Houston, TX

Destination Location

Overview

Houston is living proof that everything really is bigger in Texas. Houston is the largest city in Texas and fourth-largest in the U.S. With a population of more than two million, Houston is not only home to many Fortune 500 companies but is also an industrial base for energy, manufacturing and aeronautics manufacturers from around the world.

As the line Tom Hanks made famous in the film Apollo 13 goes, “Houston we’ve got a problem” – Houston is still home to Johnson Space Center where NASA’s Mission Control Center is located. There’s also the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center which celebrates the inner astronaut in all of us. Interactive exhibits include moon rocks, a shuttle simulator, and presentations about the history of NASA's manned space flight program – a perfect attraction for those who have always dreamed of reaching for the stars.

Houston’s culture is as thick as Texas toast. Annual events around Houston celebrate the multicultural makeup of the city’s population. The annual Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is the city’s longest-running event, spanning 20 days from late February to early March. It is the largest annual Livestock Show and Rodeo anywhere in the world. Houston is also home to the night-time Houston Pride Parade, the Houston Greek Festival, the Art Car Parade, the Houston Auto Show and the Houston International Festival. If you’re lucky enough to visit the area in the spring or fall, take in the Bayou City Art Festival – considered to be one of the top five art festivals in the U.S.

Don’t forget about Houston’s theatre district. Located in the downtown core, you’ll find nine major performing arts organizations and six performance halls showcasing the city’s best. Houston is also well-recognized as one of few U.S. cities with permanent, professional, resident companies in all major performing arts. The Houston Grand Opera, the Houston Ballet, the Houston Symphony Orchestra and The Alley Theatre are all permanent fixtures of the city’s arts scene.

Houston’s museums bring in more than seven million visitors a year. It’s worth spending some time at The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston Museum of Natural Science, the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, the Station Museum of Contemporary Art, Holocaust Museum Houston, and the Houston Zoo. Other tourist attractions include the Galleria (Texas's largest shopping mall), Old Market Square, the Downtown Aquarium, and Sam Houston Race Park. SplashTown Waterpark Houston is a water park is located just north of Houston.

WestJet is pleased to offer service to Houston starting September 8, 2015.

Airport served by: Houston-Intercontinental (G.Bush), TX (IAH)

Destination basics

Houston offers visitors a moderate and mild fall and spring with a nice, comfortable heat coming by way of southeast winds from the Gulf of Mexico. You may encounter a little rain during this time so it may be a good idea to keep a rain jacket or umbrella with you.

Winters are still fairly warm. At its coldest – usually in January – daily highs still average more than 17 C. Snow is rare. Lows in the evening are around 4 C. You may want to keep a light jacket or fleece sweater with you if you plan to be out later in the day.

Summers are hot in Houston. It’s not uncommon for temperatures to reach upwards of 32 C each day. The humidity of the area can make the temperature seem much warmer, so be sure to stay hydrated. While a light wind can offer a little relief, seriously consider accommodations with air conditioning. Same goes for renting a car. If you’re travelling with children, we recommend staying at a hotel with – or near – a pool.

Average monthly temperature and average monthly rainfall diagrams for Houston, TX

Welcome to the Bayou City! Houston is famous for offering a vast range of opportunities and cultural experiences to its 5.5 million residents. Often described as a "sprawling Texas town", the greater Houston area covers more ground than any other major city in America. This creates a sense of living in a medium-sized town—one that just happens to offer big-city convenience and opportunity.

Downtown
During the day, the downtown skyscrapers are alive with activity and the sidewalks are filled with bustling executives in designer suits. Do not let the daytime business atmosphere fool you, however. This city cares about much more than business, and it is out to prove it. When the sun goes down, the downtown area comes alive with an entirely different personality.

Catch a performance in Houston's renowned Theater District, which spans 17 blocks. Houston is one of a few U.S. cities with permanent, professional resident companies in opera (Houston Grand Opera), ballet (Houston Ballet), music (Houston Symphony) and theater (Alley Theatre).

