1. Charming old taverns
The oldest haunt in Houston, La Carafe is a beautiful candlelit tavern that has been serving locals for more than 125 years. It is said to have its own phantom pint-puller, Carl. You won’t find any elaborate cocktails on the menu here though: It’s still just wine and beer, settled in cash at the old-fashioned register.
2. Authentic Mexican food
Legend has it that the fajita was invented in Houston, and the Tex-Mex restaurant that came up with the concept is still serving them here today. Original Ninfa’s has been around for so long, its slogan is “The best Mexican food in Texas since Texas was in Mexico”. Its margaritas are world class too.
3. Space travel begins here
The first word spoken on the moon was “Houston”, so it’s fitting the city is home to one of the finest interstellar museums on the planet. NASA’s Space Center Houston boasts many out-of-this-world attractions, including the new Independence Plaza exhibit – a Boeing 747 plane mounted by a full-sized replica of the space shuttle, Independence.
4. Cocktails with fine art
What better way to experience one of the finest art museums in the world than with a cocktail in hand? Every Thursday evening, Houston’s Museum of Fine Arts offers free admission, plus a cash bar and resident DJ. There’s also a collection of curated food trucks to fuel your artistic exploration.
5. What lies beneath
Twisting tunnels, measuring a total of 12km, run beneath Houston’s surface and feature dozens of quirky restaurants, shops and services. Join Discover Houston Tours’ ever-popular TunnelWalk trip, which runs from Mondays to Fridays, to explore what lies beneath the city’s concrete skin.
6. Spiritual haven
A striking octagonal building in the Museum District, Rothko was designed as a place where Houstonians of all faiths and beliefs can come for a meditative and spiritual experience. The result is an oasis of peace and calm, where religion, art and architecture intermingle. Regular events range from talks to meditation classes.
7. Colourful cuisine
Hipster-friendly Underbelly in the lively Montrose neighbourhood is the standout star of Houston’s restaurant scene. Led by Chris Shepherd – the first Houstonian chef to bring home the prestigious James Beard Award for a generation – the eatery offers food that is built on fresh, seasonal local produce. One dish that never leaves the menu, however, is Korean braised goat and dumplings.
8. A house made of beer cans
Retired upholsterer John Milkovisch and his friends selflessly downed 50,000 beers in order to completely cover his house in Houston’s Rice Military district with beer cans. Perhaps one of the world’s greatest examples of recycling, it has also become one of the city’s most beloved folk-art creations.
9. The Menil Collection
Housed in a magnificent gallery designed by Renzo Piano, The Menil Collection is one of the most significant art assemblages on Earth. Highlights include its Byzantine holdings, while some big-name artists, such as Picasso and Rene Magritte, have entire rooms dedicated to them.
– TEXT BY JONATHAN THOMPSON
PHOTOS: LA CARAFE, NINFA’S, THE MENIL COLLECTION, BEER CAN HOUSE, UNDERBELLY, ROTHKO CHAPEL, DISCOVER HOUSTON TOURS, MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS HOUSTON, SPACE CENTER HOUSTON
This article was originally published by Singapore Press Holdings.