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Houston is the most populous city in Texas and the fourth-most populous city in the United States, located in Southeast Texas near the Gulf of Mexico. With a census-estimated 2014 population of 2.23 million within a land area of 599.6 square miles (1,553 km2), it also is the largest city in theSouthern United States, as well as the seat of Harris County. It is the principal city of Houston–The Woodlands–Sugar Land, which is the fifth-most populated metropolitan area in the United States.
Houston was founded in 1836 near the banks of Buffalo Bayou(now known as Allen's Landing) and incorporated as a city on June 5, 1837. The city was named after former General Sam Houston, who was president of the Republic of Texas and had commanded and won at the Battle of San Jacinto25 miles (40 km) east of where the city was established. The burgeoning port and railroad industry, combined with oil discovery in 1901, has induced continual surges in the city's population. In the mid-20th century, Houston became the home of the Texas Medical Center—the world's largest concentration of healthcare and research institutions—and NASA's Johnson Space Center, where the Mission Control Center is located.
Houston's economy has a broad industrial base in energy, manufacturing, aeronautics, and transportation. It is also leading in health care sectors and building oilfield equipment; only New York City is home to more Fortune 500 headquarters within its city limits. The Port of Houston ranks first in the United States in international waterborne tonnage handled and second in total cargo tonnage handled. Nicknamed the "Space City", Houston is a global city, with strengths in business, international trade, entertainment, culture, media, fashion, science, sports, technology, education, medicine, and research. The city has a population from various ethnic and religious backgrounds and a large and growing international community. Houston is the most diverse city in Texas and has been described as the most diverse in the United States. It is home to many cultural institutions and exhibits, which attract more than 7 million visitors a year to the Museum District. Houston has an active visual and performing arts scene in the Theater District and offers year-round resident companies in all major performing arts.
|POPULATION :||• City 2,099,451|
• Estimate (2014) 2,239,558
• Urban 4,944,332 (7th U.S.)
• Metro 6,313,158 (5th U.S.)
|FOUNDED :||June 5, 1837|
|TIME ZONE :||Time zone CST (UTC-6)|
Summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5)
|AREA :||• City 627.8 sq mi (1,625.2 km2)|
• Land 634 sq mi (1,642.1 km2)
• Water 27.9 sq mi (72.3 km2)
• Metro 10,062 sq mi (26,060 km2)
|ELEVATION :||43 ft (13 m)|
|COORDINATES :||29°45′46″N 95°22′59″W|
|SEX RATIO :|
|ETHNIC :|| White 50.5%|
—Non-Hispanic whites 25.6%
Black or African American 23.7%
Hispanic or Latino (of any race) 43.7%
|AREA CODE :||713, 832, 281, 346|
|POSTAL CODE :||770XX, 772XX (P.O. Boxes)|
|DIALING CODE :|
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 Theater District is a 17-block area in the center of downtown Houston that is home to the Bayou Place entertainment complex, restaurants, movies, plazas, and parks. Bayou Place is a large multilevel building containing full-service restaurants, bars, live music, billiards, and Sundance Cinema. The Bayou Music Center stages live concerts, stage plays, and stand-up comedy. Space Center Houston is the official visitors' center of NASA's Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center. The Space Center has many interactive exhibits including moon rocks, a shuttle simulator, and presentations about the history of NASA's manned space flight program. Other tourist attractions include the Galleria (Texas's largest shopping mall, located in the Uptown District), Old Market Square, the Downtown Aquarium, and Sam Houston Race Park.
Of worthy mention are Houston's current Chinatown and the Mahatma Gandhi District. Both areas offer a picturesque view of Houston's multicultural makeup. Restaurants, bakeries, traditional-clothing boutiques, and specialty shops can be found in both areas.
Houston is home to 337 parks, including Hermann Park, Terry Hershey Park, Lake Houston Park, Memorial Park, Tranquility Park, Sesquicentennial Park, Discovery Green, and Sam Houston Park. Within Hermann Park are the Houston Zoo and the Houston Museum of Natural Science. Sam Houston Park contains restored and reconstructed homes which were originally built between 1823 and 1905. A proposal has been made to open the city's first botanic garden at Herman Brown Park.
