In “Fort Worth Blues,” his elegy for late, legendary Texas singer-songwriter and former Houstonian Townes Van Zandt, friend and fellow musician Steve Earle sings, “And Houston really ain’t that bad a town.”
In fact, it’s a great town, and one growing in popularity as a destination for business travelers. Yet many may not know what to expect when they head to Houston. We can help with that.
Where to Go:
On-time arrivals and departures make Houston’s largest airport one of the highest-rated in the country. There’s also plenty of things to do should you find yourself waiting for departure:
|How to Get to Downtown Houston|
Where to Go:
Unless you’re traveling with Southwest Airlines, you’ll likely be flying into and out of George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH). But there’s still plenty to do in Hobby.
|How to Get to Downtown Houston|
Don’t mess with Texas. Let’s get that one out of the way. Here are some other dos and don’ts to keep in mind as you head to Houston.
Houston is massive. With 628 square miles, it’s the ninth-biggest city in the United States, in total area. Is getting around Houston easy? It depends on where you are and your preferred method of transportation. Before you go, keep these tips in mind:
With just three lines, Houston’s rail system doesn’t provide the same coverage as other big cities, but it is inexpensive. The fare is $1.25, so if your destination is close to a stop, the METRORail is the way to go.
Moving around downtown Houston at the wrong time of year—the heart of humidity season—isn’t the most fun thing for business travelers, especially those in suits. Skip walking or waiting for an Uber, and hail a cab instead. The city instituted a flat taxi rate of $6 for downtown, regardless of the number of passengers.
If you want to add exercise to your commute, download the BCyle app and get riding. Houston has miles of bike trails and has made an effort to make the car-dominant city more bike-friendly. BCycle bike-sharing is a good start. A $13 monthly membership (that you can cancel at any time) gets you unlimited rides for up to 60 minutes. Otherwise, $3 buys you 30 minutes of biking.
For all its sprawl, Houston is walkable on micro-levels. Once you reach your destination, you’ll likely find a variety of establishments within walking distance. So bring your walking shoes!
You don’t necessarily have to rent a car while in Houston, but if you do, it’s important to know the road system. Interstate 45 South is known as the Gulf Highway. Texas 288 is the South Freeway or the Nolan Ryan Expressway, depending on where you’re headed. There’s a helpful guide at the bottom of this post on VisitHoustonTexas, so when you get directions, you’ll know exactly where to go.
Houston can stake its claim as a home of country music, a hotbed of hip-hop, and an influencer on Southern rock, soul, gospel, jazz, and rhythm & blues. In other words, the Houston sound is a little bit of everything, and it means something different to different listeners.
When it comes to choosing your home away from home, Houston has rooms for all types of business travelers. Here are six to consider booking for your trip:
The Marriott Marquis has swanky furniture in its lobby, NASA-inspired decor everywhere, and a skywalk to the George R. Brown Convention Center. But let’s be honest: The pool area sets this hotel apart from all others. In addition to a jacuzzi and infinity pool, there’s a Texas-shaped lazy river that lights up at night. The Marriott Marquis also neighbors the Discovery Green, a wonderful, activity-filled city park.
Fresh off a $30 million renovation, the Omni Houston offers business travelers all the usual amenities—free Wi-Fi, spacious rooms with a variety of choices, full lounge—as well as some bonuses. The fitness room is open 24 hours, and there are two outdoor pools.
The JW Marriott Houston Downtown puts you in a place of luxury while making you feel at home. Each room is equipped with an iPad you can use to order room service or reserve spa treatment. And you can book your room based on need. Have to get work done? The Presidential Suite comes with a private office. Want to relax after a long day? The Spa Inspired King features a tub as well as a spa lounger next to the bed.
The building once housed the Houston Post Dispatch newspaper and later served as the corporate office for Shell Oil. It’s since been renovated to now host business travelers and tourists seeking chic lodging in a historic setting. In addition to luxurious rooms, the Magnolia features a rooftop pool, 24-hour fitness center, and a business center with high-speed internet.
The Royal Sonesta in Houston’s Uptown neighborhood has similar offerings as the aforementioned hotels, with a more laid back feel. If they’re available, secure a concierge guest room, which will give you access to the concierge lounge. Take in sweeping views of Houston while winding down from your business trip.
This is business traveling in luxury, and then some. The Hotel Alessandra is a short walk from the George R. Brown Convention Center and METRORail, but if you want to really move in style, then you’ll love the Maserati—yes, Maserati—car service. The spacious rooms are great, too, with tablets to place room service orders. You can also treat yourself to a spa day.
What’s better? A meeting in a lobby or casual conversation over drinks and appetizers? That’s what we figured. Impress your clients or fellow business travelers by hitting these spots once the workday is done.
If you can only get to one happy hour during your trip to Houston, make it the OKRA Charity Saloon. Patrons will receive a vote for each drink they purchase, which they can then cast for one of four local charities selected by OKRA’s members. At the end of the month, OKRA makes a donation to the charity with the most votes. It’s an easy way to support a great prize. The drinks and food—like fried pickled okra—are tasty, too.
Soccer’s popularity is on the rise in the United States, as is that of soccer pubs. Pitch 25 is an east downtown Houston beer garden across from BBVA Compass Stadium (home to Major League Soccer’s Houston Dynamo and National Women’s Soccer League’s Houston Dash) that features spacious indoor and outdoor setting, and, for your purposes, more than 100 beers on draft.
