Downtown Houston, tall buildings and busy streets
Downtown Houston is packed full of attractions, from sports games to unique restaurants.
Photo Credit: Getty Images

Houston, Texas is Open for Business with Plenty of Fun Attractions

Finding All the Best Attractions in the Lone Star State’s Biggest City

Texas often seems like a big slice of Southern-fried independence. After all, isn’t the Lone Star State renowned for its emphasis on self-determination, its arid stretches of open space, its love of God and guns? And shouldn’t the cities stationed in this outsized area of the Southern United States unfailingly share in those bigger-than-life characteristics?

Not exactly. The major metropolitan areas of Texas are surprisingly diverse in their character. For instance, Dallas is a major commercial hub dominated by big business. San Antonio revels in western history. Artsy, progressive Austin wears its weirdness on its sleeve.

And then there’s Houston, a behemoth in every sense of the word, a metropolis with a massive population, giant economic base — and an unfortunate history with major storms. But despite the devastation wrought by Hurricane Harvey, the city is open for business and full of opportunities for travelers to enjoy. Whether you’re looking for a weekend getaway in Texas or a full-on vacation, read on to learn more about what to do in Houston.

Deep in the Heart of Houston

Downtown Houston vies with New York City for the metro area with the greatest concentration of Fortune 500 corporate headquarters. Yet it isn’t all high finance in the heart of the city, and there are places to go in Houston that have nothing to do with market movers.

For instance, the area serves as home to four professional sports teams — the Houston Rockets (basketball), the Houston Astros (baseball), the Houston Dynamo (men’s soccer) and the Houston Dash (women’s soccer). It’s always worth seeing if any of them have home games during your visit.

For those hoping to stretch their legs rather than warm a seat, Avenida Houston has restaurants and events aplenty, as well as the beautiful Discovery Green Park. Striking a more historic tone, nearby Market Square Park is bordered by some of Houston’s oldest edifices.

Consider hiring a guide to take you on a tour of the Downtown Tunnel System, a byzantine tangle of subterranean walkways that ferries downtown’s denizens around beneath the streets. Finally, the Warehouse District (i.e., the section just north of downtown proper) has its own charms, mostly centering on nightlife, quirky theater companies and art studios.

Garden in front of Lovett Hall at Rice UniversityTo take in some incredible architecture, take a walk around Rice University's campus.Photo Credit: Getty Images

Eye Impressive Art and Architecture

Though Texas has a reputation for broad, unsophisticated charms, Houston does its best to buck that characterization. The sleek, low-slung building that houses The Menil Collection boasts impressive pieces from Africa, the Pacific Islands and the Paleolithic period.

The nearby Cy Twombly Gallery strikes a more modern tone with numerous works from the titular painter and calligrapher. If viewing art helps you work up an appetite, stop by the Bistro Menil, which serves up gourmet-inspired fare and an excellent afternoon tea.

Of course, carvings and canvases aren’t the only objects of beauty to see in Houston. You’ll find impressive pieces of architecture, too, and though the city may be a sprawling metropolis, one of the best ways to see its impressive buildings is on foot. The Architecture Center of Houston offers guided walking tours through architecturally striking areas.

Stroll through Rice University or check out the stunning mansions in the Montrose quarter.

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Circular stage with people up on platforms at Orange ShowVisit the Orange Show Monument and catch a musical performance or wander the weird installments.Photo Credit: Wikimedia

Seek out Strange Sights

Gonzo horror author Chuck Palahniuk made his name penning extreme novels with a bizarre tilt. He also put his hometown on the proverbial map as a place to suss out bizarre sights with Fugitives and Refugees: A Walk in Portland, Oregon. But Portland isn’t the only place with odd attractions. Some of the best things to do in Houston include its less-ordinary attractions.

Take, for instance, Dean Ruck’s Big Bubble, ostensibly an art exhibit located on the Preston Street Bridge. Visitors will find only an unlabeled red button, but when they push it, the waters beneath the bridge erupt into a roiling mass. The Listening Vessels at 1500 McKinney Street work similar wizardry, transporting whispered words from one cement cylinder to another across a space of some 200 feet through the magic of acoustics.

The 3,000 square feet of The Orange Show Monument in Houston’s East End is a rollicking, maze-like conglomeration of handmade architecture that includes a wishing well, a museum and multiple upper decks. And The James Turrell Skyspace, an eerie slab stacked horizontally on a hill at Rice University, looks like something out of Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

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