Of the 10 most populous U.S. cities, Houston has the most total area of parks and green space, 56,405 acres (228 km2). The city also has over 200 additional green spaces—totaling over 19,600 acres (79 km2) that are managed by the city—including the Houston Arboretum and Nature Center. The Lee and Joe Jamail Skatepark is a public skatepark owned and operated by the city of Houston, and is one of the largest skateparks in Texas consisting of a 30,000-ft2 (2,800 m2)in-ground facility. The Gerald D. Hines Waterwall Park—located in the Uptown District of the city—serves as a popular tourist attraction and for weddings and various celebrations. A 2011 study by Walk Score ranked Houston the 23rd most walkable of the 50 largest cities in the United States. Wet'n'Wild SplashTown is a water park located north of Houston.
The Bayport Cruise Terminal on the Houston Ship Channel is port of call for both Princess Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line.
Houston has a character that, while very "Texan," is also a great melting pot of many cultures and socio-economic groups. You'll find well-to-do suburban mansions, LA-style shopping strips, Latin-American neighborhoods, towering skyscrapers, historic African-American neighborhoods fighting off gentrification, massive refinery complexes, large Asian communities, and pockets of artist communities. From October to May, the weather is relatively pleasant, and many restaurants and bars take advantage of it with plenty of outdoor seating and beautiful lighting. Houston's proximity to the Gulf of Mexico also makes it a lush, tropical paradise compared to the rest of Texas.
In a sense, Houston is the gritty step-cousin of wealthy Dallas and middle-class hippie Austin. You won't see many cowboys or giant hairdos in downtown Houston (outside of Rodeo season), but you will see a quite diverse mix of people servicing the oilmen, petroleum engineers and high-end doctors.
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 them. This arrangement has made Houston a very sprawled-out and very automobile-dependent city. The benefit of this lack of zoning is that some neighborhoods like Montrose contain a plethora of hidden bars and art galleries nestled among historic neighborhoods - an arrangement not possible in zoned cities across the country.
For one desiring a walkable visit, the areas close to downtown are gradually becoming more dense and walkable as islands of trendy mixed-use developments pop up. Many areas can be downright hostile to pedestrians and bikers as sidewalks are privately built (if at all) and roads are littered with massive potholes. The city is primarily built on the energy industry and nearly everyone owns a car and drives everywhere they go, even to a destination less than a mile away.
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. 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, 9AM to 4PM
In August 1836, two real estate entrepreneurs from New York—Augustus Chapman Allen and John Kirby Allen—purchased 6,642 acres (26.88 km2) of land along Buffalo Bayou with the intent of founding a city. The Allen brothers decided to name the city after Sam Houston, the popular general at the Battle of San Jacinto, who was elected President of Texas in September 1836. The great majority of slaves in Texas came with their owners from the older slave states. Sizable numbers, however, came through the domestic slave trade. New Orleans was the center of this trade in the Deep South, but slave dealers were in Houston. Thousands of enslaved African Americans lived near the city before the Civil War. Many of them near the city worked on sugar and cotton plantations, while most of those in the city limits had domestic and artisan jobs. In 1860, 49% of the city's population was enslaved. A few slaves, perhaps as many as 2,000 between 1835 and 1865, came through the illegal African trade. Post-war Texas grew rapidly as migrants poured into the cotton lands; they also brought or purchased enslaved African Americans, whose numbers nearly tripled in the state from 1850 to 1860, from 58,000 to 182,566.
Houston was granted incorporation on June 5, 1837, with James S. Holman becoming its first mayor. In the same year, Houston became the county seat of Harrisburg County (now Harris County) and the temporary capital of the Republic of Texas. In 1840, the community established a chamber of commerce in part to promote shipping and waterborne business at the newly created port on Buffalo Bayou.
By 1860, Houston had emerged as a commercial and railroad hub for the export of cotton. Railroad spurs from the Texas inland converged in Houston, where they met rail lines to the ports of Galveston and Beaumont. During the American Civil War, Houston served as a headquarters for General John Bankhead Magruder, who used the city as an organization point for the Battle of Galveston. After the Civil War, Houston businessmen initiated efforts to widen the city's extensive system of bayous so the city could accept more commerce between downtown and the nearby port of Galveston. By 1890, Houston was the railroad center of Texas.
