In the middle of the Sunbelt region on the southeast side of Texas is the sunny city of Houston. Don’t let the humidity scare you away, as Texas’s largest city has a lot more to offer in terms of culture and entertainment than most would give it credit for. It’s Uptown District skyscrapers, Mexican population, famous Space Center and Southwestern culture form an eclectic mixture that is sure to delight even the skeptics. Here are a few reasons why Houston (aka Bayou city or Space city) should be your next getaway:
#1. It’s quirky
Houston has been called ‘mundane’ by more than one visitor, but those are the people who don’t know where to go to see the unique underworld of Houston. Here are just a few places you should see in order to embrace the zany personality of this city.
The Orange Show[caption id="attachment_40579" align="aligncenter" width="960"] Spend an eerie afternoon at The Orange Show. Photo courtesy of The Orange Show Facebook page. [/caption]
There’s no other way to describe The Orange Show than weird– this folk art museum is the brainchild of a man with a desperate vision and an indescribable obsession with oranges. Jeff McKissack, said brainchild, was a Houston postman who spent his free time (from 1956-1979) collecting materials from Houston’s disheveled buildings in order to create an amusement park of sorts made entirely from scraps such as tractor pieces, roof shingles, bricks, tiles and fences. The result is a colorful exhibition featuring maze-like paths, colorful balconies, unusual poetry mosaics and a small, round amphitheater. The whole exhibit is an eerie, colorful, confusing mass of random objects placed together with a fervent, demented vision. The Orange Show is interesting and it does evoke a strange sadness when you think of its creator’s failed attempts at a life mission, but his creativity is definitely something to be appreciated. The museum is run by the non-profit organization Orange Show Center For Visionary Art among whose founders are from famous Texas rock group ZZ Top, plus a funerary director — all contributing to the weird factor of this place. The museum will take you about 30 minutes to walk through and costs $5 to enter.
The National Museum Of Funeral History[caption id="attachment_40603" align="aligncenter" width="960"] Photo courtesy of the National Museum of Funeral History Facebook Page. [/caption]
Prepare yourself for a day honoring those who honor the dead: the National Museum of Funeral History in Houston provides a quirky, yet informative exploration into the history of caskets, hearses, burial rituals, embalming practices and funeral traditions around the world. Take a guided tour through their 13 permanent exhibitions which include the History of Embalming where you can learn about this 5000-year-old Egyptian practice which was used on American battlefields during the Civil War. Don’t miss the Dia De Los Muertos exhibit where you can catch a glimpse of the colorful tributes used in Mexican cultures to honor the day that departed loved ones return to our world for a short time. The Museum has a $10 admission fee and is open Monday through Sunday but check here for specific times.
The Beer Can House
The house-turned-folk-art has become a historical staple in Houston, and the Beer Can House is just that, a house covered entirely in beer cans. Why? — because a simple man named John Milkovisch simply loved beer — a lot. He started the project in 1968 when he decided that flattened aluminum cans were an easy and decorative way to re-design the home’s exterior and 18 years later the project was complete with an estimated 50 thousand beer cans adorning this little house at 222 Malone Street. It’s $5 admission for anyone over 12 years-old and is open weekends from 12 to 5 p.m.
#2. Honky Tonk lives on
A honky-tonk in the broadest of senses is a bar that plays country style music but more specifically it’s a rowdy crowd at rough bars playing boogie-woogie inspired music featuring poorly tuned pianos and country dancing. Houston is one of the best places to experience a real honky-tonk, since Texas was one of the primary birth sites for this kind of pastime in the pre-WWII days when honky-tonk received its name. Nowadays honky-tonk can be used to refer to an entire ‘country’ style sentiment of the West. Here are some places where you can feel the spirit of the honky-tonk in your bones:
Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo[caption id="attachment_40783" align="aligncenter" width="960"] Watch these guys cowboy up! Photo courtesy of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Facebook page. [/caption]
This huge country-loving event is for a good cause, not only does the Houston Livestock and Rodeo Show keep the spirit of honky-tonk alive, but is also uses a majority of the proceeds to fund scholastic and agricultural research programs in Texas. The event takes place each spring (March 7-26, 2017) and features a livestock showing, horse show events like ‘cutting’ (a horse ‘cuts’ a cow out from the herd) and of course bull riding. There is a lot to see and do so make sure to plan your day around your favorite events and get tickets in advance. In true country-lovin’ fashion, the event also features country music performances by legends like Keith Urban and Reba.
