The Ultimate Guide To Houston
Houston, a vibrant city home to NASA's Johnson Space Center!
Houston, a cosmopolitan city, located in Southeast Texas, is also known as the Space City of the US!
Houston, the fourth-largest city in the US and the largest in Texas, features a myriad of entertainment venues, including the popular Space Center Houston, bustling downtown with skyscrapers, observation decks, museums, shopping districts, and sports venues. Also, in less than an hour’s drive from Houston lies gorgeous sandy beaches in the island town of Galveston!
The initial growth in Houston was due to the shipping and oil industries that led to the influx of settlers from all over the globe, creating a culturally diverse community. Soon came the energy industry and the Johnson Space Center, making Houston the focal point of the US’s space program. Today there’re several other flourishing industries in Houston besides oil and petrochemical, including information technology, aviation, healthcare, financial institution, and others, that continue to develop the city of Houston as one of the finest cities and a tourist destination in the US!
Unquestionably, visit the Johnson Space Center and the lively downtown in Houston, but don’t miss the beaches in Galveston!
While visiting Houston, the Johnson Space Center should be on top of your list, but I also recommend spending a day exploring the venues in downtown Houston and at least half a day at the golden sandy beaches in Galveston. Sports fans can enjoy a game at Minute Maid Park or Toyota Center, and art and history buffs will love the city’s museum district! Houston also features some of the best shopping malls in the US and exceptional culinary experiences featuring a multitude of cuisines.
Here is my ultimate guide to Houston, featuring essential trip-planning information, major attractions, Houston attractions map, and recommendations on hotels and restaurants in Houston!
Planning Your Trip To Houston
Avoid summer months, fly into George Bush Intercontinental Airport, and stay close to downtown to get the most out of your trip to Houston!
Best Time To Visit Houston: Like most of Texas, summers are extremely hot and humid in Houston and not the best time for sightseeing and outdoor activities. Still, summer remains the busiest time in Houston, with a massive influx of tourists coming to the town during the summer break. However, I highly recommend avoiding summer travel to Houston or anywhere in Texas. The best time to visit Houston is during spring, fall, and even in winter, when the temperatures are more pleasant. Winters can get a little cold but still manageable and a good time to visit Houston to beat the crowd.
Time Required At Houston: With the several things to do in Houston, I recommend spending a minimum of three days to see the city’s major highlights – a day at Johnson Space Center, one day exploring the several downtown attractions, and a day at visiting the sandy beaches in the island town of Galveston!
Getting To Houston: The best and most comfortable way to get to Houston is by taking a direct or connecting flight to George Bush Intercontinental Airport, located very close to downtown Houston. Alternatively, you could also take an Amtrak train or a Greyhound bus to Houston.
- Flight: George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH), Houston, Texas, about 25 miles from downtown Houston, is the closest major international airport to Houston. The other option is to fly into Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS), Austin, Texas, located approximately 160 miles from Houston.
- Train: The Houston Amtrak train station, located on Washington Avenue, in downtown Houston, is serviced by several Amtrak train services connecting Houston to other parts of the Nation.
- Bus: Greyhound offers bus services to Houston, with the closest Greyhound bus stop located in Main Street, in downtown Houston.
Parking & Transportation In Houston: Most hotels and attractions in Houston offer paid parking at public and private parking lots in the downtown area. The downtown attractions are located close to each other, but to visit the Johnson Space Center and Galveston, you need a car or use public transportation, a mix of bus and light rail service, offered by METRO.
Tours & Multi-Attraction Passes In Houston: If you’re visiting Houston or any other city in the US for the first time, I highly recommend using a hop-on-hop-off tour service and buying a discounted multi-attraction pass from CityPASS. There’s a local tour company that offers guided bus tours in Houston – Houston City Tours.
Lodging & Dining In Houston: Houston has several excellent lodging options ranging from luxury boutique hotels to bread and breakfasts located close to downtown offering easy access to several attractions. The dining options in Houston are plentiful, with several various cuisines and eateries ranging from fine dining to casual dining. I have reviewed the lodging and dining options in Houston in detail in the later section of this post.
