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The skyscrapers of downtown Houston rise above and behind the restored neo-classical 1910 Harris County Courthouse in downtown Houston, Texas.

Houston Travel Guide

By Meena Thiruvengadam
March 02, 2021

Whatever you're looking for, Houston's got it. 

America's fourth-largest city, Houston is a fast-growing melting pot of cultures. It's home to several professional sports teams, a world class zoo, a top-notch symphony, and the Houston Rodeo. Beaches are just a short drive away. 

The Houston metropolitan area is home to nearly seven million people. More than 20% of the population was born abroad, giving the city a rich cultural tapestry that spans religions, languages, and cuisines. Houston has significant Indian, Vietnamese, Chinese, African, and Hispanic populations. 

Want to watch professional basketball? Catch a Houston Rockets game. Prefer football? The Houston Texans have you covered. Baseball more your speed? Plan your trip around a Houston Astros game. 

For a real Texas treat, check out the Houston Rodeo, the largest livestock exhibition and rodeo in the world. Millions of people visit the 20-day event each year. Performers including Beyonce, Ariana Grande, Kiss, Taylor Swift, even Elvis Presley have taken the stage at the Houston Rodeo. 

Don't miss a chance to visit the Johnson Space Center, which serves as Mission Control for American space missions and welcomes visitors to explore the artifacts of American space exploration.  Afterwards, walk along the beach in nearby Galveston. 

One thing's for sure, you'll find plenty of things to do — and eat — in Houston.

Time Zone

Central Standard Time. (Daylight Savings Time is observed seasonally)

Best Time to Go

Summers may swelter, but winters are mild, making Houston an excellent escape from freezing temperatures elsewhere. The first several months of the year are the best time to visit Houston. Basketball season is in full swing. Mild temperatures make a January marathon bearable. February brings Lunar New Year and Mardi Gras celebrations as well as the start of the Houston Rodeo, a weeks-long event that draws top recording artists to the city. March brings the Bayou Regatta, Texas' largest canoe and kayak race. April offers a chance to see creatively decked out cars at the city's annual Art Car Parade while May brings the Houston Dragon Boat Festival. For football fans, September through November offer bearable temperatures and the chance to see the Houston Texans in action.

Things to Know

Houston summers are hot and sticky. Temperatures in the 90s and 100s aren't uncommon. If you must visit during the summer, don't forget the sunscreen and do carry a water bottle. 

Houston is a sprawling city that covers more than 637 square miles. Houston traffic is among the worst in the U.S. While public transit has improved in recent years, you'll still need a car to get most places.

Houston is pronounced differently in Texas than it is in New York.

How to Get Around

Trains: Houston's METRORail system covers downtown, midtown, the Museum District, and the Texas Medical District.  Routes are limited, but the rail system does make it possible to get to baseball games and the rodeo for just $1.25 a ride. 

Buses: Houston bus services run on a series of color-coded networks. Routes are limited, but buses run between 14 and 18 hours a day with rides priced at $1.25 each. 

Taxis: Several taxi companies operate in Houston with meter rates at $2.75 for the first 1/11 mile. Riders over the age of 60 receive a 5% discount. 

Rideshare: Both Uber and Lyft operate in Houston. 

World's Coolest Pools
Credit: Courtesy of Marriott Hotels

Best Hotels

Hotel Zaza Black Label Suite in Houston
Credit: Courtesy of Hotel Zaza

Hotel ZaZa

Address: 5701 Main St, Houston, TX 77005
Phone: (713) 526-1991
Website

Hotel ZaZa is a luxury art hotel in the heart of Houston's Museum District. The Hotel includes a collection of specialty suites with themes ranging from Casa Blanca and Houston We Have a Problem to Geisha House and Soho Loft. Even standard rooms are spacious and include balconies and workspaces. The Hotel is part of a collection of boutique hotels with locations across Texas and offers both a rooftop terrace and shuttle services. Do lay by the pool and check out the spa.

