In Texas, size matters. So, it’s no accident that Houston, the Lone Star state’s most populous city, embodies abundance on every front. With jumbo-sized enthusiasm for living large, an unabated propensity to innovate and an unflagging zeal for embracing urban life on its own terms, H-town stands out as one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the United States, a distinction that enriches its food and arts scene, its social soirees and its overall colossal and global allure. With just enough old-school cowboy underpinnings to still whoop and holler about like a Texan of yore, the sophisticated metropolis boasts (as only a Texan can) James Beard-awarded chefs. seven cultural districts (the largest number of any city in the United States), myriad parks, a jaw-dropping, walkable museum quarter, beloved professional sports teams, and world-class everything. Here’s our hefty hit list with Texas-sized tips.
Where to Stay:
Rejuvenate like a city slicker at Hotel ZaZa, a theatrical hotel in the Museum District, steps from the Museum of Fine Arts. With Post Modern inspiration, awash with regal textures and drippy chandeliers, ZaZa offers the perfect sybaritic recharge. Its whimsically themed suites, whether the luxurious Magnificent Seven (I love “For Your Eyes Only”) or the Concept Suites (Go for the “Geisha Suite.”) delight. Take the Zaza’s free shuttle “the Magic Carpet Ride,” a sleek black car bedecked with a cattle horn.
Your art weekend getaway begins at La Colombe D’Or, inspired by the hotel of the same name in Southern France’s Saint-Paul de Vence. Recently expanded beyond its original mansion setting to embrace a tower next door and a garden, the hotel has 425 pieces of museum-worthy masterworks amongst 32 distinctive suites and common areas. Dine at Tonight & Tomorrow, the hotel’s haven of French bistro cuisine.
Where to Eat:
Located where Midtown and Montrose meet, this snazzy new restaurant in a bungalow exudes that sense of being the secret only the locals know about. By the former chef/owner of much lauded The Pass and Provision, it serves up exceptional pizza and urbane crudo.
Romantic, with a fancy Hollywood heyday vibe, Little’s stands out as the very first chef-driven venue from Houston’s epicurean kingpins, the Pappas restaurant family. Oysters broiled with absinthe and caviar by the ounce (harvested by the chef himself) highlight the menu.
Where to Drink:
Winner this year of Houston’s first ever National James Beard award for its bar program, Julep, poised on Washington Avenue in a former uniform factory, shakes (and stirs )up cocktails with deeply Southern inspiration. Stop by to congratulate bartender/owner Alba Huerta while you nurse a classic Mint Julep or one of the house speciality cocktails.
Speakeasy lovers will swoon over the playfulness of Bandista, hidden away between the walls of the Four Seasons Houston. Take part in the cloak and dagger thrill to arrive to a moody room with room for only twenty thirsty guests. Clever cocktails are brandished in uncharacteristic containers and vintage coupes.
Where to Visit:
Full of personality (and history), Montrose, a four mile square bordered bordered in the north by Allen Parkway and Highway 59 in the south feels more like a separate village than a neighborhood. A fusion of high and low, artsy, quirky and opulent in turns, it continues to fuel the city’s prodigious creative essence. Vintage shop at Leopard Lounge , swill at buzzy Anvil, nosh at Rosie Cannonball or March Restaurant, and buy gifts at Shop Montrose . Don’t leave without an afternoon stroll through the lofty Menil Collection and the haunting Rothko Chapel.
The walkable, four zone Museum District vaunts 19 world class museums from the Houston Zoo to Hermann Park, but its creme-de-la-creme remains the mesmerizing Museum of Fine Arts, a cache of some 70,000 works of art that range from antiquities to contemporary creations.
Runners, walkers, families and friends gather at this sought after 160-acre green-space, which winds along the 2,.3 mile stretch of the bayou from Shepherd Drive to Sabine Street. A trove of hike and bike trails, dog parks, paddle craft rental, gardens, a cool cistern, picnic areas, common areas, concert venues and gardens beckon.
Houston’s renowned for its theater scene. Stages, an intimate theater complex, with three unique venues (the largest has 250 seats) for drama and storytelling reigns as the hottest ticket in town. They have a full bar and you can take cocktails to your seat.
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