Houston, TX | Cruise port of call | CruiseBe
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Houston, TX

Houston is a sprawling port city in Southeastern Texas. A recent oil boom and continuing international immigration have brought explosive growth to the city, and it is now the fourth largest city in the United States, but only the fifth largest metropolitan area. While at first glance, the city appears to be a 9-5 central business district surrounded by a sea of suburbs and strip malls, there are many hidden gems to be discovered.

Houston has a character that, while very "Texan," is also a great melting pot of many cultures and socio-economic groups. You'll find well-to-do suburban mansions, LA-style shopping strips, Latin-American neighborhoods, towering skyscrapers, historic African-American neighborhoods fighting off gentrification, massive refinery complexes, large Asian communities, and pockets of artist communities. From October to May, the weather is relatively pleasant, and many restaurants and bars... Read more

Houston, TX

Destination:

Houston is a sprawling port city in Southeastern Texas. A recent oil boom and continuing international immigration have brought explosive growth to the city, and it is now the fourth largest city in the United States, but only the fifth largest metropolitan area. While at first glance, the city appears to be a 9-5 central business district surrounded by a sea of suburbs and strip malls, there are many hidden gems to be discovered.

Houston has a character that, while very "Texan," is also a great melting pot of many cultures and socio-economic groups. You'll find well-to-do suburban mansions, LA-style shopping strips, Latin-American neighborhoods, towering skyscrapers, historic African-American neighborhoods fighting off gentrification, massive refinery complexes, large Asian communities, and pockets of artist communities. From October to May, the weather is relatively pleasant, and many restaurants and bars take advantage of it with plenty of outdoor seating and beautiful lighting. Houston's proximity to the Gulf of Mexico also makes it a lush, tropical paradise compared to the rest of Texas.
In a sense, Houston is the gritty step-cousin of wealthy Dallas and middle-class hippie Austin. You won't see many cowboys or giant hairdos in downtown Houston (outside of Rodeo season), but you will see a quite diverse mix of people servicing the oilmen, petroleum engineers and high-end doctors.
Houston is the largest city in the United States without any appreciable zoning. While there is some small measure of zoning in the form of ordinances, deed restrictions, and land use regulations, real estate development in Houston is only constrained by the will and the pocketbook of real estate developers. Traditionally, Houston politics and law are strongly influenced by real estate developers; at times, the majority of city council seats have been held by them. This arrangement has made Houston a very sprawled-out and very automobile-dependent city. The benefit of this lack of zoning is that some neighborhoods like Montrose contain a plethora of hidden bars and art galleries nestled among historic neighborhoods - an arrangement not possible in zoned cities across the country.

For one desiring a walkable visit, the areas close to downtown are gradually becoming more dense and walkable as islands of trendy mixed-use developments pop up. Many areas can be downright hostile to pedestrians and bikers as sidewalks are privately built (if at all) and roads are littered with massive potholes. The city is primarily built on the energy industry and nearly everyone owns a car and drives everywhere they go, even to a destination less than a mile away.

With a few exceptions, almost everything to see or do is in Houston's urban core inside the 610 Loop and more specifically in between downtown, the

Galleria

, and the Texas Medical Center.

The Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau operates the Houston Visitors Center. The center is located in the heart of downtown Houston at 901 Bagby (corner of Bagby and Walker St.), on the first floor of the historic

City Hall

. Find information on Houston's history, attractions, restaurants, hotels, directions, maps, purchase Houston merchandise and watch an 11-minute film on Houston. You'll find over 10,000 brochures and magazines to help plan your visit to the Houston area. The center is open Monday - Saturday, 9 AM to 4 PM.

Climate

Houston's climate generally ranges from a hot humid summer to a mild winter. The months of October to April make for fantastic times to visit to avoid the heat. Visitors from areas with mild summers or dry climates should be extremely careful if planning to travel there in the summer months, especially around August. The combination of high heat and thick humidity can result in stifling and oppressive weather. It's by no means "a dry heat"! Even some lifelong residents of Houston complain about the August weather. If visiting in the summer, stay hydrated and try to limit outdoor exposure during the hours between 10 AM and 7 PM. The nights are very hot too, but not as dangerously hot as during the day. Visitors from cooler, drier places will be amazed at the tolerance levels of some of the locals. You can see people wearing long sleeve shirts, boots and jeans when the temperature is above 100°F (38°C) and humidity is in the 90% range. But it can not be stressed enough: this place is extremely hot and if you're not prepared or used to this type of heat, you're in for one rude awakening. But have fun!

