Neighborhoods to Explore on the Houston Metrorail
Houston is characterized as a car-reliant city. And while cars are the primary mode of transportation for its inhabitants, the Metrorail (Houston’s light rail system) is a quick and convenient alternative.
As of now, the Metro has three lines: Red, Purple, and Green. However, there are plans to expand into other areas and neighborhoods in the near future. Metrorail fares are affordable at $1.25 per ride including unlimited transfers for up to 3 hours, and a full day pass is $3. These rates are significantly cheaper than other major cities like New York and Boston where tickets cost $2.75 per ride.
All three lines cover Downtown and the Red Line runs to the Medical District, another major job center, but the Metrorail also serves under-the-radar residential communities full of character. Here are the best Houston neighborhoods along the Metrorail to explore.
The nine-stop Green Line begins in the heart of Downtown’s Theater District, cuts through trendy EaDo, and ends in Magnolia Park, a family-friendly neighborhood known for community celebrations. Downtown and EaDo are packed with endless activities and restaurants worth exploring, but venture to Houston’s Greater East End for a more local feel.
The Greater East End is a historically industrial neighborhood adjacent to the Port of Houston. East End encompasses the neighborhoods of Magnolia Park, Second Ward, where Ninfa Laurenzo is credited with inventing fajitas, and Eastwood, which is considered one of the oldest master-planned communities in Houston.
Largely craftsman style and constructed in the 1900s, homes in the area are among the most affordable single family homes within the 610 loop.
Spots to Check Out:
- Harrisburg Art Museum - It’s not a museum in the traditional sense of the word, but a warehouse decorated inside and out with Houston-specific street art.
- Voodoo Queen - The New Orleans-style daiquiri dive serves stiff drinks and po-boys.
- Sound Exchange - The 1970s-era record store in a converted brick house is regarded as “legendary” and “iconic” among Houstonians.
- Sigma Brewing - The craft brewery offers tours, tastings, and old-school gaming consoles.
The Purple Line, also starting at the Theatre District, follows alongside the Green Line for 4 stops before branching toward Southeast Houston. End to end travel time is roughly 30 minutes hitting 10 stops in Downtown, EaDo (including the BBVA Compass Stadium where the Houston Dynamo and Houston Dash soccer teams play), Third Ward, and MacGregor—a residential neighborhood surrounding the Brays Bayou. The Purple Line also services the University of Houston, making it a great transportation option for students, staff, and faculty.
Third Ward is a cultural community with a rich history. Significant to the neighborhood’s past, the beautifully updated Emancipation Park is an ideal locale for family outings and holiday celebrations.
A mix of shotgun style houses and single-family bungalows characterize the neighborhood with modern townhomes cropping up in recent years. The area is highly residential and home to some of the city’s best Cajun, Creole, and Soul food. Former Third Ward resident Beyoncé is known to make an appearance whenever she comes to town.
Spots to Check Out:
- The Library Coffee and Wine House - The neighborhood cafe and hangout has a peaceful patio garden and open mic nights every Thursday.
- University of Houston - Check out a thrilling football game during the fall or head to the free Blaffer Art Museum, M.D. Anderson Library, or Cullen Performance Hall.
- MacGregor Park - The 80+ acre greenspace along the Brays Bayou has a community center, public pools, tennis courts, and a jogging trail.
The 13-mile, 25-stop Red line is the longest route on the Metrorail. The Red line starts just above the 610 north loop, intersects with the Purple and Green at Downtown’s central station, and ends right below the 610 south loop.
The Red line transports riders from north Houston all the way down to the Astrodome area where the annual Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is held and NRG stadium now stands. On the way, the line hits the University of Houston’s Downtown campus, Houston Community College’s central branch, Rice University, and the Medical District which employs over 100,000 Houstonians, giving residents along the red line route easy access to higher education institutions and major job centers.
The red line also runs through family-friendly areas like Northside, the nightlife nexus of Midtown, and the Museum District, Houston’s cultural capital.
Northside is a roomy, residential neighborhood lined with colorful bungalows and a smattering of Victorian homes. Many places in Northside, especially St. Arnold’s Brewery, offer breathtaking views of the Houston skyline.
The area is quiet, often feeling removed from the urban density of Downtown despite being steps away. Northside businesses are largely local and familial, imbuing the community with a laid-back, small-town vibe.
Spots to Check Out:
- Sideout Volleybar - The pet-friendly bar has three sand volleyball courts and an adirondack-decked-out patio.
- White Oak Music Hall - The three-venue music complex has a bilevel stage and outdoor lawn hosting headliner concerts and summer music festivals.
- El Taconazo - Even though it’s cash only, the late-night taco truck draws crowds with its shaved pork trompo.
- Moody Park - A quiet community park with a playground, sports fields, and a gym.
Midtown is a popular urban area with a mix of residential, commercial, and retail space. The neighborhood is populated by young professionals and known for its vibrant nightlife and eclectic dining scene. Weekends and happy hours are lively and fun, but business resumes on Monday morning, giving residents the perfect work-life balance.
Midtown is a gateway to Downtown which means the skylines often blend together. Because of this, housing styles include a majority of attached homes like condos and townhouses. However, single family homes can be found along the neighborhood’s outer edges and the neighborhood’s art and social amenities set it apart from Downtown.
Spots to Check Out:
- Midtown Park - Though only two years old, this pristine public park with a reflecting pool, art installations, and a dog run has quickly become a neighborhood staple.
- Midtown Arts and Theater Center Houston (MATCH) - studio and performance space for dancers, actors, artists, filmmakers, and musicians
- The Breakfast Klub - Locals line up here for a bite of the city's most buzzed-about chicken and waffles.
- Buffalo Soldiers Museum - This museum preserves the history and artifacts of African American military servicemen and women throughout U.S. history.
The Museum District is a popular tourist spot teeming with world-class museums and cultural centers. Most museums are grouped together and within walking distance from one another, allowing visitors to spend an entire afternoon exploring exhibits.
Real estate includes a combination of attached townhomes and single family residences, including lavish homes in the luxury market. Those living in the Museum District have the benefit of visiting museums at their convenience, being close to medical facilities in the adjacent Medical District, and using the massive 445-acre Hermann Park as their personal playground.
Spots to Check Out:
- Museum of Fine Arts Houston (MFAH) - A leading art museum with a permanent collection of over 70,000 works and temporary exhibits like the current Van Gogh showcase.
- Lucille’s - A Southern, family restaurant serving brunch and grandmother Lucille’s chili biscuits.
- Museum of Natural Sciences - A hands-on museum with an IMAX theatre, planetarium, butterfly habitat, mummies, and dinosaurs.
- Miller Outdoor Theater - An outdoor movie and concert lawn located in sprawling Hermann Park (which is also home to the Houston Zoo).