Virtual Tour 40: Downtown Houston

Houston was home from 2008 to 2010. Zulfa and I lived in this building on Main Street. You can’t get more downtown than that. Commerce Towers is marked by the red dot in the centre of the map below.

I started cycling in Houston as a painless way to exercise following ACL replacement surgery. My first rides were along the Columbia Tap Rail-to-Trail path, which started about 1km from home. The 6.5km / 4mi trail follows the disused Columbia Tap railroad from a warehouse district on St. Charles Street to Dixie Street in the south. I was exhilarated that I could ride 16km / 10mi in only an hour!

This tour by numbers will be of places in Downtown Houston that I rode past many times.


The Downtown Aquarium houses over 200 species of aquatic animals in 1,900,000 litres / 500,000 US gallons of aquariums.


The Big Bubble is an art installation consisting of an unmarked red button that, when pushed, makes a bubble in the adjacent Buffalo bayou.


The Alley Theatre is the oldest professional theatre company in Texas and the third oldest resident theatre in the United States.


Market Square was donated to the city in 1854 by Augustus Allen, one of the founders of Houston. The Louis and Annie Friedman Clock Tower houses one of the city’s most prized artefacts, a clock commissioned in 1904 and originally in a bell tower at Houston’s fourth city hall.


We arrived in Houston in mid-August 2008. On September 13th Hurricane Ike made landfall in Galveston Island before barreling over Houston. The JPMorgan Chase Tower is the tallest building in Texas. It took a major walloping from Ike.


The Post Rice Lofts, now renamed The Rice, started life as the Rice Hotel. The Rice Hotel has a storied history, including having President John F. Kennedy as a guest on November 21st 1963. The day before he travelled to Dallas.


The Niels Esperson Building is the only complete example of Italian Renaissance architecture in Downtown Houston. It is elaborately detailed with massive columns, great urns, terraces, and a grand tempietto at the top. The tempietto was visible from our apartment.


The Houston Flying Saucer on Main Street was a place of awe for me. You could sign up as a Beerknurd. Beerknurds earn a plate in the UFO Club Ring of Honor after sampling 200 different beers.

If that wasn’t awe-inspiring enough (I am a lightweight when it comes to alcohol), some beer lovers have earned 20 or more plates. Each time you do the 200 beers, you get a different colour plate.


Minute Maid Park is the home of the Houston Astros. Acclaimed as winners of the 2017 Major League Baseball World Series. And subsequently shamed in a cheating scandal.


I would ride under this circular walkway across San Jacinto on the way home. The Houston Pavilions shopping Centre is now GreenStreet.


I can’t tell you why but I never watched a show at The House of Blues.


I did watch a number of concerts at The Toyota Center. As well as the home town National Basketball Association team the Rockets.


Discovery Green is a 12-acre public park that opened in 2008. It was a wonderful location for open-air summer concerts beside Kinder Lake. The park has continued to be developed since then with the addition of gardens, a fountain and a promenade.


The Monument au Fantomme by French sculptor Jean Dubuffet was installed on Louisiana Street in 1983. In 2008 it was moved to Discovery Green.


Across Avenida de las Americas from Discovery Green is 1.85 million square feet of meetings and events space that is the George R. Brown Convention Center. Named for Houstonian George Rufus Brown, who with his brother turned Brown & Root into the world’s largest construction and engineering company.

All these places were within 1.5km / 1mi of where I lived. Tomorrow I’ll show you places a bit farther afield. Places better reached by bicycle, or perhaps the Houston METRORail.

4 response to "Virtual Tour 40: Downtown Houston"

  1. By: Scooter Posted: June 30, 2020

    I’ve never been to Houston, but if I ever did I’d make it to see the Dubuffet sculpture. Worth the whole post just for that image.

    • By: Alchemyrider Posted: June 30, 2020

      It is quite a sculpture. It incorporates seven individual forms, including a chimney, a church, a dog, a hedge, a mast, a phantom, and a tree. Quite fun to try and find them all.

  2. By: gregblood Posted: June 30, 2020

    I’ve been trying to keep up with you day-for-day, but I’m done. You have my deepest admiration for keeping this up from before me and, I assume, after me.

    You have lived in some interesting places. I’ve heard Houston is a terrible place to ride, but this post — and your next one — makes me want to go there. I like riding in big cities.

    • By: Alchemyrider Posted: June 30, 2020

      I don’t remember any bad experiences riding in Houston. Apart from needing to watch out for cracked and broken slabs where the roadway was concrete.

      There were a few nasty incidents out in the country though. People throwing things at us as they drove by or stopping where we were taking a break and cussing us out.

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