In 2001, an expansion project began to add a 1,200-room hotel adjacent to the convention center. The building grew from 1,150,000 square feet to 1,800,000 square feet. Three new exhibit halls and 57 meeting rooms were added at this time. The renovation was completed in 2003.
The George R. Brown Convention Center has an impressive amount of space for a variety of purposes. There's 1.2 million square feet for meetings, exhibits and registration, including seven exhibit halls. If you're looking for a space to hold a sports event, large presentation, concert or corporate meeting, the convention center offers an arena with seats for 6,000 people. If you need functional event space, the George Bush Grand Ballroom has over 31,000 square feet of it and can be divided into three separate sections. The General Assembly Theater is a tiered theater hall that seats 3,600. There are 117 meeting rooms and 185,000 square feet of meeting space. In addition, the convention center offers four spacious outdoor balconies at 3,000 square feet each.
If you are interested in Houston history and its citizens, visit the Houston Hall of Fame, which is located outside the George Bush Grand Ballroom on the third floor of the convention center. The Hall honors Houston residents who have achieved excellence in their respective fields.
Things to Do
Space Center Houston
Everything you wanted to know about space but were afraid to ask can be found at the Space Center Houston. See how the astronauts take showers and perform other daily tasks that are much harder to do in space. Learn how to land an orbiter or retrieve a satellite. The center covers the history of manned space flight and even has some original vehicles that flew in space. A tram tour takes visitors to NASA's Johnson Space Center where it's possible to see astronauts training for their next mission.
San Jacinto Battlefield
San Jacinto is the place where Mexican dominance over Texas ended on April 21, 1836. Located a short distance from Houston, the battlefield, now a National Historic Landmark, is one of Houston's must-see sights. The world's tallest monument, piercing the sky at 570 feet tall, stands proudly over the battlefield. The 18-minute battle pitted Texan Sam Houston, for whom the city is named, against Mexican General Antonio López de Santa Anna, who earlier had annihilated everyone at the Alamo.
The Houston Zoo has the usual collection of lions, tigers, bears and birds - more than 500 species. It also has one of the largest collections of poisonous snakes in the United States. Zoo officials note Texas has more kinds of snakes than any other state. Because of this, it devotes 28 exhibits to venomous snakes and 16 exhibits to the non-venomous variety.
Market Square Historic District
Market Square Historic District has been a fixture at Houston since the Allen brothers arrived in Texas in 1831 and founded the city of Houston a few years later. The streets are lined with 19th century buildings. The square was Houston's original business district but over the years has been transformed into an entertainment Mecca with nightclubs and restaurants. La Carafe is the oldest bar in Houston; the building it is housed in in listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
National Museum of Funeral History
If your interests run to the macabre, a visit to the one-of-a-kind National Museum of Funeral History may be in order. The museum has a large collection of funeral artifacts and also explores funeral customs of ancient civilizations. The museum also has memorabilia used in the funerals of U.S. presidents.
The best way to get around Houston is definitely by car. This is a city designed for people driving automobiles. There are wonderful roads and highways that allow drivers to get anywhere in the city by car in less than a half hour. The only exception is during rush hour in the morning and afternoon, when the roads can get a little crowded.
The highways in particular can get congested during rush hour, and at times the traffic can even grind to a halt. The rush hours are from 7-9 AM and 4-6 PM. It is best to avoid driving during these times, but those that need to drive during rush hour should stay off the highways to avoid the worst of the traffic. There are car pool lanes on the highways, and these usually keep zipping along during rush hour. A car needs to have at least two passengers in it to use the car pool lanes, and there are huge fines for solo drivers that get caught using them.
All the major rental car companies have offices in Houston, and passengers can pick up a rental car right at the airport. Be sure to get insurance for the rental car, because there are some crazy drivers in Houston that like to drive like they are on the NASCAR circuit.
METRO runs the two forms of public transportation in Houston. The buses run all over the city, but they are very slow. On the other hand, the light rail system is very fast and covers much of the city.
The taxis in Houston are fairly expensive, especially for long trips. They are fairly easy to flag down in downtown Houston, but those who need a cab outside the city center will need to call a cab company to get one dispatched to their location.