Firehouse Saloon[caption id="attachment_40784" align="aligncenter" width="960"] Get on them cowboy boots for some two steppin’. Photo courtesy of the Firehouse Saloon Facebook page.[/caption]
The Firehouse Saloon is a great place for the novice honky-tonk goer. This wooden barn bar has all the makings of a great honky-tonk with live music, cheap whiskey, pool tables, and a gigantic dance floor for two steppin’. The cover charge can be a bit pricey depending on the live act playing, but this fireman-owned Saloon always books the best country musicians and there’s no shortage of cowboy hats and boots, including the ones hanging from the rafters above. Don’t be alarmed by their old school method of tab opening, complete with credit cards hanging from clothes pin lines, because these bartenders know what they’re doing.
#3. Great options for active travelers
Houston’s warm weather and proximity to the Gulf of Mexico provides optimal conditions for travelers who are looking for a city break where they can still explore the great outdoors. Let’s look at just a couple of things that Houston has to offer for active travelers.
Surfing[caption id="attachment_40788" align="aligncenter" width="1200"] Baby waves in Galveston are just an hour outside of Houston. Photo by Eric Schmal CC BY. [/caption]
Surfing is probably not the first thing on your mind when heading to Houston, but less than an hour away is the little island called Galveston. It is a great place to spend the day surfing and exploring the old town. The waves are usually small and inconsistent, but it’s a calm wave and it’s close to the city so drive along the famous Seawall and stop off for a surf. If the waves are too choppy for you, try wind or kite surfing since this area gets a lot of warm winds which makes for perfect conditions.
Hiking[caption id="attachment_40787" align="aligncenter" width="1200"] Big Thicket National Preserve. Photo by U.S. Dept. of Agriculture CC BY.[/caption]
Hiking Houston’s surrounding areas are surprisingly diverse and full of trails. Drive a bit north of the city (50 miles) to Sam Houston National Park where you can explore more that 136 thousand acres of forestry. The Lone Star Hiking Trail runs through the park for 186 miles, but you can obviously cut the hike into much smaller sections depending on how experienced of a hiker you are and how much time you want to spend chillin’ with the local deer community. Check out the hiking routes in the park here. If you’re looking for more biodiversity, head up 90 miles north of Houston to the Big Thicket Preserve where you can see the mingling of ecosystems and explore marshlands and pine forests in the same day!
City Bike Tours[caption id="attachment_40790" align="aligncenter" width="960"] Tour Houston by bike and meet some people along the way. Photo courtesy of the Bayou City Bike Tour Facebook page. [/caption]
Get to know Houston while burning some calories and meeting other travelers on a city bike tour. Bayou City Bike Tours offers three hour bike tours for $40 a person with bike, helmet and water included. Try the Downtown History Tour to get a feel for the city and learn about its beginnings. You can also opt for the Buffalo Bayou Tour to explore the local architecture and wildlife.
#4. It’s a great city for kids to visit
Houston is one giant playground for kids. The city’s numerous parks and indoor playgrounds are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to kid-friendly activities. Not only is Houston home to THE Children’s Museum, but it also has the Space Center, the Houston Zoo and the Houston Aquarium. No matter what your little ones are interested in — Houston has something to keep their minds and bodies occupied. Here are two Houston favorites for the kiddos:
Children’s Museum of Houston[caption id="attachment_40799" align="aligncenter" width="960"] Photo courtesy of the Children’s Museum of Houston Facebook page. [/caption]
Any local with kids will tell you that this place is a lifesaver. The Children’s Museum of Houston has everything to keep the kids busy for hours or until they drop for a much needed nap. The permanent exhibits range from cultural, like the Mexican mountaintop village, to scientific, like the FlowWorks exhibit where kids get their hands wet and learn how to manipulate water to make objects move via Hydro switchboards, an Aquaduct Maze and a Flood Plain. The museum even has a Tot Spot where only kids under 35 months old are allowed to enter.
Jumping World Houston[caption id="attachment_40800" align="aligncenter" width="960"] Photo courtesy of Jumping World Houston Facebook page. [/caption]
Jumping World Houston is a great place to go if you have hyper kids. Let them burn off some energy by jumping on numerous trampolines. The oversized, warehouse-style room is covered in more than 20 thousand square feet of colorful trampolines. Jumping World is a fantastic option for rainy days when kids are stir crazy, the indoor jump playground includes a foam pit, an arcade, a snack bar and two dodge ball courts. If your kids aren’t tuckered out by the end of a day at Jumping World, well there’s always the zoo!
