Texas, after Alaska, is the largest state in America and a few days' trip is certainly not enough to grasp its essence. This is home to rodeos, longhorn cows, ranches, and purplish expanses of blue bonnet flowers. Our goal is Houston, the most populated city and the fourth most inhabited in the States after New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. This metropolis, located in the southeast of the state, owes its name to Sam Houston, the general advocate of independence from Mexico and president of the republic of Texas in the years 1836 to 1846.
- What to see in Houston
- Downtown e Historic District
- The parks of Houston
- Hermann Park
- Memorial park
- The Museum District
- The Space Center in Houston
- Where to shop
- Events in the city
- Where to eat
- Where to sleep in Houston
- Where is it and how to get around
What to see in Houston
The city is crossed by a watercourse of more than 82 kilometers, the Buffalo Bayou. The very mild climate in winter invites you to go out, appreciate the city attractions and stroll in its green areas. The hot, humid and rainier summer can be a bit annoying to some but do not worry because so many points of interest are indoors.
Downtown e Historic District
With these assurances we are ready to explore Houston starting in the city center. First we go into theHistoric District, a picturesque downtown neighborhood (bordered by Fannin St., Texas St. and Milam St.), with many historic buildings mainly from the 19th and early 20th centuries that create a harmonious whole; many of them are residences.
In the small Market Square we take advantage of Mexican craftsmanship and then there is the lung Market Square Park (301 Milam St.), a green area accessible every day from 6 am to 23 pm that is full of vitality. We stop on an unusual bench with a mosaic back near the equally precious fountain. This is a nice place to walk among gardens, flowering trees even in the company of "four-legged friends". We remind you that it is forbidden to use the skateboard which actually would serve us to be able to see everything!
We then listen to the suggestions of the locals and, while we are in the park, we satisfy our appetite at the kiosk Niko Niko's Greek and American Cafè. The lunch break has recharged us, we leave the district and get back on the road, this time by car but always in downtown. We notice that there are not many people around, we ask for explanations and we are told that in Houston many skyscrapers are connected by a series of tunnel underground (some raised) along which there are also very popular food courts even on weekends. It is possible to deepen the visit of the tunnels with guided tours during which the history of the city and many buildings is told.
Info on the Houston Underground Tunnel Tour
Among the many skyscrapers we see the JP Morgan Chase Tower (600 Travis St.) which at 305 meters is the tallest building in Texas. Houston also boasts a great one theater district, 17 blocks in the heart of downtown among which stand out Alley Theatre (615 Texas Ave.), Jones Hall (3910 Yoakum Blvd.), Wortham Theater Center (501 Texas Ave.), but also entertainment complexes, cinemas and restaurants.
Very important thing not to forget, Houston deserves a look even at night when the buildings are illuminated and in order not to miss the best observation points there is the possibility of requesting a guided tour by night.
Info su Houston City Lights Tour
At the north end of downtown, at 410 Bagby Street, we tag along with families with children for an ageless attraction, the Downtown Aquarium. More than 200 species of bizarre and colorful aquatic living beings, sharks and alligators await us here, but we are surprised by the presence of a foreign guest: a white tiger whose gaze just beyond the window still puts us in awe. . Do you want a special birthday? Here it is possible to celebrate it.
If we hadn't already had lunch at the Greek kiosk we would have stopped in the restaurant overlooking a huge fish tank of nearly 57.000 liters, but it will be for next time! The aquarium is open from Tuesday to Thursday and Sunday from 10 to 20.30 while on Fridays and Saturdays it extends its hours until 22. The entrance ticket costs $ 12.99 for adults, $ 10.99 for over 65s and $ 9.99 for children. Some attractions such as the carousel and the Ferris wheel have an additional cost. The complete pass costs $ 20.99.
Houston city tour and Downtown Aquarium admission
We go down south towards the Houston Graffiti Building (1503 Chartres St.), a sort of museum, a free and open-air work of art, a long series of splendid graffiti. Something to see for quality and diversity!
The parks of Houston
We are at the end of February, the day is ideal, not humid and so we focus on the open spaces that here in the city seem to be there, starting with Discovery Green (1500 McKinney St.), a beautiful green area and a lake where kayaks can be hired in the summer. We reiterate that we are not true connoisseurs of art and even here in the meadow we do not contradict ourselves by letting ourselves be surprised by something we were not aware of: modern art forms, or rather, ultra modern art that do not go unnoticed for colors and sizes.
