Downtown Orientation Walk, Houston (Self Guided)

While Houston, Texas is a massive metropolis, its Downtown is relatively compact yet bustling business, culture and entertainment hub, with a vibrant theater scene. Alongside several theaters, Downtown Houston hosts a number of museums, parks and historic buildings, alongside many other attractions. To explore some of them, follow this orientation walk.
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Downtown Orientation Walk Map

Guide Name: Downtown Orientation Walk
Guide Location: USA » Houston (See other walking tours in Houston)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 10
Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.4 km
Author: doris
Christ Church Cathedral

1) Christ Church Cathedral

The Christ Church Cathedral is the oldest worshiping congregation in Houston, and is also one of the most interesting. This facility has been around since 1839. In those days, Texas was not part of the United States, and Houston was actually the capital of the Republic of Texas. The members of this church are among some of the first families to colonize the area. This congregation also founded the Trinity Church of Houston.

The other interesting thing about this church is that the congregation is still in its original building. That is saying something considering the fact that the church caught fire in 1938. The heroic efforts of one fireman helped to save the church. The building was able to be repaired.

The building was designed in a late Gothic Revival style of architecture. As such, it is one of the only churches done in this style in town. The designer was Silas McBee, who was quite famous in his day for his innovative designs. The church was added to the National Register of Historic Places in the year 1979.
Market Square District

2) Market Square District

The Market Square District of Houston has just recently become a prominent part of the downtown area. There is a park is the area also, which is very much a part of the neighborhood now. The main lawn area is where the old City Hall used to stand. It is located at the intersection of Travis, Milam, Congress and Preston. The location is full of historical structures, wonderful restaurants, and nightclubs that can all be reached quickly.

Yet the park is very new. For instance, there is a great dog run in the park now. You may also want to note the beautiful colored benches and pictures that surround the sidewalks. James Surd’s sculpture, called “Points of View” is also a must see in the park. There is also a memorial here to Lauren Grand colas, who was one of the victims of Flight 93 on September 11, 2001.

The park is open from 6:00 a.m. until 11:00 p.m. every day.
Sesquicentennial Park

3) Sesquicentennial Park

The Sesquicentennial Park is a wonderful memorial to the 150th birthday of Houston. The city was founded in 1836 and visiting this 10 acre park on the banks of the Buffalo Bayou is a delightful way to celebrate. There is plenty of space to take a walk, bike, have a picnic, read a book on a spring day or just let the kids get a little time to run. The park was built in two phases and took fourteen years to complete.

There are several different features that really add interest. Most noticeable are the Seven Wonders. These are seven-seventy foot tall poles that depict notable events in the progression of Houston’s history which include energy, medicine, and technology, just to name a few. Children and adults alike will love the children’s drawings that have been permanently etched in stainless steel on the poles.

There is also a shady promenade that is lined with cypress trees and lovely pedestrian bridge that connects the east and west sides of the park. Part of the charm of the bridge is the replica of street lights from the city’s history. Be sure and bring your camera as there is a picturesque overlook of downtown Houston. There is also a monument to George Bush, the 41st President of the United States. This park frequently hosts special events, so be sure to check the schedule when in town.

Opening hours: daily 8 a.m. - 6 p.m.
Bayou Place

4) Bayou Place (must see)

Although Bayou Place has gone through different owners and has had several different businesses come and go, it still features many attractions. Once Houston’s Convention Center, it has many dining options, including The Hard Rock Café, sushi, local cuisine, and much more. The site also offers theaters including the recently opened Robert Redford’s Sundance Cinema. It also has Verizon Wireless Theater, which can be transformed into numerous different layouts for different concerts, including a mosh pit or a more private setting. A concert schedule can be located on their website. Bayou Place also has many different nightclubs including PBR Houston, Shark Bar, and Lucie’s Liquors.

This tourist attraction is located in downtown Houston among many other tourist sites in the area.

Why You Should Visit:
To hang out with a group of friends, get food and/or watch a movie.

Make sure you get your tickets in advance if you're coming to Sundance... The seating is reserved.

Opening Hours:
Sun-Thu: 11am-10pm; Fri-Sat: 11am-12am
Alley Theatre

5) Alley Theatre (must see)

Not only is the Alley Theater one of the country’s oldest theaters, but it is also one of Houston’s biggest such facilities. The theater boasts two auditoriums, one seating over 800 people and the other seating over 300. The theater hosts productions year round including plays of all tastes. It features new plays, classics, comedies and dramas. A full list of productions and their dates can be found at The Alley theater's website. The location also prides itself in HYPE, which is an acronym for a young playwright program which enables young local playwright’s plays to be produced. In case one is not able to attend the Alley Theater but still wants to benefit it, there are numerous ways in which one can donate by visiting their site.

