Downtown is in Houston.
Downtown is, like many American cities, strictly a 9am-5pm operation. Most restaurants close after business hours, but there have been some efforts lately to encourage more activity.
If you visit downtown during the day, don't be surprised to see fewer people on the street than a typical city. Most people use an underground walkway system that connects many buildings and food courts.
Just north of the core of downtown, across the Buffalo Bayou, is a warehouse district that has somewhat recently attracted unique music venues, artists, and Oxheart, a popular upscale restaurant. Houston's biggest brewery, St. Arnold's, lies just a mile from the UH-Downtown rail station, but the journey requires crossing a freeway and walking through a sleepy industrial area.
Interstates 10 and 45 link together and form a tight loop around downtown. Many exits are marked as leading to downtown.
By Public Transit
The METRO Rail light rail has several downtown stops along the red line: Downtown Transit Center, Bell, Main Street Square, Preston, and UH-Downtown. Most of the restaurants and bars are located near Preston and Main Street Square.
Megabus, Greyhound and the Mexican bus services all have their stations located near the Downtown Transit Center light rail station.
Amtrak's Houston station is just to the west of downtown, a mile-long walk from the Preston light rail station that requires crossing some busy streets with minimal pedestrian facilities.
- Chase Tower Observatory, 600 Travis Street. The sky lobby on the 60th floor of the building is the observatory and free during business hours. The Chase Tower is the tallest building in Texas and the tallest five-sided building in the world.
- Discovery Green Park Discovery Green opened April 13, 2008. The downtown Houston park is located across Avenida de las Americas from the George R. Brown Convention Center and the Hilton Americas Hotel. Toyota Center, Houston Center and Minute Maid Park are only blocks away.
- Diverse Works, 1117 E. Freeway (N. Main at Naylor), ☎ , e-mail: Tickets@diverseworks.org. noon-6 We-Sa. Alternative artwork center. Varies, some free..
- Downtown Aquarium. Situated right on Buffalo Bayou. Not just an aquarium, it has a ferris wheel and other carnival-style rides. 9.25 adult admission, rides cost extra.
- Downtown Tunnel System. The majority of Downtown Houston's buildings are connected by an intertwining, complex tunnel system. Scores of lunch restaurants and easy access to building entrances from underground keep Houston's workforce primarily underground during the day. Only open during the weekdays, the tunnels are an interesting spectacle to observe, but try to avoid getting lost. There are a few street level entrances, but it can also be accessed from various buildings.
- Market Square Park Surrounded by some of the city's oldest buildings, the site was once home to City Hall in previous years. In 2010, the block-sized space was transformed into a modern park, with features akin to Discovery Green but on a more compact scale. At the center of the park is local favorite Niko Niko's.
- Houston Astros, 510 Crawford St.., ☎ . The city's Major League Baseball team, playing at Minute Maid Park, celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2012. It will also be the last season for the Astros in the National League; they will move to the American League in 2013.
- Houston Grand Opera, ☎ . Wortham Theatre Center, 510 Preston St. World-class opera in the heart of downtown's Theatre District.
- Houston Symphony Orchestra. Jones Hall, 615 Louisiana Ave. Concerts throughout the year including both a classical series and a pops series.
- Mercury Baroque, Cullen Theatre, Wortham Center, 510 Preston St., +1 713 533-0080. Baroque music for the historical purist.
- Theatre Under the Stars (TUTS), Hobby Center for the Performing Arts, 800 Bagby, +1 713 558-TUTS. Broadway style big theatre productions in one of Houston's newest downtown arts venues.
Events & Festivals
- Bayou City Art Festival. Built on an 8/10 mile asphalt loop surrounded by lush trees, foliage, and picnic areas, the annual fine art event boasts a stress-free outdoor gallery brimming with 300 artists working in 19 artistic media.
- FotoFest. Exhibitions and art installations, film and video programs, lectures and forums.
- Houston Children's Festival. Is the largest celebration for children in the United States. The Houston Children's Festival offers over 350 events packed into a couple of hectic days.
- The Houston International Festival (AKA iFest). Annual international festival featuring juried arts, crafts, food, music, games and events for adults and children.
- Latino Book & Family Festival. Hosts a world class array of panels, authors, celebrities and entertainment for your enjoyment and enlightenment.
- Irma's, 22 N. Chenevert St., ☎ . A Houston institution! Fun, traditional atmosphere with authentic, unwatered down Tex-Mex cuisine.
- Oxheart, 1302 Nance Street, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Th-M 5:30PM-10PM. Nestled in a small, nondescript space in the Warehouse District, culinary couple Justin Yu and pastry chef Karen Mann dish out 4- or 8-course seasonal Texas Gulf Coast tasting menus (including a veg-centric option - "oxheart" is also a type of carrot, cabbage, and tomato, after all) in a restaurant lauded locally and nationally as one of the best around, period. Sit back with a beer or glass of bubbly from the expertly curated beverage list, watch the crack team of chefs go to work, and be prepared to be wowed. By reservation only. $49-$79.
- Flying Saucer Draught Emporium, Main at Texas. A staggering variety of beers, some wine, scantily clad staff. $3-$6/pt.
- The Saint Arnold Brewery. Located in Houston, is billed as Texas' oldest microbrewery. Their brews are often sold in local bars. Very popular beers are the Texas Wheat, Oktoberfest (August through October), and Christmas Ale (November through December). Brewery tour every Saturday at 1:00.
- Club Quarters, 720 Fannin St. This hotel is private and club-like but it has 24 hour room service and it accommodates your needs, for example there are state of the art televisions.
- Courtyard by Marriott Houston Convention Center, 916 Dallas Street, ☎ . Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 12PM. Only 10 minues from Hoby Airport, and 30 miles from Galveston, this hotel is located right in the middle of Downtown Houston. $189-$239.
- Houston Downtown Residence Inn, 904 Dallas St., ☎ . Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 12PM. In the historic 1921 Humble Oil Building. Offers free shuttle to George R. Brown Convention Center and Minute Maid Park. $199-$329.
- Alden Hotel, 1117 Prairie Street, ☎ . Boasts a modern minimalist interior and is one of Houston's top boutique luxury hotels.
- Four Seasons Hotel Houston, 1300 Lamar Street, ☎ , fax: +1 713 652-6220. In 2006, this luxury hotel was ranked as one of the "Top 100 Hotels in the World" according to Institutional Investor and offers great restaurants and amenities to guests. It is also within walking distance to the Houston Center Athletic Club - great for that morning workout before business.
- Hotel Icon, 220 Main St (Congress St.), ☎ . This boutique hotel features award winning dining, extensive meeting facilities, and a luxury day spa.
- Magnolia Hotel, 1100 Texas Avenue, ☎ , fax: +1 832 201-7598. This downtown boutique hotel offers accommodations for leisure travel and extended stay guests, as well as space for meetings, wedding receptions, conferences, and special events.