When driving down the streets of downtown Houston, there is a distinct impression that the heart of the city is full of corporate offices and restaurants. However, do not be fooled because downtown Houston has a lot to offer in terms of entertainment for Houstonians during the daytime and the nighttime. Come explore ten attractions that will be sure to spice up any weekday or weekend plans!
One of the great sport centers in downtown Houston, Minute Maid Park is home to the beloved Astros baseball team. This stadium was opened in 2000 and offers a unique experience for Houston baseball fans. Minute Maid Park boasts a train station theme, with an exterior that reflects a train depot as well as an actual train riding on train tracks on top of the building. The most stunning feature of the stadium is the retractable roof, allowing for baseball games to be played in an outdoor setting or an indoor setting if the weather is bad. All scheduled home games are open to the public with season tickets available for hard-core Astros fans, but individual game tickets can also be purchased. During off-season, come down to Minute Maid Park and take a tour of the stadium.
The George R. Brown Convention Center is one of the largest community centers open for public and private events in Houston. The center sits on over 11 acres of land and is three stories tall with a multitude of rooms and exhibit halls available. Most all of the important conventions, shows, indoor competitions, and conferences occur at the center. Events range from art shows to scientific conferences and weapons/firearms exhibitions. The center is also located close to many restaurants and sports stadiums for those who want to extend their day past their time enjoying whatever event is going on at the center. The Houston Metro also runs close to the convention center and right through the Museum District. Experience the George R. Brown Convention Center in its prime when all of the different events and gatherings are in full swing.
Take a trip down to Market Square Park for a taste of nature combined with the city. Recently redeveloped in 2010, Market Square Park consists of a large lawn in the center of the park, with a large pathway bordering the boundaries. Niko Niko’s café is nestled inside the verdant space where visitors can enjoy a beverage or a bite to eat. Artworks, preserved from before the redevelopment as well as new pieces, occupy many spaces within the park. Events and performances are also held on the stage, which is permanently set up on park grounds. This location is just a great place to come on a sunny day and enjoy the weather. Bring the dog and enjoy the park’s two dog runs, one for large dogs and one for small. Both dog runs sit in a crescent shape and have water features as well as seating for the dog’s human companions.
Part of the larger Buffalo Bayou Park, Sesquicentennial Park was built to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Republic of Texas. Many statues and monuments in Houston are dedicated to this major event in Texas history. The park, which features beautiful walkways and bridges, sits on four acres right in the heart of downtown and borders upon the Wortham Center. Two major attractions at the park are the Big Bubble and Seven Wonders.
The Big Bubble is a little bit of a confusing installation. There is a red button found somewhere on the park’s premises. If the button is pushed, a big air bubble is released in Buffalo Bayou, which sits to one side of the park. On the other hand, the art installation Seven Wonders by Mel Chin is a commemoration of Texas through seven themes, such as agriculture and infrastructure, distributed between seven pillars. Each theme is represented through children’s drawings etched onto the metal of the pillars. Sesquicentennial Park is a great place to enjoy a quiet park setting while still being a short distance away from the city streets of downtown.
Bayou Place is the place to go when looking for food and fun in the same location downtown. Nestled in the heart of the Theater District, Bayou Place is the perfect location to go after a performance or show. This large, indoor facility is home to a variety of restaurants, bars, and entertainment venues. The Houston Hard Rock Café calls Bayou Place home. There is also a sushi bar and an Italian restaurant housed at this location. On the second floor of Bayou Place is Live! At Bayou Place. Four bars can be found on the second floor, which include Shark Bar and PBR Houston. Entertainment is also available to customers, including a show at the Bayou Music Center or a film at Sundance Cinemas.
When in Houston and wanting to experience the creation of a product from start to finish, head down to Saint Arnold Brewing Company to learn about the process of making beer. Even though it was only founded in 1994, Saint Arnold is the oldest craft brewing company in Texas. This location makes and ships out fresh beer to restaurants and stores all over Texas, Louisiana, and Florida. Nine different types of beers are available from ‘Saint Arnold Amber Ale’ to ‘Saint Arnold Endeavour.’ Seasonal beers are also brewed and made available to customers throughout the year. Saint Arnold is open for tours every day except Sunday; it’s only $10 a person. At the end of the tour, each customer gets a free souvenir glass and can have ‘Lunch at Saint Arnold’ with a full menu of appetizers and meals to try. This brewery is great for any beer aficionado and offers a wide array of special events for the public to attend as well.
When looking at the Houston city skyline, one building that is sure to stand out is the JP Morgan Chase Tower on Travis Street. Known to be the tallest skyscraper in Houston as well as all of Texas, the tower is 75 stories tall and is mainly home to commercial office spaces. However, the 60th floor of the tower is open to the public. Open 9am-5pm from Monday to Friday, the Sky Lobby offers patrons the highest vantage point from which to view the city of Houston. The Sky Lobby also boasts a scale model of the 55-foot sculpture sitting in the JP Morgan Chase Tower plaza titled Personage and Birds by Miró. This abstract sculpture is one of the artist’s largest pieces and boasts a colorful scheme.
The most prominent and established performing arts venue in all of Houston is Wortham Theater Center, with performances usually being musical or theatrical in nature. This location is home to both the Houston Ballet as well as the Houston Grand Opera. Both groups produce and put on performances that change throughout the year. Influential speakers also appear at the Wortham Theater and hope to inspire audience members with their words and ideas. The center is also a short walk from Jones Hall, which is home to the Houston Symphony. Before or after a performance, take a stroll around the exterior of Wortham Center and see the beautiful fountain that wraps around the steps leading up to the entrance.
The Alley Theatre is the hub of contemporary live performance arts in Houston. Being a non-profit theatre, the Alley relies on the support of the city and patrons within the community. It consists of two performance spaces as well as a full workshop for building outrageous sets and scenery. Staff members at the Alley select, develop, produce, and run shows from start to finish. The two performance spaces switch off being active and inactive so that the Alley Theatre is constantly bringing the community new and fresh material. One performance space is always running some type of show or event, while the other performance space is dismantled from its previous show and is prepared for the next show to be run in that space. Education is another staple at the Alley, offering camps and classes to the public as well as internships for those interested in a career in live performance.
Waterways surround and run throughout Houston. One of the waterways that flows through downtown is called White Oak Bayou, which has been renovated and converted to a more public-friendly space. This waterway is a great spot for bird watching as well as experiencing the various plant life thriving in and along the water. White Oak Bayou also features appealing hiking and biking trails available for the public to enjoy. Most of these trails have similar starting points but begin to branch off and vary in length. Water fountains and picnic tables dot the trails and entice hikers/bikers to stop and enjoy what nature has to offer.