When people think of Texas, images of longhorns, cowboy boots and barbecue often come to mind. You can find all of those in Houston – the soon-to-be third-largest city in the U.S. – but you can also discover a world far beyond the expected. With its bright economy, affordable cost of living, richly diverse culture and an “anything is possible” collective spirit, Houston is home to a surprising variety of cultural and entertainment offerings and businesses that appeal to residents and visitors alike. From quirky, innovative restaurants and shops to expansive museums and parks to cutting-edge universities and medical centers, Houston offers a little bit of everything.
Arts & Culture
Marvel at the Menil Collection
Enjoy the serenity of the 30-acre campus that is home to more than 17,000 works of art by such luminaries as Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol and Mark Rothko. Stay tuned for the anticipated Menil Drawing Institute opening soon.
Delight in Degas and the Masters at Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
The only U.S. museum to host the Degas: A New Vision on tour. Stroll through the sculpture garden or mingle and grab a bite from one of Houston’s awesome food trucks on site during Happy Hour Thursdays. Become a member today.
Release Your Inner Child at The Orange Show Center for Visionary Art
Before it rolls out the 30th Annual Art Car Parade in April 2017, visit the shrine that started it all at The Orange Show Monument – 2401 Munger Street, $5 Admission; the folk art wonderland and next-door neighbor, Smither Park – 2441 Munger Street; and the Beer Can House – an over-the-top shrine to the beer can with more than 50,000 cans covering John Milkovish’s home and fence. Yes, he, his wife and friends drank each of the beers. $5. 222 Malone Street.
The chapel on the campus of University of St. Thomas is an architectural masterpiece by Philip Johnson. Its gold dome and massive tilted glass cross-shaped window are iconic images in Houston. Find quiet in the prayer garden and labyrinth.
Arts & Culture
Share Your Selfie!
Snapchat at the Greetings from Houston mural
Have your picture taken in front of the retro postcard-inspired mural that pays homage to Houston icons; the Houston Oilers, a rocket taking off, and of course, oil.
3601 White Oak Drive
Instagram at the Biscuit Paint mural
Painted by Houston-based artist Sebastien “Mr. D" Boileau, the mural was commissioned by the owners of the retail store Biscuit Home to mark its new expanded space. It’s a social media natural.
1435 Westheimer Road
photo credit: Visit Houston
Arts & Culture
Choo Choo Ka Choo at Hermann Park
There are so many points of interest in Hermann Park, including the Houston Zoo, Japanese Garden, Miller Outdoor Theatre, golf course and much more. But don’t leave before you visit the McGovern Centennial Gardens. Venture into a rose garden so lush and expertly landscaped that Marie Antoinette would feel at home. The spiraling hilltop trail leads to a perfect view of the water features and grounds.
Downtown Houston’s emerging tech hub is bringing together entrepreneurs, startups and enterprising innovators to foster community, create high-tech density, and grow an ecosystem where people with great ideas can build and launch companies that change the world.
With the second-largest Asian population in the United States, Houston has a thriving Chinatown district with shops, restaurants and cultural centers. The district is roughly bounded by Fondren, Beechnut, State Highway 6 and Westpark Tollway.
photo credit: Visit Houston
Arts & Culture
Find Inner Peace at the Rothko Chapel
The nondenominational chapel houses mural canvases of American painter Mark Rothko. Tai chi and yoga classes are offered on the chapel plaza.
Score Tickets to Hamilton at the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts
Home to Broadway at the Hobby, this Theatre District mainstay features touring productions of some of Broadway’s most popular shows, including Hamilton later this year. After the show, fall into Artista for Chef David Cordúa’s delectable Latin cuisine.
Start the Day Right with Deborah Duncan on Great Day Houston
The recipient of countless local and national awards for television excellence, H-town ambassador Deborah Duncan keeps the lifestyle program rolling with grace, aplomb and an unflappable spirit every weekday morning at 9 AM with a live studio audience.
photo credit: Alexander’s Fine Portrait Design
Arts & Culture
Cozy Up with Fresh Arts
This nonprofit organization benefiting artists and art organizations hosts Cultured Cocktails events featuring a different local artist, arts organization or arts project, every Thursday at Boheme Café & Wine Bar.
Situated in a 1920s Montrose home, critically acclaimed BCN dishes up mouth-watering Spanish delicacies by Chef Luis Roger, alum to the internationally renowned Chef Ferran Adrià from El Bulli. Start with the grilled Spanish octopus and don’t forget the signature gin & tonics.
Pay Your Respects to the Grand Poobah at Cafe Annie
As Houston’s original bona fide celebrity chef and James Beard Award winner, Chef Robert Del Grande set the pace for the city’s culinary evolution 35 years ago with Cafe Annie and has come full circle with the famous dishes that started a global food movement. Do Not Pass Go until you’ve tried the Crab Tostada, the Rabbit Enchilada, and the Coffee Roasted Filet of Beef.
Take a Trip to the French Countryside at Tiny Boxwood’s Café
Originally a nursery in the midst of River Oaks serving gourmet coffee to its patrons, it eventually morphed into an upscale eclectic café serving breakfast and lunch with a continuously changing menu. Outdoor patio surrounded by lush greenery.