Bayou Place, which features restaurants, nightclubs, theaters, and concert houses all under one roof, is an asset to the downtown entertainment scene.

If all of this is not enough to impress you, then give the underground tunnels and some shopping a try. A trip through this "city under the city" is an interesting experience that should not be missed by anyone—tourist or resident.

Galleria
The prestige and glamour of the Galleria area is undeniable. Office space in one of the nearby skyscrapers is expensive, and the shopping consists primarily of exclusive shops offering designer merchandise. If money is no object, put a trip to The Galleria on your list of things to do. This glamorous shopping center showcases the best names in American and European design, with more than 375 shops and restaurants in residence. If your shopping expenditures tend to be a bit more low-key, this outing still offers a world of fun in the form of window-shopping. The ice skating rink on the bottom floor is also a popular attraction, especially at Christmas, when a lavishly decorated, three-story tree is erected in the middle of the ice.

Restaurants and clubs, like most things in the area, tend to be fairly sophisticated and cosmopolitan. Arcodoro Ristorante Italiano, Morton's The Steakhouse and Capital Grille are all outstanding options for fine cuisine. Uptown's fashionable evening scene includes Bar Annie at Cafe Annie and Post Oak Grill.

Montrose/Museum District
Developed in 1911, Montrose covers approximately four square miles, bordered by Buffalo Bayou's Allen Parkway on the north, the Museum District and Highway 59 on the south, Bagby and the revitalized Midtown on the east and Upper Kirby District and Shepherd Drive on the west. Find some quiet time at the Menil Collection and neighboring Rothko Chapel, the artistic vision of John and Dominique de Menil. Stop for lunch at the Black Labrador, with its traditional English fish 'n' chips. Sitting side-by-side around an Italian-inspired piazza, Nino's Restaurant and Vincent's Rotisserie Italian restaurants have been a Houston tradition since 1977. Nino's is the older, and more formal classic spot, while Vincent's, with its wide-open rooms, is more casual and a tad more trendy. And when the day is done, rest assured you'll find peaceful sleep at one of several Montrose B&Bs. Victorian charm and soft featherbeds await you at the 116-year-old Robin's Nest Inn.  

21st century Houston is a thriving art nexus, the home of world-class museums, acclaimed art galleries and a huge community of talented artists. At the heart of it all: The Houston Museum District, whose 15 museums and 50-acre zoological park—all within walking distance of one another and accessible by METRO Rail—form one of the largest cultural districts in the country, with more than half a million square feet of exhibition space. It's also one of the most vital in the nation, drawing six million visitors annually. The Museum of Fine Arts and the Contemporary Art Museum house some of the finest masterpieces in the world. If your interest in museums leans toward the historical, do not miss the Holocaust Museum Houston. It is recognized worldwide as a leading source of information about the horrifying events of the Holocaust.

Hermann Park Running alongside the Texas Medical Center, in what can only be described as an odd blend of technology and nature, lies Hermann Park. Or perhaps the blend is not as odd as it might seem. When striving to maintain a position as a leader in the healthcare industry, a peaceful view of a nearby park might be just what the doctor ordered for stress relief.

Besides providing a peaceful view and getaway for the local medical workforce, the park offers a variety of fun options to tourists and residents. Sports enthusiasts can commune with nature while exploring the bike and jogging trails or hit the golf course for the afternoon. Families can enjoy spending the afternoon riding the train around the park and exploring the water on paddle boats. For a little cultural enhancement, Miller Outdoor Theatre offers exceptional evening performances during the warmest ten months of the Houston year. Grab your cooler and arrive early, because the grounds are usually packed with fans.

If you enjoy learning a thing or two while having a good time, visit the Houston Zoo and the Houston Museum of Natural Science. But do not try to do both in one day! The museum features three levels of amazing sights that will keep you busy for hours, and it also houses Burke Baker Planetarium and the Cockrell Butterfly Center. Combined, they definitely represent an all-day adventure. The zoo also features an assortment of exhibits that require a full afternoon to experience them all. The white Bengal tiger habitat is just one of the many popular exhibits.

