Leaving Houston

January 15, 2012
Cartoon Houston Map

Houston, Texas

As I leave Houston today I take note the weather is chilly, but not as chilly as where I am heading. Winter’s in the South are, for me, the way to have winters. Just enough cold temperatures to remind me that I don’t much like cold weather. Over the last few weeks I’ve enjoyed warm days and cools nights. It goes with my overall opinion of Houston; it is not what I expected.

I arrived with all the typical stereotypes in my mind of what Texas is. To my surprise, Houston is not a bastion of conservative cowboys. Fact is, I saw more cowboy hats in Miami than here. I guess it is easy for all of us not from Houston to lump it in with our media-driven view of the state as a whole. Except for the weather, Houston is much like another of my favorite cities – Chicago. Both are big towns with a small town feel. Both welcome strangers and offer many wonderful sites to see and unique things to do.

My first impression was the size. This is one big place. Houston is America’s fourth largest city and sixth largest metropolitan area. With its low plane, it presents visitors with a vast openness not seen in cities in the East. The warmth of Houston’s climate is matched by its warm and friendly people. This last year Houston, as the rest of Texas, faced a horrible drought and record number of day with temperatures reaching 100°F or more. Rather than bitterness, the city is full of people simply thankful it’s over and hopeful next summer will be better on that score.

One of Houston’s nicknames is the Bayou City. There are several running through the area. Of course, like most everything else, Houston’s Bayou is not what most think of when they hear the term. Maybe they were years ago but now they are a series of drainage channels, like a large ditch or canal. As you head west out-of-town, you see more swampy areas and begin to understand Houston at, at one time, earned the name outright. Rather than leave its bayou and unsightly ditches crisscrossing the city, a woman named Terry Hershey had a better idea, to use the bayou as greenways and parks.

My first visit to a bayou was at Terry Hershey Park, named in honor of the woman that pushed long and hard for the city park system’s creation. Today, Terry Hershey Park offers over six miles of walking and bike trails as well as open green space and playgrounds for children (even one about fifty like me) to run and play. The park in a perfect example of Houston’s forward thinking and desires to be more than a typical big city. Houston’s parks are like threads weaving a pathway across the city.

I was most impressed with Houston’s Museum District. Home to more than a dozen museums, the district alone is worth a visit to Houston. Luckily, during my visit, the Museum of Fine Arts featured the traveling King Tut exhibit. In addition to the Museum of Fine Arts, the district is home to:

• Buffalo Soldiers National Museum
• Byzantine Fresco Chapel Museum
• Children’s Museum of Houston
• Contemporary Arts Museum Houston
• Czech Cultural Center Houston
• The Health Museum
• Holocaust Museum Houston
• Houston Center for Contemporary Craft
• Houston Center for Photography
• Houston Museum of Natural Science
• Houston Zoo
• The John C. Freeman Weather Museum
• The Jung Center Of Houston
• Lawndale Art Center
• The Menil Collection
• Rice University Art Gallery
• The Rothko Chapel

The district offers many places to eat and relax as well, all within walking distance. In the end, you could spend a month visiting the various museums and attractions in Houston’ Museum District and only begin to scratch the surface of what it offers. While special attractions, like the King Tut Exhibit require a fee, about half the museums are free all the time. It is a great exposure to art and humanity’s creative side.

Of course, there is more to any city than its museums.  Houston offers professional sports, interesting attractions (everything from the USS Texas (BB-35) to the Beer-can House), there truly is something for everyone.  In the end, Houston offered me a view that was unexpected. The city proved the age-old adage of “don’t judge a book by its cover” or in this case, a city by a stereotype. It left me with only one regret, the lack of time to get to know it even better. I am looking forward to my next visit.




  1. Enjoyed your view of my city. Thank you! The only things you missed mentioning are the great arts scene and the food. Two gentle corrections: Terry Hershey is a woman and Houston is America’s 4th largest city in population (behind Chicago and ahead of Philadelphia)

    • Wow, thanks for letting me know. I am not sure how I messed that up, I have it in my notes twice Terry was a guy but I now see how wrong I am on that. As for the arts scene and food, I did not get out all that much other than to visit the museums. I did have a few really nice meals so it would be very easy to accept your observation. Again, thanks for the correction regarding Terry.

    • Also, I had the city and the metropolitan sizes reversed.

  2. Your review of Houston made me want to visit soon! I forwarded it to a friend in Houston who will enjoy it.

    • Thanks Nadine. I really do like Houston and think it is well worth your time to visit. I plan on going back!

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