Oil and gas are still big business around here. Houston dominates southeast Texas thanks to a near manic commitment to growth. You'll find a lively scene concentrated within a few miles of downtown; a 30 to 45 minute drive south on I-45 brings you to coastal attractions.
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What To Do
Memorial Park and Hermann Park, surrounding the zoo, are the two main areas in the city for walking and running. The huge oak trees of Main Street provide deep shade over the wide sidewalks of downtown. A cooler endeavor is ice skating at the Galleria Mall, a few miles west of downtown.
What To See
The only problem you'll have in Houston is deciding what to see first.
Impressionist paintings, Egyptian artefacts and art cars: Houston caters to an eclectic mix of museum-goers. In addition to the mainstream modern and classic art and history museums, the private Menil Collection and Byzantine Fresco Chapel are stunning. Then there's the odd: the Orange Show's Beer Can House, the Art Car Museum, and most bizarrely, the National Museum of Funeral History. Just south, Space Center Houston has all matter of astronaut paraphernalia.
Hardcore shoppers should make a beeline for the Galleria (cnr Westheimer and Post Oak), where you'll find a massive range of retailers (including Tiffany's) and a bevy of restaurants. Smaller scale shopping can be found at the River Oaks Shopping Center or Rice Village. There's a clutch of antique stores to rummage through on Westheimer at Woodhead.
While not as pounding a music hub as Austin, Houston's nightlife still has plenty to offer. The area around Market Sq and Main St in downtown are the center of the buzz, but Montrose has some action too. Houston's entertainment menu lists a healthy range of clubs, live music, theatre and major sporting events.
The Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo goes for 17 days from mid-February to March. Big-name cowboys ride bulls and broncs at Reliant Stadium followed by big-name music acts nightly. This event is well worth seeking out if you want to two-step right into Texas culture. April's Houston International Festival is a multicultural celebration of food, art and music that lasts for 10 days, beginning the third week of the month. Events are held all over the city and include the Houston International Film Festival. In March and again in October, the Bayou City Arts Festival shows off the Montrose District at its flamboyant best, with blocks of booths selling arts, antiques, food and items that defy classification. There's usually a parade or two to keep the nipple-ringed residents amused.
Juneteenth is a multiday celebration around 19 June, the day in 1865 when word reached Texas that the slaves had been emancipated. Events include gospel and blues festivals and other celebrations of local African-American culture. Fiestas Patrias features a parade, ball and music celebrating Mexican Independence Day on 16 September.
Food and Drink
Houston has some serious eatery action going on - it is home to the largest and most varied collection of restaurants in the state. Cuisine from every corner of the world can be found here, as well as classic down-home fare. You could pack on some serious weight while in town (Houston enjoyed the dubious honor of being the fattest city in America for a while), so wear your comfy buffet pants and dig into that barbecue.