Due to its particularity the Gerald D. Hines Waterwall Park (2800 Post Oak Blvd.) deserves our attention and a few minutes of our time. In the spectacular park with more than 150 oaks behind the skyscraper of the same name, a semicircular structure about 20 meters high has been created, which drops more than 5000 liters of water per minute. The visual impact of the whole is remarkable.
More southern, Hermann Park is one of the oldest parks in the city accessible from 6am to 23pm. The main entrance is at the intersection of Main Street and Montrose Boulevard and parking is free for 3 hours. The monument on horseback that rises from a flight of steps is dedicated to General Sam Houston and his outstretched arm seems to indicate access to the greenery.
The term park is certainly an understatement as this large area hosts a rectangular-shaped body of water that leads to the obelisk of the Pioneer Memorial, Lake McGovern where we see some pedal boats, the Friendship pavillion, areas for picnics, a museum, sculptures, a train that goes around the park through a tunnel with a particular mural, the suspension bridge Bill Coats bridge, a golf course, the Pinewood Café and two attractions that we don't want to give up.
The first is the Japanese garden (6000 Fannin St.), a harmonious Japanese garden open from April to September from 10 to 18 and from October to March from 10 to 17 with free admission. Walking in this nature along stone paths between waterfalls, bridges, cherry trees, camellias, azaleas, bamboo and black pines gives a great sense of peace.
The second point of interest is it Zoo (6200 Herman Park Dr.) where, among the various guests, we meet flamingos, elephants, cheetahs, leopards, jaguars, lions, giraffes, lemurs, black bears, Malaysian tigers, red pandas, sea lions and Amazon parrots. Of course, here we find some gift shops, restaurants and kiosks selling food. The zoo is open every day from 9am to 19pm and the cost of the ticket is $ 19 for adults, $ 15 for ages 2 to 11 and $ 12.50 for ages 65 and over.
Info on tickets for the Houston Zoo
Still on the subject of green areas, we point out the Memorial park (6501 Memorial Dr.), a park with a curvilinear path in the woods, almost 50 kilometers of trails, and right here we decide to do what others are already doing, a picnic. After lunch, younger guests have at their disposal a play area while adults simply rest or entertain themselves in the sports fields of golf (1001 E. Memorial Loop), tennis (1500 Memorial Loop), softball, baseball, football, football and in summer you can enjoy the outdoor swimming pool.
Inside the park there is also theArboretum and Nature Center (4501 Woodway Dr.) where the native plants that develop along the 8 kilometers of paths that we walk in a small part are pruned. We recommend that you consult online the dates on which events take place, for example the Arboretum at Night when evening walks and close encounters with nocturnal animals take place. The Nature shop is open every day from 10 to 16. The arboretum can be visited daily from March to September from 7 to 19.30 and from October to February from 7 to 18.30. Important note to observe: keep the bug spray close at hand.
The Museum District
Houston's museums are located in a relatively small area, the Museum District, bordered by Highway 288, Herman Park (6200 Hermann Park Dr.), Route 59 and Texas Medical Center (6530 Bertner Ave). This area is a collection of 19 museums, galleries and cultural centers dedicated to the promotion of art, science, history and culture.
To begin we choose to visit the Museum of Fine Arts which houses European masterpieces of the past (1500-1800), for example by Van Gogh and then the artistic reality closely connected to it, the Bayou Bend Collection & Gardens (further north - 1 Westcott St.), a must-see where we take a guided tour of the manicured gardens and historic home.
Other museums in the district are: the Contemporary Art museum, the Natural Science Museum, the Children's Museum, the Center for Photography and the African American Culture Museum. Further west, but always on the subject of art, Menil Collection (1533 On Ross St.) is not to be missed. It is one of the largest private collections with sculptures, prints, drawings, treasures from antiquity, up to more recent works by masters such as Magritte, Picasso and Warhol.
Houston Museum of Natural Sciences general admission
A lovely city neighborhood it is Houston Heights, north-west of downtown, with late 800th / early 900th century dwellings and tree-lined streets along which it is a pleasure to stroll, also encountering shops, restaurants and cafes.
The Space Center in Houston
We move out of the center because it is time for us to visit it Space Center (1601 E. Nasa Pkwy.). In this world famous reality, founded in 1992, came the first words from the moon: "The Eagle Has Landed". The theme is space in all its forms for a mix of knowledge and entertainment.
