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Surviving in Houston Without a Car

No car?  No problem!

We know that as international students it can be difficult to travel around Houston if you don’t have a driver’s license or car. Since the METRORail was built in 2004, it has provided a safe and affordable means of transportation to many destinations.  This rail system easily allows for plenty of fun to be had without having a driver’s license!  There are a bunch of places to stop by for food and entertainment, just a few stops away and all for a decent price.  (Please go to this website for more options: http://www.visithoustontexas.com/media/ghcvb-press-kit/houston_aboard_the_metrorail)

There is a METRORail stop right across the street from Entrance 1 of the Rice campus (directly in front of Lovett Hall) and it is labeled Hermann Park/Rice U.

Tickets for the general public cost $1.25 (one-way) and can be purchased using cash or credit cards at any rail stop.  You can also purchase a Q-Card for easier travel and discounts.  Graduate students can purchase their Q-Cards from the

Cashier’s Office and undergrads can get their free Q-Card from their college.  All others can purchase them at various locations around the city.

* METRORail hours are:
4:30am-11:40pm (M-TH)
4:30am-2:20am (F)
5:30am-2:20am (SAT)
5:30am-11:40pm (SUN)

* Travel time from end to end is 30 minutes

* For METRORail information, call  (713) 635-4000 or visit www.RideMetro.org

While there are a lot of things to do off the light rail, I’m going to highlight some of my favorite stops!

My (loose) dress code guide:

Casual: Jeans, flip flops

Casual/Semi-Formal: Nice jeans or slacks, nice shoes, or casual skirts/dresses for ladies

SemiFormal: Slacks and button up shirt for gentlemen, skirt/dress/dress pants for ladies

Semi-Formal/Formal: Slacks, button up shirt, and tie (maybe whole suit) for gentlemen, dress or formal skirts for ladies

Estimated Cost Guide (including tip):

$ = Really affordable, $10 or less

$$ = Affordable, $11-20

$$$ = Pricey, $21 and up

Restaurants:

SPAGHETTI WAREHOUSE (Casual $$) They are famous for their traditional recipes.  The original location is in Dallas, but this is a very popular chain around the US. The portion sizes are huge, the décor gives you plenty to look at, and it is said to be haunted!  Rail Stop UH-Downtown, 3 blocks @ 901 Commerce St.

CAVA BISTRO (Semi-formal $$) This New American bistro has a variety of dishes with influences from around the world.  It has a cozy atmosphere perfect for a romantic night out on the town.  Rail Stop Preston, ½ block @ 301 Main St.

CIELO MEXICAN BISTRO (Casual/Semi-Formal $$)  With a fun flair of modern Mexican food and live salsa bands on certain nights, this is a fun spot to grab a bite to eat and relax.  You’ll enjoy the lively décor and fun atmosphere of the weekends here.  Rail Stop Preston, ½ block @ 300 Main St.

VOICE (Semi-Formal/Formal $$$) This is definitely a place to go if you’re looking to impress!  Located in the Hotel Icon (former a bank—complete with vault in the front room), the stellar service, high end food, and sophisticated venue will have your group duly impressed.  Rail Stop Preston, 1 block @ 220 Main St.

EL REY TAQUERIA (Casual $) This is a great place to grab a quick bite, especially if you’re out late at night—they’re open until 3 a.m.!  The food is a blend of Cuban and Mexican influences at a great price.  Rail Stop Preston, 1 ½ blocks @ 233 Main St.

HEARSAY GASTRO LOUNGE (Casual/Semi-Formal $$) Located in a historic building (built in 1889) originally set to be destroyed in the early 90s, this venue has all the history and charm of Houston.  The restaurant focuses on upscale pub fare and is a great place to enjoy a night out on the town. Rail Stop Preston, 2 blocks @ 218 Travis St.

FRANK’S PIZZA (Casual $) A great place for a slice of pizza and famous for their hand-tossed crusts.  They’re open late (until 3 a.m.) for the night owls!  Rail Stop Preston, 2 blocks @ 417 Travis St.

17 RESTAURANT (Semi-Formal/Formal $$$) A high-end restaurant inside of the Alden Hotel will provide you with a romantic night out with inventive New American meals. Rail Stop Preston, 3 blocks @ 1117 Prairie St.

