Houston Champs: Advice From Houstonians

Forgive the length and lack of links. This was a lot to compile, I’ll try to make time to add links later for convenience.*

Hi Y’all!
I’m starting this thread so Houston teams and volunteers can share their knowledge about the city so visiting teams can have the best experience possible. What follows is my personal advice. Please feel free to chime in, elaborate, contradict me, whatever. Let’s get started!

Let me just get this out of the way up front. For the most part, Houston (and downtown) is a fairly safe, clean city. However, visitor should also remember that we’re the 4th largest city in the US, and we’re not immune to the types of problems other major cities face. The worst I would expect anyone to run into are panhandlers, but I’d advise teams keep cars locked, and valuables either well hidden or with you. The worst part of downtown is the Courthouse district, which is a good ways east and north of the Convention Center. At night, travel as a group if walking through downtown.

Weather also is something to consider for safety. I wouldn’t expect it to be too hot here during Champs, but Houston can get very, very humid. Also, when it rains in Houston, it REALLY rains. Check the forecast regularly, and plan to drive carefully when bad weather hits. Finally, if its warm outside and the sky is clear and you or your students have some free time to spend outside, I’ve got two words: sun block :).

Houston is a definitely car-centric city, but there are alternatives if your in a pinch. Our public transit system, METRO, is mostly bus-based, but we also have a newly expanded light rail system, with the green and purple lines passing right next to the convention center. We also have Uber and Yellow Cab.

If you ask a Houstonian how far away a destination is, they’ll answer you with time rather than distance. Distance doesn’t matter when you have traffic, and Houston got traffic. Pay attention to traffic reports, make use of apps like waze, etc.

As mentioned in other threads, the Convention Center doesn’t allow in outside food. Your alternative is to picnic on Discovery Green, which isn’t a bad prospect on a nice day.

The following fast food options are available within walking distance of the GRB:
Pizza Hut, 1 block west
Chick-fil-A, Subway, and Quiznos in the Houston Center, 3 blocks east

Other fast food options can be reached in the downtown tunnel system (Wendy’s, Whataburger, etc.) or via the light rail (McDonald’s, Jimmy John’s, Dominos, Murphy’s Deli), but that might be a bit further than is reasonable during a lunch break. You might also consider the option of having food delivered via Favor, Grub Hub, Eat24, etc.

If you have a chance, I recommend the following restaurants:
The Original Ninfa’s on Navigation - This is a Houston institution. Great Tex Mex!
Kim Son Chinese Restaurant: Just a few blocks South of the Convention Center. Some of the best Chinese I’ve had in Houston, and a good spot to go with a group.
The Breakfast Klub: Okay, this might be tough to pull off. They’re only open for breakfast and Lunch, and They’re extremely popular (for good reason). Wings and Waffles, Catfish and Grits, pork chops and eggs……It’s all AMAZING!

Other food places to consider when you have time away from the Competition:
Torchy’s Tacos, Luby’s (I like 'em, I admit it), Pink’s Pizza, Barnaby’s, Hickory Hollow, and any Restaurant whose name starts with “Pappa” (Pappadeux’s, Pappasitos, Pappas Seafood, Pappas BBQ), Shipley’s Donuts.

The Nearest Home Depot looks to be 6810 Gulf Fwy, Houston, TX 77087, about 14 minutes from the GRB. There’s also one at 999 N Loop W, Houston, TX 77008, about 18 minutes away.

I know not every team is going to have time to go out exploring, but there’s lots to so and see in Houston Here’s a few ideas to consider:

Burp the bayou: Okay, this one’s just silly, but its quick, free, and close to GRB. On the opposite side of Downtown on one of the columns on the Preston Street Bridge over Buffalo Bayou, There’s a red button. Find it, push it, and watch a giant air bubble come gurgling up out of the Bayou.

Downtown Aquarium: Not far from your Bayou burping adventure, the Downtown Aquarium features over 200 aquatic species, a carousel, and a ferris wheel. Skip the restaurant, its not that good for the price you pay.