World's Coolest Pools
Credit: Courtesy of Marriott Hotels

Marriott Marquis

Address: 1777 Walker Street, Houston, TX 77010
Phone: (713) 654-1777
Website

If you’ve never floated on a lazy river shaped like the state of Texas, you’re missing out. This one-of-a-kind Marriott Marquis hotel offers not only a rooftop lazy river shaped like Texas that’s perfect for cooling off on a hot summer day, but also an infinity pool with views as expansive as Houston. The hotel is perfect for convention attendees and is linked to the city’s convention center via a skywalk, meaning you won’t have to break a sweat regardless of when you’re visiting.

JW Marriott Houston Downtown

Address: 806 Main St, Houston, TX 77002
Phone: (713) 237-1111
Website

This hotel is housed in a historic downtown skyscraper and features art from local artists as well as a Houston-themed restaurant. The hotel is located near the city's convention center and offers easy access to public transit. Rooms are spacious, elegant and come equipped with iPads. Spa rooms offer luxurious bathrooms perfect for unwinding after a busy day

Sara's Bed & Breakfast Inn

Address: 941 Heights Blvd, Houston, TX 77008
Phone: (713) 868.1130
Website

Sara's is Houston's top B&B and offers a respite from chain hotels and trendy boutiques. The urban inn is located just a few miles from downtown in the Heights, a neighborhood that's a shopper's paradise. Almost all rooms include en suite bathrooms. Sara’s is known for its breakfast and 24/7 brownies. Rooms are organized by themes ranging from Wild West and Man Cave to Paris and Floral. Two- to four-night minimums are required for holiday weekends. 

Sonesta ES Suites

Address: 525 Bay Area Blvd, Houston, TX 77058
Phone: (281) 486-2424
Website

If you're a space buff, the Sonesta ES Suites in Clear Lake is for you. This hotel is just minutes from the Johnson Space Center and the campuses of Boeing and Lockheed Martin. The straightforward hotel’s suites are well-equipped for long stays, and the property is known for its excellent hot buffet breakfast.

La Maison

Address: 2800 Brazos St, Houston, TX 77006
Phone: (713) 529-3600
Website

La Maison is a bed and breakfast in the heart of Midtown Houston. The property includes seven unique guest rooms, some with Jacuzzi tubs or rain showers built for two. All rooms are accessible via elevator and guests receive access to a nearby gym.

DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel & Suites Houston by the Galleria

Address: 5353 Westheimer Rd, Houston, TX 77056
Phone: (713) 961-9000
Website

If you like your shopping sprees capped off with freshly baked cookies back in the hotel room, this is the hotel of your dreams. The Doubletree is located near the Houston Galleria and serves up some of the best warm chocolate chip cookies you’ll ever eat. The hotel is about an eight-minute walk from the Galleria and includes a pool and gym.

Westin Galleria Hotel

Address: 5060 W Alabama, Houston, TX 77056
Phone: (713) 960-8100
Website

Forget walking to the mall, this hotel lets you sleep at the mall. The Westin Galleria is located inside the iconic Houston Galleria, offering easy access to shops, restaurants, and the Galleria’s year-round ice rink. The hotel has recently been renovated. It’s the best choice for someone whose mission in Houston is to shop until they drop.

Aloft Houston by the Galleria

Address: 5060 W Alabama, Houston, TX 77056
Phone: (713) 622-7010
Website

For a more affordable stay near the Houston Galleria, head straight to the trendy Aloft hotel. The hotel is just a few blocks from the Galleria, Houston’s most visited destination. Rooms are spacious, bright, and include connectivity stations to charge all your devices and connect them to wall-mounted flat-screen TVs.

Four Seasons Hotel Houston

Address: 1300 Lamar Street, Houston, TX 77010
Phone: (713) 650-1300
Website

If you’re looking for a kid-friendly luxury escape, the Four Seasons Hotel Houston is for you. Hotel activities include mommy-and-me yoga, pizza-making classes, and movies by the pool. The rooms are huge — even by Texas standards. A Cabana room with a king or two double beds measures a whopping 450 square feet.

C. Baldwin, Curio Collection by Hilton

Address: 400 Dallas St, Houston, TX 77002
Phone: (713) 759-0202
Website

This luxury hotel in the Houston financial district is fresh off a renovation of its 354 rooms. Its rooms feature floor-to-ceiling windows and 55-inch TVs. Certain rooms include in-room Peloton bikes. The hotel has a fitness center as well as an on-site nail salon.

