We asked Michelle Smith, Chef Concierge at Four Seasons Hotel Houston, to gather the savviest sight-seeing suggestions she could find—not just her own, but also those of the local connoisseurs she works with every day at the Hotel. Experience the best of Texas hospitality and the city’s eclectic mix of museums, restaurants, theatre and culture.
City of 8,000 Restaurants
Boasting more than 8,000 restaurants representing cuisine from more than 35 countries and American regions, Houston hosts celebrity chefs’s spots such as Chris Shepherd’s Underbelly, Justin Yu’s Oxheart and Tyson Cole’s Uchi. For a quality curbside meal, follow Melange Creperie, Bernie’s Burger Bus and Phamily Bites on Twitter as these food trucks serve up some amazing cuisine around town.
Houston’s brew company legacy can be found downtown at St. Arnold Brewery, the oldest craft brewery in Texas; Karbach Brewing Company; and Southern Star in Conroe. Short on time? Visit Hay Merchant local pub and sample them all. For a refreshing drink other than a beer, handcrafted cocktails from Anvil, El Gran Malo or Mongoose vs. Cobra are sure to hit the spot.
Off the Beaten Path
Check out the funky, avant-garde Art Car Museum, also known as the “Garage Mahal.” In addition to its exhibit of art cars—imagine a car festooned with seashells—the museum is also devoted to other “artists who are rarely, if ever, acknowledged by other cultural institutions.”
Take in a Show
Thanks to “black gold,” or oil money, Houstonians turned their city into one of the biggest live theatre destinations west of Broadway. The Houston Theater District spans 17 culture-packed blocks, making this one of just a handful of cities with permanent professional companies in opera, ballet, music and theatre.
Only in Houston
Every March, locals and visitors saddle up for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, the nation’s largest. Another Houston gem is the Battleship Museum, where the battleship Texas, virtually unscathed by both World Wars, was made the nation’s first battleship memorial museum in 1948. It’s open daily (except some holidays), but about once a month, from October to May, hard-hat tours are offered through sections of the ship never glimpsed on the normal public tour. In Galveston, the city’s favourite day trip, check out the Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig & Museum, a working three-story oil rig converted into a living museum devoted to Houston’s big industry.
Fly Me to the Moon
The visitors’ section of NASA’s headquarters, Space Center Houston, is not just the city’s top sight; it is one of the country’s best. It was jointly designed by NASA and entertainment specialist Disney, and there is simply nothing like it. It has plenty of historic exhibits for the space programme buff, but also interactive exhibits including the Feel of Space Gallery, which gives visitors, well, a feel of space. Several times a year you can even observe live rocket launches here.
And Don’t Forget Museums
The same oil-driven effort to transform their cow town into a cultural centre left Houston with the Museum District, home to a whopping 18 major institutions, including the nation’s sixth-largest, the Museum of Fine Arts. Not to mention that the Houston Zoo resides in this area as well. You could spend a week just exploring this neighbourhood. The most unusual museum might be The Health Museum, where you can walk through a human body.
Tuscany in Texas?
Restaurant Quattro, in Four Seasons, has something hard to find on this side of the Atlantic: a traditional vinoteca, or Italian wine bar. It serves an array of wines by the glass, along with an antipasto bar and a special “small plate” menu that changes weekly with nearly two dozen varied samplers.