What's there to see and do in Houston, Texas?
January 17, 2006 1:01 PM   Subscribe

A friend of mine is trippin' to Houston, Texas in March with her husband and their nine-month-old baby son, and she needs some specific travel advice.

Here are her questions:

1) What is the transit system like in Houston? I need to get from our hotel (the Houstonian) to the Reliant Centre and am interested in going to the Space Centre.

2) Exactly how long would it take to get from downtown Houston to Galveston or simply to the Bay (assuming I’m renting a car for a day trip)?

3) I've always wanted to be a Dallas Cowboy cheerleader. Is there anyway I could make this dream come true during the few days I'll be in Texas? Do they give short-term contracts for this, and if so, will I have to give back the kicky pleated skirt and pom poms afterwards?*

4) Any recommendations for things to see and do given that we have a nine month old and do NOT like shopping.

5) Any tips on traveling (by air) with a child. Can we ride in a taxi without a car seat?

6) Has you been to the Houston Rodeo, and if so, do you have any recommendations?

*Okay, she probably didn't really want to know how to be a Dallas Cowboy cheerleader, even temporarily. I just threw it in because my inner adolescent got the better of me. Don't hurt me, C.
posted by orange swan to Travel & Transportation around Houston, TX (11 answers total)
1) Rent a car. Houston requires a car. It is a sprawling, disjointed place, and if you try to take public transportation, it will make you sad.
posted by deadfather at 1:37 PM on January 17, 2006

1) Pretty much non-existant. There's a single rail line that goes from downtown to the reliant center. If you're staying at the Houstonian off Post Oak, you'll either need to cab it or see if the hotel offers a shuttle. The Space Center is about 20 minutes outside downtown (assuming you're not driving in rush hour traffic).

2) 1/2 - 1 hour depending upon traffic. In Galveston you can see the Strand historical district, the Elissa which is a working tall-ship, the air museum with old aircraft and a few other things. Oh, and Moody Gardens.

6) The livestock show would be interesting if your kid likes animals. They also have carnival rides and other exhibits. The concerts are ok but not held in an arena designed for acoustics.

and finally out of order

4) Hard to say unless you give hints as to what you like. We have a nice zoo, natural science museum and a children's museum. The theater district puts on great shows but almost all are adult centric. Memorial Park is a great place to go walking, the weather should be still cool that time of year. Also inside Memorial Park is an arboretum you have walk through. I believe they offer tours too.

The Orange Show is interesting.

There's also a ton of places to eat, both regular old American and international.
posted by beowulf573 at 1:41 PM on January 17, 2006


1) (continued) Parking is plentiful and generally free. The alternatives are smelly, slow bus system that uses the downtown streets as its hub. The light rail is new and nice, and runs from Reliant Center, through the Museum District and midtown, to downtown, so it may be of limited use. But as a car is required for every other destination, it's generally not worth the trouble.

2) I would disagree with a half-hour. About an hour in the least to get to Galveston from downtown, closer to 1.5 with traffic.

3) Please see me.

6) The rodeo is fun; it should be noted that the "rodeo" proper is held at Reliant Stadium and consists of rodeo competition and a music concert. Also do not miss the Livestock Show, and also go early and enjoy the carnival surrounding the stadium. Get some BBQ. Puke it up on the rides. Repeat.
posted by deadfather at 1:46 PM on January 17, 2006

2) deadfather is probably right, the time it was a 1/2 hour was probably the result of the driver and not at a speed I would recommend.

Ditto on the BBQ.

St. Arnold's Micro-Brewery gives tours every Saturday around 1p (see their website) and you get two free glasses of beer. Good stuff.

I forgot the Fine Arts Museum.
posted by beowulf573 at 1:54 PM on January 17, 2006

During my two trips to Houston, I found public transport painfully slow. Drive if you can.

The Rodeo is amazing fun but it's very noisy and I've not tried it with a nine-month old. If you go, make sure you see the kids' competitions -- just watching them fight over a bunch of stubborn calves made my day.

For a more tranquil experience, visit the Rothko chapel. It's nondenominational, and I'm not even religious, but the space is very calming and if you like modern art the Rothko canvasses are a must-see.
posted by londonmark at 2:36 PM on January 17, 2006

I send all the above. Rent a CAR. At about 25 bucks a day you won't regret it. Getting taxis for everything could easily cost more than that.

It has NEVER taken me more than a hour to get from Houston to Galveston. 45 minutes is average and it's a neat drive too. You can make a day of it and stop halfway between, which is where NASA is.

A great place for kids is the Natural History Museum, esp. the Butterfly Garden. This is a definte must.

The Menil is a free modern art museum that is really cool. It's in an old neighborhood right next to a park and the above-mentioned Rothko Chapel right in central Houston.

