The Houston metropolitan area is slightly larger in square miles than the state of New Jersey, so you need to move around to get the full Houston experience. Below are some options to assist you, both in traveling from an airport to the George R. Brown Convention Center (1001 Avenida De Las Americas, Houston, TX 77010) and in traveling across the city for sightseeing.
Houston has two public airports:
- Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) 20 miles north of George R. Brown Convention Center: to get to downtown, follow the signs to Will Clayton Parkway, and then get on I-69 south.
- Hobby Airport (HOU) 10.5 miles southeast of George R. Brown Convention Center: to get to downtown, head east on Airport Boulevard; then get on I-45 (a.k.a. the Gulf Freeway) north.
Bush Intercontinental Airport is a hub for many major airlines. The smaller Hobby Airport is a hub for Southwest Airlines.
FROM THE AIRPORTS TO DOWNTOWN
In the absence of light rail linking the airports to other parts of the city, travelers must use one of the following options to get from Bush or Hobby to downtown:
- Bus: Click for Houston Metro bus schedules. Take bus #102 southbound from Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) to Downtown. Get off either at bus stop #648 (Milam St. at Texas St.) or at bus stop #9531 (Gray St. at La Branch St.). Each of those stops is a 10-15 minute walk from the Hilton Americas-Houston, the George R. Brown Convention Center, and Discovery Green. Take bus #40 northbound from Hobby Airport (HOU) to Downtown. Get off at bus stop #344 (Lamar St. and Milam St.), which is a 10-minute walk from the Hilton Americas-Houston, the George R. Brown Convention Center, and Discovery Green. The cost to ride a local bus is $1.25. Beginning April 1, 2016, riders must pay either with cash or a Q card. METRO’s Customer Care Center phone number is 713-635-4000.
- SuperShuttle: To make reservations, call their 24-hour Customer Care Center at 1-800-258-3826 or visit this page for discounted rates for CCCC attendees. If you call, you will need to know your airline, flight #, airport, and departure and arrival times; and you will need to provide your contact information and form of payment. SuperShuttle should be able to take you to any hotel in the city provided that you tell them your hotel’s name and zip code. The Hilton Americas – Houston adjacent to George R. Brown Convention Center estimates a $24.00+ charge for SuperShuttle service from Bush Intercontinental Airport. (See the next section, “Getting Around Houston,” for information about hotel shuttles.)
- Cab: Lone Star Cab: 713-794-4444, Taxis Fiesta: 713-225-2666, Hail-A-Cab: 713-236-1111, Yellow Cab: 713-224-4445
Click here for details about cab fares and fees from Bush Intercontinental Airport, and click here for these details from Hobby Airport. Note that Bush is farther than Hobby from downtown.
- Rental Car: Advantage, Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Enterprise, Hertz, National, and Thrifty
Contact information for rental cars at Hobby. (Once here, select Houston Hobby [HOU], and enter the appropriate dates.)
- Uber: Uber operates throughout Houston, providing in-town service as well as service to and from both airports. In early 2015, the City of Houston passed strict regulations requiring that Uber drivers receive background checks and screening. Uber cars can provide a cheaper alternative to cabs. Unlike cabs, though, Uber requires a mobile device that is linked to the user’s credit card. Note: Houston lacks the similar service Lyft.
GETTING AROUND HOUSTON
METRORail: For $1.25 per ticket, Houston’s light rail system, called METRORail, can take you from downtown to the north, south, and southeast sections of the city. The primary Red Line runs approximately 13 miles north to south along Main and Fannin Streets and connects many of the city’s top destinations, including the following:
- Midtown (just south of downtown): hubs for restaurants and bars include Gray St. at Bagby St.
- Museum District
- Hermann Park and the Houston Zoo
- The Texas Medical Center
- NRG Stadium
The secondary Green and Purple lines begin downtown and run east and southeast, respectively.
The best way to use METRORail is to plan your trip with Google Transit, a feature of Google Maps. METRO does have a free trip-planning app both for iOS and Android mobile devices called METRO T.R.I.P. Nevertheless, Google Transit is more reliable and includes accident and delay information.
Single-use fare cards can be purchased at kiosks with cash or credit card at each station. Transfers while traveling in the same direction are free. Certain high-use sections of METRORail are occasionally patrolled by METRO officers who will inspect and verify riders’ fare payments.
Weekday trains run every 10-12 minutes.
Note: Be on the lookout for details about special $12 Metro passes covering unlimited rides on all Houston Metro rail and bus lines April 6-9, 2015. We expect these convention passes, created specifically for 4 Cs attendees, to become available by February 2016.
Greenlink (Bus): Free and energy-efficient downtown bus running Monday-Friday 6:30 a.m. – 6:30 p.m. every 7-10 minutes. Stop #13 on the Greenlink route is in front of George R. Brown Convention Center. Click here and scroll to “Greenlink” for more information, including a route map.
