Houston in United States of America
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Houston is served by two major commercial airports and two smaller regional airports.
The large airports are: * George Bush Intercontinental Airport, () http://iah.houstonairportsystem.org/. The larger of the two airports and is located 23 miles north of downtown near Beltway 8, between IH-45 North and US-59 North. It is a hub for Continental Airlines and serves 24 domestic and international airlines.William P. Hobby Airport, () http://hou.houstonairportsystem.org/. Located 7 miles south of downtown and is located off of I-45 South. It is convenient if you're travelling downtown or south of the city, such as to Galveston. Its main carrier is Southwest Airlines, and it also served by Delta Airlines, American Airlines, and AirTran.
The smaller airports are: * Sugar Land Regional Airport, () http://www.flysgr.com. Located 25 miles southwest of downtown on TX 6, just north of U.S. 59. It is a popular choice among the well-heeled corporate aircraft set.Ellington Field, () http://www.fly2houston.com/EllingtonHome. Located 19 miles southeast of downtown, just off I-45. Formerly an air force base, now used for general aviation, non-passenger commercial traffic, and government aviation (NASA, Texas Air National Guard, U.S. Coast Guard).
By trainAmtrak, 902 Washington Ave, http://www.amtrak.com. Amtrak's Sunset Limited line is the only passenger train route with a stop in Houston.
Houston's major freeways include: * IH-45 North (North Freeway): To Dallas * IH-45 South (Gulf Freeway): To Galveston * IH-10 West (Katy Freeway): To San Antonio * IH-10 East : (Baytown/East Freeway, not to be confused with Eastex freeway) to Beaumont * IH-610 (The Loop): Loop around downtown * US-59 South (Southwest Freeway): to Victoria * US-59 North (Eastex Freeway): to Lufkin * US-290 West (Northwest Freeway): to Austin * SH-288 South (South Freeway): to Freeport * SH-225 East (Pasadena Freeway): to La Porte * BW-8 (The Beltway): Loop about twice as far out as IH-610.
Approximate mileage to nearby cities (in miles): * Austin: 160 * Baton Rouge| Baton Rouge, LA: 270 * Beaumont: 90 * Dallas: 240 * El Paso: 745 * Galveston: 50 * Lake Charles| Lake Charles, LA: 140 * New Orleans| New Orleans, LA: 346 * San Antonio: 200 * Waco: 180
Greyhound Lines, http://www.greyhound.com. ** Downtown station, 2121 Main St. ** Crosstimbers Station, 4001 North Freeway. ** Northwest, 1500 West Loop North. ** Southeast, 7000 Harrisburg Blvd. ** Southwest, 5690 Southwest Freeway.
El Expreso, http://www.elexpreso.net/. Mexican trans-border bus line, also serves destinations throughout southeastern United States. ** Downtown station, 2201 Main St. ** Harrisburg, 7701 Harrisburg ** Southwest, Bissonett at Southwest Freeway (US 59)
Having a car is mandatory for travel around Houston since it's so spread out and almost nothing's within walking distance.
Houston has a number of major highways that make getting around Houston fairly easy. (See list of freeways under the Get In section.) A number of obstacles, however, can make driving in Houston a less than pleasant experience. One is construction, which seems to be ever-present, and the other is traffic. Evening rush hour in Houston begins as early as 4pm and can last more than 2 hours. Morning rush hour is between 7 and 9. During rush hour, traffic on the highways can come to a halt. The strip of the West Loop near the Galleria, between US-59 and IH-10, is an area you should definitely avoid during rush hour if possible. *Houston Traffic Map *The outstanding freeways system
Some of the freeways have an H.O.V. (High-Occupancy Vehicle) lane, which are limited-access lanes located in the median strip of the highway. The HOV lanes are operational Monday-Friday in the morning hours (5am-11am) in the inbound direction and in the outbound direction in the afternoon and evening (from 2pm-8pm). The HOV lanes are restricted to cars with 2 or more passengers, however some HOV lanes require 3 or more passengers during peak travel periods (6:45-8:00am and 5-6pm, for the IH-10 west; 6:45-8:00am only for US-290). The HOV lanes are marked with signs bearing a white diamond on a black background. Highways with HOV lanes are: IH-45 North, IH-45 South, US-59 North, US-59 South, IH-10 West (Katy Freeway), and US-290. In addition to its usual Monday through Friday hours, the Katy Freeway HOV lane also runs on Saturday in the outbound direction and on Sunday in the inbound direction. *HOV lane map & schedule
By public transportation
METRORail is a seven and a half mile light rail line that runs between downtown, midtown, the museum district, the Medical Center, Reliant Park, and the Fannin South Park & Ride (which is a handy place to park and is located near the 610 loop). It costs $1 for a one-way ticket, $2 for a day pass. (Also see the #Stay Safe|stay safe section.)
By taxiOutside of Downtown, don't expect to catch a taxi on the streets, but there are various cab stands located at various parts of downtown proper. Taxis in Houston are generally dispatched by various companies the largest being Yellow Cab, 713-236-1111 or from their web page http://www.yellowcabhouston.com.
