HOUSTON, TEXAS IS THE FOURTH MOST POPULOUS CITY IN THE U.S. IT’S KNOWN FOR BEING THE HOME OF NASA, THE BIRTH PLACE OF BEYONCÉ, AND FOR HAVING SOME OF THE MOST DELICIOUS, DIVERSE CUISINE IN THE COUNTRY. RIDE ALONG WITH US AS WE UNCOVER SOME OF THE CITY’S GREATEST GEMS!
First off, you’ll want to settle into your luxe hotel for your trip. For the best Houston has to offer, book a stay at The Post Oak Hotel at Uptown Houston. It is the only five-star hotel and spa in Texas and offers impeccable amenities such as a luxury retail concept, a gorgeous pool with cabanas, a fire pit, and lounge chairs; a wine cellar, a library, an art collection, a salon, a 20,000-square-foot spa, and more. There are seven dining and drinking concepts on-site to satisfy every craving, including a wood-fired pizza spot, an award-winning pastry shop, an exotic cocktail bar, a seafood restaurant, and a King Ranch Texas Kitchen.
Once you’ve dropped off your bags at your hotel, head out to the first attraction on the itinerary. Space Center Houston is a museum that’s perfect for any space lover. It has displays and attractions, including a flown SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, an artifact collection, live shows, and the NASA Tram Tour, which takes you behind the scenes at Johnson Space Center. In the visitor center, you can wander inside a replica of America’s first space station, Skylab, and touch a rock from the moon. There’s so much to do here, so reserve a few hours to see it all!
Houston is known for its many interactive museums, many of which attract thousands of tourists every year. Walk over to the museum district, where you can access 19 of these great museums. One of the most well-known, Museum of Fine Arts, is a must-see. It’s one of the largest museums in the U.S. and offers more than 6,000 years of history with approximately 70,000 works from six continents.
The Menil Collection is another highly-regarded museum. It spans 30 acres and consists of approximately 17,000 paintings, sculptures, prints, drawings, photographs, and rare books; all privately collected by founders John de Menil and Dominique de Menil.
For a change of pace and scenery, stop by Buffalo Bayou Park, which includes ten miles of urban oasis with hundreds of acres of parkland and running trails. At this gorgeous park, you can rent kayaks and paddle along the bayou, grab a bike and test your speed on the bike trails, enjoy some impressive sculptures, or go for a hike. A fun attraction to visit is the Cistern, an old underground drinking-water reservoir from 1926. If you happen to go to the park around sunset, make sure to stop by Waugh Drive Bridge. About 250,000 Mexican free-tailed bats inhabit the bridge and they fly out at sunset, making for a unique sight.
If you enjoyed being underground for the Cistern, you’ll want to see this next attraction as well. Underneath the city of Houston, there are 7.5 miles of tunnels that can be explored. It connects 95 city blocks together and acts as a sort of mall tourists and residents can enjoy. There’s tons to do down below like learning about the history of the tunnels, seeing an abandoned 1933 hotel, or grabbing a snack at a bakery.
If Houston is known for one thing, it’s their gorgeous parks. Buffalo Bayou isn’t the only beauty to explore. Hermann Park covers 400 acres of land and offers eight acres of custom-made gardens, a historic railroad you can ride for a small fee, paddleboat and bike rentals, a zoo, golf, and more. It’s also home to one of the most famous statues in Houston, the Sam Houston Statue. When Texas was still independent, Sam Houston acted as the first president of the Republic of Texas.
Another great park, Memorial Park, features amenities for every sport, like croquet, golf, swimming, sand volleyball, flag football, and mountain biking. Recently, the park underwent a conservation project. This allowed Clay Family Eastern Glades to reclaim 100 acres of unused parkland, turning it into a spectacular area where you can walk nature trails, explore the wetlands, and lounge on the expansive grassy lawns.
The last park you should definitely see—although there are certainly plenty more—is Gerald D. Hines Waterwall Park. This park is known for its stunning multi-story sculptural fountain. The 64-foot fountain has sheets of water that cascade over concrete walls and sculptures, making for an incredible sight. The rest of the 2.77-acre park is worth discovering as well, with plenty of picturesque scenes along the way.
For lovers of Miami’s Wynwood, check out Houston’s street art. All throughout the city you can find colorful graffiti and thoughtful art installations. You’ll be able to spot some of the top names in street art, including COPE2 and Houston’s own Gonzo247. The latter is known as the unofficial curator of Houston’s street art and many of his works can be found throughout the city. For two of his most famous pieces, head to the corner of Travis and Preston Street, where you can find the giant “Houston is Inspired” mural. Also, on Leeland and St. Emanuel Street, you’ll be able to see the smaller “Houston” mural.
One of the city’s best lunch joints can be found at Perry’s Steakhouse and Grill. The steakhouse is famous for their table-side carved, butter-drenched pork chops and during the lunch hour you can get them for a discounted price. Other delectable eats include the Butcher’s Blend Burger, Steakhouse Pasta, and Chargrilled Salmon.
After you’re all full, continue the sightseeing in Houston’s very own Chinatown. The city actually has the second largest Chinese population in the U.S. after Los Angeles. The Hong Kong Food Market is the perfect place to go snack on some appetizing street food, grab a dessert, or just stroll around and take in the sights and smells. Another must-see in the area is Jade Buddha Temple. This serene temple has a peaceful ambience where you can walk by lotus ponds, statues, and gardens.
One more sight you should see before the sun sets is Galveston, a historic beach town that’s a little less than an hour away from Houston. The 32 miles of beaches provide endless options for down-time but if you still want to be active, take a stroll through the historic district. It’s here that you will be able to marvel at Victorian architecture and old seafaring inns. For a bit more of history don’t miss Seawolf Park, where you can spot some antique ships like the U.S.S. Cavalla and U.S.S. Stewart. There’s also the striking Bishop’s Palace, a historical landmark known for its magnificent Victorian style. The 19,082 square feet mansion was built in 1892!
At the end of the day, after all of your fulfilling adventures, what’s better than sitting back, relaxing, and watching a light show? You can do just that at “Twilight Epiphany” Skyspace. This light installation by James Turrell was unveiled by Rice University in 2012 and it has been a favorite of locals ever since. The structure uses LED lights in sequence with the rising and setting of the sun to put on an alluring display, all projected through a square space at the center of the pyramid. Now that’s how you see a sunset!
For a nice, swanky dinner make your way over to Turner’s. Veteran chef and JBA winner Robert Del Grande brings Old World Charm to this dim-lit, intimate restaurant. Expect mouthwatering dishes like King crab terrine and Petrossian caviar service, as well as lobster Thermidor and Wagyu filet. Yum!
For some nighttime shenanigans, head to Montrose. This neighborhood comes alive at night with its many tattoo shops, bars, and boutiques. The scenic area is home to one of the best high-class bars around, Tongue-Cut Sparrow, where you can reserve an intimate cocktail experience. The bartenders serve up your drinks in black bowties and the atmosphere drips with elegance. The menu is exclusive, with 16 classic cocktails and a few select beer and wine options.
Once you’ve boozed on a few luxe cocktails and are ready to hit the hay, retreat back to your suite at The Post Oak Hotel. Your trip has sadly come to an end but Houston has provided you with memories to last a lifetime. Now when you return to Houston for a second time you’ll be able to say, “This ain’t my first rodeo!”
By Selene Rivera