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.*
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 :).
HOW TO GET AROUND:
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.
WHERE TO EAT:
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.
TOOLS AND HARDWARE
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.
THINGS TO DO:
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!