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houston skyline

Houston, Tx

City Guide

We have lived in Houston for a little over two years now, but this city continues to amaze me.  I like to think of Houston as our own hidden gem that the rest of the country continues to under-estimate.  (Which I guess is okay because we can’t handle much more traffic. 😉 ) Houston, once only known as the world oil capital and the world’s largest medical district, now also boast world renown restaurants, modern high-rises, lush city parks, and best in class cultural and entertainment venues.  With Houston being the most ethnically diverse metropolitan area in the country, it’s no wonder you will find something for everyone here.

Please note, because Houston is so robust (with over 10,000 restaurants and nightlife), this is not meant to be a list of all the best of Houston.  (There are entire websites dedicated to just that!)  This is simply a list of our personal favorites here at HOUSE of HARPER.  We will continue to update it as we try new places and discover new local favorites so keep checking back and send us your favorites to try!


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Presidio

We loved Presidio the minute we first walked in the door. The decor feels refreshingly tropical with hanging ferns and lanterns, and the mood is upbeat. When we come to Presidio we prefer to sit on the large back patio and enjoy the live music while sharing plates and drinking refreshing cocktails, like the Paloma Picante (grapefruit, lime, tequila, and jalapeño). The food is delicious, but best enjoyed with a larger group so that you can try multiple shared plates.

Le Colonial

Le Colonial

This is perhaps the most well received of all the new restaurant openings in River Oaks District (a luxury shopping center destination). I must start by admitting that I am not the most well versed in Vietnamese food so