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Old Nov 17, 11, 2:38 pm   #1
 
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11 hours between flights at IAH on Jan. 1, 2012 -what to do?

I haven't visited Houston - only the airport.

We'll want to be back 90 minutes before the second flight (we're going MEX-IAH, IAH-YVR), so about 7:30 PM.

I will be with my 20-year-old daughter. I don't want to rent a car.

I am thinking there are several options:
1) Public transit to somewhere, maybe an art or history museum if it's open? Does Houston have any nice, walkable areas that are easy to access from the airport (I suspect this might be a laughable question). Or maybe a shopping mall. We're fine with an easy to access, huge shopping mall - we love American shopping.
2) Tour bus, like Grayline, of Houston from the airport.
3) Relatively inexpensive taxi, or possibly a shopping shuttle, from the airport to a shopping mall.

What would you suggest?
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Old Nov 18, 11, 10:56 pm   #2
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I am not an expert on Houston, but I am all about visiting museums and such on layovers. However, you are going to have a huge problem since it is January 1 (and a Sunday to boot). Almost all museums will be closed. The exception might be the Museum of Fine Arts as they do not specifically say that they are closed on New Years. I would still email/call them to verify that though.

I would not think there are many walkable/outside areas for shopping on 1/1 either. I would suggest going to the Galleria mall.

And while I am all about layovers and relying on public transit, I would recommend against that for Houston. I know there is an express bus from the airport to downtown, but Google Maps says that takes 90 minutes to get from the airport to downtown and then to the MFA. Driving takes 30 minutes. If you try to do the MFA and then go out to the Galleria, or some other mall, via transit, it will take forever. I see you can rent a car from Enterprise for ~$35 total for the day. I would highly recommend that. Since it is a Sunday and a holiday, traffic should be fairly manageable. I know that is not what you want, but it will save you a huge amount of time since Houston is so spread out and it will save money over a taxi/shuttle. A one way taxi from the airport to downtown is $38 according to http://www.toandfromtheairport.com/.

Double-check the MFA hours, rent a car, stop in at the Rothko Chapel, drive by the Beer Can House, consider the zoo since that will be open for sure, and go to a couple of malls maybe. Consider going to Central Market for food for the IAH-YVR flight.

http://www.visithoustontexas.com/
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Old Nov 23, 11, 10:17 am   #3
 
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It's going to be difficult to find much to do on Jan 1 in Houston.... the Menil art museum is closed...and there is a major football game in Houston starting at noon.

Yes, renting a car will likely be necessary to go anywhere that's open on Jan. 1....at IAH there is a central car rental building for most car rental companies....it's about a 10 in bus ride to the central car rental building

For Jan 1 with most sites closed, I'm trying to think of historic areas which are worth seeing/walking around even if the stores/buildings are closed..... maybe look at Galveston on the Gulf coast (about 90 mins south of IAH), which has historic buildings, beach and park areas

.....About 45 mins north of IAH is a planned community called The Woodlands, which should have some nice areas for walking around...see this website for "events" calendar
http://www.woodlandsonline.com/

Also, north of IAH is the town of Spring, TX (about 30 mins from IAH) which has a "old town" historic area
http://www.oldtownspring.com/

Hope this is helpful!
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Old Nov 23, 11, 10:29 am   #4
 
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I currently live in Houston and I have to say, I'm a bit disappointed with the lack of interesting things to do here. I have to applaud the previous FT members who gave some very thoughtful suggestions.

Public transportation is a terrible joke in Houston. Also, the malls nearby the airport are not worth visiting. The Galleria is the most interesting shopping area around and is in the "heart" of Houston, but it is far from the airport. I would second the suggestion to visit The Woodlands. It is a beautiful area with a nice shopping district.

I would skip "Historic Spring" unless you're really into that kind of thing. The description on the website oversells the experience, IMHO.
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Old Nov 23, 11, 2:46 pm   #5
 
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You're on the 6:50 a.m. Continental fight from MEX to IAH? I assume you will have been up since at least 3:30 or 4 a.m. That would make me too tired to consider a long bus ride (and my wife and I took the 2-hour trip, via light rail and bus, from downtown Houston to the Johnson Space Center-- and back). Maybe you could ask about a day room at the IAH Marriott or other nearby hotel. Too bad museums will be closed. I actually enjoyed the fine arts museum, and the tour through Minute Maid Park.

