I’m not originally from Houston, but transplanting here eight years ago has given me the unique opportunity to explore this city with the fresh eyes of an insider-tourist.
Whether you’re swinging by for a day or a week, let me break down the fourth largest US city into five must-hit spots that local’s go wild for.
When my husband, a native-Houstonian, first told me about this place, I was quite skeptical. Then after cruising past it one day and seeing a line out the door, I figured it was worth a shot (not to mention this hole-in-the-wall breakfast place has been featured by the likes of The Food Network and Good Morning America). Known for their chicken and waffles, you might also want to try the “katfish” and grits.
Location: You’ll find this hidden gem off Highway 59, exiting Travis Street, on your left.
Pack up any cowboy and cowgirl gear you have (think boots, big belt buckles, and plaid shirts) and head over to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. Bull riders and livestock owners duke it out every day, then the day tumbles into a nightly feature of some of the largest music names out there, like Reba McEntire and Trace Adkins.
For some of the best food Houston has to offer, be sure to hit up Goode Company Barbecue’s booth (my favorite is their turkey barbecue sandwich; my husband loves their brisket plate), and chow down on a Frito Chili Pie. Perhaps not all in the same night.
Location: Always at NRG stadium, this raucous good time can only be had around the beginning of March each year.
While known as Chinatown, this area of Houston should really be referred to as the International District. Houston has the second largest Indochinese population in the US, and this is where they sell their food, show off their culture, and set up shop. You’ll specifically want to take advantage of the Vietnamese food and markets. There are also Japanese food markets, Malaysian restaurants, Chinese restaurants with 20-page menus (of which only one page is in English), and tons of great foot reflexology joints.
Location: Southwest Houston; the main drag is Bellaire Blvd between the crossroads of South Gessner and Beltway 8.
You can’t really talk about Houston without talking about NASA. And I have to say, it’s an impressive complex to visit. Here’s a little-known fact: even though all the space movies use the famous line, “Houston, we have a problem”, it turns out that NASA is located about one hour south of the city.
The tram tour, which takes you to the Johnson Space Center, is absolutely worth it. You either get to tour the historical mission control, or the actual one following the movements of the International Space Station at the very moment you’re there — both of which are fascinating to see. Bonus: you’ll get to see a nice herd of Texas longhorn cattle on your way over!
Location: Head South on Highway 45 until you hit NASA Parkway, at which point signs will direct you. You’ll know you’re close when all of the roads and convenience store names start sounding spaced-out.
#5: Hermann Park
This is such a lovely park complex on the outer edge of the museum district. There are trails, a free Japanese garden stocked with gorgeous Koi fish, displays of contemporary art, and the Miller Outdoor Theater, which offers year-round free events.
Bonus: Hungry? You can usually find a food truck in the parking lot beside the Museum of Fine Arts, just a few blocks away.
Location: Off Highway 59, exit Fannin towards the Medical District. Follow until you hit the beautiful, fountain-roundabout and you’re there! Signs will direct you.
Next time you find yourself in Space City, give these local favorites a try and experience Houston like a Houstonian.