Clear Lake/Kemah
If you head south past the Loop on I-45, you will run into the Clear Lake/Kemah area. Unless you are the boat-loving outdoors type, the greatest attraction in this area is Space Center Houston, Houston's famous home of NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration). Tours through various NASA buildings—including the original Mission Control room—and other exhibits provide a whole day of fun and enlightening activities.

If you happen to prefer the "splashier" side of life, you will undoubtedly love this area for its water sports and boating activities. Both Clear Lake and Galveston Bay offer ample opportunities to get your feet wet. In fact, this area has been labeled "the nation's third coast for boating" and contains one of the largest concentrations of pleasure boats in the country.

Of course, an area with ocean access has to provide delectable seafood offerings, or it simply would not be worth its weight in salt. The Kemah Boardwalk excels in this respect. The Aquarium and Bay Brewery are among the many restaurants that showcase fabulous culinary delights along this extended stretch of beach and wood.

East Houston/San Jacinto
A visit to San Jacinto State Historical Park is a must for history buffs. The park encompasses the actual fields where General Santa Anna's troops were defeated by the troops of Sam Houston and other Texas patriots at the Battle of San Jacinto in 1836. Those who have watched the movies or read the history books and "remember the Alamo" will definitely appreciate the 570-foot monument that stands as a reminder of Texas' hard-won independence from Mexico. The history of Texas and its prominent leaders, both before and after this battle, is fully captured in the Museum of Texas History, located in the base of the monument.

The park's Battleship Texas is from a different era, but is equally impressive. Docked on a branch of the Houston Ship Channel that runs adjacent to the park, it stands as a proud reminder of its wartime service. The ship was commissioned in 1914 and is both the last of the World War I era dreadnoughts and the only surviving combat ship to have served in both World Wars—an impressive accomplishment to say the least. Tours are self-guided, and guests are free to roam most areas of the ship.

Traveling through the area also offers a chance to see the famous Houston Ship Channel. While it is not necessarily as scenic, the sight is certainly splendorous in its own way. Depending on the route taken, you can cross the channel via a toll bridge or a ferry. Naturally, the ferry is recommended for the best view.

West Houston/Katy
As the newest section of the city, the west side has the distinction of being fresh and modern. There are not a lot of tourist attractions on this side of town, but you will find excellent restaurants and shopping centers. Town & Country Center, a modern, three-story shopping mall, offers the perfect blend of traditional mall retailers and unique specialty stores. The Center's newest neighbor, Town & Country Center, is a sprawling shopping center that has wisely followed the same pattern. Many designer and specialty stores stand next to the more recognizable names.

Katy Mills Mall hums with both shoppers ever since it opened. It is a sight to behold. The mall is home to the first Bass Pro Shop in the Houston area. And if you have the kids along, be sure to grab a bite to eat at Rainforest Cafe. The wait can be long, but the mechanical jungle animals, steamy waterfalls and simulated thunderstorms create a dining atmosphere that is worth the wait.

While contemporary restaurants still tend to gravitate to the downtown and Galleria areas, the west side holds its own when it comes to a juicy cut of steak or spicy Tex-Mex fare. Lynn's Steakhouse and Taste of Texas are two of the highest rated steakhouses in the city, while Little Pappasito's and Ninfa's fare equally well in the world of Tex-Mex. This side of town is also home to Wild West, an immensely popular Country & Western dance club.

Richmond Strip
Although a few other businesses have managed to squeeze into the crevices here and there, the number of restaurants, bars and nightclubs lining this strip is phenomenal. The western portion of Richmond Avenue is fairly tame and civilized, but once you cross Hillcroft on your way downtown, the fun and games begin.

