image 1 of 1
Head to Houston. View hotels.

Hooked on H-Town: The best things to do in Houston

High-brow culture, ranching adventures, space heritage and year-round warmth, Houston has it all in one shimmering metropolis. | By Joanna Tweedy | December 28, 2022

Texas’ largest city may occasionally dine out on the Lone Star State’s rich ranching heritage — but Houston is far from a one-trick pony. Its futuristic-looking skyline and culturally diverse neighborhoods put an eclectic array of attractions on the table for visitors. From world-class modern art to Space Center Houston and well-rounded dining experiences that encompass everything from gourmet restaurants to Tex-Mex take-outs, Houston has it all.

  • Feast on classic Texas barbeque: Blackened brisket or pulled pork are local favorites

  • Modern art thrills: Browse pieces by Mark Rothko and Andy Warhol at The Menil Collection

  • On the trail of astronauts: Spend an out-of-this-world day at Space Center Houston

Plan a stratospheric day out

A quick 30-minute drive southeast of downtown Houston lands visitors in another universe – almost literally. Space Center Houston is one of the area’s most fascinating attractions for any age group. Wander the impressive 250,000-square-foot (2.3 hectares) Visitor Center, knowing that real-life astronaut corps are being trained nearby for genuine space adventures.

NASA’s space legacy unfolds via interactive areas, countless exhibits and cinematic retrospectives of some of the program’s most famous missions. Pick up food at the Food Lab, the Space Center’s dining area — where puns truly take flight — and enjoy a coffee at Grounds Control or pizza at Outer Crust.

Shop like a Texan

Houstonians love to shop, and the city’s retail scene boasts more than a dozen shopping districts. The Galleria is the largest mall in Texas, with more than 400 stores enticing shoppers. Those with a passion for designer threads should also head to the upscale River Oaks District, west of downtown, where you can shop for high-end fashion in the area's many stylish boutiques (they also offer a complimentary personal shopping service for a more tailored shopping experience).

Flea market fans will love trawling the vintage clothes and accessories on offer every weekend at Traders Village, a 30-minute drive northwest of downtown Houston. Want a truly Texan keepsake? Find authentic Western wear attire at Pinto Ranch or Texas National Outfitters.

Hungry for Houston's dining scene

Plant-based food trucks, barbeque spots, upscale fusion restaurants — Houston has one of the South’s most exciting culinary scenes. For fall-off-the-bone barbeque, head to one of the two outlets of Killen’s. Dishes such as blackened brisket, creamed corn and 'slaw, most frequently chased down with an ice-cold beer, have made it a local favorite.

Restaurants showcasing the city's more refined side include Italian chophouse Marmo and French-inspired Bludorn. For spicier foodie kicks, head to Ragin' Cajun, which first opened its doors in the 1970s and serves delicious shrimp po-boys. Craving something sweet? Unsurprisingly for a city that rarely gets cold, Houston has some delicious creameries. Try Amy's Ice Creams, often open until midnight, for flavors such as Thai tea and Blanco margarita.

H-Town's Wild West fun

Visitors don't have to wander too far from downtown to find rustic ranches perfect for unleashing their inner ranch hand. Working farms in the green pastures around the city offer visitors the chance to learn some old-fashioned ranching skills such as bullwhip cracking, dummy roping and tomahawk throwing.  Visiting in spring? The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, the largest in the world, takes place between late February and early March and includes horse shows, barbeque contests and more.

Adventures in art

Houston has invested heavily in the arts in recent decades. Designed in part by architect Renzo Piano, The Menil Collection leads the way — and includes pieces by Max Ernst and Andy Warhol in its collection. Pencil in a long afternoon at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston where more than 65,000 works of art are housed. Step outside into the neighboring green space and enjoy the serenity of the Lillie and Hugh Roy Cullen Sculpture Garden, where works by the likes of Matisse, Miró and Rodin are permanent exhibits.

Live music and performing arts also take center stage in Houston. The Houston Symphony, Wortham Theater Center and Alley Theatre are just a few (of many!) venues where you can catch orchestra and live theater performances. If popular bands and local musicians are more your style, check out downtown Houston’s live music venues, such as White Oak Music Hall, House of Blues Houston and Bayou Music Center.

Buckle up for a Texas-sized adventure in Houston with world-class culture, art, dining and more – this city will enthrall even the most well-traveled visitor.

Joanna Tweedy is an award-winning travel writer and editor who lives in London.

Find your stay