Earlier this year, Houston ranked 6th on Hotwire.com’s 2009 Travel Value Index of the top ten most affordable US destinations to visit. For this and for its wide-offering of attractions, world-class shopping, professional sports, international cuisine and much more, Houston often surprises international visitors.
As we celebrate the first anniversary of the Houston CityPass, here is a list of things visitors need to know to live the full Houston experience.
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10 Ways to get the full Houston experience
1) Go green – With 56,405 acres of total park space, Houston rates first among the nation’s 10 most populous cities in total acreage of park land. The city is also home to the new Discovery Green, a 12-acre urban downtown park that features restaurants, water gardens and live performances at an amphitheatre.
2) Over 100 languages are spoken in Houston – No racial or ethnic groups constitute a majority of Houston’s population of 5 million people. One in five residents of the region was born outside the US and the city also has the largest Asian population in the US outside of California.
3) $6 Cab fare anywhere downtown – Houston has authorized a flat taxi fare of $6 USD for all trips in the downtown area and Central Business district. Buildings in Downtown Houston are connected via a system of underground tunnels making walking super easy.
4) 8,000+ restaurants – Houston is considered to have one of the best culinary scenes in the country, with choices from more than 35 countries. Many restaurants top yearly lists including Churrascos (Esquire’s 20 Best Steaks in the U.S 2008), Reef (No. 1 seafood restaurant in the country by bon appétit 2008) and Catalan Food and Wine (Named one of the top 100 restaurants in the world by Robb Report (2008).
5) Houston has the largest customs facility in the US – US Customs & Border Protection reports shorter processing times at Intercontinental Houston Airport (IAH) than at LAX, JFK, EWR, MIA & ATL.
6) Houston has the largest theatre district in the USA after Broadway in NYC – Houston Grand Opera is the only opera company in the world which can boast Grammy, Tony and Emmy awards. The city is one of only 5 in US that offer year round resident companies in all major performing arts – symphony, opera, drama and ballet.
7) Do More for Less – The 2008 average hotel room rate was $127.94, average meal in Houston is $5 less than the national average of $33.67, one-way ticket on the light rail system is only $1.25 and at only $39, a Houston CityPass is less expensive than CityPasses in other cities.
8) Houston Museum District – The fourth largest museum district in the world, it features 18 museums all within walking distance of each other, 11 of which are free to the public. The Houston Museum of Natural Science is the 3rd most visited in the US (following the Smithsonian Institution and the Metropolitan Museum of Art)
9) Leaders in Technology, Gas/Oil and Medical Fields – Houston is home to NASA, The Texas Medical Centre and 10 of the top 25 Oil & Gas companies in the world. The TMC is the largest medical complex in the world, employing more than 73,000. The first word spoken from the moon was “Houston.”
10) Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo – The world’s largest features more than just livestock – the Houston Wine Auction had 1,879 wines from 583 wineries from Texas participating in 2009. It will be held in 2010 on March 2-21.
11) (Yes, one more, can’t leave out, Shopping!) – Houston refunds a portion of sales taxes for international travelers. Shop at the Houston Galleria, the 4th largest shopping center in the US, or one of the many outlets including the Houston Premium Outlet – sister to famous Woodbury Commons in NYC.
Find out more about visiting Houston’s vibrant arts scene, watching a sports game, giving its acclaimed restaurants a taste or visiting the world’s largest rodeo: www.visithoustontexas.com.