The Rest of the Best: Houston's Top 10 Tourist Attractions

Astrodome560.jpg
Photo by Ed Shipul
The Astrodome in happier times.

Houston might not seem like much of a tourist town to locals -- people come here to work or go to school, not sightsee -- but it does attract thousands of tourists every year. With the conventions going on at the George R. Brown Convention Center, the rodeo at Reliant Park, the various "districts" (Museum, Theater and such), and year-round schedule of professional sports, Houston is on the vacation map for people from around the world. Here are our favorite tourist attractions. As usual, there's a caveat -- these are attractions inside the Houston city limits. There's another list for the must-visit sites outside of the city (Moody Gardens, Galveston's Strand District and the like).

10. The Houston Astrodome
8400 Kirby Dr.

The Dome gets on our list even though it's not open to the public any longer. Before officials flatten it into another parking lot or remake it into apartments/a museum/homeless shelter/business complex (or any of the other ideas that get bandied about every time we start to wonder what to do with the icon/relic), visitors should get a look at it. There's lots of history to the Dome; it was the site of dozens of important concerts and sports matches; it was the first of its kind; and along with the now-gone Astroworld, it anchored much of the city's entertainment for years.

Drive around the Dome for a good idea of its size. And feel free to toss your suggestions for its renovation. (They couldn't be any worse than the ones we've already heard.)

Tunnels275.jpg
Photo by faunggsphoto
9. The Downtown Tunnels
A six-mile long maze of tunnels connects many of Houston's downtown buildings, but the tunnels are more than just a way to get around. With dozens of shops and restaurants, and a lot of pride by building owners, the tunnels are cheerful and attractive (experienced tunnel users can ID their location from the materials used for the walls and floor -- Shell buildings boast travertine marble). Get a haircut, grab a burger or indulge in a massage.

You can take a tour of the tunnels, which we recommend. And a word of warning, get the best map you can before you head out -- one wrong turn and you'll go blocks out of your way. The 'you-are-here' maps that dot the walls range from helpful to indecipherable. Thankfully, there's always a restaurant or shop you can pop into for a breather.

Galleria560.jpg
Photo by Judy Baxter
8. The Galleria
5085 Westheimer
713-966-3500

Mega-malls have become commonplace, but the Galleria continues to stand out because of its classy veneer. The mall has some 400 shops, including Gucci, Apple and Tiffany & Co., spread out over several levels, making window shopping a day-long adventure. Take a break at any of the dozens of restaurants or watch the newbies try to navigate the ice skating rink. Expect every holiday to be commercialized to the max (Christmas and Valentine's Day here are way over the top) and everything you see to have a price tag. (Bonus points for its excellent air conditioning system; strolling through its cool corridors is a welcomed respite from the Houston heat often waiting just outside the door.)

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Photo by .imelda
7. James Turrell's Twilight Epiphany Skyscape
Rice University
6100 Main
713-348-4758

Houston has a special relationship with artist James Turrell, one that was cemented by the installation of his Twilight Epiphany Skyscape at Rice University. There are two free "light shows" a day (reservations required), but the structure is enchanting between shows, too. Tranquil and meditative, Twilight Epiphany is among the best public art in the city.


Location Info

Venue

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Discovery Green Conservancy

1500 McKinney, Houston, TX

Category: General

The Menil Collection

1515 Sul Ross, Houston, TX

Category: General

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6 comments
SusanWagner
SusanWagner

well Houston USED to have a decent theme park in AstroWorld, but now not even that.. it's a shame that visitors to the 4th largest city in the country are stuck with such limited choices as "attractions" - the old shut-down Astrodome?.. come on!.. Downtown tunnels?!  puh-lease!!.. "The Galleria", srsly?!..  Museums? yah, that sounds like great fun for teenagers!..  This list is proof that while politicians kept going on about wanting Houston to be a "World Class" city, all they did was line their own pockets and those of their cronies and friends with money that could have gone into something worth taking the "entire" family to, and not a bunch of stale Museums, or restaurants and a giant mall all selling over-priced food and merchandise..  Thanks Houston - for making Dallas and Austin the de-facto places to vacation in Texas..

T.j. Dubz
T.j. Dubz

It appears we need some more tourist attractions.

davidross47
davidross47

Re Space Center Houston:  When I first came to Houston (1969 as a visitor), you could walk around the Space Center and see a functioning space program - for free.  Now, it is an expensive theme park, with a tenuous relationship to NASA.  I might include this Gulf Freeway ordeal on my top ten list, but Number One?  The Menil Gallery!

Lea Brice Hougland
Lea Brice Hougland

Erik Andrew Hougland Just in time for your dad and Aunt Pam to visit. :)

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