After decades of feeling like a total ghost town on weekends, people are finally starting to live Downtown (including some Rockets players, we hear) thanks to a flood of seriously nice luxury apartment buildings. Today, the heart of Houston is a 1.84-square-mile metropolis and adult playground rocking big and small businesses, food halls, a bustling theater district, parks and greenspace, and our basketball stadium and ballpark.
Where to stay: Ever see the video of that giant lazy river in the shape of Texas? That’s on the Marriott Marquis rooftop in Downtown Houston. The classy hotel has the added bonus of also sitting outside the beautiful Discovery Green park… and rocking an exquisite restaurant from a James Beard Award-winning chef… and a sports bar with 30-foot screens and leather recliners. Start there, then look into other luxury hotels like Hotel Alessandria, the C. Baldwin, The Lancaster Hotel, and the Four Seasons.
Best restaurants: You’ve got a cornucopia of food halls to explore here. Get an early start to your day with rum-syruped Jamaican pancakes and rolled Japanese omelets at the all-day Atlas Diner over in Bravery Chef Hall, or visit for lunch to indulge in Roman-style pizza from BOH, Kokoro’s crudo and sashimi, Cherry Block’s steakhouse burgers and fries, and Vietnamese curries and pho from The Blind Goat. Over on Main St., Finn Hall offers a mashup of eateries from falafel-centric Mediterranean at Oddball Eats to Korean barbecue bowls at Yong; and underground food hall The Understory sports an eight-count of tastemakers, including Boomtown Coffee, Filipino burger joint Flip ‘n Patties, and Mama Ninfa’s Tacos y Tortas.
Snag yourself a reservation at Oaxacan mole paradise Xochi for dinner, or hit up Chris Cosentino’s Rosalie Italian Soul over in the C. Baldwin Hotel, where you can belly up for classic red-sauce dishes from eggplant parm to from-scratch wild boar rigatoni. For a powerhouse meal of massive seafood towers, prime ax-handle tomahawks, and a dish dubbed “millionaire fajitas,” there’s also Guard and Grace, set in downtown’s landmark Allen Center.
Things to do: Walk off brunch by picking up the path that leads to Buffalo Bayou Park, a picturesque greenspace that runs along the Buffalo Bayou and offers skyline views, a secret underground cistern, art installations, skate and dog parks, and an in-park restaurant where you can cool off with a glass of rosé (and maybe a charcuterie board). In the heart of Downtown, Discovery Green park hosts a lineup of special events, from pop-up markets and concerts to festivals and seasonal kayaking and ice skating. It also sits right near the George R. Brown Convention Center and the Toyota Center (home to the Houston Rockets), and isn’t far from the Astros’ Minute Maid Park.
Market Square Park is where you’ll find outdoor movie screenings, pop-up concerts and markets, blanket Bingo, and gyros. Music, art, and theater enthusiasts will also want to check out the current season of productions in the Theater District, with venues including The Hobby Center (classic plays and Broadway productions), Wortham Theater Center and Jones Hall (homes to the Houston Ballet and Houston Symphony, respectively), and Revention Music Center and the House of Blues (music concerts and more).
Bars & nightlife: Hopefully you got a nice base in your stomach from dinner, because it’s incredibly easy to embark on a bar crawl through Downtown. Your stops will include striking glass greenhouse The Secret Garden, local sweetheart and nonprofit watering hole OKRA Charity Saloon, fun-loving tiki spot Kanaloa, mezcal joint The Pastry War, wine and whiskey enthusiast Public Services, and cocktail bar Tongue-Cut Sparrow. Want to end on a weird note? Head to cult favorite dive notsuoH.