As we all know, everything is bigger and bolder in Texas. Houston is a city that definitely knows this and lives by it! Everything in Houston is just that much bigger, bolder and better – but it is still a city with strong roots. Many of the original buildings from the 1920s and earlier are still standing, most of them with beautifully refurbished interiors. Restaurants embrace the local fare and turn traditional Houston cuisine and fresh local ingredients into delectable twists on the classics. In short, Houston serves up luxury in big, bold portions!
Shop in Style
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For an exceptional shopping experience head to the Galleria, the city’s “holy grail” of retail shopping. This shopping Mecca is the largest shopping centre in Texas, and the fourth largest in the USA. With over 400 stores featuring boutique shops and international chains, this mall is a tourist attraction with a twist, housing two hotels, an ice rink, two swimming pools and a video arcade. The architecture itself is something to see, modeled after the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, an architectural masterpiece in Milan, with curved skylights that give it an elegant feel.
After beating the crowds to the best shops and entertainment, the Waterwall, Houston’s most photographed attraction, is the perfect place to take in a bit of tranquility. Located beside the Galleria, this 64-foot curved black obsidian wall constantly re-circulates 1100 gallons of water every minute. During a hot day this is the perfect place to cool down as the spray can reach up to 10 feet. After dark the water wall is lit up for a romantic and beautiful backdrop.
Explore Hermann Park
Herman Park was established in 1914. Located in the heart of the city, it is home to The Houston Zoo, The Museum of Natural Science, the Mecom Fountain, Miller Outdoor Theatre, Hermann Park Golf Club and Houston Garden Centre. Perhaps the most unique feature of Hermann Park, the Miller Outdoor Theatre is the only open air theatre in the United States. There are over 120 performances every year, including symphonies, ballet, opera, theatre and festivals. The theatre runs from March to November every year, and every performance is free. Choose to reserve a free ticket in one of the 1,700 seats, recently installed under the canopy in front of the stage, or take your picnic blanket or lawn chair to set up on the hill behind the seats.
Float Through Space
Perhaps one of the most interesting attractions in Houston is the Houston Space Center. As the headquarters for NASA’s mission control, the Space Center offers an inside look at American space travel with numerous activities, tours and exhibits. Perhaps one of the most interesting offers at the Space Center is the Tram Tour, a 90-minute tour through the real working areas of the Johnson Space Center, allowing guests to see where the astronauts train for space missions. It’s interesting to learn about the history of American Space Travel, from seeing the first space suit ever used in space to taking in the sights at the current mission control area. If timed right visitors may even hear a communication from astronauts currently orbiting the earth. The interactive displays are certainly something to see, whether it’s touching a moon rock or trying your hand at landing a shuttle. Experience the spectacular sensation of a blast off, listen to a speaker lead an interactive journey through the science of space travel, or even have lunch with an experienced astronaut.
For a completely different dining experience, check out Rainbow lodge, a log cabin situated on an acre of land surrounded by lush gardens and greenery. Complete with three fireplaces, creek views and garden terraces, this one of a kind dining experience is located right in the heart of the city, yet it makes its guests feel like they are miles away from anything. The perfect retreat after a day in the bustling city, Rainbow Lodge offers an incredible sophisticated selection of wild game and local seafood meals sure to tantalize. If dinner doesn’t suit, it also offers lighter fare for lunch, as well as Sunday Brunch, which comes complete with 99 cent mimosas.
For the ultimate Houston cultural experience take in the one of a kind, locally inspired fare at Underbelly: The Story of Houston Food. The executive chef and owner, Chris Shepherd, has put together an ever changing inspired menu showcasing the best of Houston’s dining scene. Using only the freshest ingredients from local farmers and its own in-house butchery, this restaurant captures Houston’s diverse dining scene in one inspired location. Underbelly even hosts an “Off the Wall” dinner series where he teams up with other local chefs to make an original, inspired dish together. This isn’t an average dining experience. From the family style dining tables to the open view into the kitchen, Underbelly is sure to deliver an unforgettable dining experience.
Indulge In A Drink
Just north-west of Houston is the Bluebonnet Wine Trail, a fellowship of seven wineries along 140 miles of scenic country roads. These wineries offer a number of activities throughout the year for travellers and locals alike, from wine tasting and grape stomping to specialty dinners and concerts. When these wineries team up to put on an event it is an experience not to miss. Perhaps the most popular is the Spring Bluebonnet Wine and Cheese Trail, where each winery offers cheese pairings for its fine wines. In addition to these great tastings the wineries offer giveaways, including Texas wildflower seeds, wine glasses, bags and commemorative wine openers.
Anvil Bar & Refuge is not your average watering hole. Owned and operated by people who love the classic cocktail, this unique spot pays tribute to the art of a good cocktail. Even the decor invites customers to sit back and enjoy. Using reclaimed materials from Houston’s history this bar truly gives off a relaxing and elegantly simplistic vibe. Even the glasses used at the bar are vintage, reminiscent of Grandma’s “fancy” glasses. All of the bartenders know their way around a bar. If choosing from the list of over 100 cocktails on their menu seems daunting simply ask for “bartender’s choice”.
Rest In True Luxury
Hotel Zaza is a gorgeous hotel and spa located just outside of Hermann Park in the Museum District. It may be large, but it has a unique feel with spacious, regal rooms. It is a true home away from home for royalty and a paradise for those who enjoy colonial elegance. Stay in one of the elegantly decorated guestrooms, a concept suite or one of their Magnificent Seven Suites – either way the difference from other hotels is immediately apparent, from the clever decor all the way down to the luxurious linens. To soak in all the luxurious aspects of Zaza and to feel truly pampered, lay by the beautiful pool for the afternoon and enjoy a one of a kind treatment at the ZaSpa, the on-site spa that offers its own menu of services. Enjoy a meal at the gourmet Monarch restaurant, and be sure to sit outside on the patio overlooking the famous Mecom fountain.
Magnolia Hotel, rated the “Best Boutique Hotel in Houston” by the Houston Press, was opened in 2003 after a major renovation. Originally the headquarters for the Houston Post Dispatch newspaper in 1926, this historic building is truly a historic landmark. With 314 rooms, this award winning boutique hotel absolutely exudes charm. With soft muted colours, velvet draperies and “to die for” bedding, it’s difficult not to relax in the beautiful guestrooms. For a relaxing metropolitan experience head for a swim in the rooftop pool overlooking the city – the view is incredible both day and night.