If you'd like a bus tour of the city to help you get your bearings, you're out of luck. Companies such as Gray Line offer tours only to conventions and visiting groups, not the general public. There is, however, a different kind of tour that can introduce you to what makes Houston unique. If you're planning to be in Houston during the second weekend of the month, you might be able to sign up for one of the offbeat tours offered by Eyeopener Tours. Part of the Orange Show Foundation, in some months they put together a tour that focuses on a particularly interesting aspect of the city. Transportation by charter bus, snacks, and drinks are included in the price (usually around $60). Past tours have included folk-art sites of the city, places of worship, architectural highlights, architectural lowlights, blues centers, and ethnic markets. Most of those who participate are resident Houstonians who want to learn about an unknown part of the city. Eyeopener Tours also sells an audiocassette and map for a self-guided tour of Houston's folk-art environments. This is a good offering if you're pretty good at following directions and working with a map. For information, call tel. 713/926-6368 or check www.orangeshow.org/eyeopener.html.

The other option is to hire a guide. You can find one through the Web page of Houston's tour guide association (www.ptgah.org). One of the founding members, Sandra Lord, operates a tour agency called Discover Houston Tours (tel. 713/222-9255; www.discoverhoustontours.com). In addition to individual guide services, it offers some regularly scheduled walking tours of downtown and other places and the occasional special-interest tour that people can sign up for.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.