Houton Help for Hapless Habitant
October 27, 2009 11:09 AM   Subscribe

Going to Houston for a three week training course. Evenings and weekends off. Help this pasty Canadian be able to rave about it upon my return...

This recent AskMe not only removed the dread (three weeks... on a corporate training course... in a hotel... in Texas...) but actually got me kinda pumped for it.

I have weekends and evenings to myself. I generally like cities and what they offer: art, food, music, books, cinema, people but am also someone who loves mountain and wind sports and being outside. Basically, I am preconditioned to think of Houston as the epitome of our civilization's imminent collapse and I want to give those a thorough thrashing.

Thanks in advance...

(Also: would be happy to take any Houston MeFite out for a beer...)
posted by bumpkin to Travel & Transportation around Houston, TX (16 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Houston has much to recommend it, and this is a good time of year to experience it. The weather should be damp and cool but not at all cold. (I am from Houston and actually took a short vacation there last weekend.)

The Museum District is pretty good - there are fine and modern arts museums (the latter is free and has a nice sculpture garden as well), a science museum that is better than average, and a large zoo, all within walking distance of each other.

There are no mountains, but you might enjoy Brazos Bend State Park, where there are alligators as well as an observatory. There are miles of trails for walking or bicycling there. It's about an hour drive out of town.

You could also visit Galveston, again about an hour's drive to the south, where you can see the Gulf of Mexico, albeit not in spectacular form.

If you are interested in New Orleans, it's about a 6-hour drive to the east, perfect for a weekend jaunt.

There's also NASA if you're into such things.
posted by tamaraster at 11:41 AM on October 27, 2009

Try the Houston Harbor Tour, a free 90 minute tour down the bayou and back again. Don't be put off by all the security verbiage, it is not that big of a deal.

Go to the Houston Arboretum for some nature trails. There are other trails in Memorial Park, as well.
posted by Midnight Skulker at 12:03 PM on October 27, 2009

Where's your hotel and are you getting a rental car?

For food, you're really spoiled for choice. There's lots of great, cheap ethnic food thanks to thriving immigrant communities. There are also some great sit down proper meal places, some favourites that spring to mind:
Feast - mmm, roasted bone marrow.
t'afia - uses mostly local ingredients to turn out great food.
Reef - local seafood, global flavours.

Check out food critic Alison Cook at the Houston Chronicle for more ideas.

We don't have mountains, but we have lots of outdoors. Bike trails, running trails, golf, parks, nature reserves...
posted by IanMorr at 12:12 PM on October 27, 2009

Galveston is a 75 minute drive from downtown. Canadians enjoy the beach in the winter, according to my experience.
posted by Midnight Skulker at 12:13 PM on October 27, 2009

Things I would take a friend from Canada to do if I still lived in Houston, off the top of my head:

- A show at McGonigel's Mucky Duck if there was anything to their taste
- A museum jaunt. Looks like there's nothing spectacular at the Museum of Fine Arts right now but I may make the trip down to see the Faberge exhibit at the Museum of Natural Science and I would definitely take an out-of-towner to the Butterfly Center there.
- For a Canadian, I would think a trip to the Galleria to laugh at the silly Texans on the ice rink would be in order.
- I might take them to Galveston for the beach and Gaido's or Austin (2 1/2 hours by car) for a weekend if they were interested in seeing Texas history, the Capital, other live music, etc. (I live in Austin now.)
- On preview, eat at Feast, yes. Yum!

I would also advise my Canadian friend to check the weather reports before coming down. This is a time of year when the temperatures can vary day by day, and our idea of cool is probably not the same as in Canada. Layering is your friend, and be prepared for air conditioning indoors everywhere, enough that you may want a sweater indoor more than you do outdoors some days.
posted by immlass at 12:21 PM on October 27, 2009

St. Arnold's Brewery Tour!

Last time I was there, a friend brought Apples to Apples and we roped a whole group of strangers. It was good times.
posted by politikitty at 12:37 PM on October 27, 2009

Texas Rock Gym.

