Houston will surprise you, though you may have to move around to see why. Below is a sampling of well-known attractions paired with lesser known but equally interesting, inspiring, or fun spots only a short distance away. Some give us glimpses of local history, and others reflect evolving efforts to rethink how we inhabit places. Some may appear beautiful, while others appear jarring or provocative. The attractions below are organized based on their proximity to George R. Brown Convention Center (closest attractions first)
Shows or Performances in the Theater District (Downtown): the Ballet, the Houston Grand Opera, the Houston Symphony, plays at the Alley Theatre. Ticket prices can be quite reasonable. Nearby: The Heritage Society at Sam Houston Park (Downtown), 1100 Bagby St. (2-min. drive or 8-min. walk from Wortham Center): small local history museum and tours of nineteenth-century houses, cottages, and one church. Also nearby is Sundance Cinemas, 510 Texas Ave., 713-223-3456.
Ensemble Theatre (Midtown), 3535 Main St.: professional African American theater founded in 1976; said to be the largest and oldest of its kind in the U.S. Southwest. Nearby: Project Row Houses, 2521 Holman St. (5-min. drive from the Ensemble Theatre): shotgun houses turned into artistic venues and a non-profit community organization devoted to neighborhood revitalization; located in an economically distressed area.
The Museums in the Museum District: a fine arts museum, contemporary arts museum, natural sciences museum, children’s museum, health museum, Holocaust museum, and more, all clustered in a few blocks within walking distance of Hermann Park. Nearby: The Printing Museum, 1324 W. Clay St. (5-10 min. drive from the Museum District): appropriate for visitors interested in the history and culture of books.
Hermann Park, 6001 Fannin St.: large urban park with sculptures, fountains, an outdoor theater, a Japanese garden, and a pond with paddle boats, and the Houston Zoo, 6200 Hermann Park Dr., located in Hermann Park. Nearby: The Orange Show Center for Visionary Art and Smither Park, 2402 Munger St. (10-min. drive from Hermann Park): sprawling house-like structure commemorating one local resident’s love of the orange; folk art.
Houston Arboretum and Nature Center, 4501 Woodway Dr.: small education center for kids and a large natural area within Memorial Park, the largest park inside the 610 loop; well-maintained trails through swamplands and woods. Nearby: The Beer Can House, 222 Malone St. (5-min. drive from the Arboretum): aptly titled house-museum of one of Houston’s most beloved and eccentric residents; folk art.
Space Center Houston, 1601 Nasa Parkway, Houston, TX: A showcase of what Houston, also known as Space City, is best known for. Nearby: Kemah Boardwalk, 215 Kipp Ave., Kemah, TX (15-min. drive from Space Center): bayside carnival rides, a roller-coaster, restaurants and bars, shops, boat rides, and frequent live music; free admission to boardwalk; pay per ride.