Hilton Americas-Houston

Address: 1600 Lamar St, Houston, TX 77010
Phone: (713) 739-8000
Website

This is a truly Texas-sized hotel and the largest hotel in Houston. It has a whopping 1,207 rooms and is connected to Houston’s George R. Brown Convention Center by skybridge. The hotel’s rooms and meeting spaces just underwent a massive renovation that was completed in July.

Dinner plate at Xochi in Houston
Credit: Courtesy of Xochi

Best Restaurants

Saigon House

Address: 3101 Main Street, Houston, TX 77002
Phone: (713) 529-1100
Website

Houston is home to the second-largest Vietnamese population in the U.S., and it’s one of the best cities for Vietnamese food. Saigon House is a uniquely Texan Vietnamese restaurant whose specialties are Oxtail Pho and Viet-Cajun Crawfish. Oxtail not your thing? Try the filet mignon pho.

The Breakfast Klub

Address: 3711 Travis St, Houston, TX 77002 
Phone: (713) 528-8561
Website

Forget everything you thought you knew about chicken and waffles. This casual spot takes the trendy brunch dish up a notch. Its Wings & Waffle signature plate takes one golden Belgian waffle topped with powdered sugar and a single strawberry and surrounds it with 6 chicken wings. Not your style? Opt for the Wings & Grits, Green Eggs & Ham or Biskits & Gravy.

Dinner plate at Xochi in Houston
Credit: Courtesy of Xochi

Xochi

Address: 1777 Walker Street, Houston, TX 77010
Phone: (713) 400-3330
Website

Xochi is the project of award-winning Chef Hugo Ortega. The menu channels Oaxaca, Mexico with a colorful array of corn, a seemingly endless selection of mole, and grasshoppers. Don't skip the bar and its extensive selection of tequilas, mezcals, and Mexican craft beers. The restaurant is vegetarian friendly and serves up a buffet brunch on Sundays. 

Ninfa’s on Navigation

Address: 2704 Navigation Blvd, Houston, TX 77003
Phone: (713) 228-1175
Website

This is where the legendary Ninfa's Tex-Mex chain got its start. Ninfa's opened in 1973 when a newly widowed Ninfa Rodríguez Laurenzo started grilling up skirt steak to serve with tortillas from the family's struggling tortilla factory. Nowadays, she’s credited with popularizing fajitas in Houston. Do try the queso and don’t miss the fajitas.

JINYA Ramen Bar

Address: Multiple Locations
Website

JINYA Ramen Bar isn’t Houston born and bred, but it’s quickly become one of Houston's top ramen spots. JINYA simmers its ramen broth for more than 10 hours. Noodles are made fresh daily and aged for three days for maximum flavor. JINYA Ramen Bar’s original location is in Tokyo but the business has since expanded across the Pacific with locations in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Houston.

Better Luck Tomorrow

Address: 544 Yale Street, Houston, TX 77007
Phone: (713) 802-0845
Website

If you’re looking for a howling good time, look no further than Better Luck Tomorrow. This is a neighborhood bar that’s known for its brunch and has earned a restaurant of the year rating from Food & Wine magazine. Better Luck Tomorrow is owned by a James Beard-Award winning chef and features a creative menu with items like lamb belly bites and Wagyu beef salad. Can’t decide? Taste the whole menu with three or four friends for $99. Don't skip the cocktails with creative names like Long Story Short, Cold-Fashioned, and the Gettin' Bzzy. Better Luck Houston opens at 3:30 p.m. weekdays and 11 a.m. on weekends.

BB's cajun Texas style food, a crawfish broil in a basket with broccoli and green beans
Credit: Courtesy of BB's

BB’s

Address: 2710 Montrose Blvd, Houston, TX 77006 
Phone: (713) 868-8000
Website

BB's is a 24-hour spot that bills itself as the home of Tex-Orleans cooking, and that's exactly what it is. The restaurant's menu is truly one-of-a-kind with dishes like Tex-Cajun fries  topped with queso, gravy and roast beef; Boudin Balls, fried balls of dirty rice and pork; and the Elvis Waffle, a banana, bacon, and peanut butter waffle topped with Nutella. Don't miss the shrimp and grits or the crawfish etouffee and do leave room for the only dessert on the menu: Maw-Maw's Bread Pudding.