It's a blast, good exercise, and one of the best rock gyms in the country. They'll help you if it's your first time, and the atmosphere is very friendly.

If you go and want a partner, feel free to MeMail me, I'm in there probably two-three times a week.
posted by Seeba at 12:57 PM on October 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

to add to the list: My favorite museum in the world (and FREE!) The Menil Collection (make sure you check out the stuff in the other buildings, the Rothko chapel, the Byzantine collection, book store, etc), The Orange Show, Art Car Museum, catch a drink on the patio of Poison Girl, have lunch or coffee at Brazil, check out Domy bookstore, have a burger and Langford Grocery, buy some cheap vintage boots at the Texas Junk Shop. As you can tell, I love the Montrose area...
posted by lalalana at 1:51 PM on October 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

It would help to know what your dates are to recommend specific events, but it's worth checking Houstonist for general happenings, Spacetaker for cultural events, and as mentioned in the earlier thread, Hot Town, Cool City for places to see and things to eat. Most of the best stuff in the city is hidden. Some of my favorite small arts: DiverseWorks (artspace), Catastrophic Theatre, Aurora Picture Show (microcinema; full-disclosure: I work for them), Suchu Dance, numerous others. Yes, Orange Show, including The Beer Can House!
posted by *s at 2:03 PM on October 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

Weekend Trip to Aggieland!

If you're here this weekend or the weekend or 11/26 go to a Texas A&M college football game! Attending a home football game is truly an amazing experience and if you have the time and a few $$$ I'd say this is one of those opportunities you don't pass up.
posted by doorsfan at 2:17 PM on October 27, 2009

That's funny, because Calgary and Houston are really similar -- oil and gas towns, you have elevated walkways and we have tunnels, you have Stampede and we have Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo...

Two notable differences: Houston's big, and spread out. You must rent a car, and there's no way around that, and a city map to carry in the car is an excellent idea. Also, Houston's warm. Tomorrow will be 27 C/81 F. I'm guessing you can leave your coat at home.

You should come back to tell us what area of town you will be in. I checked your profile, and I'm guessing you will be either downtown, or in the Greenway Plaza area, or in the Energy Corridor. Let us know!

On the off-chance that you are at 5555 San Felipe or 5599 San Felipe, drop me a MeFi mail: I'll treat you to lunch in our cafeteria.

I lot of the good things have been mentioned, but there are a few others depending on the area of town. For example, if you will be near the Energy Corridor, you can get your exercise on the trails at the Reservoir park or Terry Hershey park -- employees who work in that area make good use of these trails, so just ask to join them for their lunchtime or pre/post jog, etc. Frankly, for sightseeing this area is not fantastic as there's not much that is tremendously interesting. So, you'll want to go into town (or any of the things other people have mentioned) for evenings out and weekends. On the other hand, if you are in this area, there are excellent odds that the company will take everyone out at least once a week to get dinner at one of the nicer restaurants in this area.

If you are in the Greenway Plaza area, you are a short distance to almost anything for nightlife (take a look at the Best Of list from the Houston Press -- our version of your Fast Forward Weekly, I think). You might also find it fun to compare the Calgary and Houston Chinatowns (we have two -- one downtown, and one west of town -- but the more vibrant one, and the one to visit, is the one I linked). If you are downtown, there are all manner of bars and restaurants.

If you find that you seriously don't like it here, remember that both Austin and San Antonio are 3-hour drives away, and Dallas is a 4-hour drive. I hope, though, that you enjoy Houston!
posted by Houstonian at 6:03 PM on October 27, 2009

The Menil Collection is truly one of the finest art museums in the US. Be sure to check out the Cy Twombly gallery there. Also there are great boutiques and vintage stores along Montrose and Westheimer, and if you have a free day, Galveston is a unique and strange city that is only 45 mins from downtown Houston. The former commercial and industrial capital of Texas, it is the site of the worst natural disaster in US history. It is full of beautiful Victorian houses built right next to crumbling slums, and it still shows scars from Hurricaine Ike.
posted by AswanDamn at 6:14 PM on October 27, 2009

You could probably catch a Houston Aeros game while you're here (although I would suspect a rather ironic level on enjoyment in that.)