#5. Food is insane (in a good way)
Foodies delight! Houston is moving up the ranks in the grub department. Here are some must-try foodie spots for your Houston getaway:
Catalina Coffee[caption id="attachment_40802" align="aligncenter" width="640"] Iced coffee and fresh pastries await you. Photo courtesy of catalinacoffeeshop.com.[/caption]
For your morning cup of joe, Catalina Coffee is the perfect place to sip on some quality roasted coffee from local supplier Amaya Roasting Company. Top off your coffee with fresh milk and the dynamite latte art. The exposed brick and vintage industrial decor is relaxing and cozy, making it the perfect place for a morning chat over flat whites — plus, as a bonus, there’s no WiFi so you’ll be forced to make real-life conversations. Make sure to grab a fresh blueberry muffin or danish before you head out!
Teotihuacan Mexican Cafe[caption id="attachment_40804" align="aligncenter" width="551"] Authentic Mexican food at ‘Teo’ Mexican Cafe. Photo courtesy of the Teotihuacan Mexican Cafe Facebook page. [/caption]
Boasting some of the most authentic Mexican food Texas has to offer, Teotihuacan Mexican Cafe serves up enormous portions of home-style Mexican food. Dishes are smothered in melted cheese, enchilada sauces and served with hot refried beans and pickled jalapeños. This place is the real deal if you’re looking for classic Mexican recipes and large portions. Try one of their mixed plates if you want to try a bit of everything — the La Chely has one chicken enchilada verde, one beef fajita quesadilla, and one puff tostada topped with chile con queso, pico de gallo and guacamole. Make sure to top off any plate with a fresh, top-shelf Margarita on the rocks!
Local Foods[caption id="attachment_40821" align="aligncenter" width="960"] Go fresh and local at Local Foods. Photo courtesy of the Local Foods Facebook page. [/caption]
Grab a gourmet sandwich stacked with fresh, locally-sourced produce at Local Foods which prides itself on supporting local farmers and serving up healthy yet tasty dishes to Houstonians. The locale oozes a diner-like charm but with modern, bright industrial accents like exposed rafters and hanging pendant lights with metal shades. Menu items include the Garden Sammie Sandwich stuffed with crunchy sprouts, creamy avocado, hummus, tomato and pickled onions on fresh ciabatta bread, the Vegan Chili and Tuscan Kale chips. You won’t feel guilty eating at this joint, in fact you’ll probably go again for seconds.
#6. Nightlife is decent
From the aforementioned honky-tonk to classy wine bars to hipster microbreweries, Houston has a lot of nightlife selections with a few different crowds roaming the streets in search of entertainment. Here are a couple of places to check out:
13 Celsius[caption id="attachment_40822" align="aligncenter" width="960"] Wine on the patio at 13 Celsius. Photo courtesy of the 13 Celsius Facebook Page. [/caption]
A romantic, vintage wine bar that is perfect for a first date or an intimate encounter is 13 Celsius. With an array of soft and hard cheeses and salumi plus a small dessert menu that includes s’mores, this quaint locale hits the spot when you’re looking for a decadent snack or a sweet treat, but the best part is the wine. The wine selection at 13 Celsius is never-ending with hundreds of specialized wines from all over the world ready to tickle your fancy. Make sure to grab a romantic spot out on the patio and enjoy a seductive night filled with wine, cheese and chocolate.
Barbarella[caption id="attachment_40824" align="aligncenter" width="960"] Pretty much the way it looks on an average night at Barbarella. Photo courtesy of the Barbarella Facebook page. [/caption]
If you’ve outgrown the same old dance scenes you find in every metropolis (Latin club, House music raves or Hip Hop dance clubs), the time has come for you to visit Houston’s Barbarella club. This nostalgia-inspired dance hall is a refreshing scene with unique people coming together for a crazy night of dancing, reminiscing, and gushing over songs of great times past. Each week Barbarella hosts an eighties-themed Footloose night — so feel free to dance like nobody else is watching — everyone else at Barbarella will be doing the same.
Houston has hot summers, mild winters, and great weather the rest of the time. With only around two weeks of below 32 degree weather a year, half the year is usually somewhere in the 70 or 80 degree range with three hot summer months and the coldest month on average being January with average highs of 62 degrees and lows of 41 degrees. Unlike other more extreme cities like the cold winters in New York or the scorching summers in Los Angeles, Houston is a happy medium (albeit humid) where year-round travel is still pretty enjoyable.