With the crazy heat and sprawling nature of the city, walking is not very popular or recommended. Those who are going short distances downtown may be able to get some walking in.
This is also not very popular in Houston, but it is more practical than walking. Be sure to carry a water bottle to battle the heat. The one nice thing about bicycling in Houston is that the city buses have racks on the front that cyclists can use to get their bikes from one area of the city to another.
As one would expect, there are multiple places in Houston, Texas for people to shop. The Houston Galleria is one of the most popular shopping centers in the city and it attracts over twenty million people each year. Shopping at the Galleria gives people with a taste for the finer things in life a chance to explore multiple retail stores that are nationally recognized for carrying high-end designer apparel, jewelry, and home furnishings. Designer business suits, dresses, handbags, watches, and custom art are just a few of the items that can be found within the stores at the Galleria. With stores like Niemen Marcus, Nordstrom, Gucci, and Cartier, the Houston Galleria will please the shopaholic in anyone.
Rice Village is another popular retail destination within the heart of Houston. Located next to the campus of Rice University, this shopping region in Houston rests on sixteen city blocks and has over three hundred stores and shops to browse through. In the midst of the eclectic retail shops and boutiques, pubs, coffee shops, bistros, and American cafes provide ample opportunity for shoppers to relax and refresh themselves during a day of browsing, window shopping, and purchasing items.
River Oaks Shopping Center is one of the oldest retail centers in the city and will appeal to people who love all things retro and vintage. Filled with beautiful black and white boutiques, this center provides numerous chances to shop for vintage clothing, accessories, shoes, jewelry, wedding apparel, designer vintage art collectibles, and unique knickknacks that are difficult to find anywhere else. This center also has elegant and small bars and restaurants where shoppers can rest their feet and indulge in upscale cuisine and drinks in between shopping trips.
Katy Mills is located on the Western edge of Houston and will delight people who love outlet malls. Filled with one discount store after another, Katy Mills has strip malls and retail centers that are well-known throughout the city for having amazing outlet bargains and deals. With over two hundred outlet stores to stroll for, this shopping area of Houston beckons to people who enjoy finding name brand items for clothing, shoes, sporting goods, kitchen goods, wall art, and furniture at heavily discounted prices. Children's clothing stores, outlet candy stores and gift shops also appeal to people who are shopping for families and for gifts for friends.
You cannot visit Houston without taking advantage of the delicious and authentic Mexican cuisine. Los Dos Amigos is a popular spot for locals because the restaurant serves the best enchiladas in the city. The house specialty is an enchilada topped with a fried egg and cheese. The portions are so large that you might find you cannot get through the enchilada let alone the rice and beans on the side.
When you're in the mood for something a little different, head to the city limits and to Fung's Kitchen. This restaurant serves authentic Chinese food in a relaxed setting. Many locals visit Fung's Kitchen for the dim sum, but the Peking duck is just as popular. The food is so good that you might think you traveled to another country.
One of the best restaurants in Houston for unusual food is Feast. This is the place where locals go when they want food they cannot find anywhere else. The owners and chef believe that they should use every part of the animal, which leads to dishes using pigs' feet, cow tongue and testicles. You can also find seafood dishes that use seafood you never tried before, including stingray. One of the best things about the restaurant is that the chef changes the menu frequently, meaning that you will never have the same experience twice.
Kenny and Ziggy's New York Delicatessen offers the kind of food that you didn't think you could get outside of New York. The two owners love deli-style food and that love comes through with every bite. You can get a sandwich piled high with pastrami, but you might prefer one of the New York staples, including matzo ball soup and bagels served with cream cheese and lox. The restaurant even offers authentic New York style cheesecake and fresh pies topped with fresh strawberries. Stop by Kenny and Ziggy's New York Delicatessen when you want a touch of the East Coast.
One of the reasons why Voice is so popular is because the restaurant relies on local produce, meats, cheeses and other ingredients. The chef changes the menu with the seasons because the availability of those fresh ingredients changes. The halibut is a popular dish because the truffle sauce drizzled over the top keeps the fish moist and adds flavor. Every dish that comes out of the kitchen has a perfect balance of freshness and flavor. Voice is the type of restaurant that you try once and keep going back to in the future.