Top 10 Things To Do in Houston

I was happy to read The New York Times finds Houston credible enough to make it the #7 place to visit in 2013.  By the NY Times recognizing our city’s greatness, and what takes some people, including myself, years to see, was exactly the publicity we deserved.

Houston Skyline from AP

I have to say it probably wasn’t until I met Brian where I finally saw the ins and outs of Houston. He literally turned this city inside out and introduced me to places I didn’t know existed.  I should be embarrassed to admit it.  After all, I am a native Texan, prior to meeting him I lived in Houston eight and a half years, he who was born and bred Missourian, midwest man was introducing me to places such as Warehouse Live.  I remember going to Brasil for the first time, never knew it was near Empire Cafe.   But, yeah, six years later between he and our friends we have literally soaked every part of this town in our souls and look forward to many more great experiences at both our old and new favorites.

With that said I thought I would compile a list of the Top 10 Things To Do in our beloved city.   This list started in last year’s blog, so if you read my starter blog, then you will notice #8-10 were written in the past.  However, a good friend told me it would be better to list all 10 at once, so with my “re-launched” blog I thought I would provide a full list.

Additionally, I think it would be even better if you add to it.  As you scroll through the list you will notice I am seeking more insights because the truth is, I haven’t been to all the places I mention.   And, yeah, I may be breaking a rule there, but my friend said to provide a full list, so I am taking his advice.

Here it goes—

 1. Museum District and Houston Zoo

Honestly, I do not go enough, but Houston offers a great array of art museums, a fabulous Natural Science museum and various cultural museums.  For all those parents I know you appreciate the Childrens’ Museum.  One I have been meaning to visit is the Menil.  Have you been there?  What is your most favorite aspect of it or any of the other offerings?

The Houston Zoo seems like this is a place you save for a kids outing, but on a nice Houston day it is a great place to go for a walk and enjoy the sounds and sights of the animals.  Another kind of cute thing to do is take the pedal boats for a ride with your significant other or BFF.

Where else? The Houston Zoo

2. Music Scene- Go See a Live Show!

Yeah, yeah, Austin is the live music capitol and maybe it is, but Houston has great venues to see live music and some really good bands perform here.  I promise.  

And by city, I do not mean The Woodlands, even though Arcade Fire threw down the house last year at the Pavilions.

My favorites are:

  1. Fitzgerald’s– The greatest part about this venue is you feel up-close and personal with the bands.  We have seen great performances from the White Rabbits, The Walkmen, Iron & Wine, to name a few.  Future shows we are looking forward to enjoying are Ra Ra Riot and Local Natives (March).
  2. Warehouse Live– We haven’t been here in over a year, but my first show was 2007 KOL, which holds a dear memory between Brian and me and probably Omar.  It is another up-close and personal type place.  Oh, some other great memories were Peter, Bjorn and JohnBloc Party and Metric.
  3. RIP Walters on Washington– This was like watching a band play in a dumpy, Victoria bar.  White Rabbits, Girls were both great to see here.  Of course, as I am writing it I had to Google to make sure it was “RIP”– obviously, have not thought of this place since it closed its Washington home, and turns out it is still alive, but to keep up with the shows you have to link-in through Facebook. I tried to “friend” it, and it said, “sorry, too many friend requests.”  Really?  OK.  Well, then RIP.  Sticking to my top 2 places.  –and I guess, replace #3 with House of Blues.
  4. And Brian would frown if I didn’t mention, Free Press Summerfest!  First weekend in June, come join us as we sweat our asses off and do anything to stay cool.  Last year, Snoop Dogg made the bloody, hot day worth it (Brian had no idea I knew all the words.  Hello. I am from Victoria, TX), and Willie, well, it was just sad. It was worse than Bob Dylan at ACL, 2007.  Nevertheless, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Young The Giant, and Robert Ellis played damn good shows.  Looking forward to 2013’s line-up announcement.
White Rabbits at Fitz
Snoop Dogg at FPSF


3. Dive Bars

For those days when you only feel like throwing on jeans, flip flops and a white tank dive bars rock.  A few of our favorites are:

  1. Cecil’s– our neighborhood bar, a destination we can walk Lucy and relax on the patio with a cold beer
  2. Rudyard’s– randomly it offers a menu of a couple of our favorites, fish tacos and spicy pulled pork sandwich.  Delicious.  Also, a place we can bring along Lu-dog and hang outside on their patio.
  3. West Alabama Icehouse– a Spring and Fall favorite.  Lucy also loves this place because she can run free and smell all the various smells from other creatures both human and mammal.