From historical to post modern architecture, Houston has an eclectic mix of edifices, some by notable architects like Philip Johnson and I.M. Pei. Other than the impressive skyline of the Uptown District, don’t miss these architectural gems in Houston:
Rothko Chapel[caption id="attachment_40826" align="aligncenter" width="551"] The Broken Obelisk at Rothko Chapel. Photo courtesy of the Rothko Chapel Facebook page. [/caption]
A non-denominational chapel where anyone can come to meditate and sit in the stillness, Rothko Chapel is the brainchild of architects Philip Johnson, Howard Barnstone, Eugene Aubry, and Mark Rothko (who painted the 14 murals inside the chapel). The style of the Chapel is modern, with Roman Catholic relics influencing Rothko’s inspiration for some of the artworks inside. The Chapel is built on an axial layout with asymmetrical relationships displayed throughout. Take an afternoon to meditate inside the Chapel or sit out by the Broken Obelisk monument (dedicated to Martin Luther King Jr.) and contemplate life.
Pennzoil Place[caption id="attachment_40827" align="aligncenter" width="1200"] Pennzoil Place in Downtown Houston. Photo by joevare CC BY.[/caption]
In Downtown Houston you’ll come across two trapezoidal towers sitting side by side with only ten feet of space between them — Pennzoil Place. The 495-foot high towers were constructed in 1975 with architects Philip Johnson and John Burgee behind the design. The post modern design highlights the two towers in bronze glass and aluminum as each tower is a mirror image to the other. Take a stroll Downtown to get a glimpse of this architectural optical illusion.
#9. It’s cheap to visit
According to the trivago Hotel Price Index (2015) the average hotel prices in Houston remained under the national average of hotels in the top 25 most popular cities in America. The cheapest month to visit Houston is in December with the average hotel prices hovering at $117. The most expensive month to visit is in May ($162), which is when the temperature rises to the mid-80s. Don’t be fooled though, head to Houston in September, October, March or April for temperatures in the 70s and 80s, less chance of rain and cheaper hotel prices!
#10. It has killer hotels
If all the previous reasons on this list failed to inspire you to make Houston your next getaway — the hotels certainly will be the game changer. Here are a few of our top picks for your stay in Houston:
Hotel Granduca Houston | 5-stars[caption id="attachment_40837" align="aligncenter" width="960"] Poolside at the Granduca. Photo courtesy of the Granduca Facebook page.[/caption]
The picturesque Granduca hotel is an opulent display of grandeur in the heart of Houston’s Uptown District. Its deep chocolate-colored wooden furniture is complimented by fresh flowers placed daily in all the suites. The spacious elegance that makes up the guestrooms is exaggerated by the accompanying fine Italian linens, Aqua di Parma toiletries and luxurious terry cloth robes. Opt for a suite with a garden or poolside view! trivago users agreed that the Granduca is truly a grand experience, making it the highest rated 5-star hotel in Houston.
The Houstonian Club & Spa | 4-stars[caption id="attachment_40838" align="aligncenter" width="960"] Photo courtesy of the Houstonian Hotel, Club and Spa Facebook page.[/caption]
This 4-star stunner is luxurious comfort at its best. The Houstonian Hotel, Club & Spa is located on 18 acres of woodlands, but still within Houston’s city limits. Each of the hotel’s guestrooms are decked out in cozy, classic decor with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the forests. Indulge in an aromatherapy massage at the Spa or opt for a quiet day relaxing in your room with your own spa-worthy L’Occitane amenities.
Embassy Suites Houston Downtown | 3-stars[caption id="attachment_40839" align="aligncenter" width="720"] Take a dip among skyscrapers at the Embassy Suites Houston Downtown. Photo courtesy of the Embassy Suites Facebook page.[/caption]
The Embassy Suites in Houston’s Downtown are a perfect place to relax and and get some work done at the same time. The complimentary WiFi and cooked-to-order breakfast will have you all set for your afternoon meeting. Each of the Hotel’s 262 suits is exaggeratedly spacious with a living area complete with a comfy sofa. The heated rooftop pool is the perfect way to wind down after a long day at the Convention Center or walking the streets of Downtown Houston.
Comfort Suites West Beltway 8 | 2-stars
The Comfort Suites West Beltway 8. Photos taken from trivago.
The Comfort Suites West Beltway 8 are located near the Westchase district of Houston, not far from Chinatown. The hotel guest rooms are clean and modern with gentle hues of baby blue and cream. The Hotel features an outdoor pool and a fitness center so you can comfortably get a workout or a dip in before bedtime. The comfort, convenience and cleanliness of this hotel earned it the No.1 spot as the highest rated 2-star hotel in Houston by trivago users. Why don’t you see what all the rage is about?
#11. Because everyone thinks it’s not a vacation spot – hello locals!
The joke is on everyone else because while other tourists are waiting in endless lines in New York or sitting in traffic for three hours in Los Angeles — you’ll be zipping along the warm Houston streets on a beach cruiser with your new-found LOCAL friends.
That sums up our list of reasons why Houston should be your next getaway, but we know there are a lot more that we may have missed, so please let us know in the comments!