In 1900, after Galveston was struck by a devastating hurricane, efforts to make Houston into a viable deep-water port were accelerated. The following year, oil discovered at the Spindletop oil field near Beaumont prompted the development of the Texas petroleum industry. In 1902, President Theodore Roosevelt approved a $1 million improvement project for the Houston Ship Channel. By 1910, the city's population had reached 78,800, almost doubling from a decade before. African Americans formed a large part of the city's population, numbering 23,929 people, or nearly one-third of the residents.
President Woodrow Wilson opened the deep-water Port of Houston in 1914, seven years after digging began. By 1930, Houston had become Texas' most populous city and Harris County the most populous county. In 1940, the Census Bureau reported Houston's population as 77.5% white and 22.4% black.
When World War II started, tonnage levels at the port decreased and shipping activities were suspended; however, the war did provide economic benefits for the city. Petrochemical refineries and manufacturing plants were constructed along the ship channel because of the demand for petroleum and synthetic rubber products by the defense industry during the war. Ellington Field, initially built during World War I, was revitalized as an advanced training center for bombardiers and navigators. The Brown Shipbuilding Company was founded in 1942 to build ships for the U.S. Navy during World War II. Due to the boom in defense jobs, thousands of new workers migrated to the city, both blacks and whites competing for the higher-paying jobs. President Roosevelt had established a policy of nondiscrimination for defense contractors, and blacks gained some opportunities, especially in shipbuilding, although not without resistance from whites and increasing social tensions that erupted into occasional violence. Economic gains of blacks who entered defense industries continued in the postwar years.
In 1945, the M.D. Anderson Foundation formed the Texas Medical Center. After the war, Houston's economy reverted to being primarily port-driven. In 1948, the city annexed several unincorporated areas, more than doubling its size. Houston proper began to spread across the region.
In 1950, the availability of air conditioning provided impetus for many companies to relocate to Houston, where wages were lower than the North; this resulted in an economic boom and produced a key shift in the city's economy toward the energy sector.
The increased production of the expanded shipbuilding industry during World War II spurred Houston's growth, as did the establishment in 1961 of NASA's "Manned Spacecraft Center" (renamed the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in 1973). This was the stimulus for the development of the city's aerospace industry. The Astrodome, nicknamed the "Eighth Wonder of the World", opened in 1965 as the world's first indoor domed sports stadium.
During the late 1970s, Houston had a population boom as people from the Rust Belt states moved to Texas in large numbers. The new residents came for numerous employment opportunities in the petroleum industry, created as a result of the Arab oil embargo. With the increase in professional jobs, Houston has become a destination for many college-educated persons, including African Americans in a reverse Great Migration from northern areas.
One wave of the population boom ended abruptly in the mid-1980s, as oil prices fell precipitously. The space industry also suffered in 1986 after the Space ShuttleChallenger disintegrated shortly after launch. A cutback in some activities existed for a period. In the late 1980s, the city's economy suffered from the nationwide recession. After the early 1990s recession, Houston made efforts to diversify its economy by focusing on aerospace and health care/biotechnology, and reduced its dependence on the petroleum industry. Since the increase of oil prices in the 2000s, the petroleum industry has again increased its share of the local economy.
In 1997, Houstonians elected Lee P. Brown as the city's first African American mayor.
In June 2001, Tropical Storm Allison dumped up to 40 inches (1,000 mm) of rain on parts of Houston, causing the worst flooding in the city's history. The storm cost billions of dollars in damage and killed 20 people in Texas. By December of that same year, Houston-based energy company Enron collapsed into the third-largest ever U.S. bankruptcy during an investigation surrounding fabricated partnerships that were allegedly used to hide debt and inflate profits.
In August 2005, Houston became a shelter to more than 150,000 people from New Orleans, who evacuated from Hurricane Katrina. One month later, about 2.5 million Houston-area residents evacuated when Hurricane Rita approached the Gulf Coast, leaving little damage to the Houston area. This was the largest urban evacuation in the history of the United States. In September 2008, Houston was hit by Hurricane Ike. As many as 40% refused to leave Galveston Island because they feared the traffic problems that happened after Hurricane Rita.
