Things to do in Richmond when you're bored
October 15, 2012 4:26 PM   Subscribe

I'm going to be visiting family in the United States next week, specifically Richmond, TX and Chicago. There have been previous many posts on Chicago, so I think I have that covered but does anyone know if there is anything interesting for this potentially bored Londoner to do while hanging out in Texas?

I'll be visiting and staying with various family members but will need to find things to do in the daytime while they're all at work. What things are there that I could spend my days doing alone? The last time I went, I ended up spending a lot of time in shopping malls as I don't drive so had to wait for people to come and pick me up to take me to places.

I'll be there from Tuesday 24th to Friday 27th October, before spending a long weekend in Chicago and then returning to Richmond the following Tuesday before flying back to London on 2nd Nov.

Any suggestions (museums, concerts of any genre, foodie places, random tourist attractions) gratefully received.
posted by joboe to Travel & Transportation around Richmond, TX (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Texas BBQ is wonderful and I'm not sure to what degree Mexican cuisine has permeated the UK, but it's pretty wonderful too.
posted by doctor_negative at 4:33 PM on October 15, 2012

I assume you're flying into Houston, right?

We have world-class art museums (MFAH and the Menil Collection are awesome; the Menil is free!), nationally rated drinking spots (Anvil for old-school drinks, Hay Merchant and Petrol Station for beer), and any kind of restaurant you want; you could easily spend $5 at a food truck for lunch, and $100 on dinner, and be perfectly pleased with the quality from both places. We love our food here!

There are also brewery tours. St. Arnold's has tours during the week (3PM). The locals use it as a cheap drinking spot, but can actually take the tour if you want; I recommend it. Skip the Budweiser plant if anyone suggests that; it's a ripoff.

Check out the Montrose area. There are quite a few little resale and antique shops along the lower Westheimer area, and a couple of good coffeeshops (Brasil and Agora). Plenty of places for eating, so you could make an afternoon out of it. You could also swing around to Memorial Park or walk the Buffalo Bayou trail if you want some outdoor time; it might not be too hot.

The Heights area is up and coming; a lot of younger professionals moving in, but there is plenty of places to chill and grab a drink or a coffee. I'd recommend Onion Creek for food and beer (or Ceder Creek; same people), and Antidote for coffee. Lots of small shops and such around this area too.

Nearer to you is the Alamo Drafthouse theater (and yes, they've had the Don't Talk Or Text rule for YEARS). It's a great movie experience. No under-18s (unless there's a special event), good pub-style food, and a great beer selection. Get there 20-30 minutes before showtime; the previews are truly the best part!

Most people will suggest Discovery Green. I'd skip it unless you will have children with you, or there's an event going on. Either way, it's downtown, and parking can be difficult during the day.
posted by chrisfromthelc at 4:47 PM on October 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

So you're bored, English, and in Texas.

You know what might relieve your boredom, and be so stereotypically Americo-Texan it will make the Queen cry in jealousy?


I'd bet there's somewhere in metro Houston where you can even rent a machine gun and put a whole shitload of little holes in paper targets.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 4:59 PM on October 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

Are you looking for things to do in Richmond or in Houston or the 30-40 miles in between? Do your family/friends go into Houston for work? For things to do Mon-Fr, 9-5 in Richmond itself, you're a bit limited as Richmond is essentially a small country town that's a bit of a Houston suburb but is still too far for a ready commute. And as far as I know, there's not mass transit between the two that's not centered around the morning and evening rush hours. If you bike or hike or are an adventurous roller-blader, there is some beautiful countryside. And you could geocache, I suppose. Halloween-time might have some corn mazes. The Brazos Bend state park has alligators; the George Ranch might be interesting. Bars and concerts will be evening and weekends out there, though there are likely some coffee shops and such where regulars hang out.
posted by beaning at 5:37 PM on October 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

You don't drive?! This is pretty important (critical, even) for enjoying this area of the country. We kinda have some public transportation, but not really, and really not out to Richmond. Can you somehow... learn, right away? All the following are assuming you can get a car. As you know, Richmond is not teeming with fun things to do. George Ranch and that's it, basically. Are the family you are staying with going to/from work, hopefully in town somewhere so they can drop you off and we can point you to fun things in that area?

Typical tourist spots in Houston (and hey, it's ok -- you are a tourist!):

- Space Center Houston (NASA)

- San Jacinto Monument, plus Battleship Texas

- While in points south, Kemah Boardwalk.

