I recently had the opportunity to visit my friends Jim & Renny in Houston. It was a last minute trip and I didn’t want to take up too much of their time so I scheduled to be in Houston for 48 hours. I only get to see them every few years so I was super excited to see them and check out Houston. It worked out a little perfectly since I had a few days between when I left NOLA and when I needed to be in DC.
I was trying to remember if I’ve been to Houston before when Steve (Renny & Jim friend) mentioned NASA. Of course I’ve been here! Well, sort of. NASA is a little outside of Houston, but I’m sure we stopped in for gas or BBQ when I was a kid and on our way to see the space shuttles. I don’t know if it really counts since I don’t remember much of the trip, so as an adult I was super excited to find out what Houston has to offer (plus TexMex).
Now, what to do when you have 48 hours in Houston. Well, I had some excellent tour guides (Renny & Jim) who showed me a plethora of things you can do on a dime.
Museum of Fine Arts Houston
Cost: Free Thursday, $23 for Adults normally
The place is exactly what you would expect from an Art Museum with an excellent collection. It’s so large they had to set up the building across the street to house some of their collections. Bonus, you get to walk through a piece of art to connect to the second building. We saw the rotating collections and it was amazing (see pictures below). We also went to the exhibit – Sculpted in Steel which was so cool! It’s Art Deco era circa 1920 – 1940 cars and motorcycles, most of which are custom built. It was awesome to see all of these beautiful cars in person. I kept imagining what it would be like to ride (better yet drive!) one of them.
Cost: Free or very expensive depending on if you buy anything/what you buy
Its a very large mall that they keep building onto. It has high end fashion stores, like Gucci, sitting next to places like Wet Seal. The original building is beautiful with a hugh skylight above the ice skating rink. Yes, you read that right. Texas loves skating rinks. When I was a kid we lived in Minnesota and moved to Texas. My sister learned to skate in Minnesota but didn’t start really skating (i.e. taking lessons for figure skating) until we moved to Texas. A lot of people skate here since it’s a great way to beat the summer heat.
Skyspace by James Turrell @ Rice University
Search Skyspace online and you will see it has mixed reviews. I get it. We live in a world where everyone watches tv while scrolling through Facebook and Instagram and texting their friends. We are a generation of doers – even when we are doing nothing. If you are the type of person that can sit still and stare at the stars for more than 5 mins, then you probably won’t enjoy this either.
Skyspace is about mediation. You will sit in silence (possibly/hopefully) for 40 minutes (maybe less/more) and watch the sky change colors during sunrise or sunset while the lights around it make it appear different from reality. It’s actually pretty neat. If you do decide to go (which I personally highly recommend) here is what you should do:
- Search online for the times it starts.
- Book your tickets. You might not need them, but I’m sure it depends on the day and weather.
- Bring you favorite meditation music and headphones. I found it was a little distracting when people would be a little bit chit chatty. I opted to cancel out the noise and listen to the Walter Mitty Soundtrack instead, which was an excellent accompaniment.
- Relax for the next 40 minutes. Sorry, you won’t actually see any stars.
Sky Lobby @ JP Morgan Chase Tower
What an excellent view! You can see all of Houston’s west side (where most of the buildings are) all the way out to the power plant – because, you know, Texas is flat. It’s a great way to relax a little and take in the view while you are in the downtown area. Bonus, you get to walk past a Miro sculpture in the front of the JP Morgan Chase Tower.
Buffalo Bayou Park
Since it was winter and we already had a lot to do on our plate, we ended up driving through this park on our way to downtown. So pretty! If you are in Houston and it’s a nice day or night, definitely check it out. There are a bunch of well lit walking paths and it’s a beautiful space with unique walking bridges.
Also another great park to walk through when it’s nice out. The city has take old overpasses and repurposed them into walking bridges. It has a well lit running/walking/bike path on one side, which looks to get a little crowded at night. The other side is still has a nice path, it’s just not as well lit and therefore empty
If you are a little tired or it is not nice out but you still want to see Memorial and Buffalo Bayou Park, then I suggest taking a drive down Memorial Drive. It takes you through both parks and is what we ended up doing since I was in Houston in the winter.
What to eat!
Teotihuacan – TexMex!
Cost: about $10 – 15 a plate
I LOVE TexMex and this place did not disappoint. We met up with Mark & Steve for dinner. They are some awesome guys I got to meet the last time Jim & Renny came to New York. I shared (with Steve) a fajita plater for two. It was so much food we actually had extra. I never have extra when it comes to fajitas – especially when it involves homemade tortiallas! I somehow coaxed Jim into letting me have a bit of this Green Enchilades. I don’t know why he let me. If it was me, I was gaurd it like a starving polar bear. Jim is good friend with good taste in food as well!
Seco – Latin
Cost: about $10 – 15 a plate
Oh man, oh man, oh man. This place was yummy! I met another ones of Jim & Renny’s friend, Jack. He suggested the corn echilades and Chupede Camaron (Shrimp soup). Oh. Em. Gee. Both were excellent choices. The Corn Echilades had this nice sweetness to it and the shrimp had just the perfect amount of spice – although everyone else I was with thought it was a little bit too spicy. Maybe I have a high tolerance for spicy food?
Tout Suite – bakery & cafe
Cost: about $10 – 15 a place, but they also have pastries and coffee
I think this place would be prefect to stop in for a delicous bakery treat and a coffee. It had everything from savory crossiants to french macarons. We had lunch (also an excellent reason to eat here) and were a little disappointed when we found out they didn’t have the cuban sandwiches that day. Have not fear! We settled on a Pork Belly Bahn Mi, Spicy BLT (with Sriracha) and the Suite Burger and they did not disappoint. I had the Bahn Mi which was super delish and was told the BLT and Suite Burger were also excellent. Word to the wise, the handicap parking is a little odd. They don’t have a ramp at the front of the store so we got to go through the kitchen. It was neat to see but a little odd since everyone there is staring at you. It was kind of like having a welcoming and leaving committee. But hey, if you are wondering what the kitchen looks like and the windows from the dining area into the kitchen are not enough, then you now know how to get into their kitchen without being kicked out of the restaurant.
SweetCup – gelato
Cost: normal gelato cost. Sorry, I don’t actually remember but I think mine was around $4 for a small.
This place. Seriously. Stop what ever you are doing and go there. It was so very good. The owner, Jasmin, makes a lot of unique flavors. Even when I was there she was working in the kitchen trying to come up with new options. I had Mocha (dark chocolate and coffee) with a scoop of Fig & Cheese. Apparently they will let you get more than one flavor in a small cup – yeep! I had the chance to meet Jasmin while I was there and she was super cool. Sadly, they didn’t have Texan Kulfi flavor when I was there. It sounds exactly like something I would love. I guess I’ll just have to keep going back (when ever I’m in town) until they have it!
All-in-all, Houston was great! People need to start checking this city out! I had a great time exploring their cultural scene and I can’t wait until next time!
I have to admit, the only down side was how far away the airport is and the fact that there is not public transit rail line into the city. I think if Houston added this one simple line, then tourism could bloom. Without it, you have to rent a car, take an expensive taxi, or hitchhike (which I believe might be illegal in Texas – so maybe not the best idea).
Thanks for reading,