Shri Balaji Bhavan

Address: 5655 Hillcroft St, Houston, TX 77036
Phone: (713) 783-1126
Website

If you’re looking for an authentic South Indian dining experience without having to fly to India, make your way to Shri Balaji Bhavan in Houston’s Mahatma Gandhi district. This casual vegetarian spot serves up south Indian classics like idly, dosas, and pakora. Don’t know where to start? Try the Madras Thali, a sampler tray of small bowls containing different dishes. Thalis are served with rice and typically include savory curries, sambar, yogurt, and a dessert. For a lighter meal, opt for the dosa, a semolina crepe that’s served in a variety of styles. The restaurant is closed on Tuesdays.

Taste of Texas

Address: 10505 Katy Freeway, Houston, TX 77024 
Phone: (713) 932-6901
Website

If you're looking for a true taste of Texas, look no further than, well,  the Taste of Texas. The Taste of Texas is part restaurant, part Texas history museum, and has been feeding Houston for more than 40 years. This is a place where you can choose your Certified Angus Beef steak from a butcher shop-style display, choose your seasoning, and have your steak wrapped in hickory-smoked bacon. Start your meal with Texas quail bites or Jalapeno-stuffed shrimp and end it with Snickers pie or a slice of Texas pecan pie topped with vanilla ice cream.

An audience views the recreation of the moon landing inside the newly restored Apollo Mission Control Room at NASA's Johnson Space Center
Credit: KACEY CHERRY/AFP via Getty Images

Things to Do

An audience views the recreation of the moon landing inside the newly restored Apollo Mission Control Room at NASA's Johnson Space Center
Credit: KACEY CHERRY/AFP via Getty Images

Johnson Space Center

Address: 1601 Nasa Parkway, Houston, TX 77058 
Website

The Johnson Space Center is a complex of 100 buildings spanning 1,620 acres serving as NASA's hub for human spaceflight. The facility is responsible for training astronauts and managing International Space Station operations. The Johnson Space Center also serves as Mission Control for U.S. spaceflights. Parts of the center are open to the public, giving visitors the opportunity to take a close-up look at spacecraft, spacesuits, and a shuttle replica mounted on an original shuttle carrier aircraft. Adults $29.95, Seniors $27.95, Children $24.95

Downtown Aquarium

Address: 410 Bagby St, Houston, TX 77002
Website

Houston’s Downtown Aquarium is a six-acre entertainment and dining complex that's home to more than 300 species of aquatic life from around the world. The project includes several rides, among them a Ferris Wheel and a Carousel. Exhibits include a Stingray Reef where visitors can touch and feed live stingrays. Dining areas are set up around aquariums. Adults $12.99, seniors $10.99, Children $9.99

The Beer Can House

Address: 222 Malone Street, Houston, TX 77007
Website

The Beer Can House is a one-of-a-kind piece of art. It's a house that's been covered with beer cans, beer bottles, and bottle caps and turned into one of the city’s best-known pieces of art. The house began its transformation in the late 1960s and is covered by an estimated 50,000 beer cans. The house is owned and operated by The Orange Show Center for Visionary Art, a non-profit aimed at preserving works of extraordinary imagination. $5

Gerald D. Hines Waterwall Park

Address: 2800 Post Oak Boulevard, Houston, TX 77056
Website

The best Instagram spot in Houston may just be the Waterwall, a 64-foot semicircular fountain set among 118 Texas live oak trees. The fountain's water supply consists of 78,500 gallons recycled every three hours and two minutes. The Waterwall has hosted weddings and served as the backdrop of both Hollywood and Bollywood movies. Free

