Venturing through Texas? Don’t miss out on the chance to spend some time in Houston. Often referred to as the “unofficial capital of Texas,” the state’s biggest city is chock-loaded with culture and history and is a must-visit for any travelers sliding through the Lone Star State.
Rolling through Houston, you’ll discover big-city Southern charm in spades. Culture lovers will spend their days checking out Houston’s many museums, including the Museum of Fine Arts and the Museum of Natural Science.
If you’re traveling to Texas with the kids, pop into family-friendly favorites like the Houston Zoo and the Children’s Museum. And, of course, no family visit is complete without heading outside the city to check out the incomparable Space Center Houston.
Ready to plan a trip to Texas’s most exciting city? Get your itinerary sketched out with this quick & easy Houston travel guide, including what to see & do, where to stay, and when to visit.
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What to see & do in Houston
Space Center Houston
Calling all Astro-nuts! If you can only fit in one stop on your Houston itinerary, make it the Space Center Houston, the official visitor center of NASA’s Johnson Space Center. Located about 30 minutes southeast of downtown, the space center isn’t just one of the best things to do in Houston but one of Texas’s most popular places to visit.
Browse the collections to get face-to-face with spacesuits, shuttles, and other artifacts from historic space missions. Grab the whole family and hop onto the tram tour to check out the astronaut training facilities and mission control areas. Play your cards right, and you might even get to meet a real, live astronaut!
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
Art lovers moving through Texas’s largest city need to set aside time for the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. At this popular art museum, you’ll browse collections from all around the world, spanning centuries.
The permanent collection at the Museum of Fine Arts features about 70,000 pieces, placing it among the world’s largest museums. Highlights at the museum include Italian Renaissance and French Impressionist paintings, along with American and European decorative arts.
To get the most out of your visit to one of the must-see Houston museums, hop onto one of the free guided tours. After catching a glimpse of the permanent collection, you’ll also have a chance to check out the museum’s satellite sites: the Collection & Gardens and the Rienzi House.
Got the kids in tow? Pencil in a visit to the Houston Zoo. With over 6,000 animals, the zoo is the perfect place to escape the buzz of Downtown Houston for some fresh air.
Besides checking out the animal habitats, the Houston Zoo also offers guests a variety of close-up animal encounters. Feed Masai giraffes, bathe elephants, give treats to a gorilla, cuddle a friendly sloth, or go on the prowl with a cheetah—all are possible at this popular family-friendly attraction!
Houston Museum of Natural Science
Located on Herman Park Drive in the heart of the Museum District, the Houston Museum of Natural Science is among the city’s most popular museums. The museum charms guests, young and old, with ancient artifacts, dinosaur skeletons, and more modern science & technology exhibits.
You can spend the better part of one day in Houston perusing the permanent and temporary exhibits at the massive Houston Museum of Natural Science. After checking out the collection, pop into the 3D IMAX theatre for a film, marvel at the cosmos in the planetarium, or go constellation-spotting at the night sky observatory.
Children’s Museum of Houston
Another family-friendly gem in the Museum District is the Children’s Museum Houston. If you’re traveling with little ones and need to burn off a little excess energy, this is the perfect place to do it.
The fun & educational exhibits at the Children’s Museum of Houston cater to tots as young as three. Set them loose at the challenge courses to explore age-appropriate STEM themes and play all day long.
Older children will find plenty to keep them busy here, too. Let them build basic robots with LEGO, partake in secret spy missions, and experiment with a 3D printer.
Where to stay
As it’s Texas’s largest city, there are a ton of great places to stay in Houston. For most travelers, the city’s central-most areas & neighborhoods are the best place to start their accommodation search. Check out:
The city’s busy central business district, Downtown Houston is one of the top-rated places to stay here. The downtown area isn’t just perfect for business travelers but for anyone passing through the city.
Downtown is home to many of the city’s top hotels, restaurants, bars, and great attractions of its own, like Discovery Green, the Downtown Aquarium, and Market Square Park. To see Houston at its hippest, you can also take the jaunt over to the quirky East Downtown (EaDo) neighborhood to check out the city’s street art scene and some of its coolest bars & restaurants.
If shopping is on your agenda, consider spending your nights in Galleria-Uptown. The area is home to The Galleria, the largest shopping center in Texas and one of the biggest in the USA.
After browsing the boutiques and shops here, fuel up at Uptown Park, an open-air mall that’s home to a slew of superb restaurants, cafes, and bars.
For mixing business with pleasure, few areas are better than Northwest Houston. The district encompasses several residential neighborhoods and the Energy Corridor, the city’s high-tech business district.
Northwest Houston also holds in its midst several sprawling green spaces, including Bear Creek Pioneers Park, and is close to Memorial Park.
To culture lovers, the Museum District is the most suitable area to spend your nights. Anchored by Hermann Park to the south, Museum District is home to, as its name implies, many of the city’s top museums, including the Museum of Fine Arts and the Museum of Natural Science.
Families will also find top-rated family hotspots here, too, like the Houston Zoo and the Children’s Museum. As it’s well-connected to major transportation routes, the Museum District is also a fantastic place to stay for tackling many of the most popular day trips from Houston.
When to visit
The best time to visit Houston is from February to April and from September to November. The spring and fall shoulder season months are the ideal time to travel here as temperatures are pleasant and skip over the uncomfortable hot & humid summer months.
Winters in Houston are warmer than average for the United States, thanks to the city’s proximity to the Gulf of Mexico. Even so, you’ll want to pack some warmer clothing for the evenings as the temperatures can dip after the sun sets.
Houston is served by George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH), located 23 miles north of downtown. Several major airlines fly to IAH from major domestic and international gateways, including:
- American Airlines
- American Eagle
- Delta Air Lines
- Southwest Airlines
- Spirit Airlines
- United Airlines
- United Express
Houston is well-connected by road to other cities in Texas and the neighboring state of Louisiana. Popular driving routes into Houston and estimated driving times include:
- Galveston, TX (56m)
- Austin, TX (2h40m)
- San Antonio, TX (3h12m)
- Dallas, TX (3h30m)
- New Orleans, LA (5h20m)
For travelers, getting around Houston is a cinch with public transportation.
The most convenient and accessible mode of public transport is the METRORail, offering service between Downtown and other city center areas like the Museum District and Theater District.
For reaching other parts of the city, METRO also offers several bus routes. The routes run along many of the city’s main streets, stopping at every second cross-street. One-way bus fares are just $1.25.
Day passes for both the METRORail and METRO buses cost just $3.