Sunday, March 31, 2013

Where to Eat, Sleep and Play if You're Headed to Houston for the Rangers/Astros Series

Visiting Houston this week or sometime this season to check out the Rangers take on the Astros?  Not quite sure where to stay and what to hit while you’re there?  Fear not!  I have you covered.  Enjoying yourself on a road trip is as much of a sport as is the game itself.  For details on our recent trip to the Bayou City, which included a fan crashing my live shot and hard press box meat, check out my diary of your dream job.

Houston is a tough city.  If you make your base “outside the loop” or outside Loop 610, you will wind up miserable, stuck in traffic and be relinquished to chain dining hotel and restaurant hell.  If you stay "inside the loop", in Midtown, Montrose, in West University or near River Oaks you will discover the wonderful diversions that made my four college years there some of the most fun I've ever had.

This is a bit female-focused but if you're a guy taking your Sig O with you, you'll score big points by trying some of these suggestions.

If you want the full baseball experience, stay downtown.  I've stayed and enjoyed the Hilton Americas and Four Seasons.  I also love Hotel Icon which is a gorgeous Marriott autograph property in the old Union National Bank building built in 1911.  A colleague also likes the Marriott Courtyard at the Convention Center.  All of these hotels are less than a mile from Minute Maid park and an easy walk there.

There is also a great park space called Discovery Green Park just a foul ball away from Minute Maid Park. This is a great place to let your kids burn some energy.
Courtesy Hotel Icon
Perhaps my favorite is Hotel Zaza in the museum district.  It's pet-friendly, close to shopping in West University, right next to Hermann Park and the museums.  I adore the (FREE!) Lilly and Hugh Roy Cullen Sculpture Garden next door.  Hotel Derek is also a decent option near the Galleria. 

Play with various discounts: AAA, corporate ones, check out or the hotel's website.  You can find deals.

Houston is a GREAT restaurant city with a ton of fabulous options.  There are a slew of bars and restaurants around Minute Maid Park.  They are all the generic, sports-bar-type establishments you would expect.  Part of the fun is discovering your favorites.  These are a few of mine:
  • Kim Son - popular Vietnamese restaurant just south of downtown. This place has become so big (literally) some say it's Vietnamese for white people.  Fair enough.  I still love it.
  • Irma's - A popular lunch spot that serves great Mexican food.  Eat what the servers suggest.  They don't deliver menus.  Check to ensure it's open for dinner.
  • Doozo Dumplings in the Park Mall - this was my double secret spot in college.  It started as a yogurt shop but the owners made the most amazing vegetarian dumplings and it has since evolved into a dumpling shop.  I visited it in 2012 during the Rangers/Astros interleague series.  Same family, same owners, same delicious dumplings!  It's in a business mall, meaning it closes around 4pm or when the dumplings or gone.
  • Empire Café - a wonderful counter service bakery in Montrose.  I lived on their coffee after class while at the University of Houston.  All of their food offerings are outstanding: good salads, breakfast dishes and delicious cakes.
To Do:
Downtown Houston has experienced a revival since I left with the Toyota Center and Minute Maid Park taking up permanent residence.  If you want to head out of downtown, here are must-visit areas which are all relatively close:
  • River Oaks Shopping Center - this is adjacent to River Oaks and features one of my favorite consignment shops, Twice New.  Good dining, too.  Check out La Griglia, a Vallone family classic.
  • Rice Village - a great shopping and dining center located in West University near Rice University (awesome running track around the school, fyi).  There are fun shops, popular dining (try Ruggles Café Bakery) and a decent nightlife scene.  Check out Benjy's and my all-time favorite college bar, Volcano, just down Bissonnet.  Try a frozen screwdriver.   If those walls could talk!
  • Highland Village - an upscale center near River Oaks, Uptown and Greenway Plaza.  Lots of wonderful options.
  • The Museum District - a world class selection from the aforementioned Cullen Sculpture Garden to the Menil Collection, the Houston museum district is worth a visit.

 The amazing Rothko Chapel.

I could go on for 500 more words.  These are just a few tips.  Have fun.  It's a great city.

Like this?  You might also like my Austin highlights.

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