20 Top Rated Tourist Attractions in Houston
Houston has become the most diverse city in the US, a national cultural, social, and economic hub. With the 2010 addition of the world's largest oil refinery, Houston is also home to the most energy-related companies in the world. The city is one of the most visited places in America, and its constant growth and modernization is matched only by its increasingly diverse population.
Houston's popularity as a tourist destination is due in large part to its outstanding attractions, museums, ethnic cuisine, live music scene, and outstanding entertainment options. Beyond this, though, it offers a unique blend of the modern and the old, incorporating art and architecture from around the world and boasting one of the largest concentrations of intriguing historic buildings in the country.
If you find yourself in the Houston area, be sure to check out the top places to visit in Houston, too.
Home to over 1,000 animals, the Houston Zoo (in Houston, Texas) is one of the largest zoos in the US. Offering a variety of animals in a natural habitat, the zoo is known for its zebras and monkeys. The zoo's attractions include a carousel, trains, and a giant river that flows throughout the grounds. The zoo is also a special place for families to enjoy together. For more information about the zoo and special programs offered for visitors, check out the website.
Space Center Houston
Space Center Houston is located in a warehouse district adjacent to the Johnson Space Center. The museum is divided into two floors with over 10 permanent galleries, a 10-minute virtual flight, an IMAX theater, and an exciting IMAX X-Ride motion ride. The center showcases the history of space exploration and is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. From $15 for a daily membership (children 12 and under are free). Free parking is also available.
Texas Medical Center
One of the biggest health care networks in the world, the Texas Medical Center includes the Texas Medical Center in Houston; Baylor Scott & White Medical Center in Temple, Texas; and the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. The Texas Medical Center has 1.5 million square meters of building space dedicated to biomedical research, and is home to more than 160 research institutions, nearly 200 pharmaceutical companies, and a host of clinics. These facilities number over 150,000 employees, many of whom are medical doctors, nurses, and pharmacists. Texas Medical Center, Houston has dozens of hotels ranging from standard to luxury.
Museum of Fine Arts
Houston's Museum of Fine Arts (MFAH) is one of the most visited art museums in the United States. Its impressive collection of over 225,000 objects is housed in five galleries, including the iconic Bullocks Museum of Natural History and the provocative Stair Hall. The museum has won numerous national and international awards for its exhibitions and conservation programs. A children's gallery and special exhibitions also add to the museum's appeal. Free tours are available for visitors at 1pm on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Houston Museum of Natural Science
Just 45 minutes from downtown Houston, the Houston Museum of Natural Science is a mecca for natural history lovers. The 15-acre park-like grounds are full of wildlife and natural habitats, including one of the world's largest collections of poisonous snakes and spiders. Admire this impressive collection in the new, $12.5-million glass-walled exhibition building or experience interactive exhibits and hands-on learning at the nearby Discovery Science Center. Interactive, touchscreen exhibits let you explore the nature of the sun and the climate changes it produces.
Galleria is one of Houston's grandest and most notable shopping centers. Located along with Galleria Drive and River Oaks Boulevard on Westheimer Road in River Oaks, this celebrated five-story art deco building has over a hundred stores and is now a part of River Oaks Shopping Center, which includes the upscale Nordstrom and Macy's stores. It was constructed in 1936 and now houses such well-known stores as Neiman Marcus, Chico's, Sam's Club and Z Gallerie, all within easy walking distance of each other. There is also a lovely outdoor conservatory-like garden on the east end of the main floor, but be sure to keep an eye on children as there are shops with clothing and other items that may tempt them, and the Westheimer Store is nearby.
Johnson Space Center
Located in southeast Texas, this is the home of the US Space Program. As the launch site of the Apollo moon program, the huge spacecraft which made the first manned moon landing has been moved and is now located here in the Space Center Houston. The center's Museum of Space Exploration is the most visited museum in the country and is well worth a visit for anyone interested in the history of the US space program. Within the Space Center, various museums set out to show the history of human space exploration through exhibits which will teach you about the technology of space travel. Some of the original spacesuits and capsules from the moon landing are displayed here along with other tools of a long and interesting journey.
The Astrodome is an eight-sided bowl-shaped stadium in Houston, Texas, with seating for about 55,000 fans and a total roof area of 227,000 square feet. It opened in 1965 and is currently used as a baseball stadium, the home stadium for the Houston Astros. The Astrodome hosted the 1975 Pan American Games, hosted the Super Bowl and NCAA Final Four, and was the site of the 1965 and 1983 Major League Baseball All-Star Games. As it turns out, the structure itself may be worth a visit for historical and design significance alone. This is the only dome ever built that was air-supported and partly retractable, and it was the first retractable-roof domed stadium.
Texas Children's Hospital
Texas Children's Hospital was established in 1973 to provide comprehensive pediatric health care, and has grown into a world-class medical center. It is a major teaching hospital for UT Health Science Center, and draws upon the facilities of three full-service medical schools -- the University of Texas Medical School, the University of Texas School of Dentistry and the University of Texas School of Pharmacy -- and four teaching hospitals. Children at Texas Children's Hospital not only benefit from specialized treatments and care, they are also encouraged to participate in campus events and programs that help keep them active and engaged in a child's normal life experience.
