Houston, we’re hosting Super Bowl LI!

Planning to watch the biggest football game of the year? Maybe you’ll be attending?  Did you know that SuperBowl LI is being hosted by the city of Houston this year?

This is my city. I tend to escape as much as possible, why?

The answer is unclear, but I have recently taken a liking to my city of Houston, Texas. I was born and raised a Houstonian and can’t seem to get away from living here. When I was young we moved to and from Houston about 4 times, then 8 years in Austin, back to Atlanta and now I’m baaack (in Houston, that is)!snapseed

Houston is best know for the line: “Houston, we have a problem.” There are many other sayings we are known for, my favorite being “Everything is bigger in Texas.” It is true that the state of Texas is Huge and maybe that is the problem, but it also offers one of the largest cities in the U.S.-Houston!

Let’s just start with some facts about Houston:

  • Houston is 627 square miles (about the size of Oahu)
  • population: 2.196 million (and growing) as of 2013
  • 145 languages are spoken in Houston
  • one of the “greenest” cities in the U.S. with over 45 hike & bike trails (228 miles)
  • 2 major airports in Houston (hosted over 17.5 million visitors in 2015)
  • one of the largest museum districts in the country {we will cover this later}
  • over 10,000+ restaurants
  • home of Beyonce
  • home of M.D Anderson (#1 cancer center in America)
  • “Houston” was the first word spoken on the Moon

So what’s there to do in Houston? Below is my list of places to stay, play and eat. Should you find yourself present for Super Bowl LI, lay over, driving thru or even coming to visit… See what this diverse city has to offer.

Where to Stay:

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Hilton Americas: An amazing 1200+ rooms, the Hilton is the largest hotel in Houston. They’re  eco friendly and earned the first green seal for hotels in Texas. Offers some of the best views of Downtown and the city from multiple rooms including the gym (panoramic views)! After some new renovations to be completed on January 5, 2017, Hilton will open the R24 lounge available to Hilton Honors members. This Hilton is a prime location for business and leisure travels with a sky walk to the George R. Brown convention center and 4 levels of conference areas. The most fascinating  and under appreciated  part of the Hilton Americas is the art work,  done by all texas artist and many local artists. You can find the works all around the hotel and even their instagrammable chandeliers!img_1971

Why stay here: With over 19 suites and 4 presidential suites, accommodations are abundant. You don’t event have to leave the premises to grab a coffee at the largest Starbucks in Texas! There is even a full service spa and a free shuttle to anywhere downtown (ask for Freddy, who’s been driving the shuttles since the hotel opened. He knows everything there is to know about the area). Along with all the perks of the Hilton, you’ll find plenty of things to do near by: dining options3 Forks, The Grove, Pappasitos and Pappadeaux (opening January 2017); drinks 101 Reserve, Dirt (Bar), 8th Wonder Brewery; entertainment House of Blues, Warehouse Live and my personal favorite The Toyota Center (home of the Houston Rockets)

Want to book a room? Click here. *shuttle service will be unavailable from Jan. 27- Feb 5, 2017 for Super Bowl road closures

