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 🙂 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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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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