During the floods in 2015 and 2016, parts of the city were covered in several inches of water. On 31 May 2016, several cities experienced record setting flooding.
Houston's climate generally ranges from a hot humid summer to a mild winter. The months of October to April make for fantastic times to visit to avoid the heat. Visitors from areas with mild summers or dry climates should be extremely careful if planning to travel there in the summer months, especially around August. The combination of high heat and thick humidity can result in stifling and oppressive weather. It's by no means "a dry heat"! Even some lifelong residents of Houston complain about the August weather. If visiting in the summer, stay hydrated and try to limit outdoor exposure during the hours between 10AM and 7PM. The nights are very hot too, but not as dangerously hot as during the day. Visitors from cooler, drier places will be amazed at the tolerance levels of some of the locals. You can see people wearing long sleeve shirts, boots and jeans when the temperature is above 100 °F and humidity is in the 90% range. But it can not be stressed enough: this place is extremely hot and if you're not prepared or used to this type of heat, you're in for one rude awakening.
Climate data for Houston
|Record high °F (°C)||84|
|Mean maximum °F (°C)||78.4|
|Average high °F (°C)||62.9|
|Average low °F (°C)||43.2|
|Mean minimum °F (°C)||26.7|
|Record low °F (°C)||5|
Houston is located 165 miles (266 km) east of Austin, 112 miles (180 km) west of the Louisiana border, and 250 miles (400 km) south of Dallas. According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 656.3 square miles (1,700 km2); this comprises 634.0 square miles (1,642 km2) of land and 22.3 square miles (58 km2) covered by water. The Piney Woods are north of Houston. Most of Houston is located on the gulf coastal plain, and its vegetation is classified as temperate grassland and forest. Much of the city was built on forested land, marshes, swamp, or prairie which resembles the Deep South, and are all still visible in surrounding areas. The flatness of the local terrain, when combined with urban sprawl, has made flooding a recurring problem for the city. Downtown stands about 50 feet (15 m) above sea level, and the highest point in far northwest Houston is about 125 feet (38 m) in elevation. The city once relied on groundwater for its needs, but land subsidence forced the city to turn to ground-level water sources such as Lake Houston, Lake Conroe, and Lake Livingston. The city owns surface water rights for 1.20 billion gallons of water a day in addition to 150 million gallons a day of groundwater.
Houston has four major bayous passing through the city. Buffalo Bayou runs through downtown and the Houston Ship Channel, and has three tributaries: White Oak Bayou, which runs through the Houston Heights community northwest of Downtown and then towards Downtown; Brays Bayou, which runs along the Texas Medical Center; and Sims Bayou, which runs through the south of Houston and downtown Houston. The ship channel continues past Galveston and then into the Gulf of Mexico.
Houston is recognized worldwide for its energy industry—particularly for oil and natural gas—as well as for biomedical research and aeronautics. Renewable energy sources—wind and solar—are also growing economic bases in the city. The Houston Ship Channel is also a large part of Houston's economic base. Because of these strengths, Houston is designated as a global city by the Globalization and World Cities Study Group and Network and global management consulting firm A.T. Kearney. The Houston area is the top U.S. market for exports, surpassing New York City in 2013, according to data released by the U.S. Department of Commerce's International Trade Administration. In 2012, the Houston–The Woodlands–Sugar Land area recorded $110.3 billion in merchandise exports. Petroleum products, chemicals, and oil and gas extraction equipment accounted for roughly two-thirds of the metropolitan area's exports last year. The top three destinations for exports were Mexico, Canada, and Brazil.
The Houston area is a leading center for building oilfield equipment. Much of its success as a petrochemical complex is due to its busy ship channel, the Port of Houston. In the United States, the port ranks first in international commerce and 10th among the largest ports in the world. Unlike most places, high oil and gasoline prices are beneficial for Houston's economy, as many of its residents are employed in the energy industry. Houston is the beginning or end point of numerous oil, gas, and products pipelines.