The football game mentioned above is apparently the Houston Texas vs. Tennessee Titans. Game starts at noon. You could probably get tix through Stubhub, etc. if not the Texans' ticket office. If the game lasts 3 hours or so (time for TV commercial breaks, etc.), I'd think you could get back to the airport in time. Of course, buses could be packed and taxis, once you get one, expensive (unless, perhaps, if you leave the game early) There's also an American Hockey League game at the Toyota arena, but that doesn't start until 5 p.m. so is probably too late for your schedule.

For tours I'd Google tours, or look for the Grayline Web site. I would think almost all tours leave from area hotels rather than the airport, but perhaps one leaves from a hotel near the airport.

Last edited by SoCal; Nov 23, 11 at 2:58 pm.
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Old Nov 24, 11, 8:02 pm   #6
 
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Some museums are open, but the transport issue seems to make them impractical.

Thanks for everyone's suggestions.

I noticed Deerfield Mall is about 5 miles away from the airport. I know that it might not be the best mall, but I wonder if maybe that's our best option in total.
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Old Nov 25, 11, 8:13 am   #7
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WillTravel View Post
Some museums are open, but the transport issue seems to make them impractical.

Thanks for everyone's suggestions.

I noticed Deerfield Mall is about 5 miles away from the airport. I know that it might not be the best mall, but I wonder if maybe that's our best option in total.
Have you verified whether you'll be able to have your bags checked through to your onward flight with such a long connection? If not, are there any luggage storage facilities in or near IAH? Having to lug your bags to a mall, or anywhere else, would be a bummer.
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Old Nov 25, 11, 1:33 pm   #8
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WillTravel View Post
Some museums are open, but the transport issue seems to make them impractical.

Thanks for everyone's suggestions.

I noticed Deerfield Mall is about 5 miles away from the airport. I know that it might not be the best mall, but I wonder if maybe that's our best option in total.


Looks like the Deerbrook Mall is open Noon until 6pm on Jan 1..... but it is a very "ordinary" mall....here's the website so you can see the list of stores
http://www.shopdeerbrookmall.com

If you are getting a rental car, there are more lively or unique malls within 30-45 mins of IAH..... my thought is that the Deerbrook Mall is not worth the taxi fare to get there, and it will be difficult or a long wait to get a taxi back to IAH.
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Old Nov 25, 11, 1:37 pm   #9
 
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It's true the stores are run of the mill in Deerfield, but I think it's still enough to keep us busy given that we are in Canada and like to get American deals.

Plus they have a Barnes & Noble, so there's no way we would suffer.

However, what you're saying about getting a taxi back gives me pause.
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Old Nov 25, 11, 7:45 pm   #10
 
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Well, there is public transit from IAH, but it is rather slow....

The Route 102 bus runs on Sundays every 40 minutes and takes about 1 hr 5 mins to get to downtown Houston for US$1.25 each way.....and likely from a downtown hotel you'll find a taxi to the Museum of Fine Arts, or a connection to a bus or light rail to the Museum District.

The Route 102 schedule and map is at:
http://www.ridemetro.org/SchedulesMaps/Pdfs/102-iah.pdf

On the Sunday schedule (page 5, map on page 6), use the "time point 10" for departure time for IAH Terminal C (unsure where bus stops, or whether it stops at other terminals at IAH --call 713-635-4000 for full info)

On the schedule, "time point 10" is the downtown Houston transit center with connections to other bus routes and light rail. Further research at ridemetro.org or the museum website should tell you your options.

Route 102 bus also stops at Greenspoint Mall, which is a rather limited, empty mall, but does have a clearance oullet for the Dillards department store and a Macy's. Info at greenspointmall.com

Last edited by peersteve; Nov 25, 11 at 7:53 pm. Reason: added Greenspoint Mall
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Old Nov 28, 11, 8:51 pm   #11
 
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Great info, peersteve.

A downtown bus + taxi sounds reasonable. And although I imagine the bus route may not be that scenic, it still will show something.

Will also consider Greenspoint Mall.
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Old Nov 28, 11, 9:00 pm   #12
 
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If you decide you can handle renting a car,
driving out to Galveston, then maybe along the coast,
can be rereshing.
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Old Dec 3, 11, 7:13 am   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WillTravel View Post
Great info, peersteve.