William P. Hobby Airport
Hobby Airport, one of the world's busiest airports, serves passengers for numerous airlines with non-stop flights to destinations including North America, Europe, Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, South America, and Asia. With regular flights from Europe and the eastern seaboard of the U.S. to Dallas-Fort Worth and Austin, there are also connections to cities in Asia such as Taipei, Beijing, and Shanghai.
The Enron Field is the home of the Houston Astros, the principal member of Major League Baseball's American League. The privately owned stadium opened in 1999 and features the best baseball park views in the league. The Houston area also has several other baseball facilities that are also worth visiting, including the Rice University Mays Champion Stadium (the home of the Rice Owls), Minute Maid Park (home of the Houston Astros, Houston Rockets, Houston Texans and Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo), and Minute Maid Park (home of the Houston Dynamo).
The Museum District
In Houston, there is an abundance of museums: The Houston Museum of Natural Science, the Toyota Musical Instrument Museum, and the Harry P. Lea Museum of Art and Autry Museum of the American West are all within a 15-minute walk of the Galleria. In addition, the city is home to several popular attractions, including the Houston Zoo, the Aquarium of the Pacific, and Discovery Green, which hosts an outdoor amphitheater as well as a popular weekend farmers market.
The Theater District
Texas's capital city is no stranger to the cultural arts and the Theatre District is located in the heart of the city. While there are plenty of nearby activities and entertainment venues like the Wortham Theater Center and the Arneson Theatre, the highlight of the Theater District is The Alley Theatre, which is still in operation today. Built in 1923 and restored in 2006, this gorgeous theatre has a charming old-world facade and you'll see it across the street from the Houstonian Hotel.
Bayou Place, a Houston shopping center which opened in 1988, features specialty stores such as Gucci and Prada along with a Michael's and a Barnes & Noble bookstore. It's located at Texas's first city-designated center for luxury goods. It's situated in a corridor along Memorial Boulevard at Chimney Rock Road. The mall's name is an abbreviation for Bayou Place, Texas. It's where Houston is.
St. Paul's Cathedral
This is an oddity among cathedrals. There's nothing particularly special about it. Built in a pseudo-baroque style, it's unremarkable from the outside. However, if you go inside, you'll notice how modern and colorful it is. In fact, it has more hanging, glowing, colorful sculptures than a Hindu temple. Its interiors are equally controversial. It's decorated with painted, hand-carved woodwork as well as colorful splashes of paint on every corner, despite not being the original style. It's simply a unique creation of art and architecture and a lovely location for weddings and other celebrations.
Sam Houston National Historic Site
Founded as a town on the banks of the San Jacinto River in the late 18th century, Sam Houston National Historic Site was established as a state park in 1947. Sam Houston's last stand on his way to Texas, the Battle of San Jacinto is the site of the famous Texas Declaration of Independence. At the end of the battle, his defeated enemy, General Santa Anna, was given refuge in the neighboring Brazos Army cantonment. Today, more than 1.6 million people visit the park each year to see the battleground and the governor's home.
The Menil Collection
Houston is known for the American business practices of innovation and risk taking that led to the rise of the energy industry, but it is now a cultural center of immense proportions. A planned industrial city, Houston was the first of the modern mega-cities. Since it began in the late 1940s, it has grown into a city of some 2.7 million residents and sprawling suburbs. Recent work, however, has allowed the city's unique and unspoiled architecture and art to come to light. One of the finest examples of this is the Menil Collection in Houston, the first museum of contemporary art in the country and now a world-class collection of more than 500 works, the foundation of which was the bequest of philanthropists John and Dominique de Menil.
Six Flags AstroWorld
Located in southwest Houston in the energy district, Six Flags AstroWorld features 23 rides and attractions for all ages. Most of the family rides, such as the Scrambler, Nitro, and X-Flight, are fun and the accompanying audio-visual shows are enjoyable. There is also a new themed restaurant, The Steakhouse Restaurant, and a number of other concession stands. One of the highlights of AstroWorld is the International Space Station: a space shuttle simulator. Guests are strapped into the simulator chair and experience weightlessness. The visit ends with a buffet lunch on the International Space Station. Other noteworthy rides and attractions are the Nemesis, the Big Surf, the Whiffle Ball, and the Texas Cyclone.
The Washington Monument is one of America's most recognizable monuments. At 555 feet, it was the tallest freestanding monument in the world until the completion of the Eiffel Tower in 1889. It was designed by architect Henry H. Clark in a neoclassical style. Housed in the foyer of the nearby Washington Monument Center is an exhibit on the history of the monument. Built over Washington's tomb, it contains an exhibit of swords, coins, medals, and other treasures associated with the George Washington, the first president of the United States. Admission is free.
San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site
There's not much to see at San Jacinto Battleground, but there's still plenty to do. The site consists of the site of one of the bloodiest battles in US history. In 1863, as the Civil War raged on in the east, Texas declared independence from the Union. The Union sought to invade Texas, and a clash took place at San Jacinto, which was soon thereafter annexed by the Union, a decision that many Texans considered a war crime. Now, at San Jacinto Battleground, visitors can learn about the battle and its impact on the local population, as well as see a replica of the vast Union artillery armory that laid siege to the Texas encampment during the battle.