Photo Credit: Scott Halleran/Getty Images
World-class attractions, great spots for dining and lodging and a vast array of shopping options, including the nation's fourth largest shopping center, makes Houston a fabulous place to visit. But visitors unfamiliar with the largest city in Texas and the Southwest should use this guide as a way to get around town, what to see, where to eat and where to dine.
Getting To Houston
Two airports serve visitors to Houston - George Bush Intercontinental Airport and William P. Hobby Airport. Located about 23 miles north of downtown Houston, George Bush Intercontinental Airport provides the bulk of travelers and is one of the nation's busiest airports.
The airport has a train service (Terminal Link) connecting Terminals B, C, D, E and international arrivals, in addition to a shuttle service from Terminal A to Terminals B and C. Ground transportation services to Houston include car rentals, Metropolitan Transit Authority (METRO) bus service from Terminal C, courtesy vans, shuttle services and taxis.
Houston's other airport for passenger airlines is William P. Hobby, located seven miles south of the city. Five airlines serve Hobby - AirTran, American Airlines, Delta, Jet Blue and Southwest - and ground transportation includes car rentals, courtesy shuttles, SuperShuttle, taxis and METRO.
Houston Amtrak Station
Amtrak's Sunset Limited serves downtown Houston, with arrivals at Station Building, near Downtown Aquarium Houston. Visitors can make connections to Greyhound, METRO bus, Amtrak Thruway and taxi services.
Houston Greyhound Station
METRO Downtown Transit Center
Greyhound Lines and Megabus both provide bus transportation to downtown Houston. The Greyhound station is two blocks from METRO's downtown transit center ET. Megabus, with service from Austin, Dallas, Galveston, San Antonio and New Orleans, has a pick-up and drop-off location one block from the downtown transit center.
Houston is served by a network of Interstate Highways 10, 45 and 610, U.S. Routes 59, 90 and 290 and Texas State Highways 3, 6, 8, 35 and 288.
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Getting Around Houston
Here are some links to recommended transportation services throughout Houston.
Visitors unfamiliar with Houston's freeway system and city streets may wish to take alternative transportation in lieu of driving. The easiest and most efficient way to see Houston's attractions is with METRORail.
There is just one rail line – the Red Line – but two other lines, the Green/East End and Purple/Southeast Lines, are expected to start service at the end of 2014. The Red Line provides service to several Houston attractions, including Market Square Park, Theater District, Minute Maid Park, Toyota Center, Museum District and NRG Stadium.
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Where To Stay
Although Houston ranks among the 10 most expensive cities in America for lodging, visitors have a great variety of options. Many overnight lodgings can be booked for well under $100 and many quality hotels are under $130. But because Houston is a world class destination for business travelers, the city has an outstanding selection of upscale and four-star hotels.
Where To Eat
Photo Credit: Scott Halleran/Getty Images
Where to Shop
Photo Credit: Bob Levey/Getty Images
The Downtown Aquarium features more than 200 species of aquatic life from around the world in addition to an upscale restaurant and lounge. The highlights of the six-acre complex are the aquarium exhibits, displayed in a variety of themes, such as Louisiana Swamp, Shipwreck, Gulf of Mexico and Rainforest. Also not to be missed are the rare white tigers at Maharaja's Temple.
Houston Museum District
Houston has an outstanding collection of world-class museums, primarily in the Museum District of the city. Among the most popular museums are the Children's Museum of Houston, Museum of Natural Science and the Holocaust Museum. The city also offers a number of free-admission museums, such as the Menil Collection, Contemporary Arts Museum, Lawndale Art Center and Houston Center for Photography.
Houston Space Center
Houston's top attraction is the historic Space Center, located 27 miles southeast of downtown, near Galveston Bay. The official visitor center of the Johnson Space Center, visitors can see iconic space artifacts such as the Mercury 9 and Gemini 5 capsule, Apollo 17 Command Module, a Galileo Shuttlecraft from the "Star Trek" television series and a full-scale replica of the Space Shuttle. Other highlights are a tour of the authentic mission control center used for NASA's Gemini and Apollo missions, including Apollo 11's moon landing in 1969.
Located within Hermann Park in the Museum District, the Houston Zoo is one of the city's top attractions, drawing over two million visitors annually. The 55-acre park houses more than 6,000 animals from over 900 species. Visitors can enjoy a variety of mammals, amphibians, aquatic life, birds and reptiles, including elephants, lions, colorful frogs, sea turtles, king vultures, alligators and crocodiles.
Located 20 miles southeast of downtown Houston, Kemah Boardwalk is a very popular waterfront amusement park overlooking Clear Lake and Galveston Bay. Voted the 2014 Local's Choice Award winner for Best Attraction and Best Place to Take a Visitor, the seaside park features a variety of classic amusement park rides like the Boardwalk Bullet roller coaster and a Ferris wheel, in addition to arcade games, the Beast speedboat and a stingray reef. Kemah Boardwalk also offers a variety of shopping and dining options, as well as upscale lodgings at the Kemah Boardwalk Inn.
One of the largest urban parks in the country, Memorial Park is a popular spot for a number of outdoor activities, like walking and jogging, tennis, swimming, cycling and golfing. Also located at the 1,500-acre park is the acclaimed Memorial Park Golf Course, the Houston Arboretum and Nature Center and the Memorial Park Fitness Center.
Houston is home to a number of famous professional sports teams, including the Houston Astros, Houston Rockets and Houston Texans. The Astros baseball team plays home games at Minute Maid Park, while the Rockets and Texans host home games respectively at the Toyota Center and NRG Stadium. Other prominent professional teams include the Houston Dynamo soccer team and the Houston Dash professional women's soccer team and share BBVA Compass Stadium.
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Randy Yagi is a freelance writer covering all things San Francisco. In 2012, he was awarded a Media Fellowship from Stanford University. His work can be found on Examiner.com Examiner.com.
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