==== Public transport from the airport ====
==== Public transport from the airport ====
| || |
Generally speaking given the sprawled out nature of Houston and the lack of public transit, most visitors to Houston rent a car as soon as they arrive at the airport. Regarding public transit at either George Bush Intercontinental Airport or Hobby Airport you basically are stuck with using
a either a shuttle service, taxis, or the public bus service. To get from George Bush Intercontinental Airport using the local bus system, Metro Bus 102 [http://www.ridemetro.org/SchedulesMaps/Pdfs/102-iah.pdf] picks up on the south side of Terminal C street level (baggage claim) and goes directly into Downtown. To get from Hobby Airport to Downtown take either Metro Bus 88 [http://www.ridemetro.org/schedulesmaps/Pdfs/088-hobby.pdf] or Metro Bus 50 [http://www.ridemetro.org/SchedulesMaps/Pdfs/050-harrisburg.pdf] which stops at Curbzone 13 outside of the baggage claim area in the lower level. Alternatively if you are heading from Hobby Airport to either the Texas Medical Center, Rice Village, Upper Kirby, or the Uptown/Galleria area you can take Metro Bus 73 [http://www.ridemetro.org/schedulesmaps/Pdfs/073-bellfort.pdf] which runs directly to those areas avoiding Downtown. If you are heading directly from either airport to a cruise ship many companies will also run shuttles directly from either airport to the cruise ship terminals in Galveston or Bayport. |+|
Generally speaking given the sprawled out nature of Houston and the lack of public transit, most visitors to Houston rent a car as soon as they arrive at the airport. Regarding public transit at either George Bush Intercontinental Airport or Hobby Airport you basically are stuck with using either a shuttle service, taxis, or the public bus service. To get from George Bush Intercontinental Airport using the local bus system, Metro Bus 102 [http://www.ridemetro.org/SchedulesMaps/Pdfs/102-iah.pdf] picks up on the south side of Terminal C street level (baggage claim) and goes directly into Downtown. To get from Hobby Airport to Downtown take either Metro Bus 88 [http://www.ridemetro.org/schedulesmaps/Pdfs/088-hobby.pdf] or Metro Bus 50 [http://www.ridemetro.org/SchedulesMaps/Pdfs/050-harrisburg.pdf] which stops at Curbzone 13 outside of the baggage claim area in the lower level. Alternatively if you are heading from Hobby Airport to either the Texas Medical Center, Rice Village, Upper Kirby, or the Uptown/Galleria area you can take Metro Bus 73 [http://www.ridemetro.org/schedulesmaps/Pdfs/073-bellfort.pdf] which runs directly to those areas avoiding Downtown. If you are heading directly from either airport to a cruise ship many companies will also run shuttles directly from either airport to the cruise ship terminals in Galveston or Bayport.
| || |
Revision as of 06:56, 24 August 2014
- Houston is a huge city with several district articles containing sightseeing, restaurant, nightlife and accommodation listings — have a look at each of them.
Houston is the largest city in Texas and the fourth largest in the United States. Apart from its population, it is also huge in terms of square miles. While urban sprawl is synonymous with Houston, the districts closest to Downtown offer visitors a vast array of choices in a relatively small area. Houston is multicultural and diverse, home to some of the nation's largest Latino, African American and Asian American populations. It boasts an eclectic museum and arts scene, vibrant shopping, and has become a burgeoning destination for food lovers.
The city is divided into districts which are outgrowths of the original six wards which defined the city from 1840 to 1900:
|| Downtown (Skyline District, Theater District, Historic District, Warehouse District)|
Center of the city, still the home of high finance and big business. Houston is second only to New York City in corporate headquarters of Fortune 500 companies. Many of them are located downtown including some of the world's largest energy companies. Downtown Houston also boasts the second largest theater district in the United States and the city has world class permanent organizations such as the Houston Symphony, Alley Theatre, Theatre Under the Stars and Houston Ballet. The Houston Pavilions entertainment district opened in October 2008 between Main St. and the Toyota Center.
|| Neartown (Montrose, Midtown, EaDo-East End)|
Ideally bordered by Midtown, Heights, River Oaks, and the Medical Center. Montrose is Houston's longtime home of its LGBT population. Lower Westheimer (Westheimer in between Montrose Blvd. and Shepherd) offers an array of resale fashion shops, eclectic shopping as well as antique stores. The gay nightlife is centered around Pacific St. and surrounding streets. Many Montrose neighborhood pubs attract an eclectic and diverse crowd.
|| North Loop (The Heights, Washington Corridor)|
A large district of gingerbread Victorian homes as well as early 20th Century bungalows. Like its sister neighborhood Montrose, The Heights is home to a diverse population from artists and musicians to wealthy professionals. Parts of the Heights are still dry, fostering a large number of BYOB restaurants ideal for those who enjoy their own selected wine.
|| South Loop (South Main, Museum District, Med Center)|
To the south and east of downtown lie Rice University, the many attractions of Hermann Park, Reliant Stadium, and the Texas Medical Center (or just "the med center"), including some of the world's best hospitals. The Rice Village is a highly concentrated area of restaurants, bars, and shopping.
|| West Loop (Uptown, River Oaks, Upper Kirby & Greenway, West U)|
Uptown or The Galleria Area is known for its namesake, a huge high-end shopping mall complex and has the tallest building in the United States outside of a main downtown area, the Williams tower. Nearby River Oaks is home to Houston's most exclusive and affluent neighborhoods and businesses, home to eye-popping mansions and the River Oaks Shopping Center, one of America's first suburban shopping districts and a great display of Art Deco architecture. This area has many great restaurants, vibrant nightlife, and infamous traffic jams during peak hours.
|| Outside 610 (West Houston, East Houston, North Houston)|
Off-the-beaten-track, these areas have plenty to offer for the patient traveler including NASA/Space Center Houston, nature centers and interesting day trips.
Houston is the largest city in the United States without any appreciable zoning. While there is some small measure of zoning in the form of ordinances, deed restrictions, and land use regulations, real estate development in Houston is only constrained by the will and the pocketbook of real estate developers. Traditionally, Houston politics and law are strongly influenced by real estate developers; at times, the majority of city council seats have been held by developers.
