Highlight of Houston, TX - featured photo - downtown skyscraper skyline from Buffalo Bayou Park

Highlights of Houston, TX | USA

After an early morning and a very long bus ride from New Orleans, I crossed into Texas for the next leg of my USA trip. Texas is so unfathomably huge to my British brain – it’s almost 3 times the size of the UK! So, I figured seeing only one place here wouldn’t really be representative of the whole state. I plotted out 3-4 nights each in Houston, Austin and San Antonio, all places I thought seemed interesting and were easy to travel between (Dallas was really far out the way to include!). Starting off with three days to see the highlights of Houston, home of NASA and Beyoncé (neither of which I saw). I did consider a Space Center visit, but I didn’t have a full day while in Houston, since I was back to work, and it’s too far away to have time for otherwise.

After disembarking the bus on a random street corner downtown – American public transport is an adventure every time! – I caught a bus to my hotel. It’s honestly a win every time I successfully use public transport in this country, since it’s so variable with how reliable it is (e.g. New York versus Memphis).

Highlights of Houston, TX - second feature photo - reflection pool and statue in Hermann Park

Buffalo Bayou Park

Anyways, I dropped off my bags and then hopped straight back on the transport (tram then bus) to make my way to Buffalo Bayou Park. This popped up as a pretty popular park when I was researching the highlights of Houston for my few days here. It’s centred around a river flowing through the city, so you can enjoy a long walk through the park. Walking west to east as I did, you get views of the downtown Houston buildings as you approach.

I picked up an iced coffee first, to battle the heat and my sleepiness, then entered the park near the Waugh Drive bridge. There’s actually a large colony of bats living under it, and you can see them all come flying out at night. I settled for being able to hear them all clicking and chirping to each other, tucked away inside the bridge out of sight. Continuing through the park, there are various sculptures to see as you walk through shady groves and open fields. There were people walking dogs and cycling, but it wasn’t too busy overall, especially for a bank holiday. 

I eventually came to Sabine Street Bridge, up close to the downtown skyline. Using it to cross the river, there are a few more amenities in this corner of the park, like food trucks and the information centre, as well as an event space. It was quiet that day though and I was too tired to hang around until sunset. So, I followed the river further, snaking under the large freeways overhead, until I came to a tram stop to head south again.

Main Street Restaurants

I hopped off the tram in Midtown, from which it was a 15-minute walk to my hotel. The hotel was actually a converted house in a residential area, so this section of Main Street was my closest option for dining and shopping. Further away from the business district and skyscrapers of downtown, this area is a little more artsy and independent in style. There are a few vintage shops to browse or cocktail bars ready and loaded with tequila, as well as a few restaurants. Since I was in Texas however, it was time to tuck into some Tex-Mex cuisine – seriously, I ate so many tacos while in the Lone Star State. This evening’s choice was Tacos A Go Go, where I got a plate of three different filled tacos, accompanied by (what else?) a margarita.

I also came back to this neighbourhood a few days later, when I managed to rouse myself early enough to go out for breakfast. I was working strange hours this week (time zones!) so my sightseeing time was mornings before work. This made it easier to go out for breakfast than any other meal and The Breakfast Klub seems to be a Houston breakfast institution from what I read online! American breakfasts like to combine sweet & savoury, so I ended up with thick, sugary French toast and blueberries with poached eggs on the side. The toast actually came with a choice of meats but since I try to eat mostly vegetarian, I turned them all down so they offered me fruit toppings instead, which was a nice surprise! It certainly filled me up for the rest of the day.

Graffiti Park

As mentioned, I was on weird working hours, and my second day in Houston, I overslept and didn’t go out at all. But the next again day, I forced myself up to go explore. I’d seen mention of Graffiti Park, an entire block covered in street art, and thought it sounded worth a look! It’s also near East Downtown which has some breweries, cafes and shops. However my work hours meant I was there a bit too early and everything was either not open yet, or barely open and totally empty. Even the streets I was walking in the area were super quiet.

The actual street art was pretty cool though, with loads of different images and designs on all sides. I liked the astronaut-themed ones, a reminder of NASA’s proximity to the city! The East Downtown neighbourhood also houses the Houston sign and these giant sculptures of the Beatles, though they were in a fenced off area so I couldn’t get that close. 

Downtown Houston

From Graffiti Park, I walked west for about 20 minutes towards downtown Houston, which I’d passed through to change transport already, but not seen that much of. I mostly focused on Main Street, where the tram line runs. Yes, the same Main Street as in Midtown, just much further north on it. There’s a few more instances of street art here, and they’ve decorated sections of the tram line with plants, benches and water features. There are plenty of tall, glass skyscraper office buildings around here, but many of them have shops and cafes on the ground floors.

One of the perks of getting up early to explore before work is beating the heat, but even by barely 9am, it was swelteringly hot! I was struggling to bear walking outside much longer, so ducked into a fairly hipster-esque cafe for a cold drink and a late breakfast. I hid out here in the AC for a bit longer, before it was time to jump on the tram and head back to start work.

Hermann Park

On my last day in Houston, after going out for breakfast, I caught the tram in the other direction this time, south to the Museum District. The museums aren’t open at this time of day, but Hermann Park is, so I went for a wander. They were doing renovation and landscaping in some areas, so these were closed off as I walked a path with fencing on either side. But this soon brought me to the pond, with dozens of ducks and geese around the shores and a large fountain in the middle. The early morning light through the trees was really nice! 

I saw some old train tracks too as I headed over to the Pioneer Memorial Obelisk, at the end of a long water feature. There were ducks swimming here too, in the long concrete pond that stretched from the obelisk to the Sam Houston statue at the far end. I ambled up the length of it in the sun, turning to see it from the other side at the top. I then headed to the McGovern Centennial Gardens, passing the Natural History Museum on my way. Notable because of the huge pink inflatable shark adorning the building! The gardens are a beautifully manicured area of the park and their centrepiece is a grassy mound with a water feature running down it. You can use the sloping path to scale its peak for views across the park!

Houston Museum of Fine Arts

After a day of work back at the hostel, I headed out again for the evening. Working while travelling means I often miss museum opening hours, but fortunately I learned that not only does the Houston Museum of Fine Arts open late on Thursdays, it’s also free! Returning to the Museum District, I entered the Audrey Jones Beck building. It was only after spending an hour or two browsing that I learned there are more exhibits in the neighbouring buildings, all part of the same museum! I was too tired to continue at that point though, so one had to suffice (and was plenty full of art anyway!).

This particular building houses the museum’s collection of European and American art up to the 20th century, mainly, as well as some ancient items. I roamed gallery after gallery, lingering over the works I liked better, skipping past those less to my tastes. Turns out I’m much more of a paintings person than other art forms! There were artists I already knew I liked, such as Monet and Pissarro, plus some new discoveries. I also opted not to spend much time reading the information cards by each piece, instead choosing to just look at them, soak them in, and form my own ideas on them. It was a peaceful evening, before the tiredness overcame me and I headed back for the night.

Highlights of Houston

My time in Houston was short, so I certainly didn’t cover everything the city has to offer. It’s also a bit strange being up and about so early, when the streets are very quiet. It made it hard to get a feel for the city’s atmosphere! But I did pretty well to fit in the highlights of Houston that I had time for and saw some cool stuff. I’m not sure it’s a city I’d rush back to, as it didn’t stand out compared to other places I visited on this trip. Not that there was anything wrong with it though! A few days was a good introduction to the state though, before I ventured on to my next destination in Texas.