The Houston–The Woodlands–Sugar Land MSA's gross domestic product (GDP) in 2012 was $489 billion, making it the fourth-largest of any metropolitan area in the United States and larger than Austria's, Venezuela's, or South Africa's GDP. Only 26 countries other than the United States have a gross domestic product exceeding Houston's regional gross area product (GAP). In 2010, mining (which consists almost entirely of exploration and production of oil and gas in Houston) accounted for 26.3% of Houston's GAP up sharply in response to high energy prices and a decreased worldwide surplus of oil production capacity, followed by engineering services, health services, and manufacturing.
The University of Houston System's annual impact on the Houston area's economy equates to that of a major corporation: $1.1 billion in new funds attracted annually to the Houston area, $3.13 billion in total economic benefit, and 24,000 local jobs generated. This is in addition to the 12,500 new graduates the U.H. System produces every year who enter the workforce in Houston and throughout the state of Texas. These degree-holders tend to stay in Houston. After five years, 80.5% of graduates are still living and working in the region.
In 2006, the Houston metropolitan area ranked first in Texas and third in the U.S. within the category of "Best Places for Business and Careers" by Forbesmagazine. Foreign governments have established 92 consular offices in Houston's metropolitan area, the third-highest in the nation. Forty foreign governments maintain trade and commercial offices here with 23 active foreign chambers of commerce and trade associations. Twenty-five foreign banks representing 13 nations operate in Houston, providing financial assistance to the international community.
In 2008, Houston received top ranking on Kiplinger's Personal Finance Best Cities of 2008 list, which ranks cities on their local economy, employment opportunities, reasonable living costs, and quality of life. The city ranked fourth for highest increase in the local technological innovation over the preceding 15 years, according to Forbes magazine. In the same year, the city ranked second on the annual Fortune 500 list of company headquarters, first for Forbes magazine's Best Cities for College Graduates, and first on their list of Best Cities to Buy a Home. In 2010, the city was rated the best city for shopping, according to Forbes.
In 2012, the city was ranked number one for paycheck worth by Forbes and in late May 2013, Houston was identified as America's top city for employment creation.
In 2013, Houston was identified as the number one U.S. city for job creation by the U.S. Bureau of Statistics after it was not only the first major city to regain all the jobs lost in the preceding economic downturn, but also after the crash, more than two jobs were added for every one lost. Economist and vice president of research at the Greater Houston Partnership Patrick Jankowski attributed Houston's success to the ability of the region's real estate and energy industries to learn from historical mistakes. Furthermore, Jankowski stated that "more than 100 foreign-owned companies relocated, expanded or started new businesses in Houston" between 2008 and 2010, and this openness to external business boosted job creation during a period when domestic demand was problematically low. Also in 2013, Houston again appeared on Forbes' list of Best Places for Business and Careers.
The city has a number of districts. Historically, many of these districts were called "wards" and they tended to have distinct populations. Today, the lines are blurring and continual sprawl has created new districts, some with a distinct character.
(Skyline District, Theater District, Historic District, EaDo)
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 Rockets, Astros and Dynamo all play downtown.
(Midtown, Montrose, Museum District, 4th Ward)
Neartown encompasses Midtown, an older light industrial area cum trendy apartment archipelago; Montrose, a pleasant streetcar suburb that was abandoned and resurrected by Houston's LGBT community; The Museum District, the center of Houston's visual arts and museums; and the historic 4th Ward, a Freedman's town that was built by the hands of recently freed African American slaves and now facing gentrification by Bob Perry's development company.
(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 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.
(Uptown, River Oaks, Upper Kirby & Greenway, West Inner Loop)
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.
(West Houston, East Houston, North Houston, Clear Lake)
Off the beaten track, these areas have plenty to offer for the patient traveler.
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, 346 and 832.
At the George Bush International Airport, the wireless connection is paid and organized by Boingo (wireless network Boingo Hotspot). From the Boingo welcome page, one can also choose (slow) sponsored free internet connection, which is good for an hour. Sometimes, after one hour the next sponsored connection could be opened.
