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2 days - First time to Houston: Recommendations please?

Singapore, Singapore
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2 days - First time to Houston: Recommendations please?

Hi everyone

I will be dropping by Houston on the way back to Singapore after a meeting in Atlanta towards the end of April. The initial plan was to visit (and stay) with friend who lives in Houston, but due to some personal reasons, I didn't want to impose and will instead be staying at a hotel and (probably) renting a car to get around.

I will be arriving on a Saturday afternoon and leaving on Monday late morning. The initial plan was to hang out with my friend, but will probably just meet for dinner instead and find other stuff to do.

The only sure thing is hitting the Premium Outlet at Hempstead (my wife has prepared a shopping list!) - I'm up for suggestions on stuff to do within my short stay here and hope you can help me with some questions:

1. Any good car rental firms in Houston? Will be doing an airport pickup and return. In my earlier trip to Hawaii, we rented through a car agency that gave us an Alamo booking - and the price was cheaper than what I could get from Alamo direct. Anything like that in Houston?

2. Any hotels to recommend? Probably somewhere with some nightlife, i.e. bars and restaurants where I can hang out in the evenings. Budget around $200 per night and free internet/wifi is preferable :)

Also, my flight out on Monday is at 11am, so I'd need to get to the airport by 830-9am (car rental return etc). So somewhere closer to the airport is preferable as I don't wanna risk getting caught in the morning rush hour and missing my flight! Was recommended the Hampton Inn at the Galleria, how is that?

3. Would the NASA Centre be a good place to visit for this short stay, or are there other things to do and see? I'm not really into museums and stuff (which I see a lot are featured on TA's page)

Thanks!

Cheers

Jason

Houston, TX
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1. Re: 2 days - First time to Houston: Recommendations please?

The Galleria area is a great place to stay for shopping, restaurants and nightlife--but not as good for getting back to the airport in morning rush hour. The hotels closest to the airport, however, have very little in the way of options for shopping, restaurants, and nightlife. You could have a look at staying in/near The Woodlands, which is actually north of the airport. There you will find a nice shopping area called Market Street, The Woodlands Mall, the Waterway, two multiplex cinemas, and restaurants and bars. Easier to get back to the airport on the Monday than the Galleria location. In non-rush hour traffic the drive from The Woodlands to downtown would be about 30 minutes; about the same to the Galleria area. NASA is about 25 minutes south of downtown.

If you have an interest, NASA is worth a visit. You could be there in the morning when it opens, do the tram tour and see the other things of interest, and then drive a short distance to the Kemah Boardwalk for lunch. There are usually discount admission coupons on the Space Center Houston website, and most McDonald's fast food places have coupons for this as well.

There are companies (Hotwire,etc) through which you can book a car--I'll let others go into more detail on that since I don't usually use them. However, I do know to be careful with them in that once you book you can't generally make any changes at all to the booking.

Enjoy your stay.

Houston
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2. Re: 2 days - First time to Houston: Recommendations please?

We live near Galleria, and our experience is that driving to IAH (InterContinental Airport) in morning rush hour takes only about 40-45 minutes, barring major accidents, as you're travelling for the most part against traffic. Naturally, you'd need to allow time to return rental car, etc., but if you left Galleria area about 7:45AM, you should safely be able to check in at airport by about 9:00 AM. The Galleria area will offer you a lot more choices than The Woodlands, although both areas are nice. Many bars and restaurants within walking distance of The Galleria, so you won't need to take a chance on driving while under the influence and receiving a citation. I'm not certain if that's the case at The Woodlands, as well.

As far as NASA is concerned, Galleria is considerably closer (20-25 minutes?). I'm assuming NASA is open for visitors on Sundays, but am not certain. I'd definitely check into that.

Houston, Texas
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3. Re: 2 days - First time to Houston: Recommendations please?

For $200 per night you can stay at the St. Regis! Hampton at the Galleria should be less than $100. It is a good area and a good hotel - never stayed but know people that stayed. The only thing about the Galleria area is parking is expensive. You will also find two hotels within the Galleria Mall complex: Westin Oaks and Westin Galleria.

Monday morning you will get into a little bit of traffic until you pass downtown then you will be against traffic.

The Woodlands is another option but you will still encounter traffic on Monday morning but has the option to take the toll road. My personal preference is the Galleria area.

One of my fav restaurants in Houston is a Singaporian Dim Sum place in China Town (Beltway 8 and Bellaire Blvd) - about 15 mts from the Galleria Mall.

I am not big into shopping but I did hear that a new outlet mall is open close to Galveston. So check it out and you can do your shopping after Nasa.

