Walking around downtown Houston (1 on "General tips" Houston area map) is likely to give you a dread feeling of coldness, emptyness and bleakness. Nobody around, only garage and parking lot entrances, tall skycrapers taking sometimes one block by themselves, boarded up empty shops along the streets. Houstonians are hiding in the buildings where they work, go to restaurants and shop in the tunnel and skybridge system that links one building to the other. Parts of downtown occasionally get lively when events are taking place or at times of entertainment venues (Theater District NW of Downtown, baskettball and baseball stadiums East of Downtown). It is quite a shame because there is so much potential in this part of town where the most impressive architectural achievements are to be seen!
Now, Houstonians are hoping to change this sad state of affair! The big hope is that Main street will be revitalized by the new tramway line. A real effort of renovation is being made along Main Street with nice fountains, pleasant tramway stops and slow opening of shops and restaurants at street levels. To promote this part of town, Main street becomes a pedestrian only street on Friday and Saturday evenings. There is also talk of developping the banks of Buffalo Bayou (Northern edge of downtown) in a way akin to the Riverwalk of San Antonio.
Anyway, let's keep our fingers crossed that downtown Houston one day will have a real city atmosphere with crowds and street level shops and restaurants!
Houston is perhaps the most diverse city in the state, if not this entire area of the country -- people come here from everywhere. I think it is often forgotten by others that Houston is a large, international port city much like Los Angeles, Miami, New York, and Seattle. Over 90 languages are spoken here. I think you could find almost any kind of culture in Houston.
The city also celebrates its diversity, with numerous ethnic festivals and an annual International Festival that takes place in downtown.
And most importantly, people here LIKE each other and are respectful of each other for the most part. When was the last time you heard of race riots in Houston, or any kind of riots or uprisings for that matter? Outsiders might stereotype Texans as rednecks, but I've actually found Houstonians to be quite civilized compared to many people in other areas of the country.
Keep in mind that while in Houston, you are likely to run into many different cultures.
Be careful in inner city Houston. There are alot of gangs. Do not, and I mean do not, wear red or blue. Also keep your ball cap forward. to be on the safe side don't walk the streets alone, or at night. Oh, and don't start a conversation with a stranger...not a good idea.