by , SmarterTravel Staff
Houston cityscape (Photo: Index Open)
Editor's Note: This story was originally published on June 6, 2011. To see the most recent SmarterTravel articles on related topics, please click on any of the following links: airfare, beach, Christine Sarkis, Costa Rica, Fort Myers, hotel, Houston, New York City, Reno, vacation package.

Houston may be hot, but it's also a bargain this summer—and it's got the accolades to prove it. With spots in both Hotwire's Travel Value Index and Budget Travel's hottest budget destinations list, the city earns top marks for its good value on hotels, restaurants, and attractions.

Thanks to the United-Continental merger, Houston is now the largest hub of the largest airline in the world. Pair that with robust service from other airlines—including Southwest, with 135 daily departures—and you've got options, as well as competition for travel dollars. At press time, both Continental and United were running Houston sales. A late-July, round-trip flight from Denver on Continental totaled $158, including taxes and fees.

Hotels.com's price index put Houston's average hotel room price per night in 2010 at $107, below the U.S. average of $114. Not only does that make for more affordable stays this summer, it also allows travelers to get more for their money. For instance, at press time, a late-June stay at the Courtyard Houston Galleria was $100 per night, or, for $120, the Romance Package including breakfast for two and a bottle of Champagne. The value factor also puts more upscale experiences within reach of budget travelers. At the Alden Houston, a luxury property that SmarterTravel sister site Trip Advisor ranks #22 out of 425 hotels in the city, we found advance-purchase rates of $131 per night.

In Houston sightseeing and sticking to a budget go hand in hand. An impressive 10 of the 17 museums in the Houston Museum District offer free entry. And even attractions that charge admission can be visited at a discount: Houston's CityPass program is the least expensive in the nation. Visitors can get tickets to five popular attractions—including the Houston Zoo and Museum of Fine Arts—for $39, 41 percent less than the à la carte prices.

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