The city is primarily built on the oil industry. What this means to the visitors is that, although the city has several good cultural and tourist destinations due to its population, there aren't as many as expected for a city of over 2 million people. Houston's large population comes partly from the fact that it encompasses a whopping 600 square miles of land area, much larger in land area than New York City (300 square miles), Los Angeles (460 square miles), and Chicago (225 square miles) -the nation's three most populous cities- yet Houston has less population. Another noticeable fact, unlike most major cities around the country, Houston has relatively few suburbs surrounding it. This is because the city government tends to annex any substanial population centers that grow near it, evident in Houston's land area of 600 square miles. Such a spread out low-density city means a car is essential for getting around the area efficiently. However, Houston's concentration of attractions lay, more specifically, in between downtown and the Galleria.
The Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau operates the Houston Visitors Center,. The center is located in the heart of downtown Houston at 901 Bagby (corner of Bagby and Walker St.), on the first floor of the historic City Hall. Find information on Houston's history, attractions, restaurants, hotels, directions, maps, purchase Houston merchandise and watch an 11-minute film on Houston. You'll find over 10,000 brochures and magazines to help plan your visit to the Houston area. The center is open Monday - Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
| Daily highs (°F)
| Nightly lows (°F)
| Precipitation (in)
Check Houston's 7 day forecast at NOAA
Houston's climate generally ranges from a very hot summer to a mild winter. Humidity is high in the summer months and make temperatures feel extremely hot. The city also has a fairly large amount of rainy and cloudy days throughout the year. The months of October to April make for the best time to visit in order to avoid the heat.
George Bush Intercontinental Airport Terminals
|| Air Canada, Alaska Airlines, American, Delta, Frontier, Spirit, United, US Airways
|| Aeromexico, Air China, Air France, Avianca, British Airways, Emirates, KLM, Korean Air, Lufthansa, Qatar Airways, Scandinavian Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Turkish Airlines, United, Viva Aerobus
||United (International & Domestic)
George Bush Intercontinental Airport
Houston is served by two major commercial airports and two smaller regional airports.
The large airports are:
- George Bush Intercontinental Airport, (IATA: IAH) . The larger of the two airports and is located 23 miles north of downtown near Beltway 8, between IH-45 North and US-59 North. It is the largest hub for United Airlines and serves 21 domestic and international airlines.
- William P. Hobby Airport, (IATA: HOU) . Located 7 miles south of downtown and is located off of I-45 South. It is convenient if you're travelling downtown or south of the city, such as to Galveston. Its main carrier is Southwest Airlines, and it also served by Delta Airlines, American Airlines, and JetBlue.
The smaller airports are:
- Sugar Land Regional Airport, (IATA: SGR) . Located 25 miles southwest of downtown on TX 6, just north of U.S. 59. It is a popular choice among the well-heeled corporate aircraft set.
- Ellington Field, (IATA: EFD) . Located 19 miles southeast of downtown, just off I-45. Formerly an air force base, now used for general aviation, non-passenger commercial traffic, and government aviation (NASA, Texas Air National Guard, U.S. Coast Guard).
The following companies have locations at George Bush Intercontinental Airport and Hobby Airport:
- Advantage Rent A Car
- Enterprise 
- Hertz 
Public transport from the airport
Generally speaking given the sprawled out nature of Houston and the lack of public transit, most visitors to Houston rent a car as soon as they arrive at the airport. Regarding public transit at either George Bush Intercontinental Airport or Hobby Airport you basically are stuck with using either a shuttle service, taxis, or the public bus service. To get from George Bush Intercontinental Airport using the local bus system, Metro Bus 102  picks up on the south side of Terminal C street level (baggage claim) and goes directly into Downtown. To get from Hobby Airport to Downtown take either Metro Bus 88  or Metro Bus 50  which stops at Curbzone 13 outside of the baggage claim area in the lower level. Alternatively if you are heading from Hobby Airport to either the Texas Medical Center, Rice Village, Upper Kirby, or the Uptown/Galleria area you can take Metro Bus 73  which runs directly to those areas avoiding Downtown. If you are heading directly from either airport to a cruise ship many companies will also run shuttles directly from either airport to the cruise ship terminals in Galveston or Bayport.
- Amtrak, 902 Washington Ave, . Amtrak's Sunset Limited line is the only passenger train route with a stop in Houston, although a daily bus provides a direct connection from the Houston Amtrak station to the Texas Eagle at Longview.
Houston's major freeways include:
- IH-45 North ("North Freeway"): To Dallas
- IH-45 South ("Gulf Freeway"): To Galveston
- IH-10 West ("Katy Freeway"): To San Antonio
- IH-10 East: ("Baytown/East Freeway", not to be confused with "Eastex freeway") to Beaumont
- IH-610 ("The Loop"): Loop around downtown
- US-59 South ("Southwest Freeway"): to Victoria
- US-59 North ("Eastex Freeway"): to Lufkin
- US-290 West ("Northwest Freeway"): to Austin
- SH-249 North ("Tomball Parkway"): to Tomball
- SH-288 South ("South Freeway"): to Freeport
- SH-225 East ("Pasadena Freeway"): to Deer Park/La Porte
- BW-8 ("The Beltway/Sam Houston Tollway"): Loop about twice as far out as IH-610.
Approximate distance to nearby cities (in miles):
- Greyhound Lines, .
- Downtown station, 2121 Main St.
- Crosstimbers Station, 4001 North Freeway.
- Northwest, 1500 West Loop North.
- Southeast, 7000 Harrisburg Blvd.
- Southwest, 5690 Southwest Freeway.
- Autobus Americanos, . Mexican trans-border bus line with services to various points in Mexico. Operated by Greyhound in the U.S. and Grupo Estrella Blanaca  in Mexico.
- Harrisburg, 7700 Harrisburg Blvd.
- Southwest, Hillcroft at Southwest Freeway (US 59)
- Starline,  . Express city to city bus service with routes direct to College Station.
- Downtown station, 1201 San Jacinto St (San Jacinto & Polk St)
- Megabus, . Low-cost bus line with service from Dallas, San Antonio, Austin, and New Orleans via Baton Rouge. Fares from $1 and up.