Things To Do In Houston
Houston Attractions Map
Most of the downtown attractions, including the Houston Zoo, Aquarium, and several museums, are located close by, and you don’t need to rent a car if you’re planning to stay close to the downtown. Even if you’re renting a car, you could park at one of the public or private parking lots in downtown Houston and walk to the attractions, or even better, use a hop-on-hop-off bus service to get to all the attractions. However, the Space Center Houston and Galveston are located a bit further away from the downtown, and you would need a car or use public transportation to access them. Houston also hosts several annual events, including Lunar New Year, Mardi Gras, Houston Rodeo, Bayou Regatta, and Houston Dragon Boat Festival.
Here’re the must-see places on a trip to Houston, including the beaches of the island city of Galveston!
Houston Downtown Aquarium
The Huston Aquarium, located in downtown Houston, is one of the most popular tourist attractions of the city, featuring a massive collection of aquatic animals, a tiger habitat, and a few restaurants. The area outside the Aquarium is also very happening, with a lovely fountain, several family rides, and beautifully decorated horse-driven carriages offering downtown tours.
Houston Museum District
Houston Museum District
Houston’s Museum District is home to nineteen museums, including art, nature, science, and history museums. You would need 2 – 3 days to explore all the museums at Houston’s Museum District. While every museum is unique and remarkable, I recommend the Children’s Museum, Holocaust Museum, and Houston Museum of Natural Science if you’re pressed for time.
The Houston Zoo, located in Hermann Park, close to the Museum District, is one of the most visited zoos in the US. The Zoo features several animals and birds organized into sections, including African Forest, Bug House, Texas Wetland, Wortham World of Primates, and many others. The Zoo also offers a carousel ride and many animal encounter programs.
Space Center Houston
Space Center Houston
The Space Center Houston, located about 30 miles southeast of downtown Houston, is the most popular tourist attraction in Houston! Space Center Houston is a space science museum featuring several space artifacts, spacesuits, Moon rocks, tram tours, live shows, and several galleries offering up-close encounters with many spacecraft.
Galveston, an island town on the Gulf Coast, located 50 miles southeast of downtown Houston offers year-round beach fun, featuring sunkissed golden beaches, a fun boardwalk, an aquarium, a waterpark, and several water sports and activities. Given its proximity to Houston, Galveston is a great day trip destination from Houston!
Lodging & Dining In Houston
Staying in downtown Houston gives you access to several downtown attractions, but you could also stay near Space Center Houston or in Galveston!
Hotels In Houston: Staying in downtown Houston gives you easy access to several attractions, including the Museum District, zoo, aquarium, and also the liberty to enjoy the nightlife in Houston without having to drive back to your hotel. However, you could also stay close to the Houston Space Center or stay overnight at Galveston. There’re several hotels in Houston, ranging from boutique hotels to bread and breakfasts. Here’re are my top picks for hotels in Houston
- The Post Oak Hotel: Located in uptown Houston, the Post Oak Hotel is the epitome of luxury in Houston, featuring elegant suites and rooms with excellent dining, spa, and guest services.
- Marriott Marquis Houston: Located right in downtown Houston, Marriott Marquis Houston features luxurious rooms, an elegant lobby, extraordinary guest services, and access to several downtown attractions.
- Four Seasons Hotel Houston: The Four Seasons Hotel, also located in downtown Houston, is a luxury hotel offering easy access to several downtown attractions and great lodging and dining choices.
- Hilton Houston NASA Clear Lake: Located just a couple of miles from Space Center Houston, Hilton Houston NASA Clear Lake, featuring contemporary rooms and excellent guest service, is a great choice to stay close to the Space Center.
- Hotel Galvez and Spa: Located in Galveston, the Hotel Galvez and Spa is a luxury hotel featuring fabulous views, great dining options, and stylish rooms, and by far is the best place to stay when visiting Galveston.
Restaurants In Houston: There’re just endless dining options in Houston, ranging from fine dining to locally-owned restaurants serving various cuisines, including southern delicacies, seafood, Tex-Mex, Mediterranean food, and Asian cuisines. There’re so many eateries in Houston, especially in the downtown area, it’s impossible to try them all or pick one over the other. However, here’re a few dishes and joints you must try when in Houston – steak in Vic & Anthony’s Steakhouse or Taste of Texas, seafood in Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen or Goode Company Seafood, and authentic Mexican food at The Original Ninfa’s on Navigation and Teotihuacan.
Other Texas Attractions & Related Posts
I hope you enjoyed reading the post, The Ultimate Guide To Houston, and I hope this will help you plan your trip to Houston. You can find other Texas attractions in my Texas Travel Guide.
Happy feeding your soul!
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