Open since 1928, this neighborhood bar attracts bikers and brokers alike. Outdoor seating with fair beer prices, authentic Mexican street tacos courtesy of Tacos Tierra Caliente, and a dog-friendly environment.
1919 W. Alabama Street
Food & Drink
Learn the Story of Houston Food at Underbelly
At this highly revered restaurant and wine bar, the Korean braised goat & dumplings are a must-have. Extensive wine list, or bring your own for a $15 cork fee.
Knock Twice and Cross the Border at Last Concert Café
Built in 1949 and featured in Larry McMurtry’s novel Terms of Endearment, LCC is a hallowed spot in Houston’s funky warehouse district. Go for the margaritas and enchiladas, stay for the live music and hula hoop in the backyard sandpit.
Give in to Sandra Lee’s Texas Apple Strudel at Steak 48
Add another reason to make a reservation at the city’s hotter-than-hot steakhouse, which is baking up a very special Texas Apple Strudel by Food Network star and cookbook author Sandra Lee. Indulge in an order of strudel for $8 and 100 percent of the proceeds go to the NFL Foundation between now and game day.
The 22,000-seat venue is Houston’s newest downtown stadium and home to Major League Soccer teams Dynamo and Dash. The state-of-the-art venue was awarded the LEED® Silver certification in December 2012, helping revitalize East Downtown (EADO).
Let the Music Play at White Oak Music Hall (WOMH) and The Raven Tower
White Oak Music Hall
Locally conceived, developed, designed and programmed, WOMH is a game-changing 5-acre, 3-stage indoor/outdoor live music complex just north of downtown featuring hundreds of live performances a year with a lineup as diverse as Houston itself.
The Raven Tower, Houston’s bar in the sky, provides one of the best skyline views in town along with a kick-ass patio stretching along Little White Oak Bayou tailor-made for chillin’ to live music, sippin’ on Texas craft brews on tap, and noshin’ on food truck fare.
Tour the Town on Two Wheels with B-Cycle Bike Share
With more than 33 stations and 225 bikes located in Downtown, Montrose, Midtown, The Heights and the Museum District, and more than 150 miles of interconnected bikeways in the metro area, Houston is waiting to be explored at your own pace.
Home to the top-rated municipal 18-hole golf course in Texas, the 1,466-acre Inner Loop oasis is a former World War I training camp named for the soldiers who lost their lives in the war. It also happens to be one of the largest urban parks in the U.S. and serves as the city’s go-to green space for joggers, strollers, cyclists and outdoor enthusiasts. Hit up Beck’s Prime or Smoothie King in the park for a post-workout snack.
Home to the Houston Astros, Minute Maid Park is Houston’s first retractable-roofed stadium featuring a natural grass playing field. 501 Crawford Street. If football is your game, check out Houston Texans home turf at NRG Stadium – host to the Big Game! 8400 Kirby Drive. Or take in some hoops and watch Houston Rockets front man James Harden stir it up at the Toyota Center. 1510 Polk Street.
Houston has serious indie retail cred with expertly edited offerings that are the first stops off the plane for those in the know. Check out the city’s Uptown Kirby shopping district, where you’ll find women’s boutique Kick Pleat for fashion-forward exclusive brands; explore Sloan/Hall for lifestyle offerings with a tight curatorial edit; and open your eyes to Kuhl-Linscomb, where you’ll find out just how much bigger things really are in Texas.
Shopping & Services
Taste & Tour Wild Stallion Vineyards
This private event center also occasionally hosts music events and Sangria Saturdays that are open to the public. There will also be special hours and events in the week leading up to the Super Bowl, which will be open to the public. Private tasting are for groups of 10 or more and subject to availability.
The go-to destination for Dior, Hermès, Tom Ford, Harry Winston and Stella McCartney. Dine at Steak 48 for hand-cut, wet-aged prime steaks or Hopdoddy Burger Bar for casual-gourmet fare. And catch a movie at iPic, where the popcorn is free and the reclining chairs come with blankets and pillows.
Shopping & Services
Wine and Unwind at Four Seasons Hotel Houston
Book a spa treatment and gain full access to the 2,500-square-foot fitness center, which includes a coveted Woodway treadmill. Follow it up with some vino from the most robust by-the-glass wine list in town or take a load off with whiskey and nibbles at the hotel’s newly launched lobby bar and restaurant Bayou & Bottle.
Anchored by Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom and Macy’s, the world-famous Galleria houses 400 fine stores and restaurants, an indoor ice-skating rink, two high-rise hotels, and three office towers. A recent facelift gives it even more cache with the additions of the gleaming new Saks Fifth Avenue store and The Webster, along with foodie faves Shake Shack, Nobu, Fig & Ivy, and Yauacha.
As one of the most philanthropic cities in the world, Houston offers no shortage of worthy organizations raising much-needed funds to cure diseases, support the arts and raise the quality of life for all of us. Case in point: Pursuit Ride – a 3,500-mile bike ride that raised more than $13 million in support of the Center, one of Houston’s oldest organizations serving adults with disabilities.