- The museum district, where we keep most of our museums in one place: Museum of Fine Arts, Museum of Natural Science, Rothko Chapel, Houston Zoo, and a whole lot more. In that same area, you can also see something (for free) at the Miller Outdoor Theatre.

- Shopping at the Galleria. Not my thing, but it's obviously popular. Believe you get a duty-free thing by presenting your receipts to an office inside the Galleria.

- It's hockey season. Go Aeros! (Inexpensive compared to most hockey games.)

- Chinatown. We have two of them -- the old one is downtown, and the newer one is centers just inside Beltway 8 at Bellaire Blvd. My favorite for dinner is Sinh Sinh. Or, go for dim sum at Ocean Palace. Either way, I think it's fun to roam around the whole building next to Ocean Palace, which is the Hong Kong City Mall. An excellent option for dim sum which is marginally closer to Richmond is Kim Son (only the location on US 59, aka Southwest Freeway, has dim sum).

- Bars (links to some already mentioned): Anvil Bar and Refuge, The Ginger Man for beers, Marfreless, Richmond Arms Pub. Note: We do a version of Oktoberfest, due to the large German population here. Not a bar, but here's where I'll put my link to the aforementioned St. Arnold's Brewing Company, which does give fun tours and currently has Pumpkinator and Christmas Ale!

- Working off the calories: Memorial Park, Hermann Park

- Architecture: BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir Hindu temple, downtown

- Want to see how we do "British"? Queen Vic Pub & Kitchen is excellent, and they have an afternoon tea thing, too.

- Mexican and Tex-Mex food. You can't swing a cat without hitting one of these, and all of them will be pretty good. "Best" is hotly debated and everyone has their favorites. But here I'm going to recommend a chain restaurant (!) until someone points you to their absolute favorite, because it's good food and there's 13 of them in Houston: Pappasito's.

A few other notes:

- There's a Richmond (suburb town in the Houston area), and there's a Richmond (very popular and busy street in Houston). You'll want to make sure when you are finding addresses or talking with people for directions. People here will say "Richmond/Rosenberg" when talking about the suburb area.

- The clothes you pack for Chicago may not be appropriate here in Houston. Expect weather here to be about 85 degrees F (29.5 C) with a lot of humidity (say, 70%). And, we're a very casually-dressed city.

- I've noticed some British people get surprised and kinda peeved that we do the tax thing differently here. When you see the price for something, that price does not include sales tax, which is added on at the register. This is true for everything except gasoline. Sales tax in Houston is 8.25%. Also, tipping is different - if at a restaurant, 10% is a bare minimum, 15% is totally ok. No tip or just loose change is not ok. You don't have to tip at a place with no service (like a Starbucks, for example).

- Houstonians are really friendly. The smiles aren't fake. If you need something, ask!
posted by Houstonian at 6:31 PM on October 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you need to kill time in Houston, here's a 3 mile walk through nice neighborhoods with mildly interesting stops at several points.

Start at the Menil Collection (Wednesday through Sunday only, but it's free) and go straight to its Surrealism gallery, which (if they have even 1/4 of their Surrealism collection up) is a gem that you'd be pleasantly surprised by in any city in the world. Unfortunately, significant chunks of the collection are often on loan and/or not up. But they have a permanent Cy Twombly gallery across the street from the main collection, and it's peaceful and absorbing. The Rothko Chapel is part of the same complex, and people will ask if you saw it--it takes about 30 seconds, unless you're in an unusually reflective state of mind. The other collections, coming from London, are probably nothing special. Leave in time for lunch.

Walk 1.3 miles to the Raven Grill for lunch. It's a decent place that happens to be en route. If you're early or not hungry yet, detour east from Mandell for a short loop around North and South Boulevard to check out Boulevard Oaks--big Texas mansions on oak-lined streets with nice walkways.

After lunch, walk 0.7 miles to the Rice University campus, where there's public art marking some of the nicer places and some spots to hang out and enjoy the weather, particularly along a central sw-ne axis of green spaces. Ask people for directions to Lovett Hall, the Brochstein Pavilion (a coffee shop with lots of outdoor seating), and the Turrell Skyspace.