If you're going to be in the Energy Corridor area Mefi mail me and I can clue you into plenty of lunch and dinner joints, good places to grab a pint, etc. Double-y so if you work for a company that rhymes with "Smell."
posted by Cyrano at 6:37 PM on October 27, 2009

Thirding Galveston. (I live there.) It's more like a 45 minute drive rather than a 75 minute drive. It's very easy to get to (go South on I-45, when you run out of highway, you're there). When are you going to be in town? Some of us locals can take a look at some of the typical city cultural experiences to clue you in to what is going on in this area.
posted by greekphilosophy at 6:52 PM on October 27, 2009

Maybe we could have a meet-up.

Here's my list:

Kaboom on Studewood (and Antidote coffee next door)
Menil Bookstore (nearby are the Menil Museum, Rothko Chapel, Cy Twombly Gallery, HCP)
Domy Books (nearby Brazil Coffee and Agora)
Brazos bookstore
Murder by the Book if you're into mysteries
Hirsh Library at the MFAH
Imprint readings

River Oaks Theater (lovely historic theater, first run Landmark)
Museum of Fine Arts Houston Films
Rice University Media Center Film Series
Domy Books movies outside on the patio - you can order food from Brazil next door.
Alamo Drafthouse an Austin import - dinner and a movie.
The KUHF silent film series outside with live music at Discovery Green Park
Angelika Film Center

Aurora Picture Show - mentioned above - Don't miss if you can.

Active / outdoorsy stuff:
Free Yoga Saturday mornings at Discovery Green Park downtown.
Bike trails in Memorial Park, along Brazos Bayou (I think you can rent bikes from West End Bikes).
Jogging trails in Memorial and Herman Park.
Rent inline skates from Montrose Skate Shop (there are groups that skate all over town going to different bars some nights - the guys at the skate shop should know more about this - it's a friendly group and a fantastic way to see the city).

Girvrals Vietnamese sandwiches (on Milam in Midtown). Must have a Vietnamese sandwich.
Berryhills (for fish tacos and margaritas)
Dry Creek
Onion Creek
Baba Yega's
Goode Company Seafood
Goode Company BBQ
Hobbit Cafe
Madras Pavilion (South Indian)
Mia Bella downtown
Taco's a GoGo (breakfast tacos)
Ninfa's on Navagation

I could really go on forever here. This is a food town. You must have some Vietnamese, Mexican, and Indian.

Drinking (not my forte anymore but I hope this is an interesting list), some pinball, some live music at some of these places):
Rudyards pinball, live music, pub food.
La Carafe (great old building, jukebox)
Warrens (another good jukebox)
West Alabama Ice House (live music, hot dog night, horse shoes)
Poison Girl
Valhalla on the Rice campus
The Chocolate Bar (to overdose on sugar) some nights live music.

Other stuff:
Miller Outdoor Theater
Orange Show - really great to see an event here if you can.
Art Car Museum - good BBQ across the street.
Glenwood Cemetery - very pretty, reflective place.

Galveston is a nice day trip even in the Winter.

Well that should keep you busy. Pardon the repeats from earlier posts - think of them as a "I second" recommendation. I do love this city. It is fun if you know where to look. It can be miserable if you don't.
posted by dog food sugar at 6:55 PM on October 27, 2009 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: YES!

I want to favorite / mark as best answer all of these. MeMails going out later...

I'll be ... umm ... near Buffalo Speedway for the course, near the Galleria for hotel. Got a car (hopefully with GPS ... reading maps while going 80mph on freeways seems dicey).

Cy Twombly is one of my faves. Also love the small arts spaces. Also... well, I'm (surprisingly?) pumped about this.

Dates: November 2 to 20.

posted by bumpkin at 5:20 PM on October 28, 2009

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