Houston Zoo: Our Zoo is the top attraction in Houston, and the 2nd most visited Zoo in the US. From the GRB, you can reach it by taking the Light Rail Green line east to the the Red line on Main Street, then take the Red line South to the Museum District. Speaking of which…

The Museum District is where you’ll find the Houston Museum of Fine Arts, The Museum of Natural Science, The Cockrell Butterfly Center, and Hermann Park, including Miller Outdoor Theatre and the Japanese Garden.

Space Center Houston/Johnson Space Center: Definitely a cool place to check out, Especially the Saturn V Rocket at the entrance (it’s harder to get a full photo with it since they enclosed it in a protective building, though). Downside: It’s a 45 minute drive from GRB. Plan this for a non-competition day.

Buffalo Bayou Park: Just on the other side of Downtown along Buffalo Bayou. The City recently completed a major renovation along the park, It now is absolutely gorgeous and has too many attractions to list. Just check the website for more info: http://buffalobayou.org/visit/

Gerald D. Hines Waterwall Park: Located in the Uptown District Near the Galleria. This is a cool spot to check out, and a nice place to take a team photo in case you want something different Than GRB, Minute Maid or Discovery Green.

That’s all I’ve got for now! Feel free to add your own Ideas or advice!

Thank you so much for writing this guide! I’ll be sure to pass it along to my friends attending the Houston Championship event.

Quick question - what are the best BBQ places in the area? I’ve been told Texas BBQ is pretty good, and need to experience this for myself.

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Good luck beating Pappys #STLChampsIsBetter

Just gonna add Bombay Pizza to your list, relatively close to GRB, about 15 mins by foot max. Probably the most unique pizza place in Houston, and amazing food besides the pizza.

In downtown Houston, walking and driving are probably going to be the same amount of time:D

If you do the Building 9 tour, you’ll be able to see 118’s workspace, and all of the banners. Definitely awesome and inspiring to experience it from up in the tour walkway, as well as down on the field.

My personal Favorite in Houston is Hickory Hollow, 101 Heights Blvd, Houston, TX 77007 (just don’t bother with the sausage. Stick with brisket, ribs, or chicken, in that order). I’m also a huge fan of Gatlin’s BBQ, 3510 Ella Blvd
Houston, TX 77018, but there’s long lines and they sell out by early afternoon on weekends. Lots of people like Goode Company BBQ, and I hear Killen’s Barbecue in Pearland is good too (though it’s 40 minutes south of the convention center).

Oh it’s ON!!!:smiley: :smiley: :smiley:

Texas has some great BBQ places that we got to experience, but so is Papi’s in St. Louis.

But the one that trumps them all…Central BBQ in Memphis, TN.:wink:
And its not even close.

You have ZERO credibility in this matter after calling it “Papi’s”… SMH

I like it better than Pappy’s.:smiley:

Texas brisket/sausage will beat Pappy’s for sure.

Pappy’s ribs will beat Texas ribs (most texas bbq joints don’t do babybacks and aren’t about the pork ribs at all) all day long.

BBQ? Is that vinegar or tomato based? Y’all ain’t from around here are you?

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Franks pizza is really good if you have time.

I would say houston bbq places are not very good, especially if you have had bbq in other places. if you are from out of town I would suggest a Mexican place instead.

Great post. As a Houstonian, I can’t agree more with what you said.

Teams, please account for time for traffic if you aren’t staying super close to the Convention Center. There are a lot of highways here in Houston and they some how all manage to touch downtown (I45, I10, 59, and 288 (sort of)).

Also be prepared for rain at any moment. There have been days when there’s not a single cloud in the sky and an hour or so later, it’s pouring rain.

St Louis pork ribs may be better than Houston pork ribs, but Texas BBQ is more about beef ribs, which weigh about a pound each and will change your life if you find a place that does them right. (disclaimer, picture not me) Though Houston is not the epicenter of Texas BBQ. Finding that will require any true believers to make a pilgrimage West about 2 hours to Lockhart/Luling. It’s a worthy stop for anyone driving in from the West or who takes a trip over to Austin while in Texas.

Most teams will probably want to have food delivered and eat in Discovery Green (the park across from GRB) assuming the weather cooperates. If you have a chance, find a good TexMex place (like Chuy’s) or Cajun while in town. Also, get some Kolaches for breakfast (imagine a sausage, cheese, and jalapeños cooked inside a plain donut)

Great guide grstx.

