Downtown Houston is one of the city’s main areas and financial heart. Though this part of the city is home to many office buildings, the region also has some of the top attractions of Houston, allowing you to find something to do while here.
There’s plenty to do in Downtown Houston, and you can easily spend a day roaming its streets to find colorful graffiti walls, wandering through its green parks, and eating in its delicious restaurants.
For sports fans, Downtown Houston has Minute Maid Park, home to the Houston Astros team, and the Toyota Center, the go-to spot for a Houston Rockets game or a concert. Also, in the area, you’ll find the George R. Brown Convention Center, a place packed with events year-round.
Foodwise, Downtown Houston has the new(ish) POST Houston, a food hall with more than 20 vendors offering international cuisine, and Phoenicia Specialty Foods, an emporium with worldwide goods and delicious food. Besides, Downtown is the best place to try the diverse flavors of the city, as there are many trendy restaurants to try.
If you plan to spend a few days exploring the area, you’re in the right place! This post has a complete guide to Downtown Houston, including the best places to stay, things to do, top restaurants, and other tips.
Table of contents
- Tips for visiting Houston
- The best hotels in Downtown Houston
- Things to do in Downtown Houston
- Restaurants and places to eat and drink in Downtown Houston
- Things to do near Downtown Houston
This post may contain affiliate links. By purchasing through these links, I may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.
Tips for visiting Houston
To explore the best of Houston, you should purchase the Houston CityPass. By purchasing the pass for US$ 64, you can save up to 47% on some of Houston’s top attractions.
When you purchase the Houston CityPass, you can visit 5 of the top attractions of Houston, including the Space Center Houston, Downtown Aquarium, Houston Museum of Natural Science, Houston Zoo OR Museum of Fine Arts, and Houston Kemah Boardwalk OR Children’s Museum Houston.
Getting around Houston
The best way to get around Houston is with a car. If you’re not from the area, you can rent a car at the airport and use it to explore the city. For a big city, parking is relatively easy, making a car a convenient way to get around.
I personally use and recommend RentalCars for my trips as it allows me to choose the best price amongst the top car rental companies.
If you don’t want to drive in Downtown Houston, you can also use the ride-sharing services available in the city, such as Uber, Lyft, and the local Alto.
And if you prefer to use the public transportation system, you can rely on METRO. Though it isn’t available throughout the entire city, it’s a good way to explore the main tourist path – Downtown, Museum District, and other areas.
The best hotels in Downtown Houston
Whether you’re a business traveler, in town for an event, on a family trip, or a weekender, there are many places to stay in Downtown Houston to explore the area’s attractions.
Here are some of the best hotels in Downtown Houston:
- Marriot Marquis Houston: a great option of a hotel in Downtown Houston and a perfect place to stay near Minute Made Park, the Convention Center, and the Theater District – a few main places to visit in the neighborhood. The highlight of this well-located hotel is the world’s largest Texas-shaped rooftop lazy river, which is the best place to cool down in the summer heat.
- The Lancaster Hotel: a historic boutique hotel in the heart of the Theater District. By staying in this hotel, you’ll be close to the best attractions of Downtown Houston, including a 5-minute drive to the George R. Brown Convention Center. It features one restaurant and a coffee shop, but it’s also very close to some of the best places to eat, like Frank’s Pizza and Common Bond Brasserie & Bakery.
- Hotel Icon: set very close to Market Square Park and within a 10-minute walk to the POST Houston by crossing the Buffalo Bayou and passing through the Sesquicentennial Park. It’s also near the Houston is Inspired mural and another 10-minute walk to the Minute Maid Park, in case you want to catch an Astros game.
- Magnolia Hotel Houston: set in the heart of Downtown Houston, within a 10-minute walk to Minute Maid Park. Other perks of Magnolia include a free downtown shuttle service and a rooftop pool to cool down in the Texas heat.
- The Laura Hotel: a stunning 5-star hotel in Downtown Houston with a gorgeous rooftop pool. It’s within a 15-minute stroll to the George R. Brown Convention Center and Discovery Green. The Laura is also the best hotel if you plan to catch a concert or a Houston Rockets game at Toyota Center because it’s within walking distance.