To get an idea of the center it is advisable to take the tour with the tram that crosses a large part of the property and the main buildings of the complex, after which we focus on the building where we learn how astronauts are trained to live in a space station, let's try virtual reality of a journey to Mars with Future Flight, we see a spectacular movie on our planet, we experience interactive activities and we observe memorabilia displays related to space missions.
Focusing on scientific topics involves a great waste of energy and therefore we make a stop at the Zero-G Diner where the choice ranges from sandwiches, salads, pizza and vegetarian dishes, but with a little more time available you can have lunch with an astronaut. and it is necessary to book in time on the appropriate section of the official website.
We close with a flourish with the close and impressive encounter with the tallest and most powerful rocket, the Saturn V, protagonist of the Apollo program that brought man to the moon. Now he is at rest in a hangar all of his own and is the destination of continuous "pilgrimages". The entrance fee to the Space Center is $ 29.95 for adults, $ 27.95 for ages 65 and up, and $ 24.95 for ages 4 to 11. On the official website you can consult the times in which the center is open to visitors and the costs of what is not included in the ticket.
Read our guide on how to visit NASA in Houston
If you want to combine the visit of the Space Center with a guided tour of the city of Houston you can take a look at the tour below.
NASA Space Center and Houston City Sightseeing Tour
We continue the exploration of Houston with a look at a neighborhood with an oriental flavor. Chinatown (bounded by Fondren Rd., Beechut St. and Westpark Dr.), it develops about 20 kilometers from downtown and is home to one of the largest Asian communities in the United States. The neighborhood is immediately recognizable from the entrance door of classic oriental inspiration. Distinctively styled restaurants, businesses and shops are particularly found on Harwin Drive, the shopping district.
Hong Kong City Mall (11205 Bellaire Blvd.) is also a popular shopping center. It is worth visiting the Teo Chew Temple (10599 Turtlewood Ct.) A Buddhist temple with typical interior decorations and statues of deities. The faithful pray, burn incense sticks in front of the deities and the fragrance that spreads in the air is very strong. Outside there is a beautiful circular fountain representing the 12 animals of the zodiac carved in marble.
A popular downtown location is Bayou Place (500 Texas Ave.), a complex with cinema, hall for private events, bars and restaurants including the famous Hard Rock Cafe chain. The complex is open from Monday to Thursday and Sunday from 11 to 22 while on Friday and Saturday the hours are extended up to 24. It has parking with valet but there are also parking lots in the surrounding area.
Where to shop
In this metropolis there are great possibilities to indulge yourself with it Shopping. In the Houston Heights neighborhood, the shopping area is there 19th Street with boutiques, gift shops, antique and vintage shops, all accompanied by refreshment points and clubs with live music. In Uptown it is located Gallery (5085 Wesheimer Rd.), A large shopping center which, in addition to the shops and the food court, houses the Westin hotel, a health center and an ice skating rink where we stop to watch evolutions but also some tumbles. Also along Westheimer Road, at 4055, theHighland Village Shopping Center it is one of the first shopping centers in the city. We also report the River Oaks Shopping Center (1964 W. Gray St.).
Events in the city
We mention some of the Events which take place in the city that give an extra touch to the visit. In January you can witness the Houston Auto Show at NRG Park (NRG Pkwy.) when cars from around the world are showcased and visitors get the chance to see, touch, drive and appreciate masterpieces from the best automotive industries. Tickets cost $ 12 for adults and $ 5 for ages 6 to 12.
We also arrived here in Texas for the event that takes place between February e March: The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo at NRG Park (NRG Pkwy.). The event dates back to 1932 and in addition to rodeo competitions there are lively cattle auctions, good food and country music concerts: a true Texan show! There are also stalls with various items including cowboy style clothing with hundreds of more or less flashy boots, hats and vests. The costs of the event vary according to the proposals of the day and the seats.
The Greek community celebrates in October during the Houston greek Festival which takes place at the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral (3511 Yoakum Blvd.) between live music, dancing, singing and excellent food from the motherland. The gift shop is also interesting. Tickets cost $ 5 for adults. We take advantage of the event to take a tour of the beautiful Byzantine Revival-style cathedral. Its single nave leads to the altar area where the icons are located, decorative images typical of Orthodox churches.