Then, you can either get back on the road Google Maps suggests or cut across campus to University Boulevard for the ~1 mile walk to the Rice Village. In particular, I've marked The Ginger Man, a well-stocked pub, but there are clothing stores (Banana Republic/Gap/Urban Outfitters types of places), a decent used bookstore, The Chocolate Bar for desserts, and restaurants (I dunno what stands out from your POV, but maybe the Cuban restaurant there; Local is a bit to the north, but not too far).

That's the shortest walking path I can think of for hitting the greatest variety of slightly unusual things to do in Houston. I can think of better restaurants and better bookstores.

If you want to spend a whole day in museums, the Contemporary Arts Museum, MFAH, and Museum of Natural Science are all very close together, just a bit east from the tour I've outlined. The MFAH has a cafe in it with decent food. The CAM is always free, and the MFAH is free on Thursdays. And the museums are a short walk from the zoo, which is small but nice.

So I guess that's two days of walking around in Houston sorted out.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 6:33 PM on October 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

If you're already in Richmond, you should most definitely go to The Swinging Door for BBQ.
posted by asphericalcow at 11:28 PM on October 15, 2012

You guys! This is all so much more than I had expected.

I had been learning to drive and looked set to achieve this but work commitments meant I had to put this on the backburner at the end of August. I will be able to get lifts into and out of town, it's just a case of entertaining myself during working hours.

Monsieur Caution - I am planning on eating as much BBQ and Mexican food as possible, so this walk will definitely come in handy.
posted by joboe at 6:25 AM on October 16, 2012

You know, if you are able to get a lift somewhere closer into town, you could use our Metro system to travel around a bit to interesting places, and then to get back to wherever your family can pick you up for the ride back to Richmond.

Metro is Houston's bus system. Well, there's one rail but mostly buses. First, the rail (.pdf map). You'll see that it goes from downtown Houston to the Medical Center, but also to the Museum District which is in between on the route.

About the buses: They are all over, but the times are more frequent during rush hours, because they are mostly for people commuting to work. There are two types: Park and Ride, and local buses. The Park and Ride buses travel predominately from the outlying suburbs into downtown and back. The local buses travel smaller areas and distances. On this page, you can view the Overall System Map, which shows all the bus routes. There's a new Park and Ride at the Fort Bend County Fairgrounds (Richmond is in Fort Bend county). For $3.50, you can leave Richmond and go to the Galleria area, Greenway Plaza area, and the Medical Center area, and you can get on local buses to travel around inside Houston. I think this Park and Ride bus is not technically a Metro bus because Richmond is in a different county (Houston is Harris county), but rather that the two have combined efforts. You can find info about the Park and Ride bus on this page, under Commuter Service.

In general (and I'm not sure about the Ft. Bend bus system), the Park and Ride buses are nice and big and overly air conditioned, with comfy seats and directional lighting. The local buses are much plainer and more about transportation than comfort. But rarely do you see anyone coming on board with chickens and such (I kid!). The route number displays in lights above the driver's windshield, plus the direction it's heading. For example, let's say you are using a Park and Ride bus to go from Katy, TX to downtown Houston (Katy is north of Richmond and maybe the closest Park and Ride). The Park and Ride location is named Kingsland, and the route is 221. When you are going downtown, the sign at the top of the bus will say something like "221 Downtown". When you are downtown and you want to return to the same Park and Ride on the same route, the bus will say "221 Kingsland".

Within the Metro system, the costs depend on zones, and you can see the fares listed here. The local buses are $1.25. Use cash, and exact change because the drivers do not carry money. Or, if you don't want to fuss with the money, you can get a Metro Q card. This gives you a discounted price on your rides and you can transfer between local buses for free, as long as its within a 3-hour window from one bus to another. The card itself is free, and then you load it with money ($5 minimum I think). You can get the card at service desk at grocery stores and a few gas stations.

It can be a bit complicated even if you are from here. It's always OK to ask the bus driver where to deposit the money, where his bus goes, when another bus is coming, to let you know specifically when your stop is coming up, and so on. They are completely used to this and will make sure you get to where you want to go with as few problems as possible. And if you tell them you're from out of town (and London at that!), they'll really bend over backwards to help. Do not be shy about it!

You can use the online trip planner to figure out which buses and times are available, but sometimes it doesn't recognize an address you enter. So, you also can call them (713-635-4000) and they'll work out the whole thing for you.

Maybe this will give you the freedom you need to see a bigger area than just Richmond....
posted by Houstonian at 4:06 PM on October 17, 2012

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