Downtown is the central business district of Houston. It is bounded by the I-10, I-45, and I-69 freeways.
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.
- 1 Chase Tower Observatory, 600 Travis St. 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. Since 2016 this observatory has been permanently closed to the public.
- 2 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.
- 3 Downtown Aquarium. Seen as pretty mundane by locals, but might still appeal to fish fanatics. Situated right on Buffalo Bayou. Not just an aquarium, it has a ferris wheel and other carnival-style rides. $9.25 (adult), 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.
- 4 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.
- 1 Houston Grand Opera, 510 Preston St (Wortham Theatre Center), ☎ . World-class opera in the heart of downtown's Theatre District.
- 2 Houston Symphony Orchestra, 615 Louisiana Ave (Jones Hall). Concerts throughout the year including both a classical series and a pops series.
- Mercury Baroque, 510 Preston St (Cullen Theatre, Wortham Center), ☎ . Baroque music for the historical purist.
- 3 Theatre Under the Stars (TUTS), 800 Bagby TUTS (Hobby Center for the Performing Arts), ☎ . Broadway style big theatre productions in one of Houston's newest downtown arts venues.
- 4 Houston Astros, 510 Crawford St.., ☎ . The city's Major League Baseball team, playing at Minute Maid Park, celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2012. It was also be the last season for the Astros in the National League; they moved to the American League in 2013.
- 5 Houston Rockets, 1510 Polk St, ☎ , toll-free: . The city's NBA (basketball) team plays at the Toyota Center.
- 6 Houston Dynamo, 1001 Avenida de las Americas, Ste. 200, ☎ , fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Houston's Major League Soccer team plays in the BBVA Compass Stadium. Located in the East End, it is the first major soccer-specific stadium in the US in a downtown area.
- 7 Houston Dash, 1001 Avenida de las Americas, Ste. 200, ☎ , fax: , e-mail: email@example.com. Houston's newest pro team, which started play in April 2014 in the National Women's Soccer League. The team is owned and operated by the Dynamo and also plays at BBVA Compass Stadium.
Events & Festivals
- 8 Art Car Parade. The worlds largest and oldest Art Car Parade. The event features over 250 Art Cars, 200,000+ live spectators, and media from all over the world, making Houston ground zero of an international phenomenon. Held in April.
- 9 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. Held in October.
- FotoFest. Exhibitions and art installations, film and video programs, lectures and forums.
- 10 Houston Children's Festival, 901 Bagby. 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. Held in April
- The Houston International Festival (AKA iFest). Annual international festival featuring juried arts, crafts, food, music, games and events for adults and children. Held in April.
- 1 Irma's, 22 N. Chenevert St., ☎ . A Houston institution! Fun, traditional atmosphere with authentic, unwatered down Tex-Mex cuisine.
- 2 Oxheart, 1302 Nance St, ☎ , 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. 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.
- 1 Courtyard by Marriott Houston Convention Center, 916 Dallas St, ☎ . Check-in: 3PM, check-out: noon. $189-$239.
- 2 Houston Downtown Residence Inn, 904 Dallas St., ☎ . Check-in: 3PM, check-out: noon. In the historic 1921 Humble Oil Building. Offers free shuttle to George R. Brown Convention Center and Minute Maid Park. $199-$329.
- 3 The Sam Houston Hotel, 1117 Prairie St, ☎ . Boasts a modern minimalist interior and is one of Houston's top boutique luxury hotels.
- 4 Four Seasons Hotel Houston, 1300 Lamar St, ☎ , fax: . 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.
- 5 Hotel Icon, 220 Main St (Congress St.), ☎ . This boutique hotel features award winning dining, extensive meeting facilities, and a luxury day spa.
- 6 Magnolia Hotel, 1100 Texas Ave, ☎ , fax: . 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.