Prices in Houston
MARKET / SUPERMARKET
|Beer (domestic)||0.5 l||$1.70|
|Bottle of Wine||1 bottle||$13.50|
|Dinner (Low-range)||for 2||$30.00|
|Dinner (Mid-range)||for 2||$60.00|
|Dinner (High-range)||for 2||$|
|Mac Meal or similar||1 meal||$7.00|
|Beer (Imported)||0.33 l||$4.50|
|Beer (domestic)||0.5 l||$3.40|
|Coctail drink||1 drink||$11.00|
|Men’s Haircut||1 haircut||$17.00|
|Mobile (prepaid)||1 min.||$0.34|
|Pack of Marlboro||1 pack||$6.90|
|Toilet paper||4 rolls||$3.60|
CLOTHES / SHOES
|Jeans (Levis 501 or similar)||1||$43.00|
|Dress summer (Zara, H&M.)||1||$40.00|
|Sport shoes (Nike, Adidas)||1||$73.00|
|Local Transport||1 ticket||$1.25|
76 $ per day
Estimated cost per 1 day including:
- meals in cheap restaurant
- public transport
- cheap hotel
250 $ per day
Estimated cost per 1 day including:
- mid-range meals and drinks
Transportation - Get In
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 24 domestic and international airlines. METRO bus line 102 departing from terminal C runs to the downtown, which it reaches in 1h 10m for $1.25 . From the downtown, the easiest place to catch the bus is the Downtown Transit Center station of the METRORail. During the day, the bus runs approximately every 30 minutes.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- Megabus. Low-cost bus line with service from Dallas, Austin, San Antonio,Baton Rouge, and New Orleans. Fares from $1 and up.
- Downtown, 815 Pierce St (north of Travis St).
- El Expreso. Mexican trans-border bus line, also serves destinations throughout southeastern United States.
- Downtown station, 2201 Main St.
- Harrisburg, 7701 Harrisburg Blvd.
- Southwest, Bissonett at Southwest Freeway (US 59)
- Autobus Americanos. Mexican trans-border bus line with services to various points in Mexico.
- Harrisburg, 7700 Harrisburg Blvd.
- Southwest, Hillcroft at Southwest Freeway (US 59)
- Turimex Internacional. Mexican trans-border bus line with services to various points in Mexico.
- Harrisburg, 7011 Harrisburg Blvd.
- Southwest, Hillcroft at 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'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 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):
- Austin: 160
- Baton Rouge, LA: 270
- Beaumont: 90
- Dallas: 240
- El Paso: 745
- Galveston: 50
- Lake Charles, LA: 140
- New Orleans, LA: 346
- San Antonio: 200
- Waco: 180
Transportation - Get Around
By Public Transport
METRORail is a 12.8 mile (20.6km) light rail line that runs between Northline transit center, 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). Two additional lines serving the southeast and east end of the inner-loop are expected to open in 2015 & 2016 respectively. It costs $1.25 for a one-way ticket.
- Taxis are easily found in Downtown, Uptown, Midtown and the Medical Center as well as the suburb of Galveston and both airports. Taxis in Houston are generally dispatched by various companies the largest being Yellow Cab, 713-236-1111 or from their web page.
Houston has a number of major highways that make getting around the city 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 4PM and can last more than 2 hours. Morning rush hour is between 7 and 9AM. 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.
Some of the freeways have an H.O.V. (High-Occupancy Vehicle) lane, which are limited-access lanes located in the median strip of the highway. The HOV lanes are operational Monday - Friday in the morning hours (5AM - 11AM) in the inbound direction and in the outbound direction in the afternoon and evening (from 2PM - 8PM). The HOV lanes are restricted to cars with 2 or more passengers, however some HOV lanes require 3 or more passengers during peak travel periods (6:45-8AM and 5-6PM, for IH-10 west; 6:45-8AM only for US-290). The HOV lanes are marked with signs bearing a white diamond on a black background. Highways with HOV lanes are: IH-45 North, IH-45 South, US-59 North, US-59 South, IH-10 West (Katy Freeway), and US-290. The Katy Freeway HOV lanes have been expanded into the Katy Toll Road, a 24-hour multi-lane HOV with paid Single-Occupancy Vehicle access cost-adjusted based on HOV usage.
Houston is so spread out and (most of the time) hot and humid that bicycles are often best used for exercise or to get to somewhere that is close by. 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 most city buses have easy to use racks in the front 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.
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.
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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 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.
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.
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 local cheese from the Houston Dairymaids - who make just about any variety you can think of - 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.