- Downtown, 815 Pierce St (north of Travis St). They also have additional stops at Door 5 of Katy Mills Mall (by Sun & Ski Sports) @ 5000 Katy Mills Circle, Katy; and a Select Shell Station/Store @ 13250 FM 1960 W (FM 1960 & US Hwy 290W). Please look at the ticket as to which stop you need to go to before heading out. The same bus may not stop at all three stops.
- El Expreso, . Goes south to Brownsville/Matamoros; Monterrey via Laredo/Nuevo Laredo; & McAllen/Hidalgo. Goes north to Chicago via Luftkin, Texarkana, Little Rock & Memphis on one route and direct to Dallas on another. Goes east to Mobile. One route goes north from Mobile up to Raleigh via Atlanta, Gainsville, Greenville & Charlotte while the other goes towards Florida.
- Downtown station, 2201 Main St.
- Harrisburg, 7701 Harrisburg Blvd.
- Turimex Internacional, . Mexican trans-border bus line with services to various points in northern Mexico and the US states of Texas, Illinois, Tennessee, Georgia, North & South Carolina, and Mississippi.
- Harrisburg, 7011 Harrisburg Blvd.
- Southwest, 6590C South West Fwy @ Hillcroft & Southwest Freeway (US 59)
- Omnibus Mexicanos, . Mexican trans-border bus line with services to various points in Mexico.
- Third Ward, 3200 Telephone Rd.
You can get to Houston easily from Mexico (from as far as Mexico City and Michoacan) on a bus. In the bus stations of many major cities in Mexico you will see buses advertised to go to Houston.
There are many private bus companies in Houston that exclusively serve Mexico.
Houston has a number of freeways and tollways that make getting around the metro area by car fairly easy. The expressway system is arguably the second-most comprehensive in the nation, after that of Los Angeles (see list of freeways under the "Get in" section.) A number of obstacles, however, can make driving in Houston a less than pleasant experience. One is construction, which seems to be ever-present; and the other is traffic. Evening rush hour in Houston begins as early as 4PM and can last to 7PM. Morning rush hour is between 7AM and 9AM. During rush hour, traffic on the highways can come to a halt. The area near the Galleria, between US-59 and IH-10, is an area you should avoid during rush hour if possible.
One peculiarity about Houston's freeway system is the ubiquity of frontage roads, or, as they're called by the locals, feeders. These are pairs of one-way surface roads which run parallel to several freeways in Houston and its suburbs, similar to what are called service roads in other parts of the country. The most basic thing to remember is that, after you've turned onto a feeder road from a surface street, you'll have to take another ramp to enter the freeway. Rest assured, they're easy to navigate once you get used to it. *Houston Traffic Map 
- The freeways system 
Some freeways have limited-access lanes located in the median strip of the highway, generally called HOV (High-Occupancy Vehicle) Lanes. These lanes usually can't be entered directly from the feeder roads, so using them usually requires finding a METRO Park-and-Ride. Google Maps doesn't seem to know they exist, but if you can navigate METRO's HOV maps, these traffic-free lanes can save you a lot of time if heading to or from downtown during rush hour.
The HOV lanes are generally operational Monday - Friday. In the morning morning hours (5AM - 11AM) they run inbound, and in the afternoon and evening (from 2PM - 8PM), outbound. The HOV lanes are generally restricted to cars with 2 or more passengers, but the Northwest freeway's HOV lanes require 3 or more passengers during peak travel periods (6:45-8AM). The HOV lanes can be marked with signs bearing a white diamond on a black background, or, more recently, with signs bearing a green strip saying "Express lane" at the top. Highways with HOV lanes are: I-45 North, I-45 South, US-59 North, US-59 South, I-10 West (Katy Freeway), and US-290.
Recently, The Katy Freeway HOV lanes have been expanded into the Katy Freeway Managed Lanes, a 24-hour multi-lane HOV with paid Single-Occupancy Vehicle access cost-adjusted based on HOV usage. In addition, METRO has announced a program to allow Single-Occupant Vehicles onto HOV lanes with the payment of a toll. More information about these new HOT Lanes can be found at the aptly-named ihatehoustontraffic.com.
Note: The Sam Houston (except for the 13 mile Northeast section) and Hardy Tollways are the only toll-roads that allow cash payment of tolls at toll plazas. All other toll-roads, including managed lanes, require a pre-paid RFID "EZ Tag." Cash toll plazas accept coins from $0.05 up to $20 bills and do not accept credit or debit cards.
- HOV lane map & schedule 
- Katy Managed Lanes on Harris County Toll Road Authority website 
By public transportation
The Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County, better known as METRO , operates local and express bus lines, as well as the new and very popular light rail line called METRORail . Visitors may be able to get around without a car, especially if they stick close to downtown, but ample free and cheap parking, combined with Houston's suburban sprawl, make public transit an unpopular choice for Houstonians themselves.
All METRO fares can be paid with exact change in coins and $1 bills, or with the recently-implemented reloadable fare smartcard, the Q Card. Q Cards can be obtained for free at METRO's RideStore downtown, and at many local supermarkets, usually at the same service center you'd go to to cash a check or send a wire transfer. Oddly enough, the machines at Park & Ride lots and METRORail stations do not sell Q Cards, so bring exact change or buy your Q Card before boarding. There are four options for re-filling your Q Card:
- Credit Vending Machines in Park & Ride lots, which accept credit and debit cards
- Ticket Vending Machines at METRORail stations, which accept both cash and credit cards
- Bus Reloaders at the back of every local bus. These are a bit counterintuitive to use, but once you get them, they're quite simple. Insert a bill, and then place your card in the slot. These machines take $1, $5, $10, and $20 bills, and will reload only one bill at a time.
- Places where cards can be bought: any store that sells Q Cards can also reload the card for you—just ask at the service desk! Most grocery chains and many convenience stores sell Q Cards.
If you're brave enough to see Houston from the back seat of a bus, a Q Card is definitely worth the investment, as it's the only way to obtain transfers from one route to the other. Unlike other systems, which require you to transfer at a central point, or only give you a short amount of time to switch buses, METRO gives you unlimited, free transfers for a full three hours after boarding the first bus. No need to ask the driver for a transfer—just tap your Q Card like you would normally. The computer will make sure you pay the least amount possible.
