The Downtown Tunnels are more than just a series of underground walkways; the network is home to restaurants, newsstands, boutiques, and even hair salons. While the tunnels were built as a way for workers to get around—safe from downtown traffic and the elements—they’ve become an attraction in their own right for curious travelers. One of the best ways to experience this maze-like tunnel network—while learning more about its history—is to take a guided tunnel tour. These tours typically last half a day and point out some of the city’s best art deco architectural details and public art installations. Some downtown food tours also include a short excursion into the tunnels.
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Things to know before you go
- Be sure to wear comfortable shoes and be prepared to walk; the tunnels total some 7 miles (11 kilometers).
- Nearly all businesses inside the tunnels accept major credit cards.
- Bring a light jacket if you’re visiting in the summer, as the tunnels can be aggressively air-conditioned.
How to get there
Tunnel access points are dotted around downtown, including at Wells Fargo Plaza and the McKinney garage. Those who wish to drive will find metered street parking and paid garages, but it’s often more convenient to take a rideshare downtown or ride the METRORail; all three lines have stops in downtown.
When to get there
The tunnels are only accessible on weekdays during regular business hours. While they’re open throughout the year, this climate-controlled network is particularly appealing as an escape from the Texas heat in summer or the occasional downpour. Visit at mealtime to enjoy one of the restaurants inside the tunnels.
Houston’s Hidden Gems
The Downtown Tunnels are just one of many hidden gems in Houston—attractions that many locals might not know about. The underground theme continues at the Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern, an oddly beautiful de-commissioned reservoir open to guided tours. Houston is well-known as an international city, but visitors might not realize they can visit a replica Terracotta Army—much like the one in China—at Lucky Land in the suburb of Aldine. The southwest corner of the city is home to a stunning Hindu temple—BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir—built from Turkish limestone and Italian marble.
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