I’d like to add a couple additional ideas.

For good cheap food, consider Les Givrals. They do great Banh Mi sandwiches at inexpensive prices. If in doubt, get the BBQ Pork sandwich. (Uber Eats can deliver these sandwiches too.)

If you somehow have the time to go exploring, I’d recommend touring Rice University (right on the light rail red line). Beautiful architecture and art installations abound. Ask a student to direct you to the James Turrell Skyspace, the Academic Quad, Brochstein Pavilion, Brockman Hall, Engineering Design Kitchen, etc. The students are notoriously friendly. Don’t be afraid to ask them questions for directions or engage them in conversation. Rice is a great engineering school, so you could make this a great get-excited-about-STEM college visit–especially if you talk to the students while there too. Feel free to PM or email me questions about Rice. If you were planning this in advance and somehow had extra time you could probably schedule something to meet with a student(s). If you’re interested in this, I could try to help you set this up.

Additionally, the Menil Collection is a lovely free art gallery if you’re interested in contemporary art.

Some Rice photos:

it’s a losing battle, but as a half Czech, I must point out that those are Klobasneks. Kolaches are only the fruit filled pastries.

Great post here for teams to read.

What is the parking like around the convention center?

At St. Louis, the front parking lot was great to have a picnic lunch and staging area.

Do we know anything about load in at this point? Or suggestions from those of you who have attended Lone Star in the past. Will load in be similar as in Lone Star in the past?

The last few years there has been a lot of construction, but I believe most if not all of that is complete.

In the past they allowed a few team members to load in in the back of the convention center (GRB) by the loading docks.

Parking has historically been okay for cars and sometimes challenging for buses but the parking is not free. In the past it has ranged anywhere for $8-$20 a day for a car depending on the day and where you park. There are a few parking garages connected to the convention center. One underground (under discovery green) right in front of the GRB. One between the Hilton and GRB. They might have built a new one in all of the recent construction. Neither that I know would be very good for a picnic lunch.

As others have said Discovery Green is a very good place to picnic.

In the past buses have had to drop students off and then go park. Some years they have had a lot that was not too far from GRB, but last year they had to find somewhere a bit more remote. I am not sure what the arrangements will be this year.

I’ve attended Lone Star regional since 2014 as well as numerous other events there so I’ll try to help answer some of the less logistics-heavy questions :slight_smile:
One of the major drawbacks of GRB is the wifi situation, they charge upwards of $80 a day per device for wifi so don’t plan on getting any connection. Also the food inside is very overpriced (although there is a Starbucks inside) so I’d highly recommend going elsewhere. The best food within walking distance is Phonecia, a Mediterranean grocery store/deli, but it’s usually very full on weekdays.
If your team has a free day I would highly recommend going to JSC and seeing some of the awesome NASA stuff they have. It’s a full day event and it’s really cool to see Mission Control, Saturn V, and astronaut training grounds. Also, the museum district downtown is fun to walk around, there’s quite a few free art museums as well as some neat parks and a pay-per-exhibit science museum.
If I think of anything more I’ll add to this post, feel free to PM/reply with questions n such :slight_smile:

YAAAS! Les Givrals Is awesome! FUN FACT: Houston has the 3rd largest Vietnamese population in the US.

Rice’s campus is gorgeous! The Turrell Skyspace is a great spot to check out at sunset.

The Menil Is one of my all time favorite spots. Plus, there’s tons of green space nearby.

All construction in the area was completed in time for the Super Bowl, Including a new parking garage.

I think you’re referring to the Hilton Hotel Wifi. The GRB has free public wifi (which of course comes with all the expected speed and security drawbacks you might expect from any public wifi).

Oh yeah, for anyone staying a the New Marriott Marquis across the street from Discovery Green: there’s a Texas-shaped lazy river on the roof. Bring your swimsuit.

One important thing I remembered: the March for Science will be taking place on Saturday, April 22, near City Hall on the other side of Downtown. This should have any impact on the vast majority of teams, but there might be a couple of street closures depending how you approach the convention center. Plan accordingly.

There’s a WHAT?!?!?!

Well now I find that out! (I’m pretty sure that’s where I’m staying.)