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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From the Space Center to the Aquarium, outer space to the deepest seas, Houston’s got it all covered. Clearly, Texas always goes big, and Houston is no exception. The country’s fourth-largest city spreads its wings from southeast Texas all the way to Galveston Bay. Visitors will find plenty of culture and entertainment at the Houston Grand Opera in the city’s compact downtown Theatre District and Museum District, home to the Museum of Fine Arts, the Menil Collection and Houston Museum of Natural Science. The Aquarium offers both above land and undersea adventures for the whole family without anyone ever having to get wet. Those looking to cool off can visit Wet ‘n’ Wild Splashtown for lots of water-filled fun.
A stroll through the 19th century architecture and enticing restaurants of Houston’s downtown Historic District provides a peak into the city’s grand past. While a look at Houston’s glistening skyscrapers and cosmopolitan neighborhoods points the way to its future. From award-winning restaurants and first-rate theatre and museums to major league sports teams and a steady stream of festivals, Houston has something to keep everyone coming back for more.
What To Do
Explore the artistic masterpieces of the Museum of Fine Arts in the downtown Museum District.
Enjoy an entertaining night at the Houston Opera.
Take a boat tour along the lazy Buffalo Bayou River.
Cheer for your favorite teams at the Houston Astrodome, fittingly called the Eighth Wonder of the World.
Walk along historic Market Square past quaint buildings, charming restaurants and plenty of old-fashioned neon.
See the incredible Apollo 17 space shuttle at Houston’s renowned Space Center. Introduce yourself to some of the 6,000 residents of the Houston Zoo.
Go deep beneath the city on a unique tour of its underground maze of tunnels.
View some of Houston’s most impressive sites above ground, from elegant Victorian mansions to the Museum of Fine Arts.
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.
When to Go
It’s no secret that summers in Texas are hot, sometimes reaching 90 F and beyond. After all, that’s why air-conditioning was created. Winters are wonderfully mild, with temperatures often in the mid-50s. Fall and spring are your best bets for an enjoyable vacation, weather-wise, especially February to April when the rodeo is in town.
Subtropical and humid, with loads of sun and only about 50in of rain a year. The vicious summers are made more intolerable by the lack of a breeze. When the wind does come you'll know about it; Houston is no stranger to tropical storms and hurricanes. Winters are cool and temperate.