At Memorial Park (6501 Memorial Dr.) in spring e autunno takes place on Bayou City Art Festival, an exhibition of works by international artists in the airy context of the park where the presence of food trucks is a tradition. Pets are not allowed at the event and the lack of on-site parking is made up for by a shuttle that costs $ 4 each way and departs from the North-West Mall (9500 Hempstead Rd.). The cost of the event is $ 15 for adults and $ 5 for children under 12.
In the beautiful neighborhood of Houston Heights on the first Saturday of each month, 19th Street hosts theArts Market with an open-air market of arts, crafts and the accompaniment of live music. Opening hours vary according to the season. During the year, al Discovery Green one takes place series of events to choose from, you can find out which ones by visiting the official website.
Where to eat
A trip would not be complete without tasting some of the local cuisine. Our choice falls between restaurants different from each other. The chain Morton's Steakhouse (5000 Westheimer Rd.) Is known for its excellent meat: filet mignon, braised beef ribs, pork chops, but there is no shortage of giant shrimp cocktails, mac'n cheese with lobster, crab legs and bread pudding with walnuts pecans plus white chocolate. The restaurant, open for lunch and dinner, recommends reservations and business or smart casual attire.
In a historic wooden building that dates back to 100 years ago the Rainbow Lodge (2011Ella Blvd.) is a welcoming, refined restaurant, where the staff is attentive to details; it has a bar, patio, porch and the view is facing a stream. The restaurant is open for lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch; the philosophy of the managers is to use seasonal foods, products from their garden and local farmers. The menu includes salads, pasta dishes, fish and meat from local farms.
It has been active since 1997 Taste of Texas (10505 Katy Freeway) which offers appetizers, soups, salads, fish, meat and good wine. The restaurant is welcoming and combines touches of Texan style with elegant wooden furnishings. Also there Steamboat House (8045 N. Sam Houston Pkwy W.) is Texan-themed for style and dishes, but not only. The name of the restaurant is that of General Sam Houston's last residence where he lived and died. Inside the room stand out two large paintings from 1936 depicting respectively Sam Houston and George Washington. It is possible to take a historical tour of the restaurant.
Where to sleep in Houston
Even with regard to the choice of accommodation, the possibilities are many. Near the Galleria Mall is located La Quinta Inn & Suites Galleria Area (1625 W. Loop S.) with its garden that allows full relaxation. Cozy furnishings and sunny colors characterize the rooms and suites, the latter featuring a living room. Guests have access to a heated swimming pool, spa, fitness center, business room and a shuttle that runs between the hotel and the two city airports Bush and Hobby.
Near the downtown we report Sara’s Bed and Breakfast Inn (941 Heights Blvd.) recognizable by its colorful walls. The historic residence captures the attention for the charm and elegance of the style. The rooms, also with a historic touch, are equipped with a mini fridge and wi-fi. You can park on site and along Heights Boulevard. During the most important holidays, a minimum stay of 2 or 4 nights is required.
In the heart of Houston Heights theUphouse Manor B&B (235 W. 18th St.) is a 1908 mansion with a pleasant veranda. Style and charm characterize the rooms and suites. The structure has parking. The Comfort Suites Houston Northwest Cy-Fair (13355 FM 1960 Rd. W.) has cozy rooms with coffeemaker, microwave, refrigerator, fitness center, laundry and parking but pets are not allowed.
Find all hotels in Houston
Where is it and how to get around
To reach Houston we point out theairport international citizen George Bush (2800 N. Terminal Rd.). If you don't have a rental car you can use the bus or and "light", too rail (similar to a tram) operated by the Metro (Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County). The lines run through Greater Houston and the part of Harris County that hosts it. There is another option also for those who have hired a car; you can use the formula Park and Ride which consists of parking your vehicle, usually in suburban areas, and then take the public transport that connects the city center.
About an hour away, but still within Greater Houston, there is Galveston, a well-known coastal town on the Gulf of Mexico, also a destination for cruises, practically the Houston Riviera which boasts splendid 19th century Victorian buildings and Moody Gardens (1 Hope Blvd.) with natural environments to discover, the cinema, the beach and the lagoon. If you are interested in this excursion outside the city you can take a look at this organized tour.
There is so much to see in and around Houston, a large area with a world of recreational, entertainment, cultural, culinary and shopping opportunities, a vibrant reality that combines the warmth of the Southern states with the energy of Texas.