METRORail is a 12.8-mile (20.6 km) light rail line that runs between downtown, midtown, the museum district, the Medical Center, Reliant Park, and the Fannin South Park & Ride (which is a handy place to park and is located near the 610 loop). It costs $1.25 for a one-way ticket. (Also see the stay safe section.)
- Outside of Downtown, don't expect to catch a taxi on the streets, but there are various cab stands located at various parts of downtown proper. Taxis in Houston are generally dispatched by various companies.
Traveling via a limousine has become more popular lately. Many Houston limousine companies offer full ground transportation options such as town cars, classic cars, stretch limos and luxury vehicles that can be utilized for special occasions like airport transportation, parties, school dances, business functions and weddings. Consider hiring a limousine service to handle your travel needs.
Houston is so spread out and (most of the time) humid and hot that bicycles are often best used for exercise or to get to somewhere that is closeby. On the other hand, if you have a little bit of stamina and perseverance, Downtown, Midtown, Rice, Uptown and the Medical Center/Hermann Park/Museum District area are within a 30 minute ride. Multi-modal transportation is also possible, since all city buses have easy to use racks in the front or storage compartments that can get traveler and bicycle near to a final destination.
The city of Houston has 290 miles of marked bike routes, plus another 80 miles of hike and bike trails in city parks, with concrete plans for even more expansion. For more information on the Houston Bikeway program, including a complete map of all marked bike paths, visit the City of Houston Bikeway Program website .
Houston, like many American cities, is diverse. As the state's largest city and the nation's fourth largest, Houston is home to more than 100 languages. Signs can be found in Spanish, Vietnamese and Chinese, among others, but English is the lingua franca. Knowing some Spanish may help in certain neighborhoods, but most people will speak English.
Travelers planning to visit multiple attractions may benefit from Houston CityPASS , which grants admission to 6 Houston attractions within 9 days of first use for a much reduced rate and includes expedited entry in some cases. The included attractions are: Space Center Houston; Downtown Aquarium; Houston Museum of Natural Science; Houston Zoo; Option Ticket One with choice of either Museum of Fine Arts or The Children's Museum of Houston and Option Ticket Two with choice of either George Ranch Historical Park or The Health Museum.
- Memorial Park, 6501 Memorial Dr., . 6:00am - 11:00pm. Memorial Park is Houston's premier urban park. The park's 2.88-mile jogging trail is very popular with runners and walkers year-round. The park also has miles of mountain bike trails, several tennis courts, and other options for outdoor recreation. Free.
- Hermann Park, ☎ 713-524-5876 (fax: 713-524-5887), . Approximately 455 acres (about half the size of Central Park in New York City). George Hermann gave the parkland to the City of Houston in 1914. It is accessible via the MetroRail. Encompasses the Miller Outdoor Theater, the Houston Zoo, the Houston Museum of Natural Science, and the Hermann Park Golf Course.
Events & Festivals
- iFest, . April. iFest is a contemporary, multi-disciplinary, multi-cultural arts and music festival held annually. The festival features vendors selling local and international foods and crafts. iFest also features six to eight arts markets with more than 400 artists including a juried art market. varies.
- Houston Gay Pride Parade, . June. Houston's own Gay Pride Parade currently the most attended and largest gay pride event in the Southwest region, held in the Montrose neighborhood. free.
- Art Car Parade, Runs along Allen Parkway, . May. A parade that must be seen to be believed. For example, last year there were cupcake motorcycles, fire breathing chicken cars, and many other spectacular cars. There are vendors nearby selling water, hats, and food as well. It can get very hot! Free.
- Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, Reliant Park, . Feb-Mar. The world's largest entertainment and livestock exhibition. Concerts, rodeo competitions, livestock shows, BBQ competitions, and a carnival. Houston residents celebrate this event with Go Texan Day, where they dress in western wear the Friday before the rodeo begins. Varies.
- Houston Astros, 510 Crawford St.., ☎ +1 713-259-8000, . The city's Major League Baseball team, playing at Minute Maid Park in downtown, moved to the American League in 2013 after a half-century in the National League.
- Houston Texans, Two Reliant Park, ☎ +1 866-GO TEXANS (468-3926) (fax: +1 832-667-2191), . Houston's National Football League (NFL) team plays at Reliant Stadium in the South Loop area, next to the now-vacant Astrodome.
- Houston Rockets, 1510 Polk St., ☎ +1 713-627-DUNK (3865) or +1 877-NBA-ROCKETS (622-7625), . The city's NBA (basketball) team plays downtown at the Toyota Center.
- Houston Dynamo, 1001 Avenida de las Americas, Ste. 200, ☎ +1 713-276-GOAL (4625) (firstname.lastname@example.org, fax: +1 713-276-7572), . Houston's Major League Soccer team opened BBVA Compass Stadium in May 2012. Located in the East End, it is the first major soccer-specific stadium in the US in a downtown area.
- Houston Dash, 1001 Avenida de las Americas, Ste. 200, ☎ +1 713-276-GOAL (4625) (email@example.com, fax: +1 713-276-7572), . Women's soccer comes to Houston in April 2014 with the Dash, the newest member of the National Women's Soccer League. The team is owned by the Dynamo and also plays at BBVA Compass Stadium.
Houston has four universities whose sports teams play in the top-level NCAA Division I:
- Houston Cougars, . The teams representing the city's largest school, the University of Houston, became members of the American Athletic Conference in July 2013. Most athletic venues are on campus, with the best-known current venue being Hofheinz Pavilion (basketball). The former football stadium, Robertson Stadium, has been torn down; a new stadium will open on the site in 2014.
- Rice Owls, . Rice University, the city's most prominent private school, has remained in Conference USA during the near-constant conference changes in the early 2010s. As with UH, Rice's main venues are on campus, among them Rice Stadium (football), Tudor Fieldhouse (basketball), and Reckling Park (baseball).
