There are many tourist attractions in the downtown area, including the Houston Aquarium, which features touch pools and a shark tank. The Hobby Center for the Performing Arts is a major contributor to the city’s thriving theater scene. The Toyota Center is home to numerous major-scale concerts and athletic events. Guests can choose from a variety of restaurants, such as fancy grills, informal taquerias, and sushi bars.
Near the physical center of the metro region, at the intersection of Interstates 10, 45, and 69, is Downtown Houston, the largest central business district in Houston and the largest in the state of Texas. The original Houston settlement, located at Allen’s Landing at the junction of Buffalo Bayou and White Oak Bayou, is contained within the 1.84-square-mile area bounded by the aforementioned roadways. Since its inception in 1836, Downtown has served as the city’s primary business hub.
It’s estimated that 150,000 people are employed by the nine Fortune 500 companies now headquartered in Downtown, which occupies 50 million square feet of office space. Moreover, the downtown area is a popular gathering place for leisure activities. The Theater District is home to nine of Houston’s most prestigious performing arts venues, with a combined capacity of over 13,000. These include the Alley Theatre, the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts, Jones Hall, and the Wortham Theater Center. The Houston Astros and the Houston Rockets play their home games at two of the city’s premier professional sports venues: Minute Maid Park and the Toyota Center. Houston’s convention district is centered around Discovery Green, an urban park that sits on the east side of the area right next to the George R. Brown Convention Center.
Houston City Hall, Harris County Jails, the Harris County Criminal and Civil Courthouses, and the United States Federal Prison and Courthouse are all located in the downtown area, making it the city’s administrative heart. The Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County has its headquarters in the downtown area, and it serves as a key transit hub for the city’s light rail, park and ride, and freeway systems. On a daily basis, Downtown is traversed by about 100,000 commuters. Many of the buildings in the area are connected by a system of underground tunnels and skywalks, which also functions as a shopping mall.
The neighborhoods of East Downtown, the Third Ward, Midtown, the Fourth Ward, the West End, the Sixth Ward, and the Northwest Side surround Downtown, while the neighborhoods of the Near Northside are to the north. There are about 400 blocks total in the district, and the streets are laid out in a precise grid, with the southwest corner pointing toward the northeast. Buffalo Bayou cuts across the northern part of the neighborhood, and its banks have been transformed into a linear park with a network of bike lanes and walking paths.