Some may say Houston is an ugly city. And with its lack of zoning laws and endless construction, soooometimes it is (don’t hate us!). But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have areas of extraordinary beauty nevertheless -- and here are 22 spots that prove it.
University of St. Thomas
Historic houses like the Link-Lee mansion and the statuesque Chapel of St. Basil make this nearly 70-year-old campus -- designed by award-winning American architect Philip Johnson -- one of the prettiest set-ups in town.
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In 2011, this exquisite century-old courthouse was restored to its original splendor after a 1954 renovation destroyed much of its charm. Nearly $65 million later, it stands as a symbol of stability, strength, justice, and old-school hotness smack in the center of Downtown’s hustle and bustle.
Bayou Bend Gardens
Miss Ima Hogg and her brothers worked hard to transform the 14 acres of natural woodlands and winding ravines around their home into a Secret Garden-esque sanctuary, so it’s only fair that you pay $5 to bask in its glory.
Gerald D. Hines Waterwall Park
Formerly known as the the Williams Waterwall, this cascading 64ft fountain lined by live oaks works as both a guaranteed-like Instagram shot and a way to stay cool in the summer. Bonus knowledge: the sculptural fountain was designed by the same guys who did Houston’s Pennzoil Place and NYC’s former AT&T World Headquarters.
Rice University campus
With neo-Byzantine architecture surrounded by a kingdom of twisting, towering oak trees and springtime azaleas, this 100+ year-old campus proves Houston is quite foxy, after all.
You may not think the Houston Ship Channel is very visually appealing, but this soaring National Historic Landmark commemorating the battle of San Jacinto most definitely is. Fun fact: at 567.31ft, it’s the world's tallest monument column.
St. Paul Methodist
Found on the corner of Main and Binz, this neo-Gothic domed church will give you all kinds of feels. Especially when the massive tower’s bells start to ring.
James Turrell’s Skyspace at sunset
This acoustically engineered pyramidal structure can be found right next to the Shepherd School of Music on the Rice University campus. Not only is the "Twilight Epiphany" show absolutely magical, it’s also absolutely FREE.
The historic houses at Sam Houston Park
Hidden by the modern, towering buildings of Downtown lie 20 acres of Victorian-style, pre-revolution homes and authentically restored buildings that span the city’s storied past -- from before statehood through the early 20th-century oil boom. Take a guided tour from the Heritage Society for best results.
You don’t have to go deep in the heart of Texas to catch a dramatic light show. Home to the "Theater Under the Stars" series, this midnight blue-, deep gold-, and red-hued performance hall has a massive domed ceiling twinkling with 2,000 fiber-optic stars.
The skyline from Buffalo Bayou Park
The newly renovated bayou-side park is the best place to take in the Houston skyline. And with things like a $20 million dog park complete with swimming holes, we’re pretty sure your pup would think so, too.
With a blend of century-old live oak trees, amazing art installations, and the towering Houston skyline in the background, this 12-acre urban park redefined the landscape of Downtown.
Flanked by Tranquil Park and the Houston Public Library, Houston’s headquarters is classic architecture at its finest. Designed by Austrian-born architect Joseph Finger, the building is faced with limestone and specially cast aluminum doors, the lobby is inlaid with marble, and the gateways are adorned with bronze, silver, and nickel. A stone sculpture depicting two men taming a wild horse and a front-yard reflection pool finish off the pretty little number.
Home to the Houston Ballet and the Houston Grand Opera, this 437,500sqft performance center boasts a stunning arched window and two beauteous and intimate theaters.
A beacon of the Museum District, this iconic landmark marks the entrance to one of the most picturesque spots in Houston, Hermann Park.
Just a stone’s throw from the bustling Med Center, a trip to the lush Hermann Park is a much-welcomed refuge from the city. Calm your mind, body, and soul with a stroll through the Japanese gardens, hit the golf course, play with the monkeys at the zoo, paddle the lake, or enjoy the gardenscape of the McGovern Centennial Gardens.
Miller Outdoor Theatre
Bring wine and a blanket to this free, open-air theater. Set right in the alluring Hermann Park, the renovated attraction is the coolest (and possibly hottest) spot in Houston to catch a show.
This Museum District boutique hotel oozes sex appeal with its array of eclectic and sultry decor. If you don’t want to shell out the cash to stay the night, hit the bar to take in its beauty on the cheap.
Do yourself a favor and put this beautifully serene and modern chapel -- complete with a meditative space and striking Broken Obelisk sculpture in memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. -- on the prized Menil campus on your "things to see in Houston" bucket list.
Brenner’s on the Bayou
For a killer steak with a view, look no further than this wooded retreat set on the lush grounds along the Buffalo Bayou. And did we mention it has a happy hour?
It’s worth a short trip to historic Galveston to take in the majesty of old buildings and houses that have weathered the storms over the years. The 1892 Bishop’s Palace and 1895 Moody Mansion are splendid places to start.
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Brooke Viggiano is a Houston writer who thinks, shut up, Houston is pretty. Tweet at her @BrookeViggiano if you agree.