LES GIVRAL’S (Casual $)  Known for their stellar Vietnamese cuisine, particularly their bhan mis (sandwiches) and pho (noodle soup), this restaurant is a staple for fast, affordable food.  Rail Stop Preston, 3 blocks @ 801 Congress St. *Note: Valhalla serves their bhan mis during lunch and dinner.

VIC & ANTHONY’S STEAKHOUSE (Semi-Formal $$$) Famous for their steaks and seafood, this is a great place to go if you’re a carnivore looking to enjoy a Texas sized meal. Rail Stop Preston, 6 blocks @ 1510 Texas St.

IRMA’S SOUTHWEST GRILL (Casual/Semi-Formal $) This small Tex-Mex restaurant is only open for breakfast and lunch during the weekdays, but they’re especially famous for their stopping in before an Astro’s game.  They open up 3 hours before each Astro’s game to fill you up for all 9 innings.  Rail Stop Preston, 6 blocks @ 1314 Texas St.

MCCORMICK & SCHMICKS (Semi-Formal $$$) Living near the Gulf of Mexico definitely has its advantages—like great seafood!  This is a great spot for a nice meal with great, fresh seafood. Main Street Square, 1 block @ 1201 Fannin St.

ANDALUCIA TAPAS & TAVERNA (Casual $) This is a fun place for authentic Spanish tapas (both hot and cold) which is perfect for sharing.  Main Street Square, 2 blocks @ 1201 San Jacinto St.

ZIGGY’S GRILL (Casual $) A perfect location for those of you who are health conscious and caters to all diet types (including low fat, low sugar, low carb).  They also have many vegetarian items on the menu! Main Street Square, 2 blocks @ 702 Main St.

STRIP HOUSE (Semi-Formal $$$) This upscale New York-style steakhouse has some of the best steaks in the city. And the sides are nothing short of spectacular. Main Street Square, 2 ½ blocks @ 1200 McKinney St.

THE GROVE (Semi-Formal $$) Right in the middle of Discovery Green park is a wonderful, upscale restaurant very reminiscent of our own Brochstein Pavillion.  With all the glass walls, it has a great view of the park and on nice days, you can sit on the roof to enjoy your meal. Main Street Square, 5 blocks @ 1500 McKinney St.

THE LAKE HOUSE (Casual $) This is a family-friendly café, perfect for grabbing a quick bite.  They also have ice cream and milk shakes for those extra hot days in the summer, so when you’re enjoying a day in Discovery Green, you can still relax and cool off. Main Street Square, 5 blocks @ 1500 McKinney St.

CYCLONE ANAYA’S (Casual/Semi-Formal $$) Come enter the ring with delicious Tex-Mex food in a fun environment honoring the wrestling champion, Cyclone Anaya.  Rail Stop Downtown Transit Center, 8 blocks @ 309 Gray St.

COCO’S CREPES & COFFEE (Casual $) A great place to get crepes—sweet or savory!  You’ll see plenty of laptops and with their free wi-fi and great coffee, this is a perfect place to study off campus.  Rail Stop Downtown Transit Center, 9 blocks @ 218 Gray St.

THIS IS IT SOUL FOOD (Casual $) Famous for cooking traditional African-American “soul food,” you wont’ leave hungry from this cafeteria style restaurant!  Rail Stop Downtown Transit Center, 10 blocks @ 207 Gray St.

REEF (Semi-Casual $$) This award winning restaurant is known for great seafood and a fun weekend crowd, complete with DJ.  Rail Stop Downtown Transit Center, 1 ½ blocks @ 2600 Travis St.

IBIZA FOOD & WINE (Semi-Formal $$$) If you’re looking for a modern, upscale restaurant, look no further! With delicious food and a romantic ambiance, this restaurant is sure to impress.  Rail Stop Downtown Transit Center, 3 blocks @ 2450 Louisiana St.

EL PATIO (Casual $) If you’re looking for a great place to relax with some great Tex-Mex, this is a place to check out.  With mariachi bands four times a week, you’ll definitely get a fun, Mexican experience. Rail Stop Downtown Transit Center, 6 blocks @ 2416 Brazos St.

