Have a Hot Time in Houston
By Barbara & Jim Twardowski
If you are planning to visit Houston for the Abilities Expo later this summer (July 31-August 2, 2015), stay a few extra days to explore the country's fourth largest city. You can see some great museums, catch a baseball game, view a theatrical performance or indulge in some retail therapy. If you need help planning a weekend in Houston, go to www.visithoustontexas.com for a calendar of events, coupons and interactive maps. And for tips on accessible attractions, restaurants and accommodations, you're already in the right place!
Uptown Excursions and Accommodations
For a mega shopping experience, head to the Galleria with more than 400 retail shops, restaurants and an indoor skating rink. This posh neighborhood is surrounded with diverse shops from the Container Store to Neiman Marcus Last Call. Have lunch at Kenny & Ziggy's New York Delicatessen or the trendy Revolve Kitchen & Bar inside the Hotel Derek.
Make a reservation at the Aloft Houston by the Galleria (www.starwoodhotel.com). The hotel is modeled after Starwood's W hotel brand, but at a more budget-friendly price. The hotel has ten accessible rooms with roll-in showers (five rooms have a king size bed and the other five have two queen size beds). Designed to feel like a loft, the rooms are well over 300 square feet with plenty of turning radius. A flat screen television, two phone lines, a coffee maker, mini fridge and safe are some of the standard amenities. WiFi is free throughout the hotel and in guest rooms.
The hotel's small indoor, heated pool has a lift for those who cannot manage steps. The lobby/bar area with ramps is a modern space with lots of seating, an indoor/outdoor fireplace, a fuchsia colored pool table, two computers and doors to an outdoor lounging area.
If you enjoy the arts, Houston's downtown is the place to be. The Tony-award winning Alley Theatre will be completing a multi-million dollar renovation and reopening in the fall. (Productions are currently being staged at the University of Houston's Wortham Theatre). Also located downtown is TUTS (Theatre Under The Stars) which stages musical theater productions and has wheelchair accessible seating. The Houston Symphony performs at Jones Hall. Arrive 45 minutes early to hear the free Prelude Pre-concert performances and discussions before every classical concert.
Book a reservation at the Hotel ICON a boutique property in what was formerly a 1912 Union National Bank. You'll see the original vault located behind the reception desk. This upscale hotel with a well-informed concierge is a member of Marriott's Autograph Collection.
The hotel is located a short walk to the METRORail, a wheelchair accessible train with 32 inch wide doors that open automatically. All the METRORail platforms are ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant. It's a short ride on the METRORail to the Abilities Expo at the NRG Center. The Hotel ICON guest rooms have complimentary WiFi, mini fridges and beautifully appointed bathrooms. The onsite restaurant, Line & Lariat, is a stunning space with great food.
High Times at Herman Park
Houston's Herman Park is a relaxing urban oasis between the Medical Center and the Museum District. The 285 acres is home to the Houston Zoo, a rose garden and the Miller Outdoor Theatre, where performances are free. Families will enjoy riding the wheelchair accessible Herman Park Mini Train and splashing in the water features at The Buddy Caruth Playground for All Children.
The Houston Museum of Natural Science inside Herman Park is one of the most visited museums in the country. Highlights include the Challenger Center, a planetarium, IMAX, butterfly exhibit and four floors of natural science displays. Save up to 47% off the admission price of area attractions by purchasing a Houston CityPASS ticket booklet.
Digs for the ExpoIf you are looking for a hotel that's minutes from the Abilities Expo, choose a property in the Texas Medical Center—the largest medical complex in the world. The Wyndham Houston Medical Center Hotel and Suites is less than two miles to the Expo and a wheelchair accessible shuttle is complimentary. Seventy-five percent of the hotel rooms are suites, which is ideal for traveling families. The suites include a full-size kitchen and a separate living room. During the summer, the outdoor swimming pool with a lift is sure to be a popular escape from the Texas heat.
About the authors:
Barbara and Jim Twardowski are freelance writers specializing in disability and travel topics. Their articles can be seen in AAA Home & Away, Global Traveler, Quest and many other outlets.Pre-Register for Abilities Expo Today...It's Free!