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Houston City Guide

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Check out our recommendations for the Texan city and send us your ideas and suggestions.

SEE: Hang around on Houston's sidewalks for long and you might get the impression that everyone is ignoring you. That's probably because they're all underground. Houston has seven miles of tunnels, linking 81 downtown buildings and featuring shops and restaurants. Houston's architecture has always been aspirational, though aspiration can date pretty quickly as the creaking concrete of the once-futuristic Astrodome demonstrates. When it opened in 1965 the world's first domed arena was nicknamed the "Eighth Wonder of the World," but it's now an under-used relic with an uncertain future. One of the most impressive recent additions -- though one tainted by association -- is the Chevron Building, an impressive skyscraper of mirrored glass and sleek curves better known as the former Enron Tower that was completed as the energy giant was collapsing into bankruptcy. For a panoramic view of the skyline, head to the observation deck on the 60th floor of the Chase Tower. Perhaps surprisingly, art enthusiasts are well catered for by the Contemporary Arts Museum in Montrose and the nearby Menil Collection -- one of the world's great private collections of 20th century art, including works by Warhol, Magritte and Picasso. The building itself is another one of Houston's architectural highlights, an airy pavilion of glass and steel designed by Italian Pritzker Prize winner Renzo Piano. Finally, no visit to Space City would be complete without a day at Space Center Houston, where visitors explore the history of space travel and take a tram tour of Mission Control.

BE SEEN: The heart of hip Houston is the area around Market Square, known as NoDo (North of Downtown), where Manhattan-wannabes can be found living in converted lofts, sipping coffees and hanging out in bars and galleries. Another area where there's usually something happening is Montrose. It's home to Houston's gay community, the largest in Texas, and has plenty of bars, restaurants, cafes, an annual gay pride parade in June and a more Bohemian vibe than elsewhere in the city. The perennially popular Mercury Room (Prairie Downtown) is one of the best nightclubs in the U.S., according to no less than Playboy magazine. Another downtown institution revelling in its faded grandeur is the extravagantly kitsch Warren's Inn (Travis Street Downtown), famous for its eclectic jukebox. For more outlandish entertainment, check out Super Fun Happy Land (Ashland Street), billed as Houston's venue for "experimental electronic music, underground jazz, and outsider art!" Cezanne (Montrose) is another great music venue, catering to jazz and latin tastes and open late seven days a week, while the live and loud Fitzgerald's (White Oak Drive) caters for the rock audience.

EAT: Houston has had the dubious distinction of being named America's fattest city three times in recent years -- at least Houstonians can pin the blame on the city's restauranteurs who have made it one of the best places to eat out in the U.S. For some good old home-style soul food, visit Kelly Rowland's favorite Sunday lunch spot, This Is It (Gray Street). For a taste of just how refined southwest cuisine can be, try Cafe Annie (Post Oak Blvd Richmond) where trademark dishes include Gulf Coast crab and Muscovy duck. Another classy option is Mark's American Cuisine (Westheimer Road), although you'll probably find yourself queuing for a table in the converted church even if you've made a reservation. Not surprisingly, the city is well stocked with Tex-Mex and steakhouse options. Check out La Mexicana (Fairview Montrose) and Donerakis (Westheimer Road) for the former and Ruth's Chris Steak House (Richmond Avenue) for the latter. If you're still hungry for red meat, Goode Company Texas Barbecue (Kirby Drive) is hard to beat, while Brennan's (Smith Street) does New Orleans-style Creole cuisine with a Texan twist. With so many dining options to choose from though, why stick to southern cooking? Kanemaya (Westheimer Road) is a stylish sushi bar while Shanghai River (Westheimer Road) is considered by many to be the pick of the city's Chinese scene. For Vietnamese, try Kim Son (Jefferson Street), which boasts a menu featuring almost 300 items.



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