Houston’s proximity to the Gulf of Mexico makes fresh seafood a welcome departure from the heavy meats of Texas cuisine. At 1751 Sea & Bar, happy hour goers can enjoy gulf oysters for $1, a raw bar featuring crudo and poke, and half-priced gin and tonics.
If you’d like comfort food in a casual setting, BB Lemon’s “Lemon Hour” is for you. Grab $8 craft cocktails to wash down Houston favorites like Frito pie (made with house-made beer cheese), chicken fried pickles, wagyu hot dogs, and pistachio-crusted fried shrimp.
Celebrity chef Nikki Tran (featured on Netflix’s “Ugly Delicious”) has introduced Viejun, a mashup of Vietnamese and cajun dishes, to Houston. It’s a combination that makes sense. After all, Houston is home to a large Vietnamese population. Sip half-priced wine and cocktails while sampling some Vietnamese street food with Viejun spices.
Are you in Houston on a Monday? If so, head to Riel, a bar that starts the workweek right with an all-night happy hour. Select beers are $4, but the appeal here is in the tasty, exotic menu. Try the gator karaage or chicken skin yakitori.
This is one of Houston’s newer establishments, but it’s making an early dent. The Pink Elephant Room presents a welcoming, understated atmosphere in a historic building. Sample local craft beers on draft or indulge on $2.50 Lone Stars. Business travelers who work a bit later than usual can unwind here, where the “happier hour” runs until 7 p.m.
If you’re lucky enough to have a bleisure day in Houston, you may want to prioritize the Johnson Space Center. It’s a fairly decent hike (25 miles) from downtown, however, and you’ll want to spend all day there. That’s one option for bleisure. Here are several more suggestions to make a day of it in Houston.
Tex-Mex extends to all three meals, with breakfast, arguably, the hidden gem. Wake up with coffee and the savory goodness of breakfast tacos, served at stands and restaurants all over Houston, such as Texas Tacos & BBQ, Tacodeli, Villa Arcos, Luna Y Sol Mexican Grill, and Brothers Taco House. You really can’t go wrong.
Smack dab in the middle of Houston is a vibrant city park with activities that range from leisurely to athletic. Rent a kayak on Kinder Lake for $5, or go skating: The outdoor ice rink is open November to February. In need of some relaxation? There’s plenty of lawn space, as well as a 4,700-square-foot deck under the oak trees. It’s a perfect place to catch up on reading.
Houston’s Museum District—some four miles from downtown—is home to 19 museums, which cover everything from modern art to cultural histories. It’s a walkable, leafy neighborhood that deserves your time. Explore the offerings, and check out these three stops in particular:
The Buffalo Soldiers National Museum honors the all African-American military units that were formed following the American Civil War. The museum educates visitors about an often-forgotten portion of American history that helped define the West.
An interactive science center, the Health Museum invites visitors to learn about themselves. “You: The Exhibit” uses modern technology to give visitors an inside look at their physical and mental selves.
There’s a little bit of everything at the Houston Museum of Natural Science: a planetarium, butterfly center, and more than a dozen permanent exhibits including a collection of dinosaur fossils.
You don’t have to be a chiropterologist, or even a Dracula-enthusiast, to be awed by the flying mammals at the Waugh Drive Bridge in Buffalo Bayou Park. Mexican free-tailed bats call the concrete bridge home, and thousands break out in the early evening for an insect feast.
Houston is a haven for sports fans. You have the Houston Astros (Major League Baseball), Dynamo (Major League Soccer), and Dash (National Women’s Soccer League), all of which play in downtown stadiums, to choose from during the summer. Then there’s the Texans (National Football League) and Rockets (National Basketball Association), in addition to four NCAA Division I athletic programs (Houston, Rice, Houston Baptist, and Texas Southerns). And if you’re free on a Friday, check out the famous Friday night lights of Texas high school football. In other words, there’s always a game to catch in town.
It’s Houston. You can’t leave town without jamming or do-si-doing to some live music. The Firehouse Saloon is a true honky tonk that’s become one of the most popular country music venues in Texas. Fitzgerald’s is a Houston landmark that houses up-and-comers and established acts alike. And for an authentic experience, travel to Dosey Doe in The Woodlands, a little more than a half-hour drive north of Houston, which hosts country music and dancing in an old tobacco barn.
There is no shortage of quality bites in the Space City. Bring your appetite when you head to Houston, so you can get your fill at these renowned restaurants.
No establishment embodies “Everything’s bigger in Texas” better than Whataburger, the ubiquitous fast-food burger joint. The chain dishes out healthy portions of unhealthy food 24 hours a day.
Chef Chris Shepherd made headlines with his previous restaurant, Underbelly, and he’s at it again with Georgia James. Located in Montrose, Georgia James is an upscale, fun steakhouse that epitomizes the best of Houston flavors.
Legit Texas barbeque has a home in downtown Houston, thanks to Jackson Street BBQ. As always in Texas, skip the pork products and dive into the brisket. Tasty sides include fried mac and cheese and dirty rice.
This requires a car and a little drive northwest from Houston to Tomball, but the payoff is worth it. Chocolate Craftory supplements pit barbeque favorites with handcrafted chocolate. Sweet and savory, indeed.
Houston’s Chinatown is really Asiatown, a neighborhood filled with culinary delights from China, Vietnam, Korea, India, Malaysia, and more. Crawfish & Noodles’ name tells its story; customers can sample pho and boiled crawfish. Fung’s Kitchen is an excellent choice for dim sum, while Tiger Den promises exceptional ramen.