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Our family is coming to visit us in Lubbock and has a layover in Houston on the way here. Naturally, they asked us for advice on where to stay and what to do. Well, we’ve only been to Houston a few times and it’s not really one of the cities we know a lot about. First step? Google to the rescue. Second step? Ask all my friends and blogger buddies on Facebook¬†for input ūüôā Thank you Michelle,¬†Leah, and¬†Cathy!¬†Yeah for social media! I figured my family isn’t the only one wondering about what to in Houston on a layover, so here’s my summary.

Houston midtown

Panoramic Houston skyline

Where to stay on your layover in Houston?

Leah suggested a great hotel, the Sorella Hotel, at the CityCentre complex which is mentioned again below. Of course your choice of hotel also depends on which airport you’re flying through. Our family is coming through IAH (George Bush Intercontinental Airport) which is located quite a bit north of the downtown area.

IAH - Houston

Also, my affiliate partner Expedia has a sale for hotels going on right now. Go check it out of you’re still looking.

Since their flight is somewhat early the next morning (around 9am) and I was worried about traffic, I suggested they stay in one of the hotels close to the airport. There are so many! Marco and I have stayed in various on planned and unexpected layovers in Houston and all of them were just fine. I usually use Tripadvisor to check some of the more recent reviews of places I am looking at. One problem we found with the airport hotels? Most of them are somewhat isolated, so eating out was always difficult and often restricted to the hotel restaurant or ordering in. Not the worst problem to have, but something to be aware of. If you don’t plan on renting a car, make sure your hotel offers some options for dinner. Which brings me to the next question…

Should you rent a car for your layover in Houston?

If you are arriving late and leaving early (like our family), I would just book one of the airport hotels and not mess with a rental car. They almost all offer shuttle service to and from the airport and you’ll be set for your stay. However, if you have a little bit of extra time and want to go exploring, I would¬†definitely¬†rent a car. As I said above, the airport is quite a ways from downtown and even the sights themselves in Houston seem pretty far apart. Plus… I like to have the freedom a rental car brings with itself: you can go exploring in the city, you can find fun places for dinner, and you can be very flexible and are not bound by the limits of public transportation. I would feel very different about this in a city like Paris where the metro system rocks and parking is always a huge problem, but Houston? In my humble opinion, yes, go ahead and get that car.

What to see on your layover in Houston? Where to eat?

When I started looking around online I found that¬†layoverguide.com¬†had some neat suggestions:¬†Space Center,¬†San Jacinto Battleground¬†(Monument and Museum), and the observation deck of¬†JP Morgan Chase Tower¬†(Sky Lobby on the 60th floor).¬†The only thing I ever really visited in Houston is the NASA Space Center. It was pretty neat! However, it is actually quite south of Houston and especially from IAH it would be a really long drive. So…. unless you’re really into space and you want to make the Space Center your one and only stop, I’d stick with downtown. I also looked up the San Jacinto Monument and while it looks pretty neat, it’s really quite a bit east of Houston. The JP Morgan Chase Tower seems to be located smack downtown, but on their website I couldn’t find anything about the Sky Lobby, so I’d stick with¬†my friends’ suggestions below instead.

Apollo 17 America Space Center Houston

San Jacinto Monument

Michelle suggested the¬†Houston Zoo¬†and¬†Hermann Park Conservacy¬†for nature. Both are really close together and located close to Rice University. According to Wikipedia, Houston Zoo is the seventh most visited zoo in the US. If I were to visit, I’d wanna check out the Natural Encounters Building. It sounds like a very interactive experience. If you like the idea of nature, but not the price tag that comes with visiting a zoo, try the Hermann Park. I looked around online and it seems there’s quite a bit to see in the park itself. In that same area, Michelle suggested¬†Rice Village¬†for shopping and food. She said her favorite restaurant at Rice Village is Ruggles. For¬†dinner she suggested Andalucia in downtown Houston instead. Apparently this one is especially great¬†on Friday nights: live flamenco and amazing tapas!

