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Houston exudes a cosmopolitan and down-home vibe



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Tex in the city:
Houston exudes a cosmopolitan and down-home vibe

The style-savvy residents of the country’s fourth largest city know that there’s no place like Houston.

With more than 2.2 million residents, the city attracts visitors and transplants with a wonderful mix of world-class arts, booming business, pro sports and award-winning cuisine.

As the rest of the country discovers what locals have known all along, Houston is finally enjoying the recognition it deserves. Just last year, the city landed on several “best of” lists, including the Travel + Leisure roundup of America’s Favorite Cities and the Hotwire.com index of most affordable U.S. vacation destinations.

See for yourself, here in Houston, where much of daily life happens outdoors, thanks to mild, year-round temperatures. Take time to explore the eclectic, culture-filled neighborhoods, gallery spaces and attractions, which offer diverse flavors that can only be found here.

Take the food, for example. Countless cutting-edge chefs have made a home in Houston, where diners eat out more than residents of any other city. Here, you’ll find James Beard Award winners and internationally renowned chefs serving up innovative cuisine that frequently catches the attention of foodies in Bon Appetit, Food & Wine and Saveur.

But the stylish dining scene is only a slice of Houston’s epicurean offerings—a fact that the city’s culinary masterminds intend to prove with the recently launched Houston Culinary Tours. Each of the intimate, 16-person, chef-led tours aim at showing the underbelly of the city’s food scene—one taco truck and ethnic market at a time.

Venture downtown during your stay and discover a thriving professional arts scene, with professional resident companies in ballet, opera, symphony and theater; only four other U.S. cities can say the same. And the nearby Museum District stakes its claim as the country’s fourth largest, with 18 cultural powerhouses set within blocks of one another.

Looking for something more off-the-beaten-path? One of the coolest ways to explore Houston can only be seen from below—on a kayaking adventure along Buffalo Bayou. Or, visit the ultimate recycling project—the Beer Can House. What began in 1968 as an “aluminum siding” project made from 50,000 flattened beer cans is now a folk art landmark. Or, dig into dim sum or experience a Chinese tea ceremony on one of the many Asian Heritage Tours sponsored by Houston’s Chinese Community Center.

We have our own version of Central Park, too, offering nearly 1,500 acres of green space in the heart of the city.

Just inside the loop, Memorial Park is home to a public golf course, swimming pool, tennis courts, trails and more. Downtown, Discovery Green park is outfitted with Wi-Fi, a farmers market, dog runs, fine dining and ice skating during the winter—just one more of the 650-plus urban green spaces filling the city.

Not surprisingly, businesses also recognize the allure of Houston’s offerings. Twenty-five companies on the Fortune 500 list call the Energy Capital of the World home. Aeronautic research is unsurpassed at NASA headquarters—the facility responsible for putting the first man on the moon—and Texas Medical Center remains the largest in the world with 47 highly lauded research and treatment institutions.

With more than 800 flights departing daily—the Houston Airport System provides visitors and residents with unparalleled access to a number of domestic and international markets. Nearly two-dozen carriers serve the area, including Houston-based Continental Airlines, which flies non-stop to 29 cities in Mexico, 10 Canadian destinations, plus 26 in Latin America and the Caribbean. As the sixth largest airport system in the United States, travelers are able to enjoy direct service to Paris, London, Amsterdam and Frankfurt. The addition of new carriers like Qatar Airways, Singapore Airlines and Emirates Airlines means customers find direct access to Doha, Moscow and Dubai, too. Arriving is a cinch, as well, with the recently-added federal inspection and customs facility that ensures passengers a prompt and courteous entrance into the fourth-largest city in the country.

Come. Live like a local for a few days and discover why Houston’s mix of international appeal and Southern charm have captured the imagination of tastemakers the world over.

100 WAYS TO SAVE IN HOUSTON!

Imagen redimensionadaStretch your vacation budget in H-town. More than 100 special offers—from ticket deals and hotel packages to restaurant perks and transportation promos—are live on VisitHoustonTexas.com.


Staying overnight? Check out the Four Seasons Hotel and Hotel Sorella to receive free bonus night offers or, head to the Alden Hotel, Granduca, Courtyard by Marriott or the InterContinental Hotel for a chance to snag shopping gift cards, just for being a guest.

While you're here, squeeze in a visit to the Theater District, where $25 will get you a seat at the Alley Theatre for Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap or, enjoy $5 off tickets to one of the world-renowned performances put on by the Dominic Walsh Dance Theatre. At the nearby Museum District, groups of 10 or more can score two free tickets to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston!

Don’t miss the complimentary Tres Leches at Americas (their specialty!) or the free dessert at Max’s Wine Dive. Get 15 percent off your meal at Crapitto’s Cucina Italiana and Sushi Raku, and 10 percent off at soul food favorite the breakfast klub.

Fast track your way to fun with a CityPass. The booklet, which is thinner than an iPod and sized to fit in a pocket, is loaded with a carefully selected collection of the city’s most sought-after sites. Inside each CityPass booklet are six admission tickets, each offering insight on how to skip ticket lines and short background information describing each attraction. Explore Space Center Houston, Museum of Natural Science, the Downtown Aquarium and the Houston Zoo, all-the-while saving 45 percent off regular admission prices.

Fortunately, for locals and visitors alike, several of Houston’s most memorable attractions won’t break the bank—in fact, they won’t even cost a dime.

Miller Outdoor Theatre, open March through November, hosts a range of performances including classical music, ballet, dance, film, Shakespeare and more. The theater, set inside Hermann Park, also allows patrons to BYOB (no glass containers, please!), so pack a picnic and settle in for the show.

The Menil Collection—a local treasure and global destination—opened to the public in June 1987 to house the art collection of philanthropists John and Dominique de Menil. Widely considered one of the greatest of the twentieth century, the collection consists of more than 16,000 works dating from the Paleolithic era to the present day. Within the four areas that largely define the collection—Antiquity, Byzantine and Medieval, Tribal, and Twentieth-Century Art—one finds a selective—and even wonderfully eccentric—approach to collecting and displaying art.

Dubbed the Garage Mahal, the Art Car Museum is unlike anything you've ever imagined. It's the only place you'll find the antennae and wing-cloaked Roachster or the Honda motorcycle that has been transformed into a shiny red rolling stiletto art car.

The Lee and Joe Jamail Skatepark is the creme de la creme of the grinding and boarding world. The $2.2 million, state-of-the-art facility—thought to contain the largest cradle in the world—is located close to downtown, near Eleanor Tinsley Park.

Designed by architect Philip Johnson more than 20 years ago, the Galleria-area Water Wall offers a refreshing respite for visitors seeking a mid-afternoon break. The 64-foot-tall fountain—built to look like a "horseshoe of running water"—sits among 1,118 oak trees at the base of the 64-story Williams Tower.

Set in Houston's Third Ward, Project Row Houses is a nonprofit art initiative aimed at creating a positive place for local artists to work. Some of the shotgun-style houses are dedicated to art and photography, while others are devoted to the literary and performing arts.

Tour the city with the help of a personal Houston Greeter. The program, made up of local volunteers, provides two-to-four hour hosts that are able to show newcomers or visitors local attractions that might be of interest to them. The service is free, and METRORail provides free passes for visitors and greeters.

Get ready to eat, sleep and play in a city where budget-friendly options make cents.
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