- Baldwin, Curio Collection by Hilton: a modern hotel near the Houston City Hall and less than one mile from the Theater District and its attractions. This hotel offers complimentary shuttle service within the Downtown area, and when it’s time to eat, you can savor the Italian flare at the in-house restaurant Rosalie and sip a coffee at Good 2 Go. Nearby, you can also try the excellent steaks at Guard and Grace.
- Cambria Hotel Houston Downtown Convention Center: an excellent hotel right by the Minute Maid Park – perfect for when you’re going to an Astros game. It’s also within a 10-minute stroll to the Discovery Green and the George R. Brown Convention Center.
Things to do in Downtown Houston
One of the top attractions of Downtown Houston for family fun is a visit to the Downtown Aquarium. The place is perfect for kids and is home to approximately 200 species from both land and sea.
When visiting the Downtown Aquarium, don’t miss the chance to see the Texas Bayou exhibit to tour the marsh and bayous of the Gulf Coast and see alligators and turtles, and the Stingray Reef, where you can touch and feed live stingrays.
And as a special treat, you can ride the Diving Bell Ferris Wheel at the aquarium, a 100-feet Ferris wheel that offers epic Downtown skyline views.
You can purchase your entrance tickets to Downtown Aquarium Houston for US$ 22.99 for kids and US$ 24.99 for adults. Additionally, the aquarium is one of 5 places you can visit with the Houston CityPass.
The POST Houston is a great cultural center in Downtown Houston. However, the highlight of POST is the food hall (POST Market) which has 20 food vendors offering an excellent selection of international food.
The historical building is located where the Barbara Jordan Post Office used to be and features the largest rooftop park in America with stunning city views.
At POST, there are also events such as flea markets, yoga at the Skylawn, and concerts at the 713 Music Hall.
You might also like to read: Tips for visiting POST Houston.
If you prefer to be outdoors and enjoy the beautiful days in the city, there are two parks you should visit in Downtown Houston: Market Square Park and Discovery Green.
Though Market Square is a good spot for meeting friends or a family day, the best place to be outdoors in the area is Discovery Green, one of the best parks in the city.
Discovery Green has a children’s playground, some art sculptures, a picnic area, a fountain for kids to cool down during the summer, and even an ice rink during the winter months.
Minute Maid Park & Toyota Center
And let’s not forget that in Downtown Houston you’ll also find Minute Maid Park, the home ballpark of the Houston Astros (go Astros!). So, if you’re visiting the city during the baseball season, you should add an Astros game to your itinerary.
Now, if you’re more of an NBA fan, you should see if the Toyota Center has a Houston Rockets game. Even if you’re not into basketball, Toyota Center also hosts concerts, so it’s worth checking out the schedule.
Phoenicia Specialty Foods
One of the must-visit spots in Downtown Houston is Phoenicia Specialty Foods, an emporium with international provisions, household items, and a deli filled with delicious food.
After wandering through Phoenicia’s corridors packed with amazing products, grab a coffee or something to eat from the food deli – the salads are fresh, the hot dishes are beautifully prepared, and the sweets are delightful.
Downtown Grafitti Park and Murals
When walking casually around Downtown Houston, you might come across many picture-perfect graffiti murals. These graffiti walls are very close to Phoenicia Specialty Foods and Discovery Green, so don’t miss the chance to see them in the area.
If you want to appreciate the work of some Houston talents, stop by Graffiti Park. This place is a popular photo spot because of the many colorful graffiti and street art from various artists. In 15 minutes, you can get an overview of the place, and if you have more time, you can also spend as much as you want taking pictures for Instagram.
If you’re more interested in the cultural scene of Houston, you should spend some time at the Theater District. You’ll find 9 professional performing arts organizations in this part of Downtown.
At the Theater District, check out the performances schedule at Alley Theatre, Jones Hall, Wortham Theater Center, or Hobby Center for the Performing Arts.
George R. Brown Convention Center
Many visitors come to Downtown Houston to spend time at the George R. Brown Convention Center, a place packed with year-round events that attract people from around the whole country.
They cater to a broad public, including quilt festivals, quinceañera expos, wedding expos, and more. You can check out the scheduled events they have planned for months on their site.
If you’re looking for a unique experience in Downtown Houston that helps you escape the heat and humidity, you should go underground to the Tunnel System.
