Planning a trip to Houston? One of the most popular cities in Texas and the largest cities in the U.S.
These Houston travel tips for your trip itinerary are the perfect way to make sure that you’ve got the real local scoop on what it’s like to visit Houston and how to make sure your travel plans are a success, rather than a series of unfortunate Texas events!
It’s hard to think of Houston as a travel destination but it’s not bad for a weekend vacation or short holiday. World nomads and entrepreneurs come through here all the time. The low cost of living and impressive job opportunities have made it a worthwhile destination. Finding cheap flights here is easy. You can take any number of guided tours, or just explore on your own. This city even has amazing spots for paddle boarding if you are looking for something more physically active. From transportation to attractions to sightseeing and general need-to-knows, enjoy these travel tips for Houston from someone who loves visiting this great city in Texas!
1. Rent a Car
While Houston does have some public transportation options downtown, by far the easiest way to get around such a sprawling Texas city is to drive. Unlike a city like Boston or New York which seems to run on public transportation, Houston is very much a driving city with plenty of room and open parking options. Enjoy the freedom of the open road while in the great state of Texas. Nothing beats just driving with the windows rolled down and listening to some classic country music. Renting a car is relatively easy out here and sometimes they are part of a package deal when making hotel accommodations.
Alternatively, use a ride-sharing app like Uber to get around quickly instead of relying on the buses.
2. Check out the Houston barbecue scene
Texas is world-renowned as one of the best places for famous barbecue, and Houston is one of the best cities to explore the wonderful world of smoked brisket, ribs smothered in all kinds of homemade local sauces, and fatty delicious burgers that are out of this world.
The best place in Houston to uncover the heart of the Houston barbecue scene is the Pit Room, featuring everything from Texas-style BBQ to tacos and desserts in a casual atmosphere.
During your trip, check out some other BBQ places while you’re in town. Each one has its unique blend of spices and cooking methods. It’s a fun way to compare notes and find out your favorites. Some of those in Houston’s top lists include:
- Pinkerton’s Barbecue
- Famous BBQ
- J-Bar-M Barbecue
- Smokin’ Z’s BBQ
- Harlem Road Texas BBQ
3. Visit one of the Top 10 Museums in the US
The Museum of Natural Science in Houston is in the Top 10 of the most attended museums in the USA and one of the best things to do in Houston, which means you need to check it out and see what all the fuss is about.
From incredible exhibit halls featuring everything from dinosaurs to outer space and a planetarium that has to be seen to be believed, this is a great day out in Houston for family fun and couples.
If you want more than just this one you can stop by the Museum of Fine Arts, Art Car Museum (a local favorite, see below), Children’s Museum, or Menil Collection just to name a few. Or walk the streets on a self-guided tour of the Houston street art. The graffiti art scene and murals are impressive and really show a local history of each area. Any one of these is a fun experience and is well worth stopping by.
4. Houston is big, just like Texas
Where do you go in Houston? During the trip if you thought you were getting a compact, completely walkable from end-to-end city, think again. Houston is a large, sprawling city. It’s larger than other popular cities like Los Angeles, Chicago, Phoenix, and New York. Once you take into account the suburbs and you’ll want to plan your days carefully so you’re not crossing from side to side in different parts of town and wasting precious travel time on your trip.
Of course, the large size means that there is plenty to do, including craft breweries, bars, restaurants, historic attractions, museums, and so much more. No matter what you’re into, Houston is more than likely to have you covered and there are plenty of travel guides to help you with trip planning.
Some of the most popular neighborhoods to visit for any of those activities include:
- Midtown – Next to Downtown Houston, close to the city’s popular attractions, and has a very lively nightlife.
- Montrose – A destination that mixes foodies, hipsters, tourists, boutique artists, and creative minds.
- Memorial – Mix of urban and suburban lifestyles, plenty of outdoor areas to explore and leans more towards the family dynamic.
- River Oaks – High-end area of luxury mansions, golf courses, and impressive shopping centers.
- The Heights – Old neighborhood with plenty of historic style homes and vibrant locally owned stores.