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Houston, TX: Port Information


Port of Houston is among the world's largest ones. It is situated in Pasadena (30 miles east of Houston).
Your cruise liner will dock at Bayport Cruise Terminal. There are plenty of restaurants, shops, and hotels.
Buses and taxis are available in front of the terminal. Besides, there is a big parking lot.  

Get around Houston, TX


By car
Houston has a number of major highways that make getting around the city fairly easy. A number of obstacles, however, can make driving in Houston a less than pleasant experience. One is construction, which seems to be ever-present, and the other is traffic. Evening rush hour in Houston begins as early as 4 PM and can last more than 2 hours. Morning rush hour is between 7 and 9 AM. During rush hour, traffic on the highways can come to a halt. The strip of the West Loop near the Galleria, between US-59 and IH-10, is an area you should definitely avoid during rush hour if possible.

Some of the freeways have an H.O.V. (High-Occupancy Vehicle) lane, which are limited-access lanes located in the median strip of the highway. The HOV lanes are operational Monday - Friday in the morning hours (5 AM - 11 AM) in the inbound direction and in the outbound direction in the afternoon and evening (from 2 PM - 8 PM). The HOV lanes are restricted to cars with 2 or more passengers, however, some HOV lanes require 3 or more passengers during peak travel periods (6:45-8 AM and 5-6 PM, for IH-10 west; 6:45-8 AM only for US-290). The HOV lanes are marked with signs bearing a white diamond on a black background. Highways with HOV lanes are IH-45 North, IH-45 South, US-59 North, US-59 South, IH-10 West (Katy Freeway), and US-290. The Katy Freeway HOV lanes have been expanded into the Katy Toll Road, a 24-hour multi-lane HOV with paid Single-Occupancy Vehicle access cost-adjusted based on HOV usage.

By public transportation
Currently, public transportation in Houston is limited to METRO, which operates bus lines as well as the new and very popular light rail line called METRORail.
METRORail is a light rail line that runs between Northline transit center, downtown, midtown,

the museum district

, the Medical Center, Reliant Park, and the Fannin South Park & Ride (which is a handy place to park and is located near the 610 loop).

By taxi
Taxis are easily found in Downtown, Uptown, Midtown and the Medical Center as well as the suburb of Galveston and both airports. Taxis in Houston are generally dispatched by various companies the largest being Yellow Cab, 713-236-1111.

By limousine
Traveling via a limousine has become more popular lately. Many Houston limousine companies offer full ground transportation options such as town cars, classic cars, stretch limos and luxury vehicles that can be utilized for special occasions like airport transportation, parties, school dances, business functions, and weddings. Consider hiring a limousine service to handle your travel needs.

By bicycle
Houston is so spread out and (most of the time) hot and humid that bicycles are often best used for exercise or to get to somewhere that is close by. On the other hand, if you have a little bit of stamina and perseverance, Downtown, Midtown, Rice, Uptown and the Medical Center/Hermann Park/Museum District area are within a 30-minute ride. Multi-modal transportation is also possible since most city buses have easy to use racks in the front that can get traveler and bicycle near to a final destination.

The city of Houston has 290 miles of marked bike routes, plus another 80 miles of hike and bike trails in city parks, with concrete plans for even more expansion. For more information on the Houston Bikeway program, including a complete map of all marked bike paths, visit the City of Houston Bikeway Program website.

What to see in Houston, TX


Travelers planning to visit multiple attractions may benefit from the Houston CityPASS, which grants admission to 6 Houston attractions within 9 days of first use for a much-reduced rate and includes an expedited entry in some cases. The included attractions are Space Center Houston; Downtown Aquarium; Houston Museum of Natural Science; Houston Zoo; Option Ticket One with choice of either Museum of Fine Arts or The Children's Museum of Houston and Option Ticket Two with choice of either George Ranch Historical Park or The Health Museum.
  • Astrodome. Dubbed the "8th Wonder of the World," it was one of the world's first fully indoor stadiums and the birthplace of astroturf (that was vacuumed by people in astronaut suits between innings). It was abandoned when the Astros threatened to move unless Minute Maid Park (nee' Enron Field) was built. The stadium is no longer open to visitors, but it is still a spectacle.

