Houston is in growth mode, with new hotels rising, new parks blooming, new restaurants welcoming diners and the convention district in the midst of an expansive redesign. As the city continues to transform, there's always something fresh to see and do.
• About $70 million was spent last year to upgrade the 406-room Woodlands Resort and Conference Center in the planned community outside Houston. A new wing of 184 guest rooms was built, and the 222 existing rooms were renovated.
• A 302-room Westin Hotel will open in The Woodlands at the end of the year. The property will have more than 15,000 square feet of meeting space.
The former Houston Pavilions mall has been reborn as the GreenStreet entertainment complex, with park space and outdoor patios -- plus retail, restaurants and Lucky Strike Lanes.
Both Princess and Norwegian cruises now set sail from the Port of Houston. The 3,082-passenger Emerald Princess and the 2,374-passenger Norwegian Jewel head out to the western Caribbean.
• Construction continues on the 1,000-room Marriott Marquis Houston, a new headquarters hotel connected to the George R. Brown Convention Center. Set to open in fall 2016, the $350 million project will feature more than 104,000 square feet of meeting space of its own, as well as a resort-style deck, an infinity pool, a rooftop lazy river, a two-story sports bar, two restaurants and a wine bar. The new property is part of a redesign of the convention district. Plans call for a new office tower that will house Houston First Corp., which manages the convention center and several other city facilities; the Houston Convention & Visitors Bureau; and, at the tower's top, an as-yet-unnamed 400-room hotel. Houston First also is converting an eight-lane boulevard in front of the center into a pedestrian plaza.
• The 328-room JW Marriott Houston Downtown is now open in the 104-year-old Samuel F. Carter Building. All guest rooms feature 55-inch TVs, iPod stations and Nespresso coffee machines. In-room iPads are equipped with the iRiS app, which lets guests access and book all facilities and services. The signature dining outlet is Main Kitchen, which connects to the 806 Bar & Lounge. The property is the first to offer the new Spa by JW concept, developed in collaboration with Aromatherapy Associates. The hotel has more than 16,000 square feet of event space.
• The 325-room Hyatt Regency Houston Galleria will open in the city's mall area this year as part of the mixed-use Galleria Plaza development. The hotel will have more than 12,000 square feet of meeting space as well as a large fitness center overlooking the pool deck. The company also is building a 157-room Hyatt Place on the site.
• A $156 million expansion to Hobby International Airport is expected to finish up at the end of the year. The work will add five new international gates, six security checkpoints and a U.S. Customs facility. Southwest Airlines filed applications last December to serve six destinations in Latin America from the expanded terminal.
Grab a Car
locations are now open at downtown venues. The easy rentals can be found in the convention district garage beneath Discovery Green and in the Theater District Parking complex. Attendees who are Zipcar members can slip into a car and be on the beach in Galveston in about an hour.
Meeting Hotels: Some 5,000 hotel rooms can be found in the city's vibrant downtown district, about 3,500 of which are within easy walking distance to the George R. Brown Convention Center. Properties here include the 1,200-room Hilton Americas-Houston, 947-room Hyatt Regency Houston, 399-room Four Seasons Hotel-Houston, 350-room DoubleTree Hotel Houston Downtown, 328-room JW Marriott Houston Downtown, 314-room Magnolia Hotel, 262-room Embassy Suites Houston-Downtown, 259-room Crowne Plaza Houston-Downtown and 200-room Westin Houston Downtown.
To compare hotels and send RFPs, visit mcvenues.com.
Convention Center: George R. Brown Convention Center; exhibit space, 771,000 square feet; number of meeting rooms, 94; (713) 853-8000
Airport Transit: George H.W. Bush International Airport, about 20 miles north of downtown. Transfer cost by taxi, $60 to downtown; by Super Shuttle, $23
William P. Hobby Airport, about 10 miles north of downtown. Transfer cost by taxi, $35; by Super Shuttle, $19
Taxes: Room tax, 17%; sales tax, 0%; total tax on hotel rooms, 17%
Group Venues: Named after an 1838 conflict between Mexico and France, The Pastry War sounds like a great place to find a brioche but, in actuality, the establishment specializes in agave and mezcal mixtures, Mexican beers and a selection of French wines. Private groups of up to 125 people are welcome. (713) 225-3310
Houston Culinary Tours can customize a walking excursion of the city's eateries for groups of up to 450 people, with optional team-building activities like a culinary scavenger hunt. (713) 554-1735
Contact: Houston Convention & Visitors Bureau, (800) 446-8786