See and Do in Houston
Whether you’re a sports fanatic, a theatre buff, a nature enthusiast or a culinary connoisseur, there’s countless ways to spend a weekend in the Bayou City; and just when you think you’ve managed to find your favourite activity and your most cherished venue, new, innovative endeavours are popping up on a daily basis.
Houstonians have big personalities, and appropriately big bellies to balance out their egos and their attitudes. Locals love to eat, and after years of a restaurant culture marked by mediocrity, restaurateurs are getting innovative, infusing classic Texan flavours with bits and bobs of the culinary cultures of the eclectic populations that have come to call the city home.
The tree-lined Montrose area is a hotspot for dining establishments, and the recently revitalised downtown area, the Market Square Historic District and Bayou Place in particular, have also become host to great restaurants and comfortable cafés.
Apart from sampling the local Tex-Mex and barbecue fare, expats should also spend some time partaking in a great local pastime – BIG BREAKFASTS. Brunch spots are in no short supply, and it won’t be difficult to find a nearby favourite.
Houston is home to ten professional league teams, and a culture of locals that would like nothing better than to drink a beer and watch the game; and that's not to mention the countless collegiate and high schools teams that compete at a slightly lower, but no less exciting, level of play.
The Houston Astros (MLB baseball), the Houston Texans (NFL football) and the Houston Rockets (NBA basketball) all clash against opponents in world-class stadiums. Even if you’re not a fan of these sports, it’s definitely worthwhile to catch a game or two on site. Tickets vary in price, and if you find entrance to the larger events too expensive, try attending a continental league baseball game or a women’s game, as fees tend to be less.
Expats may be surprised to find that when the dust of relocation settles, the famed cowboy and cattle culture of Houston actually gives way to a thriving artistic community. The city boasts major symphony, theatre, ballet and opera companies of national acclaim, and performances are always on the horizon.
The Wortham Centre, Alley Theatre and Jones Hall frequently play host to the companies, but outdoor venues, like Hermann Park and the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion in Woodlands, present fantastic opportunities for expats to see a show under the open Texan sky.
Consult the individual website of each venue for scheduling.
For those who prefer the hushed hallways and darkened corridors of museums, Houston has an entire museum district with 18 separate establishments. There’s a Museum of Fine Art, a Museum of Natural Sciences, a Contemporary Arts Museum and even a Children’s Museum, among others. Admission is reasonable, and the collections and exhibitions are remarkable.
Needless to say, the tendency to associate Houston with gun-toting, horse-riding hillbillies is far from truth. There’s plenty of enriching activities that revolve around the arts for those who consider themselves more “cultured”.
Though Houston’s relative youth as a city doesn’t lend itself to grand, historic facades or achievements of the past memorialised in the present, it does mean that an impressive collection of modern and entertaining sightseeing is the order of the day.
►Space Center HoustonAn “out-of-this-world” journey into the past, present and future of the US space program. Exhibits, attractions, special presentations and hands-on activities allow visitors to gain some insight into NASA’s missions into the Milky Way, and what happens behind the scenes.
Tel: +1 281-244-2100
►Downtown AquariumA six-acre aquatic wonderland, featuring 200 different species of aquatic life from around the world, and a number of unique and well-maintained environments. Gators, red-bellied piranhas, nurse sharks, stingrays and more. There’s a full-service restaurant on site, as well as a bar and shopping area.
Tel: +1 713-223-FISH (3474)
►Discovery GreenThis 12-acre park, smack in the centre of downtown Houston, is a public space with oodles of potential. There’s a one-acre lake, a children’s playground, a public library, an amphitheatre, dog runs and art exhibits. Not to mention, there’s little better than relaxing on the open lawn or strolling along the paths and trails. Stop at The Grove, the park’s rooftop restaurant, for a cocktail while the sun sets.
Tel: +1 713-400-7336
►Houston ZooThis 55-acre, lush zoological garden within Hermann Park is a fantastic opportunity to acquaint yourself with the natural world. Thousands of animals and special exhibits await those interested in mammals, reptiles, birds and more. There’s even a new 4-D viewing experience, a technology that uses mist, bubbles and lights to bring movies to life.
Tel: +1 713-533-6500
►Bayou BendIma Hogg, a prolific Houstonian philanthropist, devoted her life to the city’s cultural and civic institutions. Bayou Bend is her former home, and the resting place of an astounding collection of art dating from colonial times to the mid-nineteenth century. Alongside the impressive interior of the mansion, the 14 acres of meticulously manicured surrounding gardens are worth a wander.
Tel: +1 713-639-7750