With so many choices available, it is hard to nail down the most popular spots in the area, but City Streets would no doubt qualify. This vast nightclub houses seven distinctly different clubs, including a 1970s Pop Disco, a piano bar and a huge Country & Western dance hall. If you enjoy perfecting your gaming skills with the latest in high-tech virtual reality and video game equipment, head to Dave & Busters. It also features a full-service restaurant, numerous pool tables and both a karaoke and a traditional bar.

Restaurants along the strip are both diverse and impressive. One word of caution—most of the strip's establishments focus heavily on boisterous fun. The atmosphere gets a little classier at a few select spots—Ruth's Chris Steak House is a prime example—but for those truly in search of peace, quiet and luxury, sample the choices in The Galleria and downtown areas instead.

As long as glitz and glamor are not on your agenda, the strip offers the perfect solution for a night out. Head there and you will inevitably stumble across the perfect spot.

From sophisticated theaters and museums to live music events in funky bars, Houston is a city that offers a very broad range of entertainment. Creativity runs rampant through the city, so there are hundreds of ways to have a good time while you visit. Even the motion picture industry has taken notice of what the city offers and has poured over USD100 million into the local economy in recent years. Live Music
If you enjoy the sounds of live music, you will have ample opportunity to satisfy your desires. Houston offers an abundance of live music of all types. Some bars and nightclubs showcase live bands on weekends or specific nights, while others like the Fabulous Satellite Lounge feature live bands every night of the week. The Lounge is located in the historic Heights area and has been honored several times by the Houston Press as one of the city's best venues for live music. Popular bands play rock, blues, country and folk music to entertain sizable crowds. If your preference is jazz and seafood, head downtown to Sambuca Jazz Cafe for nightly performances. The management at this ritzy club books at least one national act a month.

Experience a little Irish culture several times a month at The Claddagh. This bar also features authentic Irish cuisine and an open mic on Wednesday nights. The Hop books popular sock-hop entertainers to croon tunes from the 50s and 60s several times a month. Older crowds, as well as young swingers, find this nightclub very appealing. Live Latino music is a hit at Ruggles Bistro Latino on the weekends. Head downtown early and enjoy an assortment of Latin cuisines before settling in for the show.  

Karaoke, that modern art form where the average citizen jumps on stage and belts out the lyrics of popular tunes, has become a popular pastime in Houston. You will find that many nightclubs and bars offer karaoke and open-mic nights on a regular basis. Even if you are not tempted to try it yourself, watching the antics of others can be tremendously entertaining. Miller's Cave features karaoke three nights a week in addition to live rock & roll bands on Friday evenings. Dave & Busters is popular on the Strip for its unique approach to entertainment. A karaoke bar is part of its charm, along with high-tech virtual reality and video games, numerous pool tables and a full-service restaurant.

In a completely different respect, live concerts and classical performances are equally popular and entertaining. Jones Hall is home to the critically acclaimed Houston Symphony and features numerous classical concerts every month. Other artistic musical presentations also take place in this downtown music hall from time to time. Compaq Center, the Astrodome and Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion all play host for famous concert tours featuring the hottest performers. If these types of live music are the ones you prefer, keep an eye on the Local Events section for upcoming performance dates and ticket information.

Museums and Galleries
Houston's extensive number of museums and galleries house a plethora of unique artifacts, gorgeous artistic creations and scientific memorabilia. Both the Museum of Fine Arts and the Contemporary Arts Museum display the work of world-renowned artists, and Menil Collection boasts one of the finest private art collections in the country. A visit to Lawndale Art Center will familiarize you with the work of many very talented local artists. Art lovers can spend days enjoying these and many other area galleries.

Aside from artistic offerings, you'll also find some exceptional examples of museums that feature historical and scientific exhibits. The Houston Holocaust Museum is relatively unique and features in-depth information about the tragic events of the Holocaust. The Houston Museum of Natural Science offers three levels of fun that you'll be hard-pressed to view in a single day. Burke Baker Planetarium and the Cockrell Butterfly Center are conveniently located in the same building. There's so much to see and touch, you might want to allow two days for this outing. If the impressive history of Texas intrigues you, take a drive out to San Jacinto State Historical Park and visit the San Jacinto Museum of History and the Battleship Texas.

