Getting Around

Sometimes I’m completely overwhelmed by how big this city really is. When I think about all the newcomers, I have a lot of sympathy. It’s one thing to move here. But it’s another thing entirely to get around the city with ease and confidence. And in one piece. Driving in Houston is a skill all Houstonians must master unless they want to be home bound.

A GPS system or MapQuest app on your phone can be helpful when you’re just starting out. But we’re all grown-ups here and we deserve our independence. You don’t want to find yourself stranded while your GPS “searches for satellites.” With the basics, you can get almost anywhere you need to go.

Luckily, it ain’t that difficult. If you know the basic freeways, you can get almost anywhere in Houston without a security blanket lovingly named Garmin. It might take a little longer to learn those back-road, short cuts. But you have plenty of time to impress your friends with record-breaking routes. Until then, you can get around fine using the major freeways.

  • The I-610 Loop: The 610 Loop, or just the “Loop” is the inside loop in Houston and areas inside the loop are considered Houston proper. This is my personal favorite.  The Loop is much more than a freeway. It’s a defining line of coolness.  It serves as a geographic designator as areas within Houston are usually distinguished as being either “inside” or “outside” the loop. Once you learn where major streets cross the loop, you’re set.
  • The Sam Houston Toll way: Beltway 8, or just the “Beltway” is the outer loop, which lies beyond the city limits and allows quick and easy travel throughout the greater Houston area and between the suburbs. The Beltway is a toll road, so you will want to keep change in your car or you can purchase an EZ Tag for faster travel around the loop. The Beltway is great is you’re traveling through Houston on a cross-country trip and you want to by-pass downtown altogether.
  • I-45: A central highway in the city that runs north and south through the middle of town. It is the major highway for traveling through Houston and can also take you straight into The Woodlands and Houston or south to Clear Lake, and even all the way to the Gulf Coast.
  • I-10: This a big one, a must-know. I-10 is a major interstate running east to west through the city, starting in California and extending all the way to Florida. It is the road for you if you want get across town, travel to Katy, or even east Texas. 
  • Highway 59: 59 makes life in Houston possible. It runs northeast to the southwest through the middle of Houston and intersects the other major roads, making it a key road for navigating the city. If you’re headed to Sugar Land, 59 is the one you want.
  • Allen Parkway: Allen Parkway is major road for traveling throughout Houston most popular areas, from downtown to Montrose, River Oaks, and Upper Kirby. You can easily access other major streets in the area including Westheimer, Richmond, and Alabama from Allen Parkway.
  • Fannin: Fannin isn’t a freeway but it’s an important Houston road. It runs north/south and you can take Fannin all the way from downtown to midtown to the Museum District. The MetroRAIL also runs parallel to Fannin Street.
  • Memorial: If you live or work in west Houston near the Memorial area, you have to know Memorial. It is a key street for traveling across west Houston beyond the loop and between the ‘villages’ of the Memorial area. 

When you know it’s time to leave the nest and move on without your navigation technology, I hope you’ll keep this little cheat sheet in your car for reference. In no time, you’ll be buzzing around this great metropolis with one hand tied behind your back! (No really, both hands on the wheel please.) 

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