TACOS A GO-GO (Casual $) This is a local favorite for great, cheap food and eclectic décor.  They’re also open until 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays for your late night fix.  Rail Stop Ensemble/HCC, ½ block @ 3704 Main St.

THE BREAKFAST KLUB (Casual $) This is a Houston legend and a line to show for it!  Expect to wait in a long line that wraps around the restaurant on weekends, but it is well worth the wait to have some of their famous wings and waffles!  Rail Stop Ensemble/HCC, 1 ½ blocks @ 3711 Travis St.

T’AFIA (Semi-Formal $$) Award winning Monica Pope has her restaurant focusing on the use of local food to prepare unique dishes.  Rail Stop Ensemble/HCC, 1½ blocks @ 3701 Travis St.

SUSHI RAKU (Semi-Formal $$) If you’re looking for a chic sushi restaurant, come check out the plush dining here.  With hip, modern décor and fresh sushi, you’re sure to be pleased. Rail Stop Ensemble/HCC, 6 blocks @ 3201 Louisiana St.

BRENNAN’S OF HOUSTON (Semi-Formal/Formal $$$) After a devastating fire, this restaurant reopened with much excitement for the Houston community. The impeccable service and fine dining will make any dinner a special occasion. Rail Stop Ensemble/HCC, 7 blocks @ 3300 Smith St.

BODEGA’S TACO SHOP (Casual $) A great place to get a fast lunch and choose all your topping to go on your tacos, burritos, and nachos. They’re also famous for having over ten different types of salsas! Rail Stop Hermann Park/Rice U, 1 block @ 1200 Binz St.

LITTLE BIG’S (Casual $) This restaurant is actually inside Hermann Park (on the Lake between the Zoo and the Kinder Train Station) and specializes in sliders—mini burgers (including a vegetarian black bean burger) Open until sunset. Rail Stop Hermann Park/Rice U, ¾ mile @ 1600 Zoo Circle Dr.

TREVISIO (Semi-Formal $$$) As the only fine dining restaurant in the Texas Medical Center, this may be a perfect place to unwind and get a great view of the city while eating homemade Italian.  Rail Stop Texas Medical Center, 2 blocks @ 6550 Bertner Ave.

Fun Spots:

ALLEN’S LANDING (Casual FREE) Often described as “Houston’s Plymouth Rock,” Allen’s Landing is the birthplace of Houston.  This historic spot overlooks White Oak Bayou and Buffalo Bayou and features a revitalized concrete paved wharf, promenade, walking trails and a terrace overlooking the bayou. This is also home to a celebration of Houston’s Asian-American community.  On the water, there is a festival of racers (from the Texas Dragon Boat Association) who compete in a race to promote Asian culture and food. Rail Stop UH-Downtown, 2 blocks @ 1001 Commerce St.

SAMBUCA (Casual/Semi-Formal $$) While they are also a restaurant, they’re actually known for their great live music.  They have bands that vary from jazz to zydeco to latin and plenty of dancing going on.  Rail Stop Preston, 2 ½ blocks @ 909 Texas Ave.

THEATER DISTRICT (Semi-Formal/Formal $-$$$) This expansive, 17 block area is home to 9 different performance organizations including Houston Ballet, Houston Grand Opera, Alley Theatre and Houston Symphony.  Rail Stop Preston, 5 ½ blocks @ 615 Texas Ave. *Note: Rice students can use the Passport to Houston program to receive discounts on many of the performing arts events.

MINUTE MAID PARK (Casual $-$$) Enjoy America’s favorite pastime, but watching the Houston Astros play in a retractable roof stadium!  Baseball season is from April through October and this is a great way to feel like a true Houstonian! Rail Stop Preston, 8 blocks @ 501 Crawford St.

MACY’S (Casual $-$$$) As one of the oldest department stores in Houston, Macy’s meets all your shopping needs for clothing, housewares, and gifts.  Rail Stop Main Street Square, 1/3 block @ 1110 Main St.

