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[[Image:186998827 821b56f515 b.jpg|300px|thumb|right|Main Street Houston]]
'''Houston''' is the largest city in [[Texas]] and the fourth largest in the [[United States]]. It is huge, both in population and in land area. "Urban sprawl" is a term tailor-made for this city, due to Houston being the largest unzoned city in the country. Houston is a multicultural city home to some of the nation's largest Asian, Arab and Latin American populations. But its culture is not limited to diverse population — it also boasts a world class symphony and theater district that includes a full-time ballet company and opera.
| region1items=[[Houston/Downtown|Skyline District]], [[Houston/Downtown|Theater District]], [[Houston/Downtown|Historic District]], [[Houston/Downtown|Warehouse District]]
| region1description=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 and Houston Ballet. The Houston Pavilions entertainment district opened in October 2008 between Main St. and the Toyota Center.
What this means to visitors is that Houston covers a larger land area with less population than might otherwise be expected. The city is primarily built on the energy industry and nearly everyone owns a car and drives everywhere they go. However, the city is becoming more dense and walkable, particularly in the Midtown/Montrose areas. With a few exceptions, almost everything to see or do is in Houston's urban core inside the 610 Loop and more specifically in between downtown, the Galleria, and the Texas Medical Center.
'''The Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau''' operates the Houston Visitors Center,[http://www.visithoustontexas.com/]. 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.
Houston's climate generally ranges from a hot summer to a cool winter. The months of October to April make for fantastic times to visit to avoid the heat.
** '''Southeast''', 7000 Harrisburg Blvd.
** '''Southwest''', 5690 Southwest Freeway.
*'''El Expreso''', [http://www.elexpreso.net/]. Mexican trans-border bus line, also serves destinations throughout southeastern United States.
** '''Downtown station''', 2201 Main St.
** '''Harrisburg''', 7701 Harrisburg
** '''Southwest''', Bissonett at Southwest Freeway (US 59)
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.
Houston has a number of major highways that make getting around Houston fairly easy. (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 4 PM and can last more than 2 hours. Morning rush hour is between 7 and 9 AM. During rush hour, traffic on the highways can come to a halt. The strip of the West Loop near the Galleria, between US-59 and IH-10, is an area you should definitely avoid during rush hour if possible.
*Houston Traffic Map [http://traffic.houstontranstar.org/layers/]
*The outstanding freeways system [http://www.houstonfreeways.com/]
Some of the
*Katy Managed Lanes on Harris County Toll Road Authority website [https://www.hctra.org/katymanagedlanes/index.html]
===By public transportation===
METRORail is a seven and a half mile 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|stay safe]] section.)
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
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 [http://www.publicworks.houstontx.gov/bikeways/index.htm].
* <do name="Houston Astros" alt="" address="510 Crawford St.." directions="" phone="+1 713-259-8000" email="" fax="" url="http://houston.astros.mlb.com"> The city's Major League Baseball team, playing at Minute Maid Park in downtown, celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2012. It will also be the last season for the Astros in the National League; they will move to the American League in 2013.</do>
* <do name="Houston Dynamo" alt="" address="1001 Avenida de las Americas, Ste. 200" directions="" phone="+1 713-276-7500" email="[email protected]" fax="+1 713-276-7572" url="http://www.houstondynamo.com">Houston's Major League Soccer team opened its new 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.</do>
<!--This section is supposed to list places someone passing through might take a short course of some kind, not a place to list every university, college, and trade school around. Alternately, if a certain campus has historical significance or lovely to wander around in, put it in the See section.-->
Houston is home to one of the top universities in the country, Rice University. Its beautifully wooded campus is ideal for an afternoon stroll or jog with loved ones
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 Houston's only 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. [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Houston_Galleria]
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") 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 (T'afia) 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.
*'''The Saint Arnold Brewery''' [http://www.saintarnold.com/], located in Houston, is billed as Texas' oldest microbrewery. Their brews are often sold in local bars
Like most large US cities, Houston has its share of crime. Residents of Texas are allowed to carry concealed firearms after completing training and a thorough background check. Almost all people who possess a firearm do so responsibly
Travelers to Houston should follow common safety procedures such as staying away from deserted areas in the middle of the night, keeping their valuables stored out of sight, keeping purses/wallets in a secure location, and always put valuables in a car trunk. 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.
* [[Image:ca-flag.png|20px]] <listing name="Canada" alt="" address="5847 San Felipe St Ste 1700" directions="" phone="+1 713 821-1440" url="http://www.canadainternational.gc.ca/houston/index.aspx?lang=eng" hours="" price="" lat="" long="" email="[email protected]" fax="+1 713 821-1611"></listing>
* [[Image:ch-flag.png|20px]] <listing name="China" alt="" directions="" address="3417 Montrose Blvd" phone="+1 713 520-1462" email="" fax="+1 713 521-3064" url="http://houston.china-consulate.org/eng/" hours="M-F 9AM-11:30AM, 1:30PM-3PM" price=""></listing>