- Texas Southern Tigers, . Especially of interest to African American visitors, or those interested in African American culture, are the teams representing Texas Southern University, the city's historically black university. The Tigers compete with other historically black schools in the Southwestern Athleitc Conference. Unlike Houston and Rice, whose football teams play in the top-level FBS, Texas Southern football is in the second-level FCS. Most venues are also on campus, but the football team plays off-campus; it shares BBVA Compass Stadium with the Dynamo, and occasionally uses Reliant Stadium.
- Houston Baptist Huskies, . Houston Baptist University, a relatively new addition to Division I, is located in the Sharpstown area along the Southwest Freeway. The Huskies moved to the Southland Conference, an FCS-level league, in July 2013, and began sponsoring football at that time.
Theater and Performing Arts
The lively performing arts culture of Houston includes professional, community and university-based dance, opera, broadway musical, chamber and symphonic music groups, featuring both classical and pops programming. Theater is active in Houston and includes the Tony Award-winning Alley Theatre. Most professional theater is centered in the Theater District[http://downtownhouston.org/district/theater/, but companies are located in many neartown neighborhoods and suburbs.
The major downtown performing arts venues include The Wortham Center  The Hobby Center  Jones Hall  and The Alley Theatre. 
Houston is home to Rice University, one of the most highly regarded private universities in the country. The wooded campus is noted for its beautiful architecture and public art, including James Turrell's "Twilight Ephiphany." Houston's largest public university is the University of Houston, home to the Blaffer Museum of Art. The campus of the University of St. Thomas is located near the Menil Collection and Rothko Chapel and was designed by Pritzker Award-winning architect Philip Johnson. The Campus of Texas Southern University is located in Southeast Houston. Baylor College of Medicine and the medical school of the University of Texas are located in the Medical Center.
The Houston unemployment rate is below the national average. Among large metropolitan areas, job creation rates in Houston are among the highest in the nation. In addition because of the oil and gas industry, Houston has the second largest concentration of Fortune 500 companies in the US, second only to New York City.
Many of the shopping malls are concentrated to the west of downtown in Uptown.
In general, prices in Houston are lower than in other major US cities.
A very popular place to go shopping in Houston is the Houston Galleria. The Galleria is the largest mall in Texas and the ninth largest in the United States. They have anything you could ever think of and more. At the Galleria you can find people shopping at high end stores such as, Bebe, Coach, Neiman Marcus, Cartier, Gucci, Macy's, Tiffany & Co., Saks Fifth Avenue, The Sharper Image, Ralph Lauren Collection, Louis Vuitton and Nordstrom. You can also find people ice skating in the ice rink on the bottom floor. Also, you will find nail salons, 375 fine stores and restaurants. And to top it off at the Galleria there are two Westin hotels. The Galleria is widely recognized as the number one shopping and tourist destination in Houston. 
In southwest Houston just beyond the Loop is where the Asian bazaar meets American suburb. This fascinating area is simultaneously adventure shopping and an exploration into the brave new world of postmodern America. First, drive down Harwin Drive between Fondren and Gessner and you will see store after store and strip mall after strip mall selling jewelry, designer clothes, sunglasses, perfumes, furniture, luggage, and handbags. Most stores are run by Indian, Pakistani, Chinese, and Thai shopkeepers, but other cultures are represented, too. Occasionally one will get raided for selling designer knockoffs. Everything is said to be at bargain-basement rates, but buyer beware. Farther out, on Bellaire Boulevard in the middle of a large commercial Chinatown, is an all-Chinese mall, where you can get just about anything Chinese, including tapes and CDs, books, food and cooking items, of course, and wonderful knickknacks.
19th Street in the Heights is a walkable shopping district with a small-town feel. It features several antique and retail clothing shops, a Mexican handi-craft store and a number of boutiques. Several restaurants and coffeeshops nearby make the area a good afternoon destination.
- Jubilee, 321 W 19th St Ste A, Houston, TX, ☎ (713) 869-5885.
- Retropolis, 321 W 19th St Houston, TX 77008, ☎ (713) 861-1950.
- Casa Ramirez Imports, 241 W 19th St Houston, TX 77008, ☎ (713) 880-2420, .
- Grace Hart Antiques, 313 W 19th St Houston, TX 77008, ☎ (713) 862-1010.
- Replay on 19th, 373 W 19th St Houston, TX 77008, ☎ (713) 863-9344.
Groceries and other basics
The major supermarket chains in Houston are Kroger, Randall's (which is owned by Safeway), H-E-B, and Fiesta Mart. In addition the nation's largest discount store chain, Walmart, has several stores in Houston most of which are also open 24 hours and most Kroger stores in Houston are also open 24 hours as well. In addition many specialty and organic supermarkets such as Whole Foods Market, Central Market, Sprouts Farmers Market, and Trader Joe's can also be found throughout the area.
Due to it's huge expat and immigrant population, Houston also features a large variety of ethnic grocery stores, including Indian, Filipino, Pakistani, Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese, and of course, Mexican.
Houston has outstanding dining options, and is widely considered the most restaurant-oriented city in the United States, with a thriving community of ethnic restaurants, superb Tex-Mex, classic Texas steakhouses and Gulf Coast seafood, as well as chain restaurants. Houston's fine dining scene has exploded in recent years, with Downtown, Montrose, Midtown, and the Heights (including the Washington Corridor) as the epicenter of what's hot-and-happening now.
Although high-quality, authentic Mexican food can be found just about anywhere in the city (for some of the best surprises, stop by any nondescript taqueria and order nearly anything at random), the best ethnic dining is generally found in West Houston - in particular the area west of Highway 59 and south of I-10, with everything from Middle Eastern to Ethiopian to Bosnian. The bustling Mahatma Gandhi District around Hillcroft St. is the place to go for top-notch Indian and Pakistani cuisine. In years past, you'd go east of Downtown or to Midtown for your Chinese or Vietnamese fix (respectively); nowadays the new Chinatown (or sometimes "Asiatown" which locate on Bellaire Blvd. at Beltway 8) is the new one-stop shop for your cravings. Lying just north of I-10, Long Point Drive and North Gessner sport crowded Korean joints, fantastic taco trucks, and hidden Thai gems.