The experience might be a little underwhelming, but it’s a chance to see the massive system of tunnels that goes under Downtown and connects 95 city blocks.
There are restaurants, newsstands, salons, barbershops, and souvenir shops, and the Tunnel System is open on weekdays during business hours.
Restaurants and places to eat and drink in Downtown Houston
- Phoenicia Specialty Foods: a fantastic international market with a deli, meals, and household items.
- Xochi: for Mexican food, this is one of the best restaurants in Downtown Houston that offers Oaxacan cuisine and many cocktails.
- POST Market: a place that pleases every crowd, with 20 food vendors with an extensive international menu – think pizzas, crepes, Thai food, tacos, ramen, seafood, Cajun, fried chicken, and other delights.
- Frank’s Pizza: the go-to spot for pizza in Downtown Houston, especially late night. The New York-style pizzas are delicious; you can buy them as a whole pie or by the slice.
- Morton’s: a chain of steakhouses where you’ll find aged prime beef, seafood, and other traditional steakhouse food.
- Grotto: a charming restaurant in Downtown for Neapolitan-style Italian fare and fine wine.
- Common Bond Brasserie & Bakery: a great spot for picture-perfect desserts, pastries, and a cup of coffee. They also have savory dishes for breakfast or lunch.
- The Rustic: is located within walking distance from the George R. Brown Convention Center and Discovery Green. The open-air barn-style seating is covered, so you can still enjoy the country patio vibe on a sunny day.
- Truck Yard: a super laid-back, dog-friendly place for beers, cocktails, and bar food. They have indoor and outdoor seating, and it’s perfect if you prefer an informal atmosphere with ping pong, a pool table, and live music at times.
- The Original Ninfa’s: a Houston institution and one of the go-to spots for Mexican fare in Downtown. Think margaritas, tacos, fajitas, and other delights in a relaxed ambiance.
- True Anomaly: a neighborhood favorite brewery with an excellent selection of beers that you can sample on their outdoor covered patio or indoors.
- 8th Wonder Brewery: great brewery alternative in Downtown Houston with various beers on tap, IPAs, and non-alcoholic herbal seltzers.
- Brass Tacks: a large coffee shop with yummy bites that is also a good place to meet friends, study, or work in Downtown Houston.
- Day 6 Coffee Co: a cute coffee shop in Downtown for when you need a coffee break, a place to study, or just to meet some friends.
- Segundo Coffee Lab: a coffee shop located in East Downtown, inside the Ironworks building, where you can also find other shops to pass the time.
- Koffeteria: A cute coffee shop with yummy pastries and small bites close to some of the breweries of Downtown Houston.
Things to do near Downtown Houston
Buffalo Bayou Park
An excellent place to visit near Downtown Houston is Buffalo Bayou Park, one of my favorite parks in the city. Here you can enjoy miles of trails for walking, running, and biking; and kayak and canoe in the park’s waters.
As a bonus, Buffalo Bayou Park offers gorgeous views of the Downtown skyline and is an excellent sunset spot in the city.
Space Center Houston
Space Center Houston is the city’s highlight and the best place to visit in Houston. The museum contains artifacts and interactive exhibits to learn more about space exploration. It also allows you to have a peek into NASA Johnson Space Center. You can purchase tickets online or visit it with your Houston CityPass.
You might also like to read: Space Center Houston – What to know before you go
Montrose is the hipster, cool part of Houston. It’s near Downtown, and here you can find vintage and antique stores, tattoo parlors, CBD shops, and cafés and restaurants. There are also Le Labo and Aesop stores.
When wanting a coffee break, stop by Agora, one of the best coffee shops in Houston, for lattes and cinnamon rolls. Or, if you prefer a great dessert, Common Bonds is the one for you.
If you have more time in Houston, plan on spending one day in the Museum District. Here you’ll find the Houston Zoo (included on your Houston CityPass), the go-to place for family fun. After visiting the zoo, go for a lovely stroll at Hermann Park to see the reflection pool.
Or, if you prefer something else, Houston Museum of Natural Science is one of the must-visit museums in Houston, especially for kids that want to see dinosaur fossils. You can also purchase the ticket at GetYourGuide, along with other city attractions, or see it as one of the attractions of your Houston CityPass.
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE TO READ: