A Visitor’s Guide to Houston Neighborhoods
Downtown – Houston is second to only New York as the headquarters to Fortune 500 companies, so there’s plenty of business going on amongst the gleaming skyscrapers towering over the central business district, but the activities are not limited to business and 9-5 hours. There is a buzz about downtown, and lots for visitors to see and do. First of all, beneath and between the skyscrapers is an elaborate system of connecting tunnels that also house restaurants and shops. At the north west corner of downtown is the 17-block Theater District, which is the 3rd largest in the country and is home to the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts and the Wortham Theater Center. Nearby is Jones Hall, home of the Houston Symphony. Market Square Park is a small greenspace on the site of the original City Hall and has free movies and concerts. For sports enthusiasts, Minute Maid Park is home to the Astros and and Toyota Center is home to the Houston Rockets. The Discovery Green Park, the Downtown Aquarium, and the beginnings of the Buffalo Bayou Park are also scattered about downtown. Main Street, which bisects downtown, is also home to a mix of both trendy and classic bars.
Midtown – west and southwest of Downtown across I-45 is trendy Midtown, which was originally a residential area before becoming more densely-populated with high-rise apartments in the 1970’s. It became known as Little Saigon for it’s influx of Vietnamese immigrants before higher rents in recent years has transformed the area into a mixed-use district into a walkable, urban neighborhood. Midtown is a great choice for coffee in the morning, lunch at a cafe, dinner at an upscale restaurants, or heading to a dive bar or club at night, not to mention the art galleries and eclectic shops.
Montrose – Things get a tad wilder just west of Midtown. Montrose is centered along Montrose Avenue and is home to many artists and musicians, as well as being the center of Houston’s gay population. It offers a diverse and eclectic mix of diners and cafes, coffeehouses, tattoo parlors, boutique shops, art galleries, and nightlife.
Museum District – located south of Midtown and Montrose, the Museum District consists of 19 museums within a roughly 1.5 mile radius of the Mecom Fountain in Hermann Park. To the northeast it is bordered by the split of US Hwy 59 and Hwy 288, and it extends through Hermann Park to Rice University and the Texas Medical Center to the southwest. The Museum District was created by a grassroots effort in the late 1970’s in an effort to revitalize a blighted part of the city. Museums in the area include the The Museum of Fine Arts, the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, the Houston Zoo, and the Houston Museum of Natural Science. Just north of Hwy. 59 is the Menil Collection and the Rothko Chapel.
River Oaks – located west of downtown and east of I-610 between Buffalo Bayou and Westheimer Road, River Oaks is one of the oldest and most affluent planned communities in the country. Enthusiasts of regal mansions and upscale shopping will enjoy a tour through River Oaks. On the other side of I-610 – outside the loop – is the Galleria – the nation’s fourth largest shopping center.
The Heights – northwest of downtown inside the loop is The Heights, also known as Greater Heights. It was Houston’s first suburb and retains its historic character with well-preserved, historic bungalows and Victorian cottages set along tree-shaded streets. The Historic Houston Heights Shopping District along 19th Street offers a funky mix of antique shops, vintage clothing boutiques, art galleries, and cafes.