I know, I only named 3, but in Houston what dive bar do you love most?

Lucy at Cecil's
Lu at Cecil’s

4. Running

First, you have to like to run to agree with me here.  And if you don’t like running, and are able, you should try it.  It is the best stress reliever and challenges the mind and body like no other cardio I have experienced.  If you are a runner, then you know a 5am Saturday morning in Houston opens up another world of life.

Great places to run– one is an obvious start, Memorial Park, which can connect to my personal favorite Allen Parkway Bayou trails, leading you into downtown, if you dare, and stopping for water at Discovery Green.  Memorial Park also offers trail runs, which are a nice diversion to street running.  Another fun neighborhood to run is River Oaks, as it is also an extension of the Bayou or Memorial run, depending which direction you start.  Of course, Hermann Park and Rice University are other great places to get your shoes dirty and rack-up mileage.

Did I leave out your favorite running route and/or location?  If so, then, please, share it.  I am always up for a new scene.

Running Memorial Park, both trails and path

5. Shopping

One of my favorite pastimes.  Good and bad, the internet has taken me away from my usual browsing, but I still enjoy the satisfaction of buying and immediately taking it home with me.  For all things running, Luke’s Locker is my favorite.  For all things gym, yoga, etc. like many other consumers I love Lululemon’s selection of all things pretty.   Cosmetics, Chanel counter at Neiman Marcus. Menswear, I hate to give away Brian’s favorite, Rye 51, but for the men it is such a cool, manly place to shop.  How does a glass of scotch and a little personal service sound?  Where are these types of shops for us?  I wouldn’t mind a glass of bubbly as I shop for my new pair of jeans.  Speaking of jeans, Nordstom’s selection is pretty decent.  For me Hemline’s newer location in River Oaks is very convenient, great place for a last minute dress or even cute top and jeans.  Shoes- well, really they are everywhere, but the sleek, fancy feminine shoes at Joseph’s are so fun to look and dream, same with Saks and Neimans’ departments, Nordstrom’s offers a great spectrum of shoes from designer label to what Brian may call, the more practical shoe.  Practical is so boring, though.   Bliss on 19th is a great place for gifts.  Some people are big Kuhl Linbscomb fans, but recently I have noticed the retail agents are not very warm, which is sort of annoying.  Their jewelry selection is very dainty and beautiful, for example a friend of a friend’s line is there, Amanda Sterett, love her stuff.  I still haven’t been to Restoration Hardware’s new store in Highland Village, but can only imagine it being a place to spend an afternoon in awe.  I will save it, until we buy a house.  I have to draw the line somewhere.

Where is your favorite place to shop in Houston?

6. Dog Parks

Do you have a little four-legged buddy?  If so, then you know your little furry friend likes to run amongst other little furry friends.  Lucy’s favorite is the water fountain on Allen Parkway.  Since she is a Boxer she tends to overheat most of the year in Houston’s beautifully, sunny weather, so we take her to play Frisbee where she may get quick relief in its water.   Right next to it is the first dog park I knew.  Dogs enjoy jumping in the Bayou.  The only thing that freaks me out about that place is the inevitable question- are there alligators in the Bayou?  We used to take Lucy up to the park off Westpark and 610, but she got to a point where she just sniffed around and ignored the other dogs.  She isn’t much of a swimmer, but that place is great for dogs that do.  And if you live near it, then that is an extra bonus.  Now, a concept you know you have thought it should have been your business idea is Boneyard- a bar and doggy park!  Drink a glass of wine or ice-cold beer and let your pup meet and play with other pups.  For play-dates it is a win-win for both parents and four-legged “children.”

Lu at AP
Lu taking in the bubbles at AP

7. Houston’s Cultural Festivals 

In my opinion the best part of Houston is its diversity.  With diversity comes the celebration and sharing of it.  The International Festival takes place over two weekends in mid-Spring.  The rodeo may not sound diverse, but think about it.  It is.  It is a great place to experience cowboy hats, boots, BBQ, music and ice-cold beer.  The Chalk Art Street festival sounds random, but one year I stumbled upon it and found it to be quite creative and cool.  And I can’t talk about festivals without mentioning Lights in the Heights, White Linen Nights, Italian Festival at St. Thomas, Art Car Parade, all very memorable times.

What is your favorite festival?     