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Marriot Marquis: One of Houston’s newest hotels (recently opened days before Christmas 2016). Part of the Marriott brand, the Marquis offers excellence in this group. With Turkish  marble floors and crystal chandeliers, you’ll find the lobby to be quite inviting and rather large at that (2,400 square feet )! The lobby also houses 4 restaurants and a coffee/bar called “Texas T.” Cueva– a Mediterranean tapas and wine bar is home to over 500 bottles of wine with many being on tap. There is also Xochi (pronounced: So- chee) an upscale Mexican cuisine with flavor from Oaxaca (pronounced: Wah-hawk-a), Mexico (Opening in January 2017). On the East side of the lobby is Biggio’s sports bar. This has got to be the most grand sports bar- with leather sofas, wingback chairs and plenty of large screen TV’s to watch any game. The bar was opened with the help of Craig Biggio, a baseball hall of fame legend of the Houston Astros. The bar continues as it wraps around the corner with an upstairs patio that over looks Discovery Green and wall of multiple TV’s to view at either level of the bar. What’s more are the movie style seating of leather loungers stacked in rows in front of a theatre sized screen- the ultimate man cave dream. Lastly is the Walker Street Kitchen a simple and chic dining experience of costal eats from the Gulf. The kitchen also provides room service eats, and prepare all meals fresh. The Marquis has 1000 rooms, with 5 different types of suites. It’s presidential suites have large balconies with views overlooking Discovery Green and the giant Texas shaped lazy river. You may also want to pay attention to the detail of the Art around the grounds; as most of the works are a nod to the oil, gas and space industries here in Houston, as well as some abstract works. {Check out the elevators-featuring some “out of this world” images}

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Texas shaped lazy river

Why stay here: If the Texas shaped lazy river is enough to to strike your fancy, then maybe the amenities of having downtowns largest spas and fitness center might sway you. Or may be its the hotels 40 suite rooms which all have great views (ask for a corner room to really take it all in). The Marquis also offer the M Lounge, designed similarly to an airport lounge-{think Amex’s Centurion} is available to Marriott members, but guest can pay a fee to enter. There isn’t many reasons to leave this place, but if you want to the hotel is approximately 4 blocks from all stadiums.

Want to book a room? Click here. *just wanting to visit- valet is $22/ day, but if you are dining at any of the 4 restaurants on site valet is $8.

 Other places to consider when staying in Houston:  Hotel Za Za,  Hilton Houston (Medical Center) & The Sam Houston

Where to Play:

 As I stated in the fun facts, we have one of the largest museum districts in the country. Two of my favorite museums include:

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Wilson’s Tunnel

Museum of Fine Arts (MFAH) houses multiple collections and is spread over several buildings on Main street and Bissonet. I recently visited the Degas show, which ends on January 16. The museums will switch up shows and collections several times a year and offer a nice variety of paintings, period objects and often instillation pieces.

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A good rule of thumb when visiting the MFAH is to park in the museum parking garage on Bissonnet. The cost is $6 and you need to pay at the ticket desk, but this will allow you to access most of the main museums from the underground tunnel {Highly suggested that you walk through the Wilson’s Tunnel (see photo)}. The main gallery will be accessible from here. To see upcoming exhibits visit MFAH for more information. Ticket and pricing are available online, with main exhibit pricing at $23- you may get a complimentary ticket to an additional exhibit, take advantage of it!

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Triceratops (80% really bones)

Natural Science Museum Who doesn’t love to discover new things?! The science museum is so much fun as they always have an array of imax movies! They also house a nice dinosaur collection and butterfly exhibit {although you should head down to Galveston to Moody Gardens, which has a much better butterfly house}. The dinosaurs are not the main attraction, but are really amazing to see at any age. Houston’s science museum actually has some real bones and some of these giants are 80% real bone displays (See the Triceratops). A good tip when viewing the Jurassics– Look for the metal support systems! Real bones cannot be held together with screws, because they are too fragile. A metal support system is needed to keep them in place versus the casted bones, which can stand alone without support.

The main displays rotate similar to the fine arts, various times a year. You’ll see something new on each visit! There is also a gem display and Texas nature display. {I would suggest you look into both; the Texas nature display is pretty mind blowing, the amount of species in the state is very bizarre and amazing simultaneously}. Currently on display is the Mummies of the World until May 29,2017. I did see this exhibit and I must say it was rather interesting. They do not allow photography in this exhibit. All I can say is you must see it to believe it! Tickets range in pricing depending on what you will do in the museum, but main exhibit is $30. This will get you access to most of the other display as well. The museum offers a bunch of discount rates as well, visit their website for more.

Houston has a variety of options when it comes to play time. Below is a list of some entertainment options in a wide variety!

