Houston’s a big place. Packing 2.3 million people into 600 square miles, it’s a perfect embodiment of the idea that “everything is bigger in Texas.” It’s also one of the most underrated cities in the country, one that finally been making big waves and strides in the past few years and gaining the recognition it deserves as areal global city – with the cultural attractions, entertainment and industry to match.
Combine everything there is to do in this city with its sheer size, and there is about a 0% chance you’ll be able to explore and take in everything this city has to offer in a mere 48-hour weekend trip. You’ll just to have to hit all the main highlights.
If we were to spend 48 hours in Houston, here’s how we’d do it.
Where to Stay in Houston
You haven’t got a lot of time to spend in this big city, so you’ll want to stay central – close to the action. A hotel or Airbnb in Downtown will probably be your best choice. The Hotel ICON, Autograph Collection is a cushy 4-star hotel in a retrofitted 1911 bank and offers quick access to Downtown as well as transit. The Lancaster is a sweet 1926 boutique hotel offering luxury and classic style and the only hotel in this Metropolis’ hopping Theater District. It even has its own art collection that you can enjoy without leaving the hotel.
If you are a museum type and don’t mind staying a little further form downtown, the Hotel Zaza offers some chic accommodations in the Museum District, right across from the Museum of Natural Science and the Houston Zoo.
Another good option might be the Marriot Marquis Houston, located right downtown. It has a massive lazy river pool in the shape of the Texas outline – perfect for lounging about and cooling off from a busy weekend in the Texas heat.
Where to Eat
Houston is quickly becoming a “foodie’s” paradise – and for more than just Texas Barbecue. While it’s not New York, San Francisco or London, it’s still offers almost any kind of gourmet food (and cheap eats) you could ask for.
If you’re a fan of Mexican cuisine, hop on over to Xochi – located right inside the Marriot Marquis itself (how’s that for convenient?). This raved about restaurant specializes in Oaxacan cuisine, with Mezcal cocktails, masa and a mole sampler. It opens early for weekend brunch and stays open late for dinner, too.
Coltivare Pizza and Garden is favorite spot amongst Italian lovers. Located in the Heights, they serve up fresh oven-fired rustic pizzas and handmade pasta dishes, using fresh produced cultivated and harvested from its own backyard garden – where you can grab a drink and chill while waiting for your table.
For more traditional Texas beef and Tex-Mex, head over to the Original Ninfa’s On Navigation. This longtime casual eatery on the East side of Downtown makes the best fajitas and pork tamales in the city – and helped make fajitas into the well-loved staple they now are. The cocktails are pretty rad, too.
If you’re planning to catch a show in the Theater District (more on that in a bit), head over to Perbacco and grab some Italian eats and drinks before curtain time.
If you’re just in the mood for some good old-fashioned home cooking, try Lucille’s in the Museum District. Located literally inside a converted house…it’s the perfect combo of good old-fashioned home cooking and an upscale dining experience.
Finally, if all you want is some meaty Texas Barbecue, try out the Jackson Street BBQ in Downtown Houston. It’s close to Minute Maid Park and and serves up some massive dishes of traditional slow-cooked, juicy brisket and more.
Houston may not be synonymous with Broadway, but did you know that it’s home to the largest theater district in America by number of seats and square footage?
Bet you didn’t. In fact, Houston is one of the few cities in the country with permanent resident companies in the four major performing arts: ballet, music, opera, and theater. There’s essentially always a show going on to check out. The Houston Opera is currently the only theater company in the world to win Grammy, Tony and Emmy Awards, while the Alley Theater and the Hobby Center for Performing Arts offer a constant array of touring Broadways, classic shows and new ones.
If you’re more of a museum type, then you’ll want to plant yourself firmly in the Museum District – just a couple miles south of Downtown. Here, you can tour great works at the Museum of Fine Arts, new works at the Museum of Contemporary Art, see the Houston Museum of Natural Science, among others. If you have kids, be sure to check out the Houston Children’s Museum.
Just a few steps away is Hermann Park, which is both a great place for a stroll and to take in any of the cultural attractions located within the park itself. Be sure to check out the McGovern Centennial Gardens in Hermann Park. The Houston Zoo is located right there, as well.
Like sports? If you’re visiting Houston in Spring or Summer, you can catch an Astros game at Minute Maid Park for relatively cheap admission. During football season you might be able to snag tickets to a Texans game. There is always the Rockets, for basketball fans, too.
Bars and Drinks
If you like a cool beverage at the end of the night, Houston’s got tons of bars and a lineup of well-regarded breweries to catch a drink. St. Arnold’s Brewery is the oldest craft brewery in Texas and offers tours every weekday and Saturday afternoon. They’ve got a whole array of refreshing brews to check out…the Fancy Lawnmower, a German-style Kolsch, is one that stands out from the pack.
Right downtown is Public Services Wine and Whiskey, where you can taste a well-curated list of both wine and whiskey (who would have thought?) in an extremely cushy joint that looks more like an old upscale living room than your typical urban hotspot.
Finally, if you’re a fan of the rooftop bar experience, catch a lift to Rosemont – the classy two-story joint where you can snag some handcrafted cocktails or straight-up spirits while lounging in shaded cabanas overlooking the entire sprawling city.
Another rooftop bar worth checking out? The Dogwood, an upscale sports bar located in Midtown where you can enjoy drinks on the patio or get some good Southern comfort food while taking in the game.
Provided you don’t mind a little heat, it’s always a good idea to get a little fresh air. You can rent bikes and spend an afternoon riding on the Buffalo Bayou Park bike path. There are miles of winding trails extending alongside the river, offering hours of outdoor fun. You can also head over to Discovery Green, where public artworks are on display and free entertainment is offered almost every day.
While you’re out there, be sure to check out The Cistern. This actual water cistern from 1927 has been turned into a legit public space, complete with guided tours and public artworks…in an underground cavern that looks like almost like ancient ruins than an industrial water supply in eastern Texas. Admission is only $5 a pop – making it one of the cheapest things you’ll do all weekend.