You should go to the Menil Collection, a small art museum. The permanent collection comes from the personal art collection of Dominique De Menil. She liked medieval art, folk art, and really modern stuff. There's usually a couple of temporary exhibits going on. Admission is free. The Rothko Chapel near the Menil is a non-denominational chapel with a dozen of Rothko's paintings. The Fine Arts museum has an OK permanent collection, with a few works from most periods. They do a lot of photography exhibits. There is usually a major touring exhibit showing. They also have a film series. There's a sculpture garden across the street, and the Modern Art museum is nearby.The natural science museum has a lot of stuff. There are permanent collections of minerals, natural history exhibits, a planetarium with laser shows and an Imax theater, a butterfly habitat, a paleontology exhibit with dinosaurs,and a new chemistry hall. This place is very crowded, especially on weekends, and you should call for reservations for the Imax, planetarium and butterfly exhibit. The Heritage Society houses and museum at Sam Houston Park, downtown. The oldest house in Houston, plus houses from several eras of Houston's history, transported to the park and restored. Bayou Bend is Ima Hogg's former estate near River Oaks, now a museum for her private collection of antiques. Also has beautiful gardens. The Children's Museum has rotating exhibits and activities.Space Center Houston is the NASA tourist center. Exhibits and tours of the nearby NASA facility. There are smaller museums scattered around the area: Fire, Funeral, Police, Printing, etc. There are lots of art galleries and display spaces.
Houston's a good restaurant town. The specialties are seafood, Cajun, Mexican and barbecue. You need to go to Goode Company Barbecue while you're here. There's more than one location. Try the pecan pie. Second choice for barbecue would be Brisket House (Pappa's barbecue) or Luther's.Go to Kemah for fresh seafood as you watch the boats go in and out.There are also a lot of ethnic restaurants. On the west side of town along Bellaire is a Chinatown, with all kinds of oriental food. There's a smaller Chinatown near downtown, and a Little Vietnam on the southwest side of downtown. Scattered around town are Indian, Mid-east, German, French, African, South-American, Italian etc. Try eating at the restaurant school at UH. Good food and a chance to grade your waiter. The popular places with the natives are the Pappas chain of restaurants, including Pappadeaux's (Cajun), Pappasitos (Mexican), Pappas Seafood, Pappas Barbecue, Pappamia's (Italian), and Pappas Steakhouse. The free paper Houston Press has extensive restaurant listings and ads.
There's two arboretums (arboreti?), Houston and Mercer. Various parks, including Memorial Park, Hermann Park, Buffalo Bayou Park. and Sam Houston Park. Further out of town are Armand Bayou Nature and Brazos Bend State Park. Various places to rent a canoe, horse or sailboat. Cruises on Clear Lake, Buffalo Bayou, or Galveston Bay. Fishing all along the coast and at various lakes. Walk out the Texas City Dike (a good fossil locality). Several water parks.
Houston's a good theater town. Try a play at the Alley, TUTS, Stages, Ensemble, Main Street, etc. The UH School of Theater has professional-calibre shows for the price of a movie. Dinner and magic shows at Magic Island. Various Comedy Clubs (try Comedy Sportz for great improv). Radio Music Theater does great comedy sketches.The Miller Outdoor Theater has something showing 3-4 nights a week, from May through October. Various types of music, Shakespeare, full-scale musicals, symphony, etc. It's always free.
Anything from classical to reggae is available here. There are concert listings in the weekly free paper Houston Press, Of course, there are also listings in the regular newpapers.The club scene mostly centers on Richmond weekend nights. Dozens of restaurants and clubs and killer traffic. Country-Western bars are all over. Gilley's is gone, but there are others just as big and touristy. Or, check out the little neighborhood places.
Houston has professional baseball, arena football, men's and women's basketball and hockey(minor league) teams.Golf and tennis year-round all over town. There's one golf course where each hole is a re-creation of a famous hole from golf courses all over the world.Other Activities
- Gulf Greyhound Park, the world's largest parimutuel dog racing complex.
- Houston Raceway Park, dragstrip with racing several nights a week
- The Sam Houston Race Track, local horse racing
- Bike and jogging trails at Memorial and Hermann Parks and along Buffalo and Braeswood Bayous.
- Equestrian Center for horses and Velocidrome for bicyling.
- Water skiing, surfing and wind-surfing along the coast.
- Astrodome, Astroworld, Water World.
- Folk arts. The Orange Show is a must-see, and they can give you info about the other places: Beer Can House and Flower Man, etc.
- Lower Westheimer. Day for shopping, night for food and entertainment. Antiques, resale shops, tattoos.
