The bigger and bolder, the better… or so the story goes in Houston. The Texan city hosts America’s fourth largest population. Its skyline is also one of the country’s most dense. And its downtown Theatre District ranks second only to New York City.
The launch pad of Apollo 11, the city was blasted onto the world stage and into history in 1969, when the first word spoken from the moon echoed “Houston”. Space enthusiast or not, NASA’s Space Centre with its astronaut training facility, historic mission control and the star ship gallery (where visitors can see moon rocks) is a must-see attraction – reason enough in itself to visit Lone Star State metropolis.
Texas is the eating-out capital of America. Austin, Dallas, San Antonio and Houston make up the top four hotspots in the nation, with Houston ranking number one. The average Houstonian eats out four times a week, and with some of the country’s top chefs calling the city home it’s easy to appreciate why.
Local tastes fuse Texan, Mexican and Southern cuisines. An exemplary Houston menu features foods like pinto beans, chicken fried steak (beef steak battered and fried, then covered in gravy) chilli con carne and anything barbequed (ribs, steak, beef patties and brisket) – on which the state of Texas has the first and final word. America's first regional cuisine, Tex-Mex boasts strong ties to Houston.
At the centre of the bustling downtown district, Market Square Park is a great locale in which to experience the city’s flavours – both cultural and gastronomical. The historical site is home to the Houston’s most distinctive styles of architecture and is bordered by an eclectic assortment of restaurants and watering holes, which lend the area after-hour excitement.
Other popular restaurant neighbourhoods include Bellaire, Lower Westheimer and Montrose. Otherwise known as Chinatown, Bellaire is a go-to for food at any hour. Lower Westheimer is reputed one of Houston’s hippest enclaves, home to a continuously evolving restaurant scene and up-to-the-minute food trends and bars. Nicknamed the Heart of Houston, the largely residential district of Montrose is a major cultural hub, boasting the city’s longest-standing restaurants.
Houston is arguably the style capital of the South. The city caters for its retail enthusiasts with stores, markets and malls selling everything from vintage garbs to high-end designer wear.
Think America... think shopping mall... think Galleria! Located in Uptown Houston, Galleria is home to flagship stores for Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom, as well as Macy’s, and every high street and high-end chain imaginable.
Farmers markets are a growing trend the world over, and Houston is of no exception. More than half a dozen markets take place across the city each week. For the crème-de-la-crème, head to the Harvest Farmers Market, open from 8am to noon every Saturday. Local fruit, vegetables, coffee, meat and honey, as well as live music and cooking demonstrations can be enjoyed at Harvest.
Houston’s discount shopping epicentre can be found on Harwin Drive. Home to the Harwin Central Market and Harwin Discount Center, the hub showcases no-frills shopping at its best. As well as offering big discounts on ticketed prices, retailers are willing to wheel and deal to move inventory. Just make an offer!
Antique emporiums are spread all throughout Houston city, however the historic Heights neighbourhood is home to a cluster of the city’s best. Furniture, fittings, soft furnishings and more, whether vintage Americana or classic French, 19th Street is a thriving go-to strip for all things antique.
Located on campus at Rice University, Rice Village is one of Houston’s oldest shopping districts. More than 300 boutiques call the district home. Global brands are starting to creep in, but an eclectic mix of fashion remains king.