Houston Zoo entrance


Hermann Park, Houston in 2012

Leah¬†suggested the¬†CityCentre¬†for¬†restaurants, shopping and bars. She mentioned that it’s located pretty conveniently for downtown or the Museum District as well. The CityCentre (0r City Center) might be exactly what you need if you want to shop your heart out in a beautiful environment.

Cathy¬†said she really liked the¬†Museum District (in particular the Museum of Fine Arts) and the Historic District when she was last in Houston. The Museum District is located right by Hermann Park and has nineteen different museums. Check out their website for a list and a map. The Historic District is Houston’s original town center and seems to be ideal for outdoor cafes and pubs. The heart of this district is the¬†Market Square Park.

Houston Museum District

Museum of Fine Arts Houston

Since I got a little confused about what is where, I dug up this neat map [downtownhouston.org] about where the different districts in Houston are. Head over there to get a an idea of what is where in downtown Houston.

Do you have any other Houston layover suggestions? Let me know in the comments below!

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  • Keith says:

    I found Brazos Bend State Park interesting but it is a bit of distance from Houston. Going to an Astros game if they are in town can be a interesting American experience if your family is coming from Europe.
    Keith recently posted..Keith will eat anything

    • Sabrina says:

      Wow! Just looked it up and it looks amazing! Might be a little much for a layover, but I’ll keep it in mind for one of our next trips down there. Thanks for the tip!

  • Thanks for including me, Sabrina. Nice suggestions from Michelle and Leah, too. I’d like to hang out in Rice Village on next village.
    Cathy Sweeney recently posted..Culture Curious in Chicago

    • Sabrina says:

      Thanks for your tips, Cathy! I agree, Rice Village sounds really fun. And I like that it seems so close to many other things like Hermann Park and the Museum District.

  • Leigh says:

    You’ve got some great ideas there including some I’d never heard of. On my next Houston layover – which is always a minimum of 6 hours it seems I think I need to go investigating.
    Leigh recently posted..#FriFotos – My Idea of Paradise

    • Sabrina says:

      Thanks! And same here, Leigh ūüôā Our layovers are usually too short to go exploring, but sometimes we stay the night because of a missed connection or because we planned it that way and I definitely plan of swinging by some of the spots. I had no idea Houston had so much to offer. What do you usually do on your layovers in Houston? Any tips?

  • R. Sherman says:

    I’ll keep these stops in mind if I’m ever there for a day or two. I’ve only driven through/around in years past and didn’t stop or see much.

    R. Sherman recently posted..A PSA

    • Sabrina says:

      Same here! To be honest, I never thought Houston had that much to offer. Looks like I’m gonna have to change my mind ūüôā

  • Houston’s my hometown! I give a big thumbs up to the Zoo, Museum District and Rice Village which are all very close to each other. We go there every time we visit. Rice Village is full of boutiques including one by Chloe Dao who won Project Runway. Ruggles is also a favorite of mine. It’s the counter service version of a high-end Houston restaurant. Save room for dessert! If chocolate is their thing, eat at the Chocolate Bar. Another excellent counter service descendent of a high-end restaurant is Amazon Grill which has wonderful South American food. If money is no object, Hotel ZaZa is the place to be. If they want to stay near the Museum District but not spend as much, the nearby Texas Medical Center has many affordable hotels.

    The area around George Bush International really doesn’t have much to offer. The Woodlands Town Center (30 minutes north of the airport)may be interesting if they don’t want to drive down into Houston.

    Unless they are BIG Texas history buffs, I would skip the San Jacinto Monument. Other than walking around on the Battleship Texas, there’s not really enough to make it worth the drive for a short layover. (My in-laws live 15 minutes from there.)
    Michele @ Malaysian Meanders recently posted..Japanese Vending Machines

    • Sabrina says:

      Thanks for your comments and additional tips, Michelle! You guys really make me want to spend more time in Houston!! Almost jealous of my family’s layover there.

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