What to do in Houston, TX


Golf:
  • Wildcat Golf Club.  
  • Houston Country club. 
  • River Oaks Country Club.  
  • Redstone.  
Parks:
  • Buffalo Bayou
  • Eleanor Tinsley Park - The beautiful city skyline backdrops this scenic portion of the park. It remains one of the most popular outdoor spaces for recreation and relaxation.
  • Lost Lake - At this location, visitors can rent kayaks and discover the water trails.
  • Discovery Green
  • Houston Arboretum
  • Hermann Park
  • McGovern Centennial Gardens - Home to a diverse collection of gardens including an arid garden, a rose garden, a woodland garden, an interactive family garden, and more. Visitors can also enjoy walking the spiral path to the top of a 30-foot mount.

Theater 
Houstonians like theater and the community supports many types of performing arts companies. Most professional theater is centered in the Theater District, but other companies are located in different districts around town. The lively culture of Houston also includes numerous community theater organizations and several well regarded university programs.
The major downtown performing arts venues include The Wortham Center, The Hobby CenterJones Hall, and the Alley Theater.

What to eat and drink in Houston, TX


Eat

Houston has outstanding dining options and is widely considered the most restaurant-oriented city in the United States, with a thriving community of ethnic restaurants, superb Tex-Mex, classic Texas steakhouses and Gulf Coast seafood, as well as chain restaurants. Houston's fine dining scene has exploded in recent years, with Downtown, Montrose, Midtown, and the Heights (including the Washington Corridor) as the epicenter of what's hot-and-happening now.

Although high-quality, authentic Mexican food can be found just about anywhere in the city (for some of the best surprises, stop by any nondescript taqueria and order nearly anything at random), the best ethnic dining is generally found in West Houston - in particular the area west of Highway 59 and south of I-10, with everything from Middle Eastern to Ethiopian to Bosnian. The bustling Mahatma Gandhi District around Hillcroft St. is the place to go for top-notch Indian and Pakistani cuisine. In years past, you'd go east of Downtown or to Midtown for your Chinese or Vietnamese fix (respectively); nowadays the new Chinatown (or sometimes "Asiatown") is the new one-stop shop for your cravings. Lying just north of I-10, Long Point Drive and North Gessner sport crowded Korean joints, fantastic taco trucks, and hidden Thai gems.

With hometown stars such as Monica Pope (T'afia) and Bryan Caswell (Reef, Little Big's, El Real) making their debut on TV shows such as Top Chef and on the Food Network, and more and more chefs and restaurants getting name-checked in media (like GQ's Best Of lists, or Bon Appetit's recent declaration of Houston as the best food city in Texas) and earning award nominations (Randy Rucker's Bootsie's Heritage Cafe was up for the James Beard Award for Best New Restaurant - the "Oscars of the restaurant world"), Houston's dining scene seems slowly but surely to be staking out room on the national stage.

Eating Local

Like any city with a respectable, trendy food scene, Houston's top restaurants seem to be all about what's seasonal and local these days (oh, and Houston is just now getting into gourmet food trucks), as well as becoming increasingly prominent in stores as well. Fresh produce to seek out include tomatoes, sweet "1015" onions (not as sweet as the Hawaiian variety, but pretty impressive), watermelon, strawberries, peaches, corn, carrots, and squash blossoms. Look for local cheese from the Houston Dairymaids - who make just about any variety you can think of - and bread baked daily and shipped to restaurants from the Slow Dough Bakery. Houstonians are just as crazy for crawfish (no "crayfish" down here, Yankee) as Louisianans are, as well as catfish and Gulf seafood such as red snapper, blue crab, and shrimp; gaining in popularity are local species that were previously overlooked, such as blackfin tuna, tilefish, grouper, almaco jack, and black drum. Houston has always had a steady supply of oysters from Galveston Bay, but the program of oyster "appellations" has only recently been revived, meaning high-quality specimens are labeled with their reef of origin, just like the well-known varieties from the east and west coasts - look for varieties such as Ladies Pass and Pepper Grove.