Located conveniently downtown, the theater is also close to numerous different hotels, restaurants, and shops. The box office of the theater is open Monday through Sunday from noon to 6:00 p.m. However, whenever performances are occurring, the box office remains open until the start of the performance.

Why You Should Visit:
The theater is always in tip-top shape, the staff is friendly and accommodating.
You don't have to buy the most expensive tickets to enjoy the play. The acoustics and views are good throughout the venue.
There's a small snack & drink bar open before plays, as well as restaurants within walking distance.
You can feel comfortable dressing however you chose.

Pre-order your drinks for intermission (if the play has one) before the show starts.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 12-6pm
Jones Hall

6) Jones Hall

This majestic building, which takes up an entire city block, houses Houston’s performing arts center. Jones Hall hosts many art forms including ballets, symphonies, and plays. Events are run throughout the year and can be located on the company’s website. In addition to the classical arts, it is also a popular venue for more modern artists to rent out for concerts. The hall also features dining options. One of the most magnificent features of the building is its eight hundred hexagons that hang from the ceiling. These hexagons can be used to not only change the acoustics of the theater but to actually shrink or expand the theater by six hundred seats.

Jones Hall brings in almost half a million tourists each year. Tours can be scheduled at certain hours by contacting Jones Hall. The performing arts center also makes special accommodations for the disabled, including reserved parking, elevators, and headsets.
Tranquility Park

7) Tranquility Park

Tranquility Park is located in a busy, bustling part of Houston, so the name seems to be a bit of a misnomer. However, the Park is named for the Sea of Tranquility. The park was dedicated to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission to land on the moon. The surface of the park has crater like features that simulate the Moon’s surface which is a rather interesting feature.

Another interesting feature of the park is the cylindrical water fountains that are a bit reminiscent of the Apollo rocket boosters that powered the spacecraft out of Earth’s orbit. There are plaques around the entrance of the park that commemorate the words spoken by Neil Armstrong when the Lunar Lander first landed on the moon, “Houston, Tranquility base here. The Eagle has landed.” These words are written in several different languages and add a nice touch of solemnity to the park.

The water features, the fun landscape of the park and the walkways all make this an interesting place to visit. It is quieter during the weekends, when there is generally less city traffic, so that may be a good time to visit. Occasionally, there are also festivals and special activities held here, so be sure to check the park schedule before visiting. The park is located at 400 Rusk Street and is open every day.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Houston City Hall

8) Houston City Hall (must see)

The Houston City Hall, constructed in 1938-1939, is flanked by Tranquility Park and the Houston Public Library. This simply designed structure features many construction details that have helped to make it an architectural classic. The architect of the City Hall was Joseph Finger, an Austrian-born Texan architect responsible for a number of Houston-area landmarks. The design on the lobby floor depicts the protective role of government. In the grill-work above the main entrances are medallions of great lawgivers from ancient times to the founding of the United States. The lobby is walled with lightly veined marble. Above the lobby entrance is a stone sculpture depicting two men taming a wild horse, which is meant to symbolize a community coming together to form a government to tame the world around them. This sculpture and twenty-seven friezes around the building were done by Beaumont artist Herring Coe and co-designer Raoul Josse.

Why You Should Visit:
Definitely worth a walk through, including the beautiful city council chambers.
The limestone building itself is nice and a wonderful contrast to some of the newer metal & glass skyscrapers that now loom over it.

Be sure to walk the City Hall grounds in March, when the multicolored azaleas are blooming.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri: 9am-5pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
Heritage Society Museum

9) Heritage Society Museum

The Heritage Society Museum was started in the year 1954. It was the brain child of Faith Moore and Marie Phelps, two prominent members of the Houston area. The museum was designed to help preserve the history of this part of Texas. The building is located on Bagby Street in downtown Houston. The property also contains the Kellum Noble House, which was saved from destruction when the area was made into a museum.

This is the only interactive museum of its kind in the city that is completely built outdoors. It constitutes 19 acres, which is completely green and wonderful to enjoy. Besides the Kellum Noble property, there are also seven other historic sites here, that range in age from a little over 100 years old to almost 200 years. Each building has been completely restored.

