Houston, largest city in Texas, is not only oil & gas and hospitals. Nowadays somewhat distanced from its original cowboy roots, the city has exploded in population like no other US city in recent years, and on the way has picked up all types of foreign cultural influences which determine its current multi-ethnic flavor. Lip-licking tex-mex restaurants share the spotlight with sophisticated new fusion restaurants, while shiny new clubs pop up to compete with old two-stepping bars.
So you’re in Houston for a weekend, what should you do and see? As insiders for a number of years, we’re in a great position to give you some advice. Let’s assume you arrive Friday afternoon and leave on Sunday. Grab your cowboy hat, and let’s go!
Make sure you rent a car to get around the city, because the word “sprawl” hardly does Houston justice. It’s like someone had dropped a whole city from the stratosphere and let the pieces fall where they may. No zoning laws plus horrible traffic equal highway disaster, so try to stay clear of driving during rush hour for your own sake.
You’ll probably be hungry after all that traveling, so why not start with a nice Tex-Mex dinner? Several places compete to serve the best fajitas around. Our pick is El Tiempo Cantina on Washington Avenue for its flavorful filet mignon fajitas, but you can’t go wrong with Pappasitos, a local family owned restaurant, or with the original Ninfa’s on Navigation Boulevard, which claims to have invented the fajitas back in the 70s.
You may want to take it easy after such a powerful dinner, but resist the temptation and grab your dancing boots to head over to a truly Texan two-stepping joint, where you can spend the night dancing in a counter-clockwise manner like the locals. Check out the cheap beer and great atmosphere at Wild West on Richmond Street, or the slightly more upscale Rebels on Washington Avenue.
Saturday in our books is just a synonym of brunch, and Houston has plenty of places to curb your craving of bacon, eggs and pancakes. Some of our favorites are House of Pies on Kirby Street for some excellent eggs benedict, Tiny Boxwood on West Alabama Street for more sophisticated fare, and Buffalo Grille on Bissonnet Street if you want a nice and usually uncrowded terrace.
Nobody said the tourist life was easy. If you finished brunch before noon, it’s time to explore space, but from the comfort of an air conditioned museum. The Johnson Space Center is around 45 minutes south of the City, and boasts a huge collection of space rocks and shuttle materials, a humongous rocket, and an imax screen. The facility closes around 7pm in summer, so check out their website for updated closing times because in order to properly see the museum you’ll need at least 5 hours. Tickets are also cheaper if bought online!
We hope all that walking and dreaming of space made you hungry, because it’s time for stuffing yourselves with some famous Texan BBQ. The competition is fierce among BBQ restaurants which strive to outdo each other as the best barbeque of Houston year after year. Arguably the king of BBQ meats, brisket is the most requested cut, so make sure to have a few pieces along with those pork ribs. Killen’s barbeque is probably the most sought after BBQ joint, but its far away location in Pearland and its long lines may steer you to Goode’s BBQ on Kirby Street, a delicious feast of mesquite slow cooked meat. Be sure to leave some space for the pecan pie!
Night time has probably come by now, and we can think of no better way to commence the nightlife portion of our Saturday than having a cocktail at one of the great bars around the City. For a straight up great crafted cocktail, we highly recommend the hip Anvil on Westheimer Street, but if you’re feeling chattier, Boheme Café and Wine Bar on Fairview Street offers a more social atmosphere and alcohol-intense margaritas.
If you’re still in the mood for clubbing after such a long day, you probably want to head out to Midtown, where the nightlife scene is Houston’s most rowdy, and where new clubs substitute old ones at an alarming speed, so any namedropping we make now would probably not be relevant when you finally arrive at Houston. Just drive around Brazos, Smith or Louisiana streets along the crossroads with McGowen Street and you’ll find many options.
If you’re reading us you’re probably a very wise individual, so after a quick breakfast head over to the Museum District and choose your favorite museum out of the many options available. The Museum of Fine Arts houses jaw-dropping works of art spanning from Roman times up to contemporary works of masters such as Cezanne, Botticelli and even Andy Warhol. The Museum of Natural Science showcases huge and very complete dinosaurs. We know; it’s a tough choice.
After hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, many NOLA locals moved on to nearby Houston, where love of Cajun food grew exponentially. Nowadays there are plenty of excellent choices in Houston for experiencing the sweet and spicy Cajun flavors, especially so during Crawfish Season (March to June), when you can enjoy these ugly critters in all their glory. Head on for lunch to the unmistakable Ragin’ Cajun on Richmond Street for a taste of real jambalaya, or enjoy some oysters and gumbo at BB’s Café also on Richmond Street. “Laissez le bon temps rouler!”