Sights & Landmarks
Travelers planning to visit multiple attractions may benefit from the 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.
- Astrodome. Dubbed the "8th Wonder of the World," it was one of the world's first fully indoor stadiums and the birthplace of astroturf (that was vacuumed by people in astronaut suits between innings). It was abandoned when the Astros threatened to move unless Minute Maid Park (nee' Enron Field) was built. The stadium is no longer open to visitors, but it is still a spectacle.
Things to do
- Wildcat Golf Club.
- Houston Country club.
- River Oaks Country Club.
- Buffalo Bayou
- Eleanor Tinsley Park - The beautiful city skyline backdrops this scenic portion of the park. It remains one of the most popular outdoor spaces for recreation and relaxation.
- Lost Lake - At this location, visitors can rent kayaks and discover the water trails.
- Discovery Green
- Houston Arboretum
- Hermann Park
- McGovern Centennial Gardens - Home to a diverse collection of gardens including an arid garden, a rose garden, a woodland garden, an interactive family garden, and more. Visitors can also enjoy walking the spiral path to the top of a 30-foot mount.
- Houston Astros, 510 Crawford St.., . 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 NRG Park, toll-free: , fax: . Houston's National Football League (NFL) team plays at NRG Stadium in the South Loop area, next to the now-vacant Astrodome.
- Houston Rockets, 1510 Polk St, , toll-free: . The city's NBA (basketball) team plays downtown at the Toyota Center.
- Houston Dynamo, 1001 Avenida de las Americas, Ste. 200, , fax: , e-mail: [email protected]. 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.
- Houston Dash, 1001 Avenida de las Americas, Ste. 200, , fax: , e-mail: [email protected]. Houston's newest pro team, which started play in April 2014 in the National Women's Soccer League. The team is owned and operated by the Dynamo and also plays at BBVA Compass Stadium.
Houston Motocross, reliant. May 22. Factory motocross racers from all around the world. to race once a year. Free.
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, currently compete in the American Athletic Conference. Most athletic venues are on campus, with the best-known being TDECU Stadium, which opened in 2014 at the site of the former football home of Robertson Stadium, and Hofheinz Pavilion (basketball).
- 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 HBCUs in the Southwestern Athletic 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 NRG 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 joined the FCS-level Southland Conference in 2013, and started a football program at that time.
Houstonians like theater and the community supports many types of performing arts companies. Most professional theater is centered in the Theater District, but other companies are located in different districts around town. The lively culture of Houston also includes numerous community theater organizations and several well regarded university programs.
Festivals and events
- Houston CaribFest. Celebrating Caribbean/West Indian Cultures.
- 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 & Rodeo, Reliant Park. March. HLSR is one of the largest live entertainment and livestock exhibitions in Texas. It runs for 20 days and includes activities for everyone. The rodeo in Houston is considered the city's "signature event" akin to "Mardi Gras" in New Orleans.
- Houston Gay Pride Parade, Downtown. June. The Houston Gay Pride Parade and Festival is an annual event that celebrates the city's LGBT community. The parade is a colorful and campy affair. You see people of all ages and ethnicities including families, drag queens, and people dressed in campy, kitch, or costumes. Free
- Texas Renaissance Festival, Todd Mission, TX, October & November. Located an hour outside of Downtown Houston, the Texas Renaissance Festival ("Ren Fest") runs during the weekends from the months of October to November. Guests are welcomed to attend in costume. Tickets run from $20-40.
Things to know
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.
Safety in Houston
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. Like many other US cities, certain areas of Houston are considerably less safe including the area within Loop 610 on the east side and some areas in Southwest Houston near Beltway 8 (Sam Houston Tollway).
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 putting 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.
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.
Houston is very hot and humid in the summer, with temperatures around 31°C-38°C (87°F-100°F), and summer climate in Houston is easily comparable to the average climates in tropical cities like Manila or Panama City during the summer. However, in the winter, Houston can be mild with temperatures ranging from -1°C-18°C (30°F-64°F), and winter climate is usually comparable to winters in the rest of the Southern United States or Southern California.
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, runs through downtown, into Midtown, to Texas Medical Center, and then the Reliant Complex near the south side, for a length of nearly 13 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.