Even though Houston is spread out enough that a large majority of it may be too far of a distance to reach by bicycle, it's quite possible to get to locations in and around the I-610 loop by bike. The city of Houston has 290 miles of marked bike routes, plus another 80 miles of hike and bike trails in city parks, with concrete plans for even more expansion. For more information on the Houston Bikeway program, including a complete map of all marked bike paths, visit the City of Houston Bikeway Program website http://www.publicworks.houstontx.gov/bikeways/index.htm
When to go
The city has a number of districts. Historically, these districts were called wards and they tended to have distinct populations. Redevelopment has rendered most of those distinctions meaningless, but the modern version of Houston still has districts.
Houston has three areas that look like a typical downtown in a big city with high-rise buildings and, at street level, concessions to pedestrians that include shops and eating establishments.Houston/Downtown|Downtown-Center of the city, still the home of high finance and big business. Houston is second only to New York City in corporate headquarters of Fortune 500 companies. Many of them are located downtown including some of the world's largest energy companies. Downtown Houston also boasts the second largest theatre district in the United States and the city has world class permanent organizations such as the Houston Symphony and Houston Ballet. The Houston Pavillions entertainment district will open in October 2008 between Main St. and the Toyota Center.Houston/Med Center and Rice|Med Center and Rice-To the south and east of downtown lie Rice University, the many attractions of Hermann Park, and the Texas Medical Center (or just the med center), including some of the world's best hospitals. The Rice Village is a highly concentrated area of restaurants, bars, and shopping.Houston/Uptown|Uptown or The Galleria Area is west of the city center and is known for its namesake, a huge high-end shopping mall complex. It also has the tallest building in the United States outside of a main downtown area, the Williams tower. This area has many great restaurants, vibrant nightlife, and infamous traffic jams during peak hours.
Situated elsewhere in town, between these three pillars of development and surrounding them, are a dozen or more distinct districts that define the more-accessible heart of the people and the city.
*Houston/Warehouse District|Warehouse District-Formerly an industrial zone, the Warehouse District is now full of loft conversions and trendy residents, some good eats and nightlife. *Houston/Montrose|Montrose-Ideally bordered by Midtown, Heights, River Oaks, and the Medical Center, Montrose is both a street name and a neighborhood. Montrose is Houston's longtime home of its gay and lesbian population, as well as host to the city's museums. Lower Westheimer (Westheimer in between Montrose Blvd. and Shepherd) offers an array of resale fashion shops, eclectic shopping as well as antique stores. The gay nightlife is centered around Pacific St. and surrounding streets. Many Montrose neighborhood pubs attract an eclectic and diverse crowd. *Houston/River Oaks|River Oaks-Houston's most exclusive neighborhood, home to eye-popping mansions and the River Oaks Shopping Center, one of America's first suburban shopping districts and a great display of Art Deco architecture. *Houston/Midtown|Midtown-The area between Downtown and the medical center. This area experienced serious redevelopment in the 1990's and is now home to many of Houston's young professionals, newer restaurants and bars/clubs. The nightlife here is hip and very vibrant. *Houston/The Heights|The Heights-A large district of gingerbread Victorian homes as well as early 20th Century bungalows. Like its sister neighborhood Montrose, The Heights is home to a diverse population from artists and musicians to wealthy professionals. Parts of the Heights are still dry, fostering a large number of BYOB restaurants ideal for those who enjoy their own selected wine. Please see Spec's Liquor in the SEE section. *Houston/Southwest Houston|Southwest Houston-Despite a plethora of rundown apartment complexes a reputation for crime, it is also home to some of the city's most desirable neighborhoods, including Meyerland and the charming City of Bellaire. This area is almost completely outside of the 610 Loop, although the City of Bellaire is partially inside the 610. *Houston/New Chinatown|New Chinatown-Located southwest of the center, it would be the largest Chinatown in the world area-wise, but the term Chinatown is misleading due to the fact that the majority of the shops and restaurants cater to Houston's large Vietnamese population. This area is outside the 610 Loop and near the Beltway, houston's outer freeway loop. *Houston/Clear Lake|Clear Lake-A large suburban Galveston Bay Area home to NASA's Johnson Space Center and fabulous opportunities for outdoor boating, fishing, swimming, and hiking. Clear Lake is located approximately 20 miles south of downtown and south of the Beltway.
Houston is a big city and, like any other big city, has crime. Use common sense. Violent crime however has increased somewhat after the arrival of evacuees of New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina. Texas also has concealed handgun laws and many residents have obtained handgun licenses for their personal safety.
Is the starter line an expanding system which starts at UofH Downtown, through downtown proper, into Midtown, the Museum district, Medical center and the Reliant Complex near the south side. Houston Natives have a tendency to park along the rail line or the south side lot to go into downtown or medical center as it's easier to get in and out of those areas with the train without the hassle of parking and traffic.
Please, be careful when coming near the METRORail track, especially at intersections.
DO NOT IGNORE THE SIGNS, since the trains move very quickly and run at almost all hours of the day and night. It runs almost silently. At many streets, left turns are not permitted. Also watch the signs and signals, because some will change as trains approach. Do not drive on the tracks, there are large raised white domes that separate the roadway and the rail line. In some areas signs may indicate driving (or walking) on the tracks is permitted (currently only in the Texas Medical Center) but make sure it is safe to do so.
Drive across the tracks only when you are sure it is safe to do so especially at night. The train's whistle is quiet and can often not be heard by a driver inside a car.