By: Gabi Garrett
Whether you’re up for the road trip, or prefer to jet your way to your next adventure —Texas is closer than you think. With direct flights from Panama City Beach taking just over 2 hours, or Mobile just over an hour and a half, you can be in downtown Houston in no time.
Houston is a cultural mecca, a proverbial blend of one part New Orleans and one part Nashville, offered with a side of authentic, creamy queso, and I’ve rounded up a few great places to get you started on your next adventure.
Where to stay
The two areas we explored were downtown Houston and the Houston Heights. Downtown Houston offers multiple large-scale and boutique hotels, perfect for utilizing points you may have gained throughout the year for business.
We stayed in the Houston Heights neighborhood, which is similar to Pensacola’s East and North Hill neighborhoods. The Houston Heights neighborhood was the original subdivision to Houston’s city center in the 1900s. It’s the perfect blend of exercise studios, breweries, local restaurants and unique homes. You can find your own piece of the neighborhood by checking out sites like Airbnb.com or VRBO.com. No matter which location you choose, you can utilize our guide to find the best in both locations.
Where to eat
Visiting Houston offers the perfect opportunity to explore what truly puts the Tex in Tex Mex.
El Big Bad, downtown Houston
“We’ve got some of the best restaurants in the country. We’re the fourth biggest city in the U.S., but often we’re not considered one of the big dogs when it comes to food”, said Branson, a bartender at El Big Bad, an upscale Mexican restaurant in the heart of downtown Houston. “I think we are competitive with the other three. We serve our food with spice, and that’s an advantage.”
El Big Bad is the world’s largest infusion tequila bar. Branson, our lively bartender, shared that there is never a need to order a skinny margarita at his bar since everything is made in-house, with fresh juice, citrus mix and agave nectar. We indulged in the specialty cocktail, and ordered the presidio dips: guacamole, queso, salsa, jalapeno ranch and black bean dip. To add on to the feast, we included mushroom tacos, black bean empanadas, fresh corn and surf and turf tacos.
Eight Row Flint, Houston Heights
The restaurant’s queso is made with farmers market local cheeses creating a beautiful blend topped with jalapeños. Paired with the brussel sprout tacos and traditional margaritas, you can’t go wrong here.
Coltivare Pizza & Garden, Houston Heights
Perfect for a glass of wine in the garden and another nosh of food before bed, the backyard atmosphere of this cozy Italian restaurant is lit for instagrammable moments and meeting locals or other travelers.
We ordered the Focaccia with Burrata — flown in overnight from Italy. Next, we tried the seasonal pumpkin raviolis with brown butter, walnuts and sage which was delectable.
Coltivare is a tapas restaurant, so you can certainly order multiple small plates for the table.
Snooze, Montrose (just outside of Houston Heights)
An a.m. eatery that is so fabulous, attendees often find themselves sipping mimosas to the tune of a 60-90 minute wait. Once you are seated, a rare treat awaits you with the opportunity to order both savory and sweet. We started with the French toast, then enjoyed the new fall menu items — the vegetarian frittata and the steak benedict.
Where to drink
Prohibition, downtown Houston
A risqué establishment that was originally the first silent movie theater in Houston. It’s interesting to meander around the bar and explore artwork that serves as a history hall of this historic southern city. We ordered an el beso pear vodka cocktail — complete with a beautiful kiss adornment.
The Houston Watch Co., downtown Houston
After previously being occupied by various not-so-profitable tenants, such as a sandwich shop, new bar owners took the name back to the building’s roots and remodeled the location by peeling back years of paint to find the original brick. This watering hole even has the original 1912 watch company’s safe in the women’s restroom.
We recommend ordering the Hemingway, a sassy cocktail crafted with rum, grapefruit, lime juice and maraschino liqueur.
Where to sweat
The vibe of athleticism runs deep within the Houston Heights viens.
Pure Barre, Houston Heights
A low impact ballet style workout, right in the heart of the Houston Height’s neighborhood and within easy biking distance from where we stayed.
Black Swan Yoga Studio, Houston Heights
A donation-based location with a connecting juice bar, also in biking distance.
Ride, Houston Heights
An indoor cycling workout. It’s an upbeat, energetic studio that will have you feeling the beat all day. Our class was to the DJ stylings of “Ellie Golding vs. the Weekend” and was an hour to remember.
Whether you’re interested in a laid back bike rider’s weekend to multiple breweries, local eats and an exercise class or two, or upscale dining and the unique bar scene — Houston’s got it all, and gets two thumbs up.