What you should know
Houston’s revitalized downtown area bears no resemblance to the city it was even 15 years ago. Public green space occupies former convention center parking lots, and historic buildings house boutique hotels. METRORail lines connect downtown, midtown, the museum district, Texas Medical Center and Reliant Park. The city’s two airports, Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) and William P. Hobby Airport (HOU), serve more than 100 U.S. and 70 international destinations. United Airlines offers the best airlift here, and group travel booking assistance through its United Meetings program. Most meetings anchor either downtown or in the upscale Galleria area (also called Uptown). For planning assistance, contact the Greater Houston CVB.
- 1.6 million square feet in NRG Park (formerly Reliant Park)
- 1.2 million square feet in George R. Brown Convention Center
- 64,000-92,000 square feet available in individual convention hotels
- 65,000+ guest rooms
- 4,000 guest rooms in the Central Business District
- Best values: July-September
Where to stay
One of the city’s newer hotels is in one of its most historic buildings. The JW Marriott Houston Downtown offers 328 “artfully curated” guest rooms and high-tech event space. Other amenities include a full-service spa, on-site dining and a fitness club. Downtown, the 1,200-room Green Seal-certified Hilton Americas Houston has 91,500 square feet of meeting space including ballrooms of 40,000 square feet and 26,000 square feet. It’s the largest convention property in the area, connected to the George R. Brown Convention Center and next to the Toyota Center, home of the NBA’s Houston Rockets. Uptown, the 485-room Royal Sonesta Houston Hotel by Galleria Mall offers 50,000 square feet of function space in 23 meeting and breakout rooms. The largest space, the Legend’s Ballroom, accommodates groups up to 1,000. The AAA Four-Diamond 515-room JW Marriott Houston Galleria has 40,836 total square feet of space in 25 meeting rooms. Its largest room has a 1,300-guest capacity. The 266-room/suite Hotel Sorella CITYCENTRE has 10,000 square feet of meeting space that includes at 4,000-sq. ft. ballroom and two lobby-level boardrooms. The 240-room South Shore Harbour Resort, located halfway between Houston and Galveston Island by Space Center Houston, has more than 30,000 square feet of conference space overlooking the marina at Clear Lake. Its staff can help planners arrange golf trips, dinner cruises and fishing charters. Hotel Derek mixes style and substance for more intimate conferences, with 10,000 square feet of meeting space and a ballroom/banquet room (capacity: 360) plus breakout and boardrooms.
Where to stay: Crowne Plaza
Crowne Plaza, with six hotels in metro Houston, promises a two-hour response guarantee to all space and date availability inquiries. A designated meeting director can help with planning and last-minute changes. A daily briefing helps planners stay on budget. Properties include the 259-room Crowne Plaza Houston-Downtown; the 207-room Crowne Plaza Houston Galleria Area; the 354-room Crowne Plaza Houston River Oaks; the 653-room Crowne Plaza Houston Near Reliant-Medical; the 259-room Crowne Plaza Northwest-Brookhollow; and the 244-suite Crowne Plaza Suites Houston Near Sugar Land.
Where to meet
Yes, everything is bigger in Texas, starting with NRG Park, North America’s largest complex of event venues. The park comprises NRG Stadium (natural grass floor, retractable roof, 205 suites), NRG Center (706,000 square feet of exhibit space), NRG Arena (5,800 fixed seats) and NRG Astrodome (capacity: 65,000). The George R. Brown Convention Center has 1.2 million square feet of meeting space; is within walking distance of several hotels, restaurants and attractions; and is across the street from the 12-acre Discovery Green Park. Several Houston museums have reception/meeting space, including the Menil Collection (and its Rothko Chapel) and the Houston Museum of Natural Science (check out the Gems and Minerals Collection room). The Hobby Center for the Performing Arts can do seated dinners onstage and has special Monday-Friday corporate rates.
Where to eat
The Grove, a restaurant and bar in Discovery Green, uses herbs from its own garden for its American menu, recycles and composts, and uses only compostable or biodegradable disposables. It has three private dining areas (capacity: 170). An event lawn can be tented for groups up to 800. Carmelo’s Ristorante Italiano serves Sicilian-style cuisine (capacity: 8-300). Find authentic Mexican food and killer margaritas at Armando’s, which has a private dining room (capacity: 70 reception, 30 banquet). Or hire Armando’s Taco Truck to bring tacos and margaritas to you for a midday snack or reception. The “Where the Chefs Eat” program from Houston Culinary Tours encourages attendees to munch through the city the way its celebrity chefs do. When you need to downsize for VIPs, choose an indoor or outdoor spot at Smith & Wollensky Houston in the upscale Highland Village neighborhood.
Where to play
With versatile meeting space for large corporate groups or small gatherings, Dave & Buster’s is great for kicking back or kicking butt (two locations: Katy Freeway and Galleria). Let groups feel like pro baseball players during batting practice or a softball game at Minute Maid Park, which also has an on-site conference center with videoconferencing equipment. Take attendees on bayou kayak or canoe trips from Allen’s Landing, where the city was founded, to Houston’s historic downtown. At the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft, attendees create works of art alongside local artists. Space Center Houston has reception and presentation space, space mission simulations, souvenir photos and space-related exhibits. Progressive events through Project Row Houses‘ unusual galleries/artist studios expose attendees to works that explore the African-American experience. The Last Concert Cafe‘s outdoor stages pulse with live music seven days a week; Mexican food and tequila tastings are available. If you need to spirit team members or VIPs away for a day, contact the Beaumont Convention & Visitors Bureau for ideas and destinations in and around Beaumont, on the Texas-Louisiana state line.
Where to find educational resources
University of Houston Corporate Training creates customized seminars on topics such as leadership and management skills, professional development and cross-cultural communication. The Holocaust Museum Houston teaches future leaders the value of diversity and inclusion with roundtables and seminars that can be adapted for private groups; a speakers bureau is available. Contact the Houston Medical Center if you need health or medical education for your group.