Houston's downtown area has been revitalized with two major league sports facilities, restaurants and nightclubs. Bayou Place contains a variety of nightclubs, entertainment venues and restaurants. Minute Maid Park, the Toyota Center and the George R. Brown Convention Center are in downtown, bringing residents and visitors to the area nearly every night of the year. The 17-block Theater District is located in downtown. It is home to eight performing arts organizations including the Houston Symphony, the Houston Ballet, the Houston Grand Opera, Stage Repertory Theater, Theater under the Stars and the Houston Children's Chorus.
The Astrodome, built in 1965, is located just southwest of the Medical Center. Called the "eighth wonder of the world" for its new and futuristic standard in stadium design, the Astrodome is part of Reliant Park, along with Reliant Stadium and the Astroarena. Six Flags AstroWorld and Six Flags WaterWorld are adjacent to Reliant Park. METRORail, the city's new light rail system, carries passengers from the Medical Center area to many parts of Houston, including Reliant Park and the thriving downtown area.
The Houston Zoo, at Hermann Park, houses more than 5,000 animals. The zoo has a rainforest habitat along with a large cat facility, rare albino reptiles and an aquarium. The Houston Museum of Natural Science is also at Hermann Park. Exhibits showcase astronomy, anthropology, geology, natural history and paleontology. Other museums include the Museum of Fine Arts, the Houston Fire Museum, the Menil Collection, the Contemporary Arts Museum, Museum of Printing History, the National Museum of Funeral History and the Children's Museum. The museum district is adjacent to the Medical Center area between Reliant Park and the downtown area that includes Hermann Park.
Shopping is an almost an athletic endeavor in Houston. The Post Oak Galleria contains more than 300 stores, restaurants and an ice rink. Other malls include Baybrook Mall, Greenspoint Mall, Memorial City Shopping Center, Sharpstown Center, Town and County Shopping Village and Willowbrook Mall. Old Town Spring has arts and crafts shops and 150 restored Victorian cottages.
San Jacinto Monument marks the site of the battle between Texas and Mexico where Texas won its independence. Battlefield State Historic Park has walking trails, picnic tables, a visitor's center, gift shop and a snack bar. Battleship TEXAS is anchored in the Houston Ship Channel and is open for exploration, as is the Port of Houston Turning Basin. The Kreische Brewery State Historic Sites offers tours of 1870's German brewery, a historical monument, tomb, smokehouse and barn. Picnic grounds, a scenic overlook and a playground are also within the sites. Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historic Park contains trails and exhibits explaining the beginnings of Texas. The Independence Museum and a living history farm offer interesting insight to the past. The Marsh Restoration and Boardwalk show the native prairie, the tidal march and bottomland forest. The Varner-Hogg Plantation State Historic Park showcases the azaleas first brought to Texas by Ima Hogg (her real name!). The winter-blooming azaleas can be viewed from walking trails.
Lake Houston and Lake Conroe offer fishing and camping. Inland fishing is also available in the San Jacinto River and at Sheldon Lake. Coastal fishing is popular in the Houston Ship Channel and the bay and up and down the Gulf Coast. Clear Lake is one of the nation's largest areas for boat dockage and it just 30 minutes from Downtown with the Kemah Boardwalk as one of the main tourist attractions in the area. Just a short drive from Houston is 21 miles of pristine beaches along the Gulf of Mexico. Sunbathing, swimming, water-skiing, diving, picnicking, sailing, shopping and shell collecting are popular activities. The Sea Center Texas Aquarium and Gulf Coast Bird Observatory offer views of wildlife above and below the water.
Annual events include the annual Houston Live Stock Show and Rodeo ? the largest rodeo in the world ? held at the Astrodome, the Houston International Festival, the Shell Houston Open PGA golf tournament, the Texas Renaissance Festival, Thanksgiving Day Parade and in December, candlelight tours through the historic structures in Sam Houston Park.
The Parks and Recreation Department oversees 314 parks, 200 open space areas, 57 community centers, the city's urban forest, the Japanese Garden, the Houston Garden Center, 41 municipal swimming pools, three tennis centers, eight golf courses and more than 100 miles of trails. Hermann Park, one of the first two parks in Houston, is adjacent to the Medical Center. This park offers 445 acres of gardens, play and picnic areas, trails, and a golf course.
Midtown Houston, to the south of downtown, is an emerging jewel, immersed in redevelopment since the mid-1990s. The community-oriented, urban neighborhood has completed the 7.5-mile light-rail project in 2004, which runs from downtown through midtown to the Medical Center. Carefully designed aesthetics adorn new developments in Midtown, while preserving some of the area's centennial structures. Midtown offers the neighborhood services ? from churches to shopping ? in a centralized location.
The neighborhood called Montrose is labeled the "last bastion for entrepreneurs" by many and is home to local artists, actors, musicians and students. Brushing downtown to the south, Montrose is well known for its pioneering spirit and unique persona with its special shops and architecture. It is dotted with restored single-family homes and a wide array of new construction options.
The Museum District and Rice Village offer high-end homes on big treed lots, non-thru streets and walking distance to the Hermann Park, Rice University and the Medical Center.
South of the Medical Center are multitudes of condo and town home development with more being developed everyday. These range from multi-storied town homes to flats, most with pools, club facilities and tennis.
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