MJ design at Chalk Art Street Fest
How could I resist? Chalk Art Street Fest.
Lights in the Heights, 2012

8.  Houston Sports Complexes- Old Post

Go Cubs!
Go Cubbies! The last year, Cubs vs. Astros while NL rivals, 2012

This is an obvious must.  I mean, it is nice being in a city where you can watch PROFESSIONAL basketball, football, baseball, soccer, hockey, etc.  Even if you are like me and find most of your teams visit Houston, well, at least, they visit Houston and you get to see them play.  However, I must say two Houston teams I definitely cheer for are the Texans and Dynamo.  Speaking of the Dynamo– the new stadium is really nice and orange.

With the new stadium, aka, BBVA Compass Stadium, it will bring other events to Houston, such as rugby.  Who went to rugby Saturday night?  We did.  Who knew anything about the game? We didn’t.  Who watched the entire game?  We didn’t.  Isn’t that awful?  I shouldn’t even write about it because I have nothing worthy to state about it, EXCEPT its fans.  I must say the USA Rugby team has some pretty loyal and expressive fans, which made for a great people watching evening.  If it weren’t so damn hot, then maybe we would have stayed until the end,  just to see if any of the expressive fans could make us shake our heads or laugh more.

Rugby fan, 2012

 9. Eat Out in Houston-  Old Post

Another obvious choice.  I mean, it is one of the best parts of living in a city, restaurant choices.  My 3 new favorite places to dine are:

  1.  Uchi ( I was probably one of the last people to finally try Uchi.  A part of me was waiting for the hype to subside, but another part of me thought, maybe, it is just hype.  Therefore, I walked in to Uchi with low expectations, sad to admit.  BUT, I am here to state, it is my new favorite restaurant.  I love the food’s creativity and flavor combinations.  The menu is so fun to read, a little overwhelming, but still, fun!  In fact my girlfriends and I couldn’t concentrate, so we had the Chef’s Tasting, which is a great way to try things you may or may not otherwise choose.   We picked a fabulous bottle of Sauvignon Blanc, and it paired well with everything we ate.  My favorite dishes were raw or undercooked.  While the hot dishes were tasty, I preferred the cold tastings.  Perhaps, I was just in the mood for the raw fish.  Nevertheless, the place rocks!  Finally, something from Austin worth the hype.  Sorry, Torchy’s.
  2. Underbelly ( In my little ol’ opinion Chris Shepherd is the best chef in Houston.  When he closed Catalan, I was devastated.  Then the chatter began about Underbelly, and it couldn’t arrive in Houston soon enough!  LOVE IT!!!!  Of course, we die for the Korean Braised Goat and Dumplings.  When has anything partied like that in your mouth??!!  The goat is so well-married with the spicy, tangy, sweet sauce, and the light, cuddly little dumpling– will make you beg for more.  And we do.  Thank you, sir, I’ll have another.  Everything I have eaten at Underbelly has been delicious!  In fact there was a month or so we went at least once a week.  Well, last Saturday we returned from a small break, so the weekly streak may need to start, again.  TOO GOOD TO MISS!!!
  3. Brasserie 19 (  At this point this place is old news, but I don’t care.  It is consistent, and worth every last bite.  The best bread and whipped butter in town.  The best selection and quality of oysters in town.  The best Dirty Gin Martini in town.  Another place where I have liked everything and anything I have ordered.  The house-made Salmon Gravlax was a dish I had never heard, and oh, wow!  It is a perfect hors d’oeuvre- salty, creamy and added to toast the flavors dance on your pallet.
Enjoying Brasserie 19

10. Sundance Movie Theater-  Old Post

Have you been to it, yet?  Well, Brian and I went Friday evening and decided to take full advantage of the food and wine bar and experience everything the movie theater had to offer.  I mean, the whole idea of watching a movie with a glass of wine, legally, and eating a gourmet meal sounds pretty appealing.  If you have already been there, then you know you pick your seats with your tickets, which is very convenient.

We walked over to the food and wine bar and ordered a margarita pizza and BBQ chicken quesadillas.  OK, so that is not really gourmet, but it isn’t a tub of popcorn, covered with fake butter or a greasy hot dog, either.  Anyway, we took our food and drinks to our assigned seats and were ready to watch Safety Not Guaranteed.  The food was decent.  My wine was tasty, and I believe Brian enjoyed his  beer.  Now, the movie was pretty funny.  Mark Duplass from The League and Aubrey Plaza from Parks and Recreation were hilarious.  Brian kept telling me not to laugh as loud, but if you know me, that is sort of impossible.  Overall, I am glad Sundance is opened.  The concept makes sense.  We loved going to Angelika and were sad when it closed, so at least something a little better took its place– definitely better than another Edward’s Cinema.  Overall, highly recommend you check it out, if you haven’t already.