It is a very popular site among local schools and nonprofit organizations. The park makes it possible for thousands of children each year to learn about what life was like in Houston during the 1800s. In those days, life in the big city was still frontier like.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Sam Houston Park

10) Sam Houston Park (must see)

The Sam Houston Park was established in 1899 on 20 acres of land in Houston. The centerpiece of the park was the path by the mill and stream. There was also a house on the property that was being used as a school, as well as an older bridge that crossed the stream. This made for a rather picturesque little park.

In 1954 the Heritage Society was formed. One of the projects was to save older homes and buildings that were destined for destruction as a more modern Houston was evolving. Some of these older homes that would fit into the theme of the park were moved to this location. The resulting park is now a treasure trove of several different styles of older building that would have otherwise been lost forever.

These buildings have been lovingly restored and include a log cabin circa 1820, one of the oldest brick buildings in Houston that was built in 1847 and the home that had the first electric lights in town. This park is a must-see for anyone that loves older homes or history. The homes are available for tours, but prior arrangements must be made with the Heritage Society. There are also special holiday festivities around Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Make sure to come during the day, as the park does close down after dusk.
The tour of the various historical buildings is on Thursday to Saturday, from 10am, 11:30am, 1pm, and 2:30pm.
Take a tour if you have time – you'll leave with a better understanding of why the city was built and how it looked during the early years.

Walking Tours in Houston, Texas

Create Your Own Walk in Houston

Create Your Own Walk in Houston

Creating your own self-guided walk in Houston is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Live Music Clubs Tour of Houston

Live Music Clubs Tour of Houston

Houston is a great city in which to enjoy all kinds of clubs, featuring live music in many different styles, for all ages and tastes. Take this walking tour for a unique nightlife experience.

Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 6.8 km
Downtown Nightlife Tour

Downtown Nightlife Tour

Houston is a vibrant modern American city and, as such, it offers a wide variety of opportunities for a night on the town. The city offers more than twenty bars and clubs, catering to the many different lifestyles and subcultures. Take this walking tour to experience the divers nightlife of Houston.

Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 7.1 km
Religious Walking Tour of Houston

Religious Walking Tour of Houston

Houston, founded in 1837, has grown into one of the biggest cities in the USA. This city features a large number of churches that are of great historical and/or architectural interest to visitors. Take this walking tour to discover some of the most acclaimed religious buildings in Houston.

Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.6 km
Art Walking Tour in Houston

Art Walking Tour in Houston

Among the wide variety of tourist attractions Houston has to offer, several art museums and galleries deserve special attention. These galleries will thrill all art lovers. Take this walking tour to discover some of the most spectacular museums and galleries in Houston.

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.3 km
Houston Architecture Walk

Houston Architecture Walk

Houston's Downtown is the city's busiest and most highly developed neighborhood. Mostly famous for its beautiful skyscraper district, Downtown has quite a few surprises awaiting visitors. Take a stroll down the crowded streets and you will see historic buildings and modern structures side-by-side. Walk and enjoy Downtown's architecture at its best.

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.8 km
Museums Walk in Houston

Museums Walk in Houston

The fourth largest city in the USA, Houston offers a large number of museums devoted to a variety of scientific, historical, and cultural subjects. Take this walking tour to discover some of the most famous museums in Houston.

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.9 km

Tips for Exploring City on Foot at Your Own Pace

Whether you are in Houston for a quick stopover or have a few days to see the city in more detail, exploring it on foot, at your own pace, is definitely the way to go. Here are some tips for you to save money, see the best Houston has to offer, take good care of your feet while walking, and keep your mobile device – your ultimate "work horse" on this trip - well fed and safe.

Taking Care of Your Feet

To ensure ultimate satisfaction from a day of walking around the city as big as Houston, it is imperative to take good care of your feet so as to avoid unpleasant things like blisters, cold or overheated soles, itchy, irritated or otherwise damaged (cracked) skin, etc. Luckily, these days there is no shortage of remedies to address (and, ideally, to prevent) these and other potential problems with feet. Among them: Compression Socks, Rechargeable Battery-Powered Thermo Socks for Cold Weather, Foot Repair Cream, Deodorant Powder, Shoes UV Sterilizer, and many more that you may wish to find a place in your travel kit for.

Travel Gadgets for Your Mobile Device

Your mobile phone or tablet will be your work horse on a self-guided walk. They offer tour map, guide you from one attraction to another, and provide informative background for the sights you wish to visit. Therefore it is absolutely essential to plan against unexpected power outages in the wrong place at the wrong time, much as to ensure the safety of your device.

For these and other contingencies, here's the list of useful appliances: Portable Charger/External Battery Pack, Worldwide Travel Charger Adapter, Power Converter for International Travel Adapter, and Mobile Device Leash.