With hometown stars such as Monica Pope (Sparrow Bar + Cookshop) and Bryan Caswell (Reef, Little Big's, El Real) making their debut on TV shows such as Top Chef and on the Food Network, and more and more chefs and restaurants getting name-checked in media (like GQ's Best Of lists, or Bon Appetit's recent declaration of Houston as the best food city in Texas) and earning award nominations (Randy Rucker's Bootsie's Heritage Cafe was up for the James Beard Award for Best New Restaurant - the "Oscars of the restaurant world"), Houston's dining scene seems slowly but surely to be staking out room on the national stage.
- Antone’s Famous Po’ Boys, locations throughout Houston, . Local fast food chain known for their famous New Orleans style po' boy sandwiches.
- Brennan's of Houston, 3300 Smith, ☎ 713-522-9711, . A longtime Houston favorite, this restaurant was founded in 1967 as a sister restaurant to the famous Brennan's of New Orleans, it became independent when the family divided the properties. It offers many of the same wonderful dishes that the other Brennan's is known for, including such Creole specialties as rouxless seafood gumbo and turtle soup, and, of course, bananas foster.
- Beck's Prime, locations throughout Houston, . Local fast food chain known for their burgers. Named as one of Top Ten Burgers in Texas by Texas Monthly magazine.
- Café Express, locations throughout Houston, . Local fast food chain known for their nutritious selection of burgers, salads, sandwiches, and pastas in addition to a few breakfast items.
- El Rey Taqueria, locations throughout Houston, . A local fast food chain serving Mexican and Cuban fare.
- Goode Company BBQ, 5109 Kirby Dr Houston, Texas 77098, . A local take out barbeque chain with three locations throughout Houston, however the one on Kirby is original location and most authentic.
- James Coney Island, locations throughout Houston, ☎ (713) 932-1550, . Local Houston area fast food chain specializing in hot dogs and burgers.
- The Breakfast Klub, 3711 Travis St, Houston, TX 77002, ☎ (713) 528-8561, . The place in Houston for waffles and wings. Long lines on Saturday mornings, but the food is worth the wait.
- The Pass & Provisions, 807 Taft Houston, TX 77019, ☎ (713) 628-9020. This high-concept restaurant duo from chefs Seth Siegel-Gardner and Terrence Gallivan plays with diners' expectations.
- Underbelly, 1100 Westheimer Rd Houston, TX 77006, ☎ (713) 528-9800, . Chef Chris Shepherd tells "The Story of Houston Food, " a mix of Southern and global influences through local ingredients, at this restaurant and wine bar on the Lower Westheimer strip.
- Kata Robata, 3600 Kirby Dr Houston, TX 77098, ☎ (713) 526-8858, . The carefully sourced, beautifully handled fish from chef Manabu Horiuchi's sushi bar is supplemented with an artful fine dining menu.
Like any city with a respectable, trendy food scene, Houston's top restaurants seem to be all about what's seasonal and local these days (oh, and Houston is just now getting into gourmet food trucks), as well as becoming increasingly prominent in stores as well. Fresh produce to seek out include tomatoes, sweet "1015" onions (not as sweet as the Hawaiian variety, but pretty impressive), watermelon, strawberries, peaches, corn, carrots, and squash blossoms. Look for Texas cheese from the [Houston Dairymaids] and bread baked daily and shipped to restaurants from the Slow Dough Bakery. Houstonians are just as crazy for crawfish (no "crayfish" down here, Yankee) as Louisianans are, as well as catfish and Gulf seafood such as red snapper, blue crab, and shrimp; gaining in popularity are local species that were previously overlooked, such as blackfin tuna, tilefish, grouper, almaco jack, and black drum. Houston has always had a steady supply of oysters from Galveston Bay, but the program of oyster "appellations" has only recently been revived, meaning high-quality specimens are labeled with their reef of origin, just like the well-known varieties from the east and west coasts - look for varieties such as Ladies Pass and Pepper Grove.
The Urban Harvest Farmers Market, also known as the Eastside market due to its location on Eastside Street in the River Oaks area is a great place to buy local produce and grab breakfast. The market has about 60 vendors ranging from small farms, ranchers, fishmongers, bakers, and chef's making breakfast. The market runs on Saturday's from 8am-12pm at 3000 Richmond Ave.
- Buffalo Bayou Brewing Co., 5301 Nolda St Houston, TX 77007, ☎ 713-750-9795, . Brewery Tours are open to the public every Saturday from Noon to 3PM. Pre-sale tickets are available online.
- Anvil Bar & Refuge, 1424 Westheimer Rd Houston, TX 77006, ☎ Address: 1424 Westheimer Rd, Houston, TX 77006 Phone:(713) 523-1622, . An award-winning craft cocktail bar in the heart of Montrose
- La Carafe, 813 Congress St Houston, TX 77002, ☎ (713) 229-9399. The La Carafe building is listed on the National Register for Historic Places and is believed to be the oldest bar in Houston, and is the oldest commercial building still in use, in Houston. The romantic atmosphere is enhanced with an old-school jukebox, and a menu of beer and wine.
- The Saint Arnold Brewery , located in Houston, is billed as Texas' oldest microbrewery. Their brews are often sold in local bars. The brewery is open for public tours Monday through Friday from 3:00PM to 4:15PM, and Saturday 11:00AM to 2:00PM. In addition to, or in lieu of taking the tour, you can bring food and sit at the rows of picnic tables in the large beer hall. Admission includes four 8oz samples of beer. This unique admission setup exploits a loophole in state law that tries to prevent brewpubs from packaging and distributing beer.
- TownePlace Suites Houston Clear Lake, 1050 Bay Area Boulevard · Houston, Texas 77058 USA, ☎ 1-281-286-2132, . This hotel is near NASA/Johnson Space Center and Baybrook Mall. Galveston Island, the Kemah Boardwalk and the wetlands of the Armand Bayou Nature Center are all just a short drive away. It is also pet-friendly.