A downtown bus + taxi sounds reasonable. And although I imagine the bus route may not be that scenic, it still will show something.

Will also consider Greenspoint Mall.
Definitely not a scenic drive to d/t. And Greenspoint is locally referred to as Gunspoint. Once went there, and there was no there there.

Quote:
Originally Posted by MrHalliday View Post
If you decide you can handle renting a car,
driving out to Galveston, then maybe along the coast,
can be rereshing.
But the drive on Gulf Freeway can be quite slow, even on a Sunday.

Unfortunately Houston just is not that great for visitors, and without a car downright horrible.

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Old Dec 4, 11, 8:03 am   #14
 
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Now that the Houston Texans have lost their starting and back-up quarterback, maybe tickets would be eaiser to find and/or at lower prices.
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Old Dec 6, 11, 12:48 pm   #15
 
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I lived in Houston for 20 years. Strongly recommend against public transit.

I'd rent a car for the day - probably much cheaper than a taxi to downtown. Depending on what you want to do:

Alt#1: Take your car through downtown (59) to 288 - follow 288 all the way to Surfside/Freeport, Then take the Blue Water Highway (FM2004) along the Coast to Galveston - this becomes Seawall Boulevard, to 23rd street. Before you get to 23rd, look left at teh San Luis Resort to see the former 10" artillery emplacements (the guns are long gone). In Galveston, park near the Strand and look at the buildings...not sure what is open Jan 1st; maybe the Texas Seaport Museum (Home of the 1877 square-rigger Elissa) or the Ocean Star offshore oil platform museum? The Strand has some touristy shops, but if you're just looking to kill time, it might be worth it. There's a pretty large historical district of nice old Victorians to look at as well and the Bishop's Palace museaum, which might be decorated fro Christmas. Moody Gardens might be open (a nice aquarium and greenhouse) as might the Lone Star Flight museum. Not sure what they have left after Ike, though.....

For Galveston food, the Original Mexican on 14th and Market; **Gaido's on the Gulf side, or Willie G's off of Harborside/Port Industrial on the Galveston Bay side. The food is average, but if the weather's nice, it's fun to sit outside (there is a small set of docks for pleasure craft) and watch the idiot yacht owners misread the tides and tear stuff up - it's a 90 degree entrance across the channel).

After lunch, return up I-45, which will take you back to IAH.You're looking at about 4 hours of driving on this iternerary. The trip to IAH/GLS is 70 miles/1 hour by itself. I don't know what to tell you about Houston traffic other than it sucks.

Alt #2: Rent a car; drive through Downtown, take the Allen Parkway exit and gawk at the mansions. At kirby Drive, turn Left, go a ways, then Right onto Westheimer...there's a shopping district called "Highland Village" you'll pass through on the way to the Galleria...which is a palace of consumption. This should also still be decorated for Christmas.

Dining: Not sure if they are open or not, but back in Downtown, Brennan's ROCKS - sister restaurant to the Commander's Palace in NOLA. It's formal. But there are an abundance of great restaurants in Houston - the Pappa's family of restaurants is a chain, but a really good one. Goode Co. Barbecue. Kiran's Indian in Highland Village. There are any number of Mexican places, as well as almost anything else you can think of.

I think it's about 30 miles from IAH to DT, and River Oaks/Galleria is about another 10 miles. Head back either via 610 or take Memorial Drive to DT then North on 45. If it's open, and you're on Memorial Drive, Bayou Bend, the former mansion of Miss Ima Hogg (daughter of a Texas governor) is worth a look and probably decorated for Christmas. She was one of the early collectors of US antiques and has an important collection.


*OBVIOUSLY caveat emptor here - i have no idea what is going to be open on Jan 1st....or what driving conditions will be like. Allow an extra 30% time cushion.

I don't know how much or why you're opposed to a rental car, but I beg you to reconsider. Houston is not designed for public transit - neither in theory nor in practice. If you really, really don't want to rent a car, my advice is to find the Pappadoux's in Terminal E and sit there drinking heavily for 12 hours.

Last edited by John Galt; Dec 6, 11 at 12:54 pm.
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