Houston, Texas

Houston, Texas is located on the eastern coast of the state approximately 30 miles inland from the port city of Galveston. It is 350 miles west of New Orleans, Louisiana, and 300 miles northeast of the Mexican border. Houston is a large modern metropolitan hub with a sophisticated cosmopolitan environment and all of the amenities that you expect to find in a major city. It is the primary business, technological and commercial center of Texas.

The surrounding terrain is low and flat with a warm damp climate. They grow cotton, sugar cane and rice in the neighboring farmlands. The summer weather can be rather hot and humid. Winters are cool but seldom very cold. Fall and spring often produce the most pleasant climate for visitors.

A modern metropolitan center with a good system of roads

George Bush Intercontinental Airport, located twenty miles due north of downtown, is the major airport for Houston with many international and domestic flights daily. It is a thirty to sixty minute drive from downtown depending on traffic. There are vans and shuttles available to many downtown and suburban locations for about $20. The smaller William P. Hobby airport, located seven miles south of downtown, provides many domestic flights throughout the USA. It is just fifteen minutes drive from downtown. Vans and shuttle buses from this airport to downtown and other locations cost about $15.

Downtown Houston © Heart Patrick
Houston is a large modern metropolitan hub with a sophisticated cosmopolitan environment and all of the amenities that you expect to find in a major city.

Houston has an excellent network of roads including three beltways circling the city at various distances from the center. Route 10 loops around downtown at a radius of four miles. Route 8 and the Sam Houston Parkway form a double belt at near eight miles, and Route 6 forms an outer belt nearly fifteen miles from the center. Clusters of skyward soaring ramps highlight the major intersections and sometimes confuse out-of-town drivers. Despite the excellence of the road system, road repairs or traffic mishaps sometimes reduce rush-hour traffic to near standstills.

The cultural center is near downtown

The central downtown area has an exquisitely reconstructed old-town area and an outdoor heritage museum in adjacent Sam Houston Park. The cultural center of Houston with its Museum of Fine Arts, Children's Museum, Museum of Natural Science, Contemporary Arts Museum and several other cultural attractions is immediately to the south. The Bayou Place Entertainment Complex and Enron Field, new home of the Houston Astros baseball team, are both located nearby.

The older, but still impressive, Astrodome is just south of downtown. It houses the annual Houston livestock show every February. This major festival includes the world's largest rodeo, a national barbeque cooking championship plus many live entertainers. Just across the I-610 loop from the dome, are the Six Flags Astroworld amusement park and Six Flags Waterworld.

Houston Space Center is the most popular attraction

The Houston Space Center is located 25 miles southeast of downtown along I-45 near Texas City and Galveston. It is the most popular attraction in the Houston area. The visitor center at this NASA facility is open to the public every day in the summer and every weekday during the winter. For about $15, you can explore its exhibits, view an I-max film, test your space traveling abilities on several interactive rides and visit the actual mission control centers and astronaut training facilities. This is a great experience for children and adults.

Johnson Space Center near Houston © Mike Leco / USATourist.com
The Houston Space Center is located 25 miles southeast of downtown along I-45 near Texas City and Galveston.

Another popular attraction is the George Ranch Historical Park, located 25 miles southwest of Houston near Richmond, Texas. This 480-acre living history park is at the center of a 21,000-acre working cattle ranch. You can meet real cowboys and watch them perform their ranching chores. Costumed characters show you historical exhibits and explain various aspects of early farming and ranching life.

George Ranch and San Jacinto Battleground are other attractions

San Jacinto Battleground State Park and the San Jacinto Museum with its 570-foot obelisk monument are about 25 miles east of downtown Houston. This site commemorates the battle that insured Texas independence. The Battleship Texas, a World War One era Dreadnought that helped to support the D-Day landings in Normandy, is moored nearby. You can tour the museum, the monument and the battleship daily.

Galveston is less than an hour drive down I-45 from Houston. This seaport city, which once served as a pirate hideaway, has an old-town district filled with Victorian houses. It has elegant streets lined with tropical foliage and a long beachfront drive with seafood restaurants, nightclubs and bars. The Moody Gardens contain three large glass pyramids filled with a tropical rain forest, an aquarium and a tropical lagoon.

Plenty of Shopping opportunities in Houston

There are shopping malls scattered all over Houston. The Galleria, located in the uptown area west of central downtown, is the most impressive with its wide assortment of international designer shops. Highland Village and Uptown Park are other shopping malls located nearby. Further west is the Katy Mills Mall with many outlet stores, retail establishments, restaurants and entertainment venues. Deerbrook Mall, Willowbrook Mall and Woodlands Mall are located north of downtown. Baybrook Mall is located south along the route to and Galveston.

Sports, Recreation and Cultural Activities

The Houston Astros baseball team plays in the recently constructed Enron Field. Beginning in 2002, a newly franchised Houston Texans National Football League team will begin playing in the new Reliant Stadium. Houston also has a Women's National Basketball Association team, the Houston Comets. There is a thoroughbred horse racing track in northwestern Houston, a greyhound racing track to the south of downtown and over a dozen fine golf courses in the surrounding areas.

Cultural activities include the world famous Houston Symphony, the Houston Grand Opera and the Houston Ballet. There are several theaters featuring a diverse assortment of offerings from Broadway Musicals to avant-garde productions or serious drama. There are many museums, art galleries and venues offering all sorts of entertainments in this vibrant metropolitan center.

Written by: Mike Leco
Top Photo Credit: © Heart Patrick
Photo Description: A cityscape of downtown Houston