Without a doubt, the city's most interesting museum experience will be had at the National Museum of Funeral History. Not many museums in the country focus on funeral memorabilia and artifacts. The themed coffins are definitely excellent conversation pieces. For other interesting and slightly unusual museum experiences, visit the Houston Fire Museum, the Art Car Museum and the Orange Show.

Theater
During the course of the past century, Houston gained a formidable reputation as a world-class center for the arts. It is one of the few cities with its own resident professional companies in ballet, opera and theater. If you enjoy theatrical performances, you won't lack for entertainment during a visit to the city. The 17-block Theater District is home to over 200 performing arts organizations and houses some very prestigious theaters and performance halls. You can catch first-rate Broadway and off-Broadway productions at the Alley Theatre, or opt for incredible opera performed by the Tony, Grammy and Emmy-winning Houston Grand Opera. Bayou Place is the hottest new addition to the downtown entertainment scene. It features theaters, concert houses, nightclubs and restaurants all under one roof. The Revention Music Theater is the resident theater at Bayou Place and offers a broad range of productions, including comedies and concerts.

Outside of the Theater District, you will also find excellent productions in other parts of the city. Miller Outdoor Theatre in Hermann Park offers free performances of dramas, comedies and musicals. Main Street Theater at Chelsea Market has two Houston locations that offer an assortment of productions. Cutting-edge, modern plays are the specialty at Stages Repertory Theatre, while Playhouse 1960 specializes in old comedies and mysteries. If you enjoy dinner theater, definitely reserve a table at Great Caruso Dinner Theater. The performances are typically comedies or musicals, the ambiance is elegant Victorian, and the food is delicious.

Cinema
If you enjoy watching the latest Hollywood films in your spare time, a multitude of cinemas can accommodate you. The latest trend is the giant, multi-screen complex that features stadium seating and modern comforts, and Houston already has an abundance of these cinemas. On the West Side, visit AMC Studio 30. The northwest part of the city features Cinemark Tinseltown 290. In the Galleria area you will find Edwards Theater Greenway Place 24, and Cinemark Hollywood Movies is located on the East Side.

There is also an abundance of traditional cinemas, special "dollar" cinemas and art houses. Dollar cinemas, like Wind Chimes 8 and Silver Cinemas North Oaks, offer reduced ticket prices (usually USD1-2) on recent Hollywood movies that just left the big theaters. If your film preferences run to artistic productions, you will prefer the films at art houses like Wortham IMAX and the Museum of Fine Arts.

Dance
The opportunities to enjoy dancing in Houston are two-fold. First, you can experience the beauty and splendor of ballet performances by purchasing tickets to the Houston Ballet. Since its creation in 1955, the company has become a top troupe with an international reputation. More than 80 performances occur annually in Houston, and the troupe also tours and performs in other cities. An evening at the ballet is a truly magical experience. Other types of modern dance performances also occur throughout the year. Watch the Local Events section for information about upcoming performances.

The other dance option is obviously to dance the night away yourself, and several choices exist for this purpose. Nightclubs featuring dance floors are popular in Houston. City Streets features seven first-rate nightclubs under one gigantic roof and always attracts an impressive crowd. The types of clubs include a 1970s pop disco, a piano bar, a jazz club, a Top 40 dance hall and a huge country & western dance hall. As you would expect, country two-stepping and line dancing are popular in Houston, and country nightclubs like the Wild West is always hopping. So mosey on in and boot-scoot the night away!

Comedy
Houston certainly isn't New York on the comedy circuit, but it still has some comedy clubs that will inspire an evening of full-blown laughter. Spellbinders Comedy Club features newcomers and an occasional star. This popular West Side club has shows six nights a week. Book in advance and arrive early to get a good seat. If you want to see some hilarious improvisational comedy, make a reservation for Comedy Sportz Improv or Comedy Showcase. Both feature newcomers and occasional stars. Smaller comedy cafes include Just Joking Comedy Cafe and Bobby's Comedy Corner.

