Houston Traffic Hotspots: The Galleria

As we inch closer to Christmas and, more important, Black Friday, the areas surrounding Houston malls will gradually become clogged with murderous joyous holiday shoppers looking for deals and trying to buy their kids something they won't hate this year (hint: no plaid shirts, mom!). Despite all the merriment and ho ho ho'ing, the traffic will be frightful like it always is, and nowhere will that be more true than in the streets surrounding the Galleria.

While Neiman Marcus shoppers will be dropped off by their limo drivers who will wait patiently with Muffy the toy poodle as madam enters through a private door where she is greeted by perfumed cabana boys and bathed in the blood of young virgins, the rest of the riffraff (i.e., you and me) will be forced to trudge through the area, plodding along at the speed of a mall walker...unless you know where to go.

Location: Westheimer between the West Loop and Sage, Post Oak between Westheimer and Richmond Direction: All Time of Day: Weekends from 10 a.m. until 9 p.m. Probable Destinations: Galleria and surrounding shops Landmarks: A big freaking mall, Starbucks

What's the holdup? Namely, Christmas shoppers, but this is also an area plagued by brutal traffic on normal days thanks to hundreds of offices, restaurants and shops. There are only a handful of ways in and out of the area and many of the people who visit for shopping purposes don't do so often, making them as confused as a tourist in downtown.

Easiest Alternative: Post Oak from 610. Taking the Post Oak exit will help you avoid both coming down Westheimer and taking San Felipe (God help you). You'll still get stuck at the Westheimer intersection, but it will at least bypass some of the melee. It is particularly helpful when exiting the area, less so for entering.

Complicated Alternative: Richmond. Getting to Richmond from 610 driving north means exiting well before the 610/59 interchange and driving under bridges and through tunnels. It's like visiting the Land of the Lost or Manhattan. Getting there from the north going south is easier because there is an exit, but it's more harrowing because the exit comes right at the 59 off ramp and is a hairpin turn that forces you to go up Hidalgo past the Water Wall.

More Adventurous Alternatives: I swore I wouldn't reveal this and my wife will probably murder me for the traffic I create, but for you, dear reader, anything.

Sage from Woodway. There is no more peaceful way of getting to the Galleria than by taking Woodway off 610, heading west and then going south on Sage. Doing so bypasses virtually all traffic and brings you right to the northwest corner of the mall. But here's the real secret...after you go through the light at Westheimer, make an immediate left into probably the most little-used (until now) parking lots in the mall. You're welcome.

Have a favorite (or least favorite) traffic hotspot? Drop a note in the comments.

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