Clocking in at a staggering 634 square miles, Houston, the largest city in America’s largest state, could contain the cities of New York, Washington, Boston, San Francisco, Seattle, Minneapolis and Miami, combined. In fact, the city is so large, it is nearly impossible to experience all of its offerings in a single trip.
Student travel groups would be well advised to make sure their boots are made for walking when visiting the Lone Star State’s biggest gem.
Student Group Houston Tours
The city of Houston offers three different self-guided audio walking tours conveniently available for free download from the city’s website. The audio files are compatible with both ipod and mp3 players, and offer student groups a budget-friendly and informative way to view the city.
The “Ultimate Downtown Walking Tour”, guided by Sugar Hill Recording Studios owner, Dan Workman, gives insider’s look into downtown Houston. It offers student groups behind-the-scenes stories and personal anecdotes from local personalities and a look at some of the less conventional downtown attractions, off the beaten path.
On the “Museum District Walk & Roll”, Shara Fryer, retired local ABC news anchor, takes student groups on a stroll through Houston’s cultural mecca, the Museum District. On the tour, student groups will have the opportunity to meet a museum curator, an art school director, a dinosaur expert and a holocaust survivor. Students will get an in-depth look at Houston’s 20+ museums on this expansive tour.
“A Walk in the Park: Discovery Green Walking Tour” is a complete tour offered by the city of Houston’s newest destination, Discovery Green. Hosted by Guy Hagstette, Discovery Green Conservancy’s president and park director, the tour offers student groups a chance to learn about the public art, design collaboration and family-friendly activities and events found at the park, and also the major contributions and collaborations that helped make Discovery Green a reality.
Students looking to explore Houston’s diversity can embark on an “Asian Heritage Tour” through the Southeast neighborhood of Asiatown. The tours highlight many aspects of Asian culture, including tea tasting, herbology, Chinese calligraphy, dim sum, shopping and Buddhist temples.
Houston’s Main Attractions for Student Groups
With over 20 museums in the Houston city limits, there are plenty of attractions for student groups to choose from. The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston’s collection numbers more than 56,000 works and embraces the art of antiquity to the present.
National Museum of Funeral History features the nation’s largest display of historic funeral service memorabilia and artifacts. Notable exhibits include, Fantasy Coffins, where students can view such whimsical items as a casket shaped like a crab, and Celebrating the Lives and Deaths of the Popes, an exhibit featuring exact replicas of history’s most notable pontiffs’ burial sites.
Space Center Houston, the official visitor’s center for NASA’s Johnson Space Center, features a multitude of permanent exhibits, attractions and theaters. Student groups can Blast Off in the Space Center’s high-definition audio/visual experience that recreates a space shuttle takeoff, take a behind-the-scenes tour of NASA’s Johnson Space Center on the tram, or try their luck at landing a shuttle and retrieving satellite information in Living in Space.
The founders of Houston’s American Cowboy Museum, Mollie Stevensons Sr. and Jr., were the first living African-Americans inducted into the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame. The mother-daughter duo then founded the American Cowboy Museum to preserve the Western heritage of Native Americans, Blacks, Hispanics and women. The museum offers student groups tours, exhibits, and oral historians who present stories and lectures dressed in native attire, as well as a variety of hands-on activities.
Student Accommodations in Houston
Located mere blocks away from downtown Houston’s Galleria mall, the recently-opened aloft hotel is an urban-inspired, budget-friendly offering from the famed W hotel chain. Despite the reasonable price tag, aloft offers luxury amenities such as spa showers, Bliss Spa products and 42-inch, flat-screen TVs in all of their rooms.
Americas Best Value Inn in Houston’s Reliant Park/Medical Center offers complimentary continental breakfast, satellite TV and an outdoor pool. The hotel is located close to Houston’s Museum district, the Houston Zoo and the Galleria shopping district.
Guests of the Hilton Houston NASA Clear Lake Hotel, are offered the opportunity to enjoy a number of exciting water sports, including windsurfing and parasailing. This hotel also features an outdoor swimming pool and is within easy access of the NASA Johnson Space Center and Galveston Island.
Performance Venues for Student Travel Groups
Student travel groups looking to hold performances during their stay in Houston will be thrilled to discover DiverseWorks. This non-profit art center is dedicated to presenting new visual, performing, and literary art. It serves as an open venue for artists of all types.
Houston’s Student Group Dining Options
The retro-chic 59 Diner is made to resemble a 1950’s malt shop, complete with an authentic soda fountain. Student groups can revel in the vinyl-covered kitsch as they sample favorites of the time like chicken-fried steak with cream gravy and banana splits.
Student groups can enjoy creative Latin cuisine in a casual setting at Amazon Grill.. The self-serve eatery also features an outdoor patio for fair-weather dining.
The Aquarium Restaurant is less of an eatery and more of a 500,000-gallon under-water adventure complex. It includes a Ferris wheel, an aquatic carousel, Shark Voyage, a white tiger exhibit and, of course, the restaurant. The Aquarium Restaurant is part of Houston’s famed Downtown Aquarium and is sure to entertain student groups throughout their meal. After lunch, student groups can visit the Louisiana Swamp, a 17th century sunken Spanish Galleon, and the White Tigers of the Maharajan Kingdom.
Festivals & Events for Student Groups in Houston
Student Groups can revisit days gone by at the Annual Texian Market Days festival, in late October. It features interactive activities, Civil War camps and battle re-enactments, historic home tours, archeological digs, food and live entertainment.
In early October, downtown Houston light up the skyline with the Bayou City Art Festival. The event features over 300 artists working in 19+ artistic media, plus a performance stage with on-going multicultural musical and dance entertainment presented by The Houston Arts Alliance.
Despite the staggering size of Houston, the city is neatly divided into several sections, all offering their own unique attractions and events. When it comes to visiting Houston, student groups will have to chance to see for themselves that everything really is bigger in Texas.