Houston Travel Guide

Understand

Houston has a character that, while very "Texan," is also a great melting pot of many different cultures and socio-economic groups. You'll find well-to-do suburban mansions, LA-style shopping strips, Latin-American neighborhoods, towering skyscrapers, historic African-American neighborhoods fighting off gentrification, massive refinery complexes, large Asian communities, and pockets of artist communities. From October to May, the weather is relatively pleasant, and many restaurants and bars take advantage of the weather with plenty of outdoor seating and beautiful lighting. Houston's proximity to the Gulf of Mexico also makes it a lush, tropical paradise compared to the rest of Texas.

In a sense, Houston is the gritty step-cousin of wealthy Dallas and middle-class hippie Austin. You won't see many cowboys or giant hairdos in downtown Houston (outside of Rodeo season), but you will see a quite diverse mix of people servicing the oilmen, petroleum engineers and high-end doctors.

Houston is the largest city in the United States without any appreciable zoning. While there is some small measure of zoning in the form of ordinances, deed restrictions, and land use regulations, real estate development in Houston is only constrained by the will and the pocketbook of real estate developers. Traditionally, Houston politics and law are strongly influenced by real estate developers; at times, the majority of city council seats have been held by developers. This arrangement has made Houston a very sprawled-out and very automobile-dependent city. The benefit of this lack of zoning is that some neighborhoods like Montrose contain a plethora of hidden bars and art galleries nestled among historic neighborhoods - an arrangement not possible in zoned cities across the country.

For one desiring a walkable visit, the areas close to downtown are gradually becoming more dense and walkable as islands of trendy mixed-use developments pop up. Many areas can be downright hostile to pedestrians and bikers as sidewalks are privately built (if at all) and roads are littered with massive potholes. The city is primarily built on the energy industry and nearly everyone owns a car and drives everywhere they go, even to a destination less than a mile away.

With a few exceptions, almost everything to see or do is in Houston's urban core inside the 610 Loop and more specifically in between downtown, the Galleria, and the Texas Medical Center.


source: Wikivoyage

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