Houston Museum of Natural Science

Address: 5555 Hermann Park Dr., Houston, TX 77030
Website

Founded in 1909, this museum is one of the country's most visited. It houses the Cockrell Butterfly Center, a three-story glass cone filled with tropical plants that's home to 60 different butterfly species. It also houses several lifelike robotic dinosaurs that make visitors feel as if they’ve just entered a real life “Jurassic Park.” Other exhibits examine astronomy, Native American culture, paleontology, Texas wildlife, and more. Be prepared for crowds on school day as this museum is a popular field trip spot. Adults $25, Children and seniors $16

Houston Art Car Museum

Address: 140 Heights Blvd, Houston, TX 77007
Website

If you like art and you like cars, you're going to love the Art Car Museum, aka the Garage Mahal. The museum has been around for more than 20 years and houses a number of elaborately decorated art cars, lowriders, and other imaginative mobile contraptions. Houston hosts an Art Car parade each spring and is believed to have the largest collection of art cars in the U.S. Free

National Museum of Funeral History

Address: 415 Barren Springs Drive, Houston, TX 77090
Website

This is no ordinary museum. This is a museum that's dedicated to the people and practices who make funerals possible. The museum delves into funeral culture from around the world. Exhibitions focus on the history of cremation, presidential funerals, and 19th century mourning. Several historical hearses also are on display. Adults $10, Seniors and Veterans $9, Ages 6 to 11 $7

Houston Zoo

Address: 6200 Hermann Park Dr, Houston, TX 77030
Website

The Houston Zoo is the second most visited zoo in the U.S. The 55-acre zoo is home to more than 6,000 animals representing 900 species. The zoo is home to a collection of Asian elephants, a collection of sea lions, and Shasta the cougar, mascot of the University of Houston. The zoo opened its doors in 1922 and now draws over 2 million visitors a year. Adults $18, Seniors $11.50, Children 2 to 11 $14

Downtown Houston Skyline Viewed from Eleanor Tinsley and Buffalo Bayou Park
Credit: Getty Images

Buffalo Bayou Park

Address: Shepherd Drive to Sabine Street, between Allen Parkway and Memorial Drive
Website

This 160-acre park is an urban green space with something for everyone.  Whether it’s hiking or biking trails, fountains, a skatepark, or bats, you'll find it and more here. This expansive urban green space is home to a 30,000 square foot skatepark, the cistern that was the city's first underground drinking-water reservoir, lakes, trails, and about 250,000 Mexican free-tailed bats. It’s a great place to spend a pleasant day relaxing outdoors and a perfect spot for a picnic. Free 

The Kemah Boardwalk on Clear Lake Texas
Credit: Getty Images

Kemah Boardwalk

Address: 215 Kipp Ave, Kemah, TX 77565
Website

The Kemah Boardwalk is a 60-acre theme park along the Texas Gulf Coast about 30 miles southeast of Houston. The boardwalk offers an escape from the hustle and bustle of Houston. It's owned by the restaurant operator Landry's Inc. and includes nearly a dozen restaurants as well as rides, midway games, shops, and a boutique hotel. The boardwalk is home to the Boardwalk Bullet, a 96-foot-tall, 3,236-foot-long roller coaster that's one of the most compact in the world. Free, rides require paid passes

San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site

Address: 3523 Independence Pkwy, La Porte, TX 77571
Website

For a bird's eye view of Houston, head to the top of the San Jacinto Monument. The monument's observation deck overlooks Houston, the Houston Ship Channel, and this historic battleground. The San Jacinto Museum of History, which chronicles 400 years of early Texas history, is located at the bottom of the monument. The Battleship Texas is also located on the grounds.  Free

Houston's Galleria mall features an indoor ice skating rink, upscale shopping and a food court.
Credit: Danny Lehman/Getty Images

Best Shopping

Houston's Galleria mall features an indoor ice skating rink, upscale shopping and a food court.
Credit: Danny Lehman/Getty Images

Houston Galleria

Address: 5085 Westheimer Rd, Houston, TX 77056
Website

The Galleria is Houston's top spot for shopping. More than 30 million shoppers pass through its doors each year to visit high-end retailers like Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Tiffany & Co. and Valentino. The Galleria spans 2.4 million square feet and is home to two Westin hotels, three office towers, 400 stores and restaurants, 13,000 parking spots, two swimming pools, and a full-size ice rink.