HOUSTON PAVILIONS (Depends on venue $-$$$) Think of it as a mall in the heart of downtown!  They have a bunch of restaurants, shops, and activities to participate in including Books-A-Million (bookstore), Lucky Strike Lanes (bowling), and House of Blues (world famous music venue).  Rail Stop Main Street Square, 1/2 block @ 1201 Main St.

DISCOVERY GREEN PARK (Casual FREE) Houston’s downtown park is guaranteed to have something for everyone, including a sprinkler system for kids, ice skating in the winter, yoga in the park, concerts, art projects, farmer’s market and two restaurants.  Rail Stop Main Street Square, 5 blocks @ 1500 McKinney St.

TOYOTA CENTER (Casual $-$$$) Come watch the pros play!  This is the home of our professional basketball team (Rockets) and hockey time (Aeros).  Don’t miss any of the action—tickets can be very affordable, especially for groups! Rail Stop Main Street Square, 6 blocks @ 1510 Polk St.

GEORGE R. BROWN CONVENTION CENTER (Depends on event $-$$$) Serving as the main convention center for Houston, you’ll see conferences, tradeshows, concerts, and plenty of other events throughout the year available to meet all interests! Rail Stop Main Street Square, 6 blocks @ 1001 Avenida De Las Americas

MIDTOWN FARMER’S MARKET (Casual $) With over 20 local farms showcased, this is a great place to look for local produce.  Every Saturday from 8 a.m.-Noon. Rail Stop Ensemble/HCC, 1½ blocks @ 3701 Travis St.

CONTINENTAL CLUB (Casual $-$$) For a true, Texas concert venue, you must check out this place.  The bands come from all around and are a Texas mix of rock-n-roll, blues, and country.  *21 and over only Rail Stop Ensemble/HCC, ½ block @ 3700 Main St.

THE ENSEMBLE THEATRE (Casual/Semi-Formal $-$$) This is the largest African-American professional theatre company in the U.S. with affordable tickets and plenty of culture. Rail Stop Ensemble/HCC, ½ block @ 3535 Main St.

SIG’S LAGOON (Casual $) This eclectic record store has more than just music—be sure to check out all the bobbleheads! Rail Stop Ensemble/HCC, ½ block @ 3710 Main St.

ADKINS ARCHITECTURAL ANTIQUES (Casual $-$$) This is a great place to find unique antiques and accessories for decorating your place or just pursuing their extensive collection of door knobs!  Rail Stop Ensemble/HCC, 2 blocks @ 3515 Fannin St.

HOUSTON CENTER FOR CONTEMPORARY CRAFT (Casual FREE ) If you’re looking for a unique place to see art made of various mediums (including of glass, fiber, clay, metal or wood).  Free to general public. Rail Stop Wheeler, 5 blocks @ 4848 Main St.

LAWNDALE ART CENTER (Casual FREE) A great place to come and support contemporary arts in Houston. They’re especially famous for The Big Show which is open to all Houston artists. Rail Stop Wheeler, 6 blocks @ 4912 Main St.

MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS, HOUSTON (Casual $, FREE with Rice ID) This museum is the 6th largest art museum in the US and has more than 30 changing exhibits every year.  While general admission is free on Thursdays, it is free to Rice students at anytime with their Rice ID card.  Rail Stop Museum District, 1 block @ 1001 Bissonnet St.

HOLOCAUST MUSEUM (Casual FREE) This museum focuses on the dangers of prejudice and hatred in society. Free to general public. Rail Stop Museum District, 2 blocks @ 5401 Caroline St.

CONTEMPORARY ARTS MUSEUM HOUSTON (Casual FREE) With many exhibits rotating through this museum and their famous gift shop (perfect for finding unique gifts), this is a great way to spend an afternoon.  Free to general public. Rail Stop Museum District, 3 blocks @ 5216 Montrose Blvd.

CHILDREN’S MUSEUM OF HOUSTON (Casual FREE on Thursdays, $) Renown throughout the US for its exhibits, your children will definitely enjoy all the interactive games that will help make learning fun!  Admission is free Thursday evenings from 5-8pm. Rail Stop Museum District, 3 blocks @ 1500 Binz St.

THE HEALTH MUSEUM (Casual FREE on Thursdays, $) This is a unique opportunity to be interactive with health education and to learn more about the human body! Visitors enjoy free general admission on Thursdays from 2 to 5 p.m.  Rail Stop Museum District, 4 blocks @ 1515 Hermann Dr.

