting between October and April, weather can be hit or miss, but usually is in the 60's to 70's, with an occasional cold front dipping down into the low 40's for a day or two. But generally, it is shorts weather year round.