Bus (Other): Tickets for local METRO buses are $1.25 each way. Click for bus schedules.
Click here for a phone number and email address where you can request details about purchasing a METRO Q® Fare Card.
Click here for information about a paratransit service called METROLift. Note that METROLift tickets must be purchased a day in advance of using the service.
METRO Customer Care Center: 713-635-4000.
Shuttle: The following downtown Houston hotels are listed on TripAdvisor as offering shuttle service. Not all of the hotels offer shuttle service to/from the airports. (The Hilton Americas-Houston, for example, does not take passengers to/from the airports; its shuttles stay within about a one-mile radius of the hotel and are for hotel guests only.)
- Hilton Americas-Houston: 1600 Lamar Street: 713-739-8000
- Embassy Suites Houston Downtown: 1515 Dallas Street: 713-739-9100
- Magnolia Hotel Houston: 1100 Texas Avenue: 713-221-0011
- Crowne Plaza Houston Downtown: 1700 Smith Street: 713-739-8800
- The Lancaster: 701 Texas Avenue: 713-228-9500
- Hotel Icon, Autograph Collection: 220 Main Street: 713-224-4266
Individual hotels should be contacted for details.
Houston B-cycle (Rental Bike): Bicycle rentals straight from any of Houston’s 25 B-stations, most of them in Downtown or Midtown. You may return your bike to any other B-station. The system requires a credit card and the purchase of either a 24 Hour Pass, 7 Day Pass, or Annual Membership. (Note: Certain B-cycle memberships in other cities are valid in Houston.) Only 24 Hour Passes can be purchased at the stations. The cost is $5.00. Keep in mind that the best way to use a B-cycle is to check out and return the bike within the hour. Use a B-cycle the way you would use other forms of public transportation. Though the bike comes with locks, users are charged $2.00 for every half hour the bike is “out” past the initial free hour that the pass provides. Check the bike out, pedal to your destination, check the bike in, and you’re done.
Taxis: A $6.00 taxi ride (not including tip) will take you anywhere downtown–the area bounded by I-45, I-10, and US 59–through the Six in the City deal. Look for any of the 21 designated cab stands or find one of the 30 cab-hailing stands downtown. This deal applies day or night, with a single rider or multiple riders, and for any cab company. However, it applies only for hailed cabs. And if you leave the downtown area and/or you have multiple drop-off locations, your rate will increase.
Rental Car: About a 15-minute walk from the George R. Brown Convention Center are the following rental car companies:
- Hertz: 1200 Louisiana St.: 713-652-0436
- National: 400 Dallas St.: 713-655-1031
- Thrifty: 1700 Smith St.: 832-572-3361
- Enterprise: 2101 Travis St.: 713-651-7866
- Budget: 1010 Webster St.: 713-659-2513
Be sure to call ahead for hours of operation.
Uber: Uber operates throughout Houston. In early 2015, the City of Houston passed strict regulations requiring that Uber drivers receive background checks and screening. Uber cars can provide a cheaper alternative to cabs. Unlike cabs, though, Uber requires a mobile device that is linked to the user’s credit card. Note: Houston lacks the similar service Lyft.
Walking: Downtown is compact enough to be walkable. From George R. Brown Convention Center, give yourself 15 minutes to get to the west (opposite) side of downtown. On the west side of downtown, you will find Bayou Place (500 Texas St.) containing restaurants, a performance center, and a Sundance Theatre; the Theater District comprising various concert and performance halls; and historic Market Square (301 Milam St.). Along Main St., which courses north-south through the middle of downtown, you will find inexpensive pubs and restaurants. Baseball fans will be happy to find Minute Maid Park, home of the Houston Astros, immediately north of George R. Brown Convention Center.
Note: Even at crosswalks, watch for oncoming traffic when crossing the street.
Like many large Sunbelt cities, Houston is diffuse, without a clearly identifiable center. For example, Main Street may not feel like a typical main street, and downtown competes with the Medical Center, Uptown/the Galleria, Greenway Plaza, and other areas for business prominence. Similarly, social life in Houston is scattered, with lively eateries, dance spots, and pubs in various, and in some cases surprising, places. So move around and keep your eyes open. If you remain downtown, remember the Six in the City taxi deal: for $6.00 (not including tip), you may take a taxi at one of the 21 designated cab stands or one of the 30 cab-hailing stands downtown to any other downtown Houston location–day or night, with a single rider or multiple riders, and with any cab company. (Note: the Six in the City deal applies only for hailed cabs.)
A website that focuses on LGBT-friendly venues in Houston is My Gay Houston. A publication that tracks new art exhibits, live musical performances of all types, and other attractions in the city is The Houston Press; see especially its 2015 Best-of Lists. And don’t forget about the Houston Visitors Center.