Amusement Parks
If you have the family along for the trip or you are just a big kid at heart, you will definitely be interested in local amusement parks. Looney Tunes Land offers an assortment of pint-sized rides that are perfect for smaller children, and the park offers numerous shows the entire family can enjoy.

Sitting right next door is Six Flags WaterWorld, the ultimate in water fun for the entire family. Try one of several waterslides, wade in the oceanic wave pool and do a little rafting along with a lot of other fun water activities. In North Houston, beat the summer heat at Splashtown. The park offers waterslides, a wave pool and tube riding. It's another adventure the entire family will appreciate, but don't forget to bring your sunscreen!

It's easy to find random, small carnivals set up throughout the city, but if you're looking for a guaranteed carnival and some excellent food, head to the Kemah Boardwalk. A Ferris wheel and other carnival rides are set up year-round.

Festivals
If you plan on visiting the city, keep an eye on the festival section in Local Events. A variety of fun and entertaining festivals occur in or around Houston each year. The Texas Renaissance Festival starts in October every year and runs for seven weekends. Step back into the Renaissance period and watch a couple of knights joust at this popular event. It is definitely a one-of-a-kind experience. In October every year, the Bayou City Art Festival showcases the work of local artists and is wildly popular with art-lovers. The Texas Crawfish Festival goes on during two weekends in May and provides a double treat. Not only is the festival a lot of fun, but it takes place in scenic Old Town Spring, an area worth visiting at any time. If you have the kids along, maybe you will get lucky and the circus will be in town. The Greatest Show on Earth, Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus performs in Houston every summer.

Nature and Parks
Houston is a city of warmth and sunshine, so it should not be a surprise to find a lot of nature centers and parks in the area. Many of the parks, such as Hermann Park—home of the Houston Zoo—and Sam Houston Park, offer a broad assortment of activities in addition to the simple pleasure of communing with nature and enjoying the outdoors. You can easily turn these outings into all-day events. Popular nature centers that feature both native plant and animal life include Armand Bayou Nature Center and Houston Arboretum & Nature Center. Mercer Arboretum & Botanic Gardens is equally popular, but it focuses solely on native plant life. Be sure and bring the kids along for an educational experience that will also provide a great deal of entertainment.

The diverse industrial focus of Houston has inspired people from numerous countries to settle here. With so many cultures represented, it is no great surprise that the city's dining opportunities reflect their influences. If you are homesick, there is a good chance you will be able to find a restaurant that specializes in your native cuisine. If you are simply adventurous and like to sample the flavors of the world, you will have a lot of chances to do so while visiting. In fact, you would have to live here a very long time to exhaust the possibilities.

Downtown
Beyond the realm of traditional Texan, the possibilities are equally impressive. The close proximity to the Gulf of Mexico has inspired a love of seafood, which has, in turn, inspired the birth of a large number of seafood restaurants across the city. The downtown area boasts the expertise of Massa's Seafood Grill and McCormick & Schmick's. A variety of Asian food types are popular in Houston. In addition to the tasty Tex-Mex offerings, the city also boasts a number of restaurants that specialize in traditional Mexican fare. Irma's Restaurant has been a famous Houston mainstay for years. Irma herself will come out of the kitchen and treat you like one of the family at her homey establishment.

Galleria
Steaks are considered to be a strong runner-up as a Texas tradition, and some of the finest steakhouses in the state are located in Houston. Morton's The Steakhouse is yet another former President Bush-approved restaurant. It is classy and elegant, as is Capital Grille.

Not to be outdone by the Big Apple, Houston also has its share of restaurants that specialize in contemporary, cutting-edge cuisine. Rudi Lechner's Restaurant pays tribute to German and Austrian cuisine. Pizzerias are essentially Italian, of course, but the concept has been Americanized to a large extent. Fun-loving diners are drawn to the boisterous atmosphere of New York Pizzeria, while out-of-the-ordinary options, like barbecue pizza, attract a full house at California Pizza Kitchen.