If you can't make it to the St. Arnold's Brewery, at least stop by a corner store and buy a six pack. Living in Korea now, this is one of the things I miss most about Houston.

In fact, the Museum district is probably a good destination for you all. Almost all of Houston's Museums, including a couple of children' museums, are centered in about a 3-mile radius just SW of downtown.
posted by Brittanie at 5:54 PM on January 17, 2006

Ditto all museums. Ditto The Orange Show. The park around the Menil is great for kids, too.

Houston is GREAT for restaurants. Are we (I'm a Houston ex pat) still the fattest city? Well, it's because our food is so good. Check out El Pueblito for great South/Central American (not really Mexican, kind of a South-American-Seafood thing with great Mexican standards) and a great patio. Lankford Grocery for burgers and local color. For Indian, I check out one of the many $5 Indian Buffets off 59-S on Hilcroft. One called Ashoka is pretty good. There's also a ton of cool restaurants-- Ethiopian, Mexican, Salvadoran, Honduran, Afgani (you name it) in that area. T'afia is great, but pricey. Their farmers market is cool. Wings and waffles for breakfast nextdoor at The Breakfast Klub are incredible. Les Girvals is great for $2 Vietnamese Sandwiches. Brazil is a great hipster coffee shop, but very family friendly (expect to see the owner's naked baby wandering around). All these restaurants are family friendly, and all (with the possible exception of the Hilcroft ones) are very accessible (via car) from everything already listed.

Mmmm... I'm hungry and homesick!
posted by lalalana at 6:27 PM on January 17, 2006

Get a car. Then drive down by the convention center. There? OK. Near the convention center is a Vietnamese area. On St. Emmanuel and somewhere between Polk and Walker (I think) there is a sort of Vietnamese mall. Straight at the back of it is a sandwich counter. Get a sandwich there. The bbq pork or tofu (for vegetarians). It's like $2. You will never eat anything better. I'm still trying to come up with a scheme to get these shipped to Columbus.

Then go to Mai's and get some spring rolls.

Houston has the best, cheapest food anywhere I've been. Especially if you like Vietnamese or Mexican (oh, how I miss
Alma Latina #5).

Also: the Rodeo seriously fucks up already fucked Houston traffic, so 45 minutes to Galveston may be a dream. Or may, given Houston's weird traffic lulls, be longer than you'll need.

Go to the Orange Show. The Menil is also great (and free).
posted by fidelity at 2:13 PM on January 18, 2006

Response by poster: Follow up questions and comments from my friend:

First, thanks to everyone for the info. Some follow-up questions.

1) Any recommendations on how LONG to spend at the Houston Livestock Show given that the rodeo proper starts around 7:00 p.m.-ish?

2) Should we try to park at the Reliant Center or take the shuttle bus that the Rodeo runs?

3) Any thoughts/recommendations on visiting the George Ranch Historical Park?

I’ve run into an interesting dilemma. Air Canada has eliminated in-flight hot meals. You can’t transport many foods into the US. So… what do I feed Jonathan on the plane? I was also planning on taking along his cereal and jars of baby food that he is used to but given the restrictions on food, I don’t know if I can. I’ve sent emails to both the US Border people and Air Canada asking these questions.
posted by orange swan at 6:10 AM on January 23, 2006

2. I only went to the rodeo once, and it was in the Astrodome then, but I used to live across the street from the Reliant Center, and it was one hell of a headache even getting to my apartment when there was a football game there, let alone a major event. When I took the bus to/from the Astrodome rodeo, it was painless getting there and relatively so getting back. You will, if you leave at the same time as everyone else, have to stand in line while the busloads ahead of you are taken to the lots. I think I had to wait about 20 minutes, but I came out at the end of a pretty popular concert (Dylan). The bus is also a great place to see nervous Houstonians, since most of them have never been on a public bus before, merely cursed at them holding up traffic. Just be careful to get on the bus going to the lot you're parked at. When I was there several years ago, there were two lots whose names sounded (vaguely) alike, and a (stupid, inebriated) girl I knew got on the wrong bus and ended up adding several hours to her leaving-the-rodeo experience.

4. Maybe you could just bring enough food for the trip? I think if you leave it on the plane (or in various bellies) it's not technically bringing it into the US. That's just a guess, though.

5. Free bonus tip: Unless the traffic situation has changed dramatically, do not try to leave 59N to 45N (south should be fine) any time near the evening rush hour (say, coming back from the George Ranch). The freeway-to-freeway interchanges in Houston are at best problematic.
posted by fidelity at 6:56 AM on January 23, 2006

Hmm... No real input on any of those, alas... Let me know there's anything else I can help with!
posted by lalalana at 9:10 AM on January 23, 2006

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