Just across the way from the museums is Herman Park, which is a peaceful place to wander around for some time or even stop into the Houston Zoo or see a show at Miller Outdoor Theatre (performing arts). Looking for more art? No problem, swing over to the Montrose area and see the Menil Collection or you can take a break from it all and reflect on things at Rothko Chapel. 

If shopping is your thing then you would be wise to drive to the Galleria, which has expanded over the years and still houses a full sized ice skating rink thats open year round! You can find your normal mall shops and upscale luxury shopping  here- Tiffany & Co., Dior, Salvatore Ferragamo, etc. Or if you want to be outdoors, Highland Village is a great spot on Westheimer. A little further east is Kirby Dr. where you can find additional shops sprinkled along either end of the drive.

There are quite a few stadiums near by downtown for live entertainment, you can catch many games like the Texans at NRG Stadium, the Astros at Minute Maid Park, the Rockets at Toyota Center, the Dynamos (soccer) at BBVA Compass Stadium  and even college games at TDECU Stadium or Rice Stadium. Concerts are usually held at Revention Music CenterHouse of Blues, and White Oak Music Hall. Want to see something other than musicians and sports? Head over to the Wortham Center  for a ballet or theatre performance or the Houston Grand Opera. And for a more exotic performance, head to Prohibition Supper Club & Bar  to check out their burlesque show.

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Houston’s Nutcracker Ballet at the Wortham Center

Outside the city limits you’ll find an array of activities. One of my favorite places to escape the city is Galveston, a quick 45 drive from downtown. Galveston offers entry to the Gulf of Mexico- beach vibes, fishing and fresh seafood. Fun fact: the gulf is home to over 30 species of Shark and Whales! Heading south toward Galveston on I-45, you will notice an exit for NASA Parkway. You guessed it, NASA’s Space Center Houston is on this exit! It’s a must see for anyone and a great day trip. At the space center, you’ll see the Saturn V Rocket and the Historic Mission Control that helped launch the most famous Apollo missions {on my last visit here we witnessed work being done on the prototypes for the Orion module- planned to take human exploration to the next level}. Exploring Space Center Houston is really out of this world, I promise!

Plan your visit online here.

In addition to all the fun you can muster up, Houston also features many wall murals found around the city. Everyone loves taking a photo with them! Here are a few I think you’ll enjoy. I challenge you to find them all when you’re in town 🙂

Where to Eat:

As stated in the Houston facts, we are home to 10,000+ restaurants and dining options. This may be a little overwhelming, so I’ve curated some of my own picks. Below is my Top 10 favorite Local places by category (in no specified order) and what to order there.

Burger:  Hubcap Grill-cheeto burger

Pizza:  Pizaro’s Pizza Napoletana-patata e funghi pizza or Margherita

BBQ:  Killen’s Barbecue-brisket or pulled pork sandwich 

Japanese:  Izakaya- ramen menudo

Greek:  Niko Niko’s- gyro

Hot Dog: Good Dog- Ol’ Zapata

Steak:  Pappa Bros. Steakhouse

Fish (& Game):  Rainbow Lodge- Rainbow trout with lump crab and pecan brown butter

Tacos:  Laredo Taqueria-Chicharron tacos 

Sweet Treats/ Dessert:  Tiny’s Milk & Cookies-chocolate chip cookie

And a few additional favorites (not all are local):  Torchy’s Taco, Churrasco’s, Steel City Pops, Dunlavy Kitchen, Common Bond, Pondecheri, Peli Peli, Blood Brothers BBQ, Rudy’s, Moonshiner’s, Yia Yia Mary’s, Local Foods, Tiny Boxwoods.

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This completes the guide of where to Stay, Play & Eat in Houston. If you have any questions or need further recommendations, please drop me a line or leave me a comment! for more information on Houston and things to do, check out visithouston.

Thanks for visiting Houston. Ya’ll come back now!

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