HERMANN PARK (Casual FREE) This a huge park (over 445 acres!) with gardens, picnic tables, lakes, a small train for children, and so much more!  It is a great place to spend a sunny afternoon with a bunch of friends.  Rail Stop Hermann Park/Rice U, 3 blocks @ 6201 Hermann Park Dr.

HOUSTON MUSEUM OF NATURAL SCIENCE (Casual $, FREE with Rice ID) This museum has something for everyone!  They have an IMAX theatre, great traveling exhibitions, the famous butterfly exhibit, and some amazing permanent exhibits (our favorite—the gem vault!).  The museum is free Tuesdays from 2-6pm, but the permanent exhibits are free everyday for Rice students with their ID.  Rail Stop Hermann Park/Rice U, 3 blocks @ 1 Hermann Circle Dr.

MILLER OUTDOOR THEATRE (Casual FREE) Ever wanted to listen to a concert under the stars?  Well, this the perfect place then!  Bring a blanket and some snacks to enjoy all the free music and dance performances from April through October (weather permitting). Rail Stop Hermann Park/Rice U, 1/3 mile @ 6000 Hermann Park Dr.

HOUSTON ZOO (Casual $, FREE with Rice ID) This enormous zoo (55 acres!) is home to about 4,500 different animals! Be sure to wear comfortable walking shoes—you won’t want to leave until you’ve seen all the exhibits! Best of all, entry is always free with your Rice ID card! Rail Stop Memorial Hermann Hospital/Houston Zoo, 1/3 mile @ 6200 Hermann Park Dr.

TEXAS MEDICAL CENTER (Casual) Everything is bigger in Texas!  With 47+ member institutions, 5 million patients annually and more than 72,000 employees, it’s no wonder it’s the largest medical center in the world. The entire Texas Medical Center covers more than 1,100 acres. Rail Stop Texas Medical Center, 0 blocks @ 2450 Holcombe Blvd.

RELIANT STADIUM (Casual $-$$) As home of our professional football team, the Houston Texans, you can catch a exciting game here during the season (August through January). Rail Stop Reliant Park, 0 blocks @ 2 Reliant Park

RELIANT PARK
(Casual $-$$) Don’t let the word “park” fool you from the title—this is an enormous area that is home to the world famous Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo (the largest rodeo in the world!).  This is a truly Texas event that must be experienced in March. Rail Stop Reliant Park, 0 blocks @ 1 Reliant Park

HERMANN PARK (Casual FREE) This a huge park (over 445 acres!) with gardens, picnic tables, lakes, a small train for children, and so much more!  It is a great place to spend a sunny afternoon with a bunch of friends.  Rail Stop Hermann Park/Rice U, 3 blocks @ 6201 Hermann Park Dr.

HOUSTON MUSEUM OF NATURAL SCIENCE (Casual $, FREE with Rice ID) This museum has something for everyone!  They have an IMAX theatre, great traveling exhibitions, the famous butterfly exhibit, and some amazing permanent exhibits (our favorite—the gem vault!).  The museum is free Tuesdays from 2-6pm, but the permanent exhibits are free everyday for Rice students with their ID.  Rail Stop Hermann Park/Rice U, 3 blocks @ 1 Hermann Circle Dr.

MILLER OUTDOOR THEATRE (Casual FREE) Ever wanted to listen to a concert under the stars?  Well, this the perfect place then!  Bring a blanket and some snacks to enjoy all the free music and dance performances from April through October (weather permitting). Rail Stop Hermann Park/Rice U, 1/3 mile @ 6000 Hermann Park Dr.

HOUSTON ZOO (Casual $, FREE with Rice ID) This enormous zoo (55 acres!) is home to about 4,500 different animals! Be sure to wear comfortable walking shoes—you won’t want to leave until you’ve seen all the exhibits! Best of all, entry is always free with your Rice ID card! Rail Stop Memorial Hermann Hospital/Houston Zoo, 1/3 mile @ 6200 Hermann Park Dr.

~Written by Cory Owen, Senior International Advisor

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