Houston Top Picks for Locals and Tourists

I live and work in the fourth largest city in the United States, and I’ve been here all my life.  The sprawling city, the surprising number of trees, the bayous, the traffic, the heat & humidity, the mosquitoes, and the unlimited food options are all a part of every day life for this Houstonian.  So when my out-of-town friends come to visit, I like to show them a mix of local favorites and touristy attractions in the short amount of time they’re here.  I’m sharing a list of MY favorite hotels (yes, we do staycations here), favorite restaurants and bars, and favorite attractions in this city (and surrounding areas).  None of the businesses listed here are sponsoring Red Shoes. Red Wine., so all opinions are my own.  Here’s my non-trendy, non-douchey every day guide to visiting Houston as a local and/or as a tourist.



Where to Stay Like a Local

Hotel Icon – Downtown

  • Contemporary luxury hotel in the heart of historic Houston and downtown nightlife

Hotel Derek – Inside the Loop/Galleria

  • Posh hotel, dog friendly

Hotel Granduca – Inside the Loop/Galleria

  • Quiet Italian Villa style luxury hotel for romantic getaways and relaxing girl’s weekend retreats


Where to Stay Like a Tourist

Marriott Marquis Houston – Downtown

  • New classically styled hotel in the heart of the convention area with a rooftop Texas shaped lazy river

Hilton Americas Houston – Downtown

  • Spacious hotel in the heart of the convention area adjacent to Toyota Center (NBA and other events)


Where to Stay that’s Worth the Drive

Tremont Hotel – Galveston

  • Classic and historic hotel in the heart of the Strand District of Downtown Galveston

Hotel Galvez – Galveston

  • Resort style hotel overlooking the Galveston Seawall and Gulf of Mexico



Where to Eat Like a Local

Phoenicia Specialty Foods – Downtown

  • International food market and deli, favorite downtown lunch spot, conveniently located near offices and convention center

The Original Irma’s – Downtown

  • Legit Mexican food, specialty hours, close to Minute Maid ballpark, worth every calorie

Ninfa’s on Navigation – East Downtown

  • Also Legit Tex-Mex, great margaritas, close to Dynamo soccer stadium

Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar – River Oaks

  • My all time favorite special occasion steakhouse, best happy hour in the city, impressive and revolving wine selection

Killen’s BBQ (or Steakhouse or Burger) – Pearland

King’s Biergarten & Restaurant – Pearland

  • Authentic German Food and traditional Bavarian beer garden atmosphere, das boot, sausages for days


Where to Eat Like a Tourist

Spindletop – Downtown

  • Revolving rooftop restaurant with gorgeous views of Downtown Houston, located in Hyatt Houston

Guadalajara Hacienda – Downtown

  • Mainstream Tex-Mex and damn good, great margaritas and happy hour

Hubcap Grill – Downtown

  • Killer burgers…yeah we eat a lot of meat here

Goode & Company BBQ – West University

  • Great variety of BBQ, definitely a crowd pleaser, pair with Texas beer

Any restaurant on the Kemah Boardwalk – Kemah

  • The Disneyworld of chain seafood and penultimate tourist trap, families and kids love the Boardwalk


Where to Eat that’s Worth the Drive

Gaido’s Seafood Restaurant – Galveston

  • Galveston’s oldest restaurant, mid-century classic, located on the Galveston Seawall

The Spot Island Famous – Galveston

  • Childhood favorite burger bar, patios overlooking the Galveston Seawall and Gulf of Mexico, great people watching

Bernie’s Burger Bus – Meyerland/West Loop

  • Gourmet burger restaurant satisfying all your beefy needs



Where to Drink Like a Local

Okra Charity Saloon – Downtown

  • Donation concept, best sidecars in town, pretty-people atmosphere

Oporto Wine Bars – Midtown & River Oaks

  • Spanish tapas and wine, cozy European atmosphere, friendly staff, comfortably taste out of your comfort zone

Beckrew Wine House – River Oaks

  • Upscale wine bar with an unpretentious atmosphere, wine flights and tapas, next door to Fleming’s Steakhouse

Camerata at Paulie’s – Montrose

  • Specialty wine bar in an industrial atmosphere, best damn sugar cookies on the planet at Paulie’s next door

St. Arnold’s Brewery – The Heights

  • A craft brewery success story that Houstonians are proud of, beer garden great room overlooking copper beer tank room, something for everyone here


Where to Drink Like a Tourist

Flying Saucer – Downtown

  • So much beer I can’t even, around the world beer challenge, Main Street people watching

The Pastry War – Downtown

  • Tequila and tamale bar with an impressive selection of Mexican spirits, great happy hour spot

13 Celsius European Wine Bar & Cafe – Midtown

  • Extensive selection of wine and charcuterie, specialty wine tasting events scheduled regularly, industrial atmosphere


Where to Drink that’s Worth the Drive

Messina Hof Resort & Winery – College Station

  • Winery, vineyard, resort, and restaurant in Bryan/College Station (Texas A&M) with a huge selection of wine sure to please anyone

Haak Vineyards & Winery – Santa Fe

  • Vineyard, winery, and even space for weddings or enjoying live music, worth the drive

The General Public – City Centre

  • Beautiful marriage of bar, pub, restaurant, living room at your best friend’s house…perfect chill spot



What to Do/See Like a Local

Prohibition Theatre – Downtown

  • Burlesque show and dinner, art deco decor and Gatsby style drinks

Houston Museum of Natural Science – Museum District

  • My favorite nerd hangout, there might be a time vortex in the building, easy to lose track of time here

The Menil Collection & Rothko Chapel – Museum District

  • Free museums within walking distance of each other in the Museum District, Bistro Menil across street

Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo – NRG Stadium

  • IF in town in March, attending Rodeo Houston is a MUST


What to Do/See Like a Tourist

Discovery Green – Downtown

  • Multi purpose and revolving event space in the convention center area with restaurants, bars, parks, and waterworks for the kids

Main Street – Downtown

  • Bar hop like a 20-something year old on Main Street in Downtown Houston

Houston Zoo – Museum District

  • Does a bear poop in the city?  Yes, it does.

Johnson Space Center (NASA) – Clear Lake

  • Fun fact: Houston is (or was) called Space City, many exhibits from the Space Race here


What to Do/See that’s Worth the Drive

Moody Gardens – Galveston

  • Aquariums, rainforest, and outdoor activities for the family here on Galveston Island, touristy

Galveston Seawall – Galveston

  • Built after the Galveston Hurricane of 1900 to protect the island, spans 10 miles, open beaches

Pier 21 – Galveston

  • Waterfront dining and entertainment on Galveston’s historic harbor, home to 1877 Tall Ship Elissa, close to cruise terminal

Historic Strand District – Galveston

  • A must-see Victorian era historic port district if in the area, many shops and restaurants, walking distance to cruise terminal



Happy Houstoning!


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