Go to a Fiesta grocery store and check out the weird stuff from all over the world. There's a free ship channel tour boat (though you need to make reservations well in advance). Or you can go down on Sunday and drive around the docks; take the Ship Channel exit off the East (610) Loop, follow the signs to the guard station, and they'll give you a map and directions.
Spaces & Places
Hermann Park -- you can do the Natural History museum, the garden center, the zoo, etc. The zoo has the new primate exhibit. There's a miniature train, golf, picnic areas. In the evening, there's often something showing at Miller Theater. Allen's Landing -- downtown, where the Allen brothers, early real-estate developers, first landed their boats and founded Houston. Nothing there to see, but it's been nicely landscaped lately. The Bayou Belle cruises leave from here. The San Jacinto Monument commemorates the battle where Texas won its freedom from Mexico. The monument looks like the Washington monument but it's taller. There's a museum in the base, and an elevator up to an observation deck at the top.The Battleship Texas is docked near the San Jacinto Monument. The Texas fought in both World Wars, and has recently been extensively repaired. You can wander all over the ship, above and below deck. Industrial tours -- Budweiser beer (I-10 at the 610 Loop) The Williams Tower water wall and observation deck. The water wall is a man-made waterfall next to the Tower, spectacular from up close.The downtown Chase Tower has an observation deck. The tunnel system under downtown Houston has over 4 miles of connected tunnels, with stores and retaurants. It's only open on workdays during business hours. The Pasadena refineries at night; this isn't as spectacular as it used to be with the new lighting sources, but it's still worth a trip (
If Hell could be beautiful, it would look like Pasadena at night.)Ice houses -- what Houston used to have before liquor-by-the-drink was legalized. Cold beer and an open-air place to sit and socialize. Maybe a pool table and/or jukebox. The West Alabama icehouse is good for tourists. Rice University -- check out the architecture, or see a film at the media center or a recital at Stude Hall.Go up to the temple on the architecture building at the University of Houston. Take the Medical Center tourRiver Oaks -- just drive through and look at the mansionsNorth and South Boulevards near Rice, big houses, oak alleys. The big downtown art (you can skip the Virtuoso) is interesting. There's a big Hindu temple in Pearland.
- Rice Village -- lots of unique shops and restaurants. You "must" go to the Variety Fair 5 & 10
- Flea markets, indoor and out, all over town. Biggest are Trading Fair on the South (610) Loop, and Houston Flea Market (59 at Westpark)
- The Galleria -- a huge complex with a couple of hundred stores in three sections. Galleria I has 3 levels, with an ice skating rink on the bottom area. There are lots of ritzy stores, including Neiman Marcus, Gumps, Tiffanys, etc,, but there are places you can find a bargain.
- There are big outlet centers in Conroe (way north) and La Marque (way south).
- Old Town Spring, north of Houston, has dozens of small shops selling antiques and crafts.
- Spec's Liquor downtown. Maybe you'll see Spec himself cruising the aisles on his roller skates. Cheapest liquor in town, with phenomenal selection
- Antiques stores all over, but concentrated on lower Westheimer and around River Oaks.
- Book stores -- Half Price, Murder by the Book, Brazos Book Store, Brown's Science Books, the Alabama Book Stop, Barnes and Noble, Borders.
Out Of Town
GalvestonRailroad museum, shopping and Victoriana on the Strand, trolley to the ocean side. Rent a bicycle or skates and cruise along the 10 mile seawall.Visit one of the county beaches or take your car and drive out to a deserted beach.If you like old houses, see the Bishop's Palace and Moody Mansion.Moody Gardens has a 3D IMAX, a white sand beach, an indoor rainforest and beautiful landscaping.Good restaurants are all over Galveston, including Mexican and Italian, but seafood is the main attraction. Gaido's seafood restaurant on Seawall is very popular with the locals.Take the free ferry to and from Bolivar (bring crackers to feed the seagulls), and with luck, you might see some dolphins.
There's a wildlife sanctuary at Anahuac that's great for birding. Go at sunset to see the waterfowl come in to nest.The Texas State Zoo in Victoria; all their animals are native to Texas.Bayou Wildlife Park near Alvin has rhinos, buffalo, giraffe, etc. that you can hand feed.The Big Thicket National Preserve is a dense forest with a wide variety of plant and animal life. The Alabama-Coushata Indian reservation is nearby.Washington County, northwest of Houston, has nice scenery, including some of the best wildflower displays in the spring. There's Washington- on-the-Brazos for history, Lake Somerville, the Blue Bell Ice Cream Creamery, the Antique Rose Emporium, and a monastery that raises miniature horses.
By Ruth Cross