- Residence Inn Houston I-10 West/Barker Cypress, 1550 Barker Cypress Rd. · Houston, Texas 77084 USA, ☎ 1-281-829-2600, . Conveniently located in the Energy Corridor, this all suite extended stay Houston hotel is near BP, Shell, Texas Children’s Hospital, Wood Group and Mustang Engineering. With a new modern design, suites feature fully equipped kitchens with sleek appliances to prepare your favorite cuisine. This hotel also welcomes pets.
- Crowne Plaza Suites Houston, 9090 Southwest Freeway, Houston, TX 77074, ☎ 7139950123, . This Houston Hotel is an all suite hotel conveniently located just minutes away from all the attractions and places to visit while in Houston. This Crowne Plaza Suites Houston is an atrium hotel with conference and catering facilities, restaurant and lounge, room service, indoor pool, whirlpool, fitness room, free business center, free parking and much more!
- Royal Sonesta Hotel Houston, 2222 West Loop South Freeway, Houston, TX 77027, ☎ 7136277600, . Located in the heart of Uptown Houston near The Galleria, this hotel offers spacious accommodations, meeting space, vacation packages and easy access to the Museum and Theater districts.
- Hotel ZaZa, 5701 Main St, . Located in the heart of the vibrant Museum District and minutes from the world renowned Texas Medical Center, Hotel ZaZa Houston boasts 17,000 square feet of function space and is the perfect backdrop for any business meeting - not to mention home to some of Houston’s most memorable weddings and galas.
- Magnolia Hotel, 1100 Texas Ave Houston, TX 77002, . Named the 2012 "Best Boutique Hotel in Houston" by the Houston Press, the hotel was originally the home for the Houston Post Dispatch newspaper and later the corporate office for Shell Oil Company, the boutique Magnolia Hotel in downtown Houston, TX opened in March 2003 after extensive renovation. Hailed as one of the most impressive office buildings in Texas, Magnolia's restoration has re-established the 1926 historic landmark as one of Houston's most distinct properties.
- Hotel Icon, 220 Main St Houston, TX 77002, . Hotel ICON, an exclusive member of Marriott’s Autograph Collection, is located in the heart of downtown at the confluence of dynamic business, theater, legal and sports districts. Originally built in 1911 as the Union National Bank Building, our hotel in Houston, TX thoughtfully balances irreplaceable period detail, grand neoclassical architecture and dynamic, contemporary Houston hotel rooms.
- Hotel Sorella, 800 Sorella Ct Houston, TX 77024, . The centerpiece of mixed use development CITYCENTRE, Hotel Sorella hosues 244 guest rooms and suites, on-site dining, pool, versatile event and meeting space, a spa and fitness center, and complimentary high-speed Internet access to make staying in touch just a bit easier.
- Hotel Indigo, 5160 Hidalgo St Houston, TX 77056, .
- La Colombe d'Or Hotel, 3410 Montrose Blvd Houston, TX 77006, . Occupying the historic Fondren mansion, originally built in 1923 as a private residence for the founder of Humble Oil, the landmark property now serves as one of the world’s smallest luxury hotels and the gateway to the Houston Museum District.
- Sonesta ES Suites Houston, 5190 Hidalgo Street, ☎ 713-355-8888, . Sonesta ES Suites Houston offers a convenient downtown location to nearby corporate business and area attractions. Each one and two bedroom suite offers a fully equipped kitchen, oversized work area, complimentary high speed wireless internet access. A complimentary buffet breakfast is offered daily, and a reception is offered Tuesday through Thursday evenings.
- TownePlace Suites Houston Northwest, 11040 Louetta Road Houston, Texas 77070 USA, ☎ 1-281-374-6767, . Located near Willowbrook Mall, Sam Houston Race Park and businesses such as HP, FMC Technologies and Noble Energy.
- Houston Airport Marriott at George Bush Intercontinental, 18700 John F. Kennedy Blvd.Houston, Texas 77032, ☎ 281-443-2310, . The Houston Airport Marriott hotel at George Bush Intercontinental provides a welcome retreat, unique amidst the hustle and bustle of one of the world's busiest airports. Enjoy a Houston airport hotel offering a relaxing and refreshing environment away from the rigors of trave
Houston has multiple telephone area codes and mandatory 10-digit dialing. For any number, even within your own area code, you need to dial areacode + number. For local calls, you do not dial a 1+ or a 0+ before the number. Some calls within Houston are considered long distance, and for those you need to dial 1 + areacode + number.
Houston's area codes are: 713, 281, 832 and 346.
Crime in Houston is high and the highest in the state, and has a reputation among Texans as a high crime city. Travelers to Houston should follow common safety procedures such as staying away from deserted areas after dark, keeping purses/wallets in a secure location, and putting valuables out-of-sight in parked vehicles. For emergency assistance, travelers can contact Houston Police Department by dialing 911. In addition, travelers should dial 911 to report most crimes in progress. For non-emergency assistance and for crimes not in progress such as minor assault, car theft, home invasion, property damage, and theft, dial 713-884-3131 and request police assistance. The Houston Police Department also allows citizens to file online reports for minor property damage and theft if they are under $5,000 in damages. Residents of Texas are allowed to carry concealed firearms after completing training and a thorough background check.
Houston is like much of the Gulf Coast in that it is very vulnerable to hurricanes in the summer and fall. If a hurricane is forecast to make landfall anywhere near Houston, listen to officials and heed mandatory evacuation orders if one is ordered. The last major hurricane to hit Houston was Hurricane Ike on September 13, 2008, which caused severe damage.
Houston is very hot and humid in the summer with temperatures around 87°F - 100°F (31°C - 38°C). In the daytime, one may not be able to stay outdoors for very long without having to seek relief in air conditioning. However, in the winter, Houston can be mild with temperatures ranging from 30°F - 64°F (-1°C - 18°C), albeit with many cloudy or rainy days.
Unlike other large cities in the nation such as Chicago, New York, San Francisco, or Los Angeles, Houston doesn't have a local rail rapid transit network in place. METRO Rail is the initial line of what is planned to be a rapid transit system. The line starts at Northline Transit Center/HCC then runs through downtown, into Midtown, to Texas Medical Center, and then the Reliant Complex near the south side, for a length of just over twelve miles. Houstonians have a tendency to park along the rail line or the south side lot to go into downtown or the medical center as it is easier to get in and out of those areas with the train without the hassle of parking and traffic.
