Energy capital, rodeo town, biotech and medical research center, aerospace innovator, international arts destination: America’s fourth-largest city is many things to many, many people—2.2 million in the greater metropolitan area. Like Texas itself, Houston transcends its own clichés and stereotypes and is increasingly impossible to pin down. In a city untamed by zoning laws, these multiple personalities exist side-by-side, and the sheer randomness of the place is sometimes appealing, sometimes appalling, yet always exhilarating. Three separate skylines jagged with audacious towers—by the likes of I. M. Pei, Cesar Pelli, and Philip Johnson—tower over prim, leafy residential neighborhoods. Exquisite museums, fine restaurants, and fashionable shops lie just off the pristine avenues of downtown. You never know what awaits around the next corner, but therein lies the appeal of this unpredictable and in comparable city.
Black gold and Texas tea are what put Houston on the map and made it the fourth most populous city in the United States. But if you have decided to travel to Houston, you aren't going to look at oil derricks, instead it's the cultural riches that followed the oil, including some world-class museums, and the laid-back Southern atmosphere that are likely the draws. The city is sprawling—its 2 million residents share an area twice the size of New York City—so while an excellent public transportation system does exist, a car will make it easier to get the most out of a Houston visit.
What Not to Miss in Houston
Make time for visits to these sights as you plan your trip with our Houston travel guide:
• Johnson Space Center
• Museum of Fine Arts Houston
• Menil Collection
• Rothko Chapel
• The Galleria
When To Visit Houston
Winter and spring are peak times for Houston travel, with pleasant temperatures and relatively little rain. Summers are hot and humid, while the hurricane activity in the Gulf of Mexico makes October one of the wettest months (though hurricanes rarely hit Houston itself).
Strolling (or jogging or cycling) around piney Hermann Park at the end of the day. Under the gaze of Sam Houston himself, take in the serene Japanese Garden, enjoy an impromptu jazz performance at Miller Outdoor Theatre or a sunset on the reflection pool.
Chowing down at Goode Company, a Hill Country-style BBQ stand—complete with wood-fired pit, picnic tables, and Texas honky-tonk music. Whether in drop-dead Blahniks or dusty cowboy boots diners line up here by the dozens for cafeteria-style eats.
Exploring the Menil compound of museums—including architect Renzo Piano’s first two buildings in the U.S., the Rothko Chapel, and clusters of outdoor sculpture surrounded gnarly live oak trees.