City Life + Arts

Houston 101: Exploring the city’s vast areas, regions

Houston Police Department needs to prevent violent crime

Santiago Gaughan/The Cougar

Houston can be daunting to those unfamiliar with the city’s sprawl of streets, highways and skyscrapers. While it can be challenging to understand at first, taking the time to learn the city’s layout can be a rewarding experience.

Central Houston and downtown

We’ll begin our journey at the city’s epicenter, downtown. While it at times can be difficult to navigate with its many one-way streets and towering infrastructure, Central Houston offers an array of up-scale eateries and nightlife options for those interested in a more high-end experience.

In addition, parts of UH and UH-Downtown are located in and around Central Houston, so you’ll need to become familiar with the area eventually.

This is also where you’ll find many of Houston’s iconic attractions, including the Houston Zoo, the Downtown Aquarium, the Museum of Fine Arts and the Museum of Natural Science. While they aren’t necessarily hidden gems, they are worth visiting at least once during your time in Houston.

If you’re looking for a bit of relaxation or a nice place to take a date, The Menil Collection offers a public art gallery and several small parks and green areas that are popular picnic spots. 


With downtown in our rearview mirror, we go now to Montrose, possibly one of Houston’s most iconic neighborhoods and is known for its inclusivity, nightlife and generally unique aesthetic.

While some parts of Montrose can be pricey, many recommend it as one of the best areas in Houston for those interested in a slightly more relaxed vibe than downtown. A bit further west is where you can find some lesser-known attractions like the Art Car Museum, the Houston Wilderness Wildflower Garden and, of course, the Arboretum

Southwest Houston

Southwest Houston is in many ways a mirror of its neighbor to the north. With areas like Bellaire and Braeswood, much of the southwest is known for its cozy, family-centered atmosphere.

However, it too is not without its attractions. The well-known NRG stadium lies at the edge of The 610 Loop, and is where many of the city’s major sporting events are held.

If you’re interested in a nice area to run or walk, the Rice University campus features a running trail and several public art installations that are a must-see for those new to the city. Finally, while not necessarily an attraction, the southwest is where you can find the internationally esteemed Houston Medical Center.

Southeast Houston

The final leg of our journey brings us to the place you will likely call home for the next four years. The vast majority of UH is located in southeast Houston, and you’ll soon be familiarizing yourself with this part of town, so it’s good to get an idea of what it offers.

Directly adjacent to the University is the historic district of Third Ward. Third Ward is a beautiful area rich in culture and history. Murals and artwork decorate much of the neighborhoods near century-old buildings.

Smither and Hidalgo parks offer natural getaways from the hustle and bustle of the city, and the abundance of restaurants nearby means you’re only ever a few blocks away from a good meal.

Take it slow!

Houston is the fourth largest city in the U.S., so don’t worry too much about seeing everything right away. Remember, you have four years to experience and take in what Houston has to offer. There’s no rush.

[email protected]

Leave a Comment