Houston Premium Outlets

Address: 29300 Hempstead Rd, Cypress, TX 77433
Website

If you’re looking for designer labels at a fraction of the price, make the half-hour drive to Houston Premium Outlets in Cypress. The outlet mall is home to 145 stores, including Armani, Burberry, Kate Spade, and Tory Burch. Covered walkways make it more comfortable to shop through rain or blistering sunshine.

Katy Mills Mall

Address: 5000 Katy Mills Cir, Katy, TX 77494 
Website

Katy Mills is a rare indoor outlet mall with more than 175 stores. It's located 25 miles west of downtown Houston and includes outlets from retailers including Kate Spade, Nike, Coach, Neiman Marcus, and Saks Fifth Avenue.

Republic Boot Co.

Address: 4222 San Felipe St, Houston, TX 77027
Website 

If you're looking to take home a pair of cowboy boots, look no further than Republic Boot Co. Each pair of the store’s custom boots is crafted by hand in Houston using premium materials designed to age well over time. The shop's master bootmakers have made boots for celebrities including John Wayne and Steve McQueen. These boots are a souvenir that will last a lifetime. 

Pinto Ranch Fine Western Wear

Address: 1717 Post Oak Blvd, Houston, TX 77056
Website

If you’ve got nothing to wear to the rodeo, this is the store for you. This Texas-sized western wear store sells everything from boots and jeans to hats, hand-engraved belt buckles, even saddles. Expect top-of-the-line brands including Lucchese, Tony Lama, and Stetson.

Houston Heights

Address: Heights Boulevard and 19th Street
Website

This historic district is Houston's go-to spot for antiques, home decor, and vintage clothing. The Heights offers an intimate collection of shops as well as restaurants and a hair salon. Don't miss Retropolis, a well-known resale shop known for its bargains.

River Oaks Shopping Center

Address: W Gray St at Shepherd Dr, Houston, TX 77019
Website

Dating back to the 1930s, this is one of the oldest shopping centers in the U.S. River Oaks is an open-air shopping center known for its art deco buildings. It's now a historic landmark that's home to around 75 retailers, restaurants, and service providers. Among its tenants: Sur La Table, White House Black Market, Ann Taylor, Sunglass Hut and J. McLaughlin.

Neighborhoods to Know

Montrose: Montrose is a quirky Houston neighborhood known for its gay bars, vintage shops, and independent art galleries. The neighborhood is home to the Rothko Chapel, a non-denominational chapel filled with abstract murals by its namesake artist. It's a great place to take in views of the city skyline, have a picnic, and play sand volleyball. 

Museum District: This is Houston's beating cultural heart. The Houston Museum District is home to 19 institutions, 11 of which are free. This is where you'll find the Houston Museum of Natural Science, the Children's Museum of History, and the Houston Zoo. A grassroots effort in the late 1970s led to the creation of this pedestrian friendly district. 

Midtown: Midtown was a Victorian-style residential neighborhood that declined during the latter part of the 20th century. It was home to Little Saigon in the 1970s. Gentrification and redevelopment have since pushed much of the area's Vietnamese population to move. Nowadays, it's a millennial hotspot known for restaurants, bars, and breweries. 

Uptown: This upscale area is a shopping mecca. It's home to the Houston Galleria, the Uptown Park open air mall, and the Gerald D. Hines Waterwall Park. Uptown has more than six million square feet of retail space and more than 1,000 stores. It's where you'll find upscale retailers including Versace, Yves Saint Laurent, and Bvlgari. And there are plenty of restaurants, cafes, and wine bars to fuel those shopping sprees. 

Weather

June to September can be down right steamy. Snow, ice and freezing temperatures are rare. Below are average temperatures in Fahrenheit for each month.

January 44 - 62
February 46 - 65
March 54 - 72
April 60 - 78
May 66 - 84
June 72 - 90
July 74 - 92
August 74 - 93
September 70 - 88
October 61 - 81
November 52 - 71
December 45 - 63

Apps to Download

Waze: Real-time traffic information 
iOs | Android

METROrail: Public transit trip-planning
iOs | Android

ParkMobile: Reserve and pay for parking
iOs | Android