I enjoy NASA - so yes go there. As someone else suggested then go to Kemah for a meal and a drink. Very nice relaxing place by the water.

As far as car rental - priceline, hotwire, trip advisor, kayak or go direct to the rental company. Dollar, Alamo, Enterprise are the lower priced companies.

Singapore, Singapore
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4. Re: 2 days - First time to Houston: Recommendations please?

Thanks everyone for your responses. From what I've read, it seems that whether I stay at the Galleria or Woodlands, I will encounter some form of rush hour traffic. I think I will opt to stay at the Galleria area in that case and leave the hotel earlier (maybe 7.15am) to catch my flight.

By the way, the St. Regis costs $300 minimum (but you did get me all excited for a moment, lol). Hamptons is about $150/night

I think NASA is definitely on the cards and thanks for the suggestion for Kemah, will definitely drop by.

On the shopping front, my friend has mentioned that there are two outlet malls - Hempstead and and Tanger Outlets at Texas City.. I don't think I wanna spend the whole day shopping both, so which outlet has generally better prices?

I was thinking (if I have the time) to drop by a shooting range. Gun laws are very strict in Singapore (basically nobody can own a gun unless you're in some sort of security or protective service), so I thought it'd be nice to go try out a few types of firearms. Anywhere I can just walk in and have a go with a few types of guns and rifles? :)

Thanks again everyone. I am really looking forward to the trip already!

knr
Houston, Texas
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5. Re: 2 days - First time to Houston: Recommendations please?

I think the two outlet malls have alot of the same stores, prices probably not any different. The Tanger Outlet in Texas City is not too far from NASA, if you want to do NASA while your wife shops, that might be a better option. http://www.tangeroutlet.com/houston/

You could base yourself from a hotel down there for Saturday night and an airport hotel for Sunday night and avoid the traffic in the morning.

Some hotels to check if you go this route: Kemah Boardwalk Inn, South Shore Harbor, Hilton NASA

Houston, Texas
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6. Re: 2 days - First time to Houston: Recommendations please?

Double check the prices and try to book other than from the hotel website. I thought I saw $193 for St. Regis and under $100 for Hampton Inn can be as low as $75 (Apr 26, to May 3) or $84 (Apr 19 to 26) and $211 (Apr 22 to Apr 29). Try Hotwire, TA or Hotels.com.

Houston
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7. Re: 2 days - First time to Houston: Recommendations please?

gymrat--

Here's a link on your request about shooting ranges (you'll need to copy both lines into your browser):

http://www.bing.com/search?q=shooting+ranges+houston&qs=n&form=QBLH&pq=shooting+ranges+houston&sc=5-23&sp=-1&sk=

One (I think it was on Beverly Hill) is located very near The Galleria, but I couldn't tell you if they provide arms, or if you need to bring your own. You'd need to check with them. The one on Witte Rd. is probably the next-closest.

Houston, TX
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8. Re: 2 days - First time to Houston: Recommendations please?

For your car rental, I've often had good luck using a coupon through Visa (the credit card company). Put a ".com" at the end of that business name and you can look under "Personal Discounts", then "Car Rental" for some coupons.

I usually end up with Alamo/National (they are sister companies for leisure/business, respectively) since Hertz, Budget, Dollar, and Thrifty come out more expensive. You may save money on the car this way - and you'll still have complete flexibility to change/cancel your reservation - unlike buying via Hotwire or Priceline.

I use Hotwire and Priceline but only for hotels really.

Having read all of the other posts on this topic, my fellow Houstonians have a pretty solid suggestion list for you so I can offer another confident vote in their replies.

Singapore, Singapore
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9. Re: 2 days - First time to Houston: Recommendations please?

Thank you everyone for your replies. I went to take a look at the Visa website, but most required a 3-day rental, although I saw one or two that didn't. Will do a detailed calculation later to compare the prices, but thank you for the helpful suggestions!

Houston
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10. Re: 2 days - First time to Houston: Recommendations please?

My own favortie gun range is Top Gun. They are located off 59-south not too far from 610. The staff is friendly and Wednesday is free day for ladies (but they have to buy ammo there). One of our wedding gifts was a gift certificate to this place. :)

Here's the site to Top Gun:

http://www.topgunrange.com/range.html

I haven't been to the range since I learned I am pregnant (inhaling even small amounts of lead is not advised)--but I am due soon and we will go again at the first opportunity. The only issue I know of right now as far as things go is that it is very, very difficult to buy ammo--the federal government is buying up almost the entire supply and there simply isn't enough for the average citizen to be able to get any.

If someone can recommend an range (prolly outdoor) that will let you shoot reloads and also offers them for sale, then you might have better luck.