Montrose/Museum District
When it comes to Tex-Mex, the city's restaurants offer a variety of atmospheres to suit every mood. You can enjoy the best at a place called Little Pappasito's. The décor is eclectic Mexican, complete with roaming mariachis, but the menu offers some sophisticated twists in addition to traditional Tex-Mex. Not to be outdone, Goode Company Barbecue is famous across the city for the sweet-spicy-smoky barbecue sauce they slather on a variety of meats. Brennan's of Houston specializes in Cajun and Creole creations, while Baroque offers the best in French dining with a romantic, elegant theme. 

For spicy Thai and a view of some interesting murals, visit Nit Noi. Another interesting mural, this one of Saigon, can be found at Miss Saigon Cafe. Traditional Greek cuisine is the focus at Nikos Nikos. Thanks in part to Houston's influence in the oil and energy fields, the city has a sizeable number of Middle Eastern residents and quite a few restaurants that specialize in the region's cuisine; try Istanbul Grill, the famed Turkish restaurant.

West Houston
Casual diners might prefer Taste of Texas, which offers the more traditional "rustic cowboy" atmosphere to go along with that excellent cut of beef. Bistro Provence heada up the city's list of elegant and impressive bistros. Houston is also kind to health-conscious diners. If your concept of healthy food revolves primarily around low-fat, grilled meat, you will find a large number of restaurants to accommodate you. If you prefer total vegetarian dining, A Moveable Feast is a fantastic option.

Houston

State: Texas

Country: United States of America

Houston by the Numbers
Population: 2,296,000 (city); 6,313,000 (metropolitan) 
Elevation: 80 feet / 32 meters
Average Annual Precipitation: 50 inches / 127 centimeters
Average January Temperature: 52°F / 11°C
Average July Temperature: 84°F / 29°C

Quick Facts

Electricity: 110 volts, 60Hz, standard two pin plugs

Time Zone: GMT-6; Central Time Zone (CT)

Country Dialing Code: 1

Area Codes: 281, 713, 832, 346 

Did You Know?

Houston and its surrounding suburban sprawl encompass 10,062 square miles (26,060 square kilometers), making it as big as Israel and El Salvador. 

Orientation

Houston sprawls over southeast Texas. The Gulf of Mexico looms just 50 miles (80 kilometers) east, Dallas 240 miles (386 kilometers) north, San Antonio 200 miles (322 kilometers) west, and Mexico 355 miles (571 kilometers) south. Despite its inland location it is connected to the Gulf of Mexico via the Buffalo Bayou.

From its humble beginnings as a cotton-shipping port to its current designation as the "Energy Capital of the World", Houston has enjoyed more than 160 years of existence.

The first settlement in this area was actually started by John Harris in 1826 and was called Harrisburg. At that time, the area was still under Mexican rule, but Texans were growing increasingly discontent. Ten years later in 1836, war between Texas and Mexico was in full swing, and Harrisburg was destroyed by Mexican General Antonio López de Santa Anna as he chased the Texas army across the area. A short week later, General Sam Houston led the Texas troops to victory and independence at the Battle of San Jacinto.

Later that same year, Augustus and John Allen, two brothers and land speculators from New York, purchased land near the burned-out remains of Harrisburg and started a new settlement. They decided to name the new city after Sam Houston, in honor of his amazing victory at San Jacinto State Historical Park and his new status as the first President of the Republic of Texas. They also managed to convince the first Congress of the Republic of Texas to move to Houston. However, the move didn't quite take, and the government relocated to Austin after two years.

With its economy was based primarily on the shipping of cotton, the town grew slowly during the early years. After the widening and deepening of Buffalo Bayou—now part of the Houston Ship Channel—in 1869 and the periodic addition of railway systems, the town began to grow into a transportation center for southeast Texas. The city's full-blown surge into expansion and prosperity was brought about by the discovery of oil in the area in 1901. The construction of refineries and other petroleum-related industries began during World War I; these were expanded during World War II. The completion of the Houston Ship Channel in 1914 established Houston's importance in the shipping world, and the city hasn't stopped growing since.

