A Local’s Guide to Houston
Houston has all the things you’d expect from the fourth largest city in the nation: great restaurants, ample venues, world-class shopping, and several professional sports teams, among much more. While you can Yelp just about every type of business, restaurant, and activity in the city, sometimes it’s nice to have a local’s perspective. After living in greater Houston for a combined six years, here are some lesser known facts and some favorite recommendations from yours truly!
Getting There: Houston has two major airports; both less than 20 miles from downtown. If you fly United, Bush Intercontinental will offer service and if you prefer Southwest, Hobby is your best bet. Both airports are convenient to the freeway system which offers easy access to surrounding areas. Be sure to rent a car if you plan to go anywhere other than downtown! Houston is one city where it can be tough to get around without one.
Weather: While Houston is known for being hot and humid, it’s not like that the entire year! July through September can be sweltering, but it starts to cool down again in October. It’s very comfortable and not as humid through mid-May. No matter when you choose to visit you can escape the weather at a number of indoor attractions, all air-conditioned of course!
Where to Stay: Whether you’re looking for a large golf resort or intimate retreat, Houston offers a myriad of great accommodations. There are conference centers and popular chains – Marriott, Hilton, Sheraton, etcetera, and there are also some unique to Houston (or unique to Texas) options. Hotel Zaza in the Museum District is one notable Texas boutique hotel worthy of a visit.
Must-See: Speaking of the Museum District, Houston is home to several great museums and other attractions worth mentioning. The Museum of Fine Arts, the Contemporary Arts Museum, and the Jung Center are among my favorites and they’re all within walking distance of each other. If you’re more outdoorsy, a short drive from the museum district you can find Discovery Green, a 12-acre park in the middle of downtown, across the street from the George R. Brown Convention Center. The park has a number of unique venues and you’ll often find live music, festivals, and other popular events. Buffalo Bayou Park is another option, just outside of downtown, and has a great hike and bike trail with beautiful views of the city skyline. It’s also known for the Waugh Bridge “Bat Colony,” home to hundreds of thousands of Mexican free-tailed bats. Just before sunset nightly, you can watch the bats come out to feed on the local mosquitos and other insects. Best viewing spots are near the corner of Allen Parkway and Waugh Drive. You can park for free a block away and walk to the viewing area.
Where to Eat: Houston is home to so many great restaurants, it’s hard to narrow down the list. Two local favorites are the El Tiempo Cantina and Barnaby’s Café. Both have a handful of locations in the area and have great food and relaxed atmospheres. El Tiempo offers Tex-Mex style fare while Barnaby’s boasts American food classics like meatloaf, pork chops, and chicken along with plenty of burger and salad options.
Where to Shop: Like dining choices, it’s hard to narrow down the best shopping experiences. The Galleria is the most popular center. It’s the largest mall in Texas and offers tons of upscale store options. It is a great choice when you feel like walking around a lot in an indoor mall. There are also a couple great outdoor shopping centers near the Galleria – Uptown Park is just a few blocks away and offers more boutiques and intimate shops.
What to Skip: Whether you’re meeting in Houston or visiting, your time usually flies by. For the best experience, I’d skip the obvious chain restaurants (you can eat there at home!), the Downtown Aquarium (a seemingly popular attraction, but more of an overpriced dining experience), and anything more than a 30-mile drive from wherever you’re staying. Houston is so large it can easily take much longer than you expected to get to and from destinations – better to stay closer to your hotel and experience all the local area has to offer!
Photo credits: Abstract image of the Gus M. Wortham Memorial Fountain along Allen Parkway, better known as the Dandelion Fountain from iStock. All other images from Shutterstock.