Drink

Local Beer

  • 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). The brewery tour is open Monday through Friday from 3 PM to 4:15 PM and Saturday 11 AM to 2 PM.
  • Karbach Brewing Co, 2032 Karbach St. Located near 290 and 610, built in 2011. Beer Garden/patio is open M-F 2:30 to 9:00, Sat Noon - 9 PM and Sunday Noon - 5:30 PM. Currently also constructing an expansion of the brewery and a restaurant/brewpub.
  • Buffalo Bayou Brewing Company, 5301 Nolda St. Located in the Washington Corridor. Focused on their Witbier recipe and interesting variation of that. Tours/tasting hours Saturday Noon to 3 PM.
  • 8th Wonder Brewing Company, 2202 Dallas St. Located in EaDo near BBVA Stadium. Taproom open Th/Fr 5 - 10 PM, Sat Noon - 8 PM, Sun Noon - 8 PM. Great for a few beers before a Dynamo game away from the crush at Lucky's and Little Woodrow's.

Shopping in Houston, TX


Many of the shopping malls are concentrated to the west of downtown in Uptown.
In general, prices in Houston are lower than in other major US cities.
A very popular place to go shopping in Houston is the Houston Galleria. The Galleria is the largest mall in Texas and the ninth largest in the United States. They have anything you could ever think of and more. At the Galleria, you can find people shopping at high-end stores such as Bebe, Coach, Neiman Marcus, Cartier, Gucci, Macy's, Tiffany & Co., Saks Fifth Avenue, The Sharper Image, Ralph Lauren Collection, Louis Vuitton and Houston's only Nordstrom. You can also find people ice skating in the ice rink on the bottom floor. Also, you will find nail salons, 375 fine stores, and restaurants. And to top it off at the Galleria there are two Westin hotels. The Galleria is widely recognized as the number one shopping and tourist destination in Houston.

Safety in Houston, TX


Crime
Like most large US cities, Houston has its share of crime. Residents of Texas are allowed to carry concealed firearms after completing training and a thorough background check. Like many other US cities, certain areas of Houston are considerably less safe including the area within Loop 610 on the east side and some areas in Southwest Houston near Beltway 8 (Sam Houston Tollway).

Travelers to Houston should follow common safety procedures: stay away from deserted areas in the middle of the night, keep your valuables stored out of sight, keep purses/wallets in a secure location, and always put valuables in a car trunk. Call 911 for emergency assistance or report a crime in progress. For non-emergency assistance and for crimes not in progress such as minor assault, car theft, home invasion, property damage, and theft, dial 713-884-3131 and request police assistance. The Houston Police Department also allows citizens to file online reports for minor property damage and theft if they are under $5,000 in damages.

Natural disasters
Like much of the Gulf Coast, Houston is very vulnerable to hurricanes. If a hurricane is forecast to make landfall anywhere near Houston, listen to officials and heed mandatory evacuation orders if one is ordered. Hurricane season is June through November, peaking in September.

Houston is very hot and humid in the summer, with temperatures around 31-38°C (87-100°F), similar to tropical cities like Manila or Panama City during the summer. However, in the winter, Houston can be mild with temperatures ranging from -1-18°C (30-64°F), and winter climate is usually similar to winters in the rest of the Southern United States or in Southern California.

METRO Rail
Please be careful when coming near the METRO Rail track, especially at intersections.

Follow the signs since the trains move very quickly and run at almost all hours of the day and night. It runs almost silently. At many streets, left turns are not permitted. Also watch the signs and signals, because some will change as trains approach. Do not drive on the tracks as there are large raised white domes that separate the roadway and the rail line. In some areas signs may indicate driving (or walking) on the tracks is permitted (currently only in the Texas Medical Center) but make sure it is safe to do so.

Drive across the tracks only when you are sure it is safe to do so, especially at night as an oncoming train may not be heard by a driver inside a car.

Language spoken in Houston, TX


Houston is home to more than 100 languages. Signs can be found in Spanish, Vietnamese and Chinese, among others, but English is the lingua franca. Knowing some Spanish may help in certain neighborhoods, but most people will speak English.

LOCAL TIME

7:38 am
December 10, 2018
America/Chicago

CURRENT WEATHER

10.93 °C / 51.674 °F
sky is clear
Tue

14.37 °C/58 °F
sky is clear
Wed

18.64 °C/66 °F
moderate rain
Thu

20.41 °C/69 °F
sky is clear
Fri

10.59 °C/51 °F
sky is clear

LOCAL CURRENCY

USD

1 EUR = 1.14 USD
1 GBP = 1.26 USD
1 AUD = 0.72 USD
1 CAD = 0.75 USD

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