Houston's prestigious billing as the "Energy Capital of the World" is a fact that is well known, but energy is only a small part of what makes the city the thriving corporate center it has become. The chemical industry produces almost half of the United States' petrochemical supply. Manufacturing firms are valued at over billions of dollars, and one out of every three jobs in the area is tied to international business in some way. With the Port of Houston serving as the second largest port in the U.S. in total tonnage, the import/export trade always thrives as well. Numerous computer companies have located their headquarters and data processing operations here—including Compaq Computer Corporation—and over 400 local firms are involved in software development. Electronics companies abound, and engineering firms employ nearly 47,000 engineers and architects in various fields.

Houston medical facilities oversee the health of residents and people across the globe; local medical centers provide some of the best patient care, medical research and medical education in the world. The renowned Texas Medical Center is highly respected for its pioneering work in cardiac and organ-transplant surgery and cancer treatment. Baylor College of Medicine, Texas Children's Hospital, M.D. Andersen Cancer Center and many other prestigious institutions are located here.

And last, but certainly not the least; remember those first words spoken from the moon? "Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed". Houston's past and future impact on the aerospace industry is in a league of its own. Space Center Houston, the mission control headquarters for manned U.S. space flights, has played a significant role in further developing and expanding Houston's contribution to scientific fields.

The city's extreme industrial diversity has resulted in a cultural blend that is equally impressive. With over 60 primary languages spoken in the homes of Houston Independent School District families, Houston is one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the United States. It has been further estimated that an additional 30 languages are also spoken on a smaller scale.

Residents typically have a broad knowledge and a great deal of respect for other world cultures and enjoy numerous cultural events every year. Along with common neighborhood events, Talento Bilingue de Houston has become extremely popular over the years by offering productions that illustrate the values of these different ethnic cultures. Needless to say, ethnic diversity has also broadened the horizons in the restaurant world. The number of cultures and cuisines represented throughout Houston is both impressive and appreciated. Ima Hogg, a renowned local philanthropist, first blessed Houston's arts and culture scene back in 1913 when he established the Houston Symphony. In the years since then, Houston has gained a formidable reputation as a world-class center for the arts. The 17-block Theater District is home to numerous performing arts organizations and is second only to New York's Broadway for number of theater seats (over 12,000) in a concentrated area. It is also one of the few U.S. cities that has its own professional symphony orchestra and resident professional companies in ballet, opera and theater. More than 200 visual and performing arts organizations are currently active in the Houston arts scene.

The visual arts are equally represented in the numerous museums and galleries that are located primarily in the Museum District. In 1987, the Menil Collection opened and added a new sense of prestige to Houston's museum scene. It boasts what is recognized as one of the finest private collections in the country. With more than USD100 million poured into the economy by the television and motion picture industry recently, the city is also emerging as a prominent force for Hollywood businesses.

To a large extent, the growth and development of Houston has been based on the education of its residents. The city has always put significant emphasis on the education of children at both the primary and secondary levels. Several of the local school districts traditionally win state and national achievement awards for academic aptitude.

To this day, residents of Houston are more likely to have completed four years of college than the rest of the U.S. adult population. The city boasts some excellent universities and colleges. Among them are the very prestigious and highly acclaimed Rice University, which first opened for classes in 1891, the University of Houston (1927), Texas Southern University (1947), University of Saint Thomas (1947) and Houston Baptist University (1960). Also, both Baylor and the University of Texas have prominent medical schools in the Texas Medical Center. More than 240,000 students are currently enrolled in colleges and universities in the area.

From tiny cow-town to the fourth largest city in the U.S., Houston has had quite a historical journey. Petroleum might be what launched the city on the path to growth and success, but it is the diverse population and quality of life that make it a city worth living in and visiting. Houston is truly an international city in every sense of the word.

Points of interest in Houston, TX

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