5. Don’t Miss Space Center Houston
If you’re a fan of the space program at all, or you’ve just heard that timeless phrase, “Houston, we have a problem,” from the acclaimed film Apollo 13, you’ll know that NASA has a Space Center in Houston!
The reason? It’s perfectly located in the direction of travel to and from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida to provide communication and other support for the shuttles and rockets.
It’s also the reason why Houston has been nicknamed “Space City”. You can visit the center and explore the fascinating world of NASA history and learn what it’s like to be an astronaut. The exhibits and attractions also show what they are currently working on and future goals of space travel and the possible colonization of other planets. With the richest businessmen and celebrities in the world now able to travel into space almost commercially it’s no surprise that there are big plans to strive forward.
This is easily a full-day experience in Houston, especially if you’re into science, and is a little bit of a day trip from Houston outside of the city center.
6. One-of-a-Kind Cars
If you’re into cars (or can convince your traveling companions who aren’t to go with you), one of the quirkiest things to do in Houston is known as the “Garage Majal” locally, but officially as the Art Car Museum.
This museum features incredible fine contemporary art and art cars both national and internationally that you won’t have seen anywhere else, as it acts as an exhibition hall for some weird and wonderful car designs. Add this to your travel itinerary since you don’t see these kinds of places too often.
7. Prepare for Scorching Summers
If you’re visiting Houston in the summer, as many people do, you’re going to want to slather on plenty of sunscreens and make sure you’re dressed in cool, comfortable clothing that will help you wick sweat off your body rather than trap it in. Make sure to include these in your packing list. You don’t want to be caught out there miserable in the heat instead of enjoying yourself.
While many people think of destinations like Florida as the more obvious places for summer heat, a Houston summer can be equally hot, if not more so, and the humidity can reach 80 to 85% easily.
On what to pack during the day, carry around a reusable water bottle to keep you hydrated and take plenty of breaks in the air-conditioning.
8. Don’t be Afraid to Ask Locals for Help
Houstonians are typically very friendly and welcoming and more than happy to help point you in the right direction or tell you more about why they love Houston or the great state of Texas. You may find it very surprising compared to other cities you have visited.
While it is a major city, it runs more slowly than somewhere like NYC, Chicago, or Los Angeles. And as long as you don’t interrupt a person holding a briefcase who seems to be flying down the street late for a meeting, you should interact with and get to know the locals.
The only place where Houston natives aren’t as friendly is on the road, but that goes for all of Texas!
9. See the Houston Rockets
Texas runs on sports, ranging from high school Friday Night Lights games to baseball and basketball, and in Houston, the team of choice for many is the professional basketball team, the Houston Rockets.
To experience Houston sports culture (they tend to prefer basketball and baseball over football), buy tickets to a Rockets game if they’re playing during your visit and soak in the atmosphere of a city that loves the sport and loves the Rockets. Just don’t wait until the last minute or you will be desperate to find some decent seating.
Just make sure to get your Houston Rockets gear or at least the right colors (red, black, silver, and white) so you don’t accidentally come dressed in the opposite team’s colors! There are very dedicated fans out here but still most are very friendly and will love cheering with you.
When planning your trip, if you’re a fan of a different sport or just want to spend a night and catch a game, the other Houston teams for all your sporting needs are as follows:
- National Football League – Houston Texans
- Major League Baseball – Houston Astros
- Major League Soccer – Houston Dynamo
- National Pro Fastpitch– Scrap Yard Dawgs
- Major League Rugby – Houston SaberCats
10. Get Dinner at Nancy’s Hustle
Looking for a special night out when you’re on your trip? Before you go, check out one of the best restaurants in Houston which is Nancy’s Hustle on Houston’s East Side.
This romantic, intimate bistro-style restaurant features incredibly creative cuisine, a wine list to top all of the other Houston restaurants, and a style and atmosphere that will make you feel like you’re treating yourself.
Be sure to make reservations in advance if you want to eat here as they fill up fast, and keep it to a small party as the largest group they take is 6.
We hope you found these tips helpful in organizing your trip. From this, you can enjoy your time in Houston. Extend your time here and take a road trip through the great state of Texas to see the sites and enjoy it to the fullest. Let us know how it goes as we are always on the lookout for new and exciting places, trip ideas, flight deals, and recommendations here.