Please be careful when coming near the METRO Rail track, especially at intersections.
Follow the signs since the trains move very quickly and run at almost all hours of the day and night. It runs almost silently. At many streets, left turns are not permitted. Also watch the signs and signals, because some will change as trains approach. Do not drive on the tracks as there are large raised white domes that separate the roadway and the rail line. In some areas signs may indicate driving (or walking) on the tracks is permitted (currently only in the Texas Medical Center) but make sure it is safe to do so.
Drive across the tracks only when you are sure it is safe to do so, especially at night as an oncoming train may not be heard by a driver inside a car.
- Angola, 3040 Post Oak Blvd, #780, ☎ +1 713 212-3840, .
- Australia (Honorary), 4623 Feagan St, ☎ +1 713 782-6009 (fax: +1 713 862-8364), .
- Austria, Houston, TX 77035, ☎ +1 713 723-9979, .
- Belize, 7101 Breen Dr, ☎ +1 281 999-4484, .
- Bolivia, 16646 Clay Rd, ☎ +1 281 463-0017, .
- Chile, 1300 Post Oak Blvd, ☎ +1 713 621-5853, .
- China, 3417 Montrose Blvd, ☎ +1 713 520-1462 (fax: +1 713 521-3064), . M-F 9AM-11:30AM, 1:30PM-3PM.
- Costa Rica, 3000 Wilcrest Dr, #112, ☎ +1 713 266-0484, .
- Denmark, 4545 Post Oak Place Dr, Ste 105, ☎ +1 713 622-9018, .
- Egypt, 5718 Westheimer Road Suite 1350, ☎ +1 (713) 961-4915, (713) 961-4916, (713) 961-4407 (fax: +1 (713) 977-0323), .
- El Salvador, 10301 Harwin Dr, ☎ +1 713 270-8537, .
- Equatorial Guinea, 6401 Southwest Fwy, ☎ +1 713 776-9900, .
- France, 777 Post Oak Blvd Ste 600, .
- Germany, 1330 Post Oak Blvd Ste 1850, ☎ +1 713 627-7770 (fax: +1 713 627-0506), . M-F 9AM-noon.
- Greece, 520 POST OAK BLVD, Suite 450, ☎ +1 713 840-7522, +1 713 840-7523 (firstname.lastname@example.org, fax: +1 713 840 0614), . M-F 9AM-16PM.
- Guatemala, 3013 Fountain View Dr, Ste 210, ☎ +1 713 953-9531, .
- Haiti, 6310 Auden St, ☎ +1 713 661-8275, .
- Honduras, 7400 Harwin Dr, ☎ +1 713 785-5625, .
- Hungary, 11850 Hempstead Rd, ☎ +1 713 476-0562, .
- Iceland, 2919 Lazy Lane Blvd, ☎ +1 713 529-5800, .
- India, 4300 Scotland Street, ☎ +1 (713) 626-2148 (, fax: +1 713 626-2450), .
- Indonesia, 10900 Richmond Ave, ☎ +1 (713) 785-1691, .
- Ireland (Honorary), 2630 Sutton Ct, ☎ +1 713 961-5263 (fax: +1 970-925-7900).
- Jamaica, 7737 Southwest Fwy, ☎ +1 713 541-3333, .
- Japan, 2 Houston Center Bldg 909 Fannin St Ste 3000, ☎ +1 713 652-2977 (email@example.com, fax: +1 713 651-7822), .
- Republic of Korea, 1990 Post Oak Blvd, #1250, ☎ +1 713 961-0186, .
- Lebanon, 2400 Augusta Dr, Ste 308, ☎ +1 713 268-1640, .
- Mexico, 4507 San Jacinto St, ☎ +1 713 271-6800 (fax: +1 713 271-3201), .
- New Zealand (Honorary), San Felipe (45 mi W of Houston), ☎ +1 713 973-8680 (firstname.lastname@example.org, fax: +1 713 481-8320), .
- Nicaragua, 2825 Wilcrest Dr, ☎ +1 713 789-2762, .
- Pakistan, 11850 Jones Road, ☎ +1 281 890-2223, .
- Panama, 24 Greenway Plz, Ste 1307, ☎ +1 (713) 622-4451, .
- Portugal (Honorary), 3300 S Broad St, ☎ +1 713 953-1255, .
- Qatar, 1990 Post Oak Blvd, Ste 810, ☎ +1 713 355-8221, .
- Saudi Arabia, 5718 Westheimer Rd #1500, ☎ +1 713 785-5577, .
- Senegal, 3602 S MacGregor Way, ☎ +1 713 747-4711 .
- Spain, 1800 Bering Dr Ste 660, ☎ +1 713 783-6200 (fax: +1 713 783-6166), .
- Sweden, 2909 Hillcroft St, Ste 515, ☎ +1 713 953-7900, .
- Thailand, 600 Travis St, ☎ +1 713 335-3901, .
- Turkey, 1990 Post Oak Blvd, Ste 1300, ☎ +1 713 622-5849, .
- United Kingdom, 1000 Louisiana Ste 1900 Wells Fargo Plaza 19F, ☎ +1 713 659-6270 (fax: +1 713 659-7094), .
- Venezuela, 2925 Briarpark Dr, #900, ☎ +1 713 974-0028, .
- Vietnam, 5251 Westheimer Rd, ☎ +1 713 850-1233.
- Galveston— Only about an hour's drive southeast from the city, Houstonians go to Galveston island for its beaches, the Strand, Schlitterbahn Waterpark Galveston, and Moody Gardens.
- Surfside— Another beach, less crowded than Galveston. About an hour from Houston.
- Schlitterbahn , in New Braunfels(about 174 miles west of Houston). Huge waterpark, rated #1 waterpark in America by the Travel Channel.
- Kemah— Nice boardwalk with great restaurants and amusement rides that is south of Houston and on the way to Galveston Island.
- Blue Bell Creameries—  See the Texas countryside in Brenham and tour the creamery. About one hour (75 mi) north west of Houston along US 290.
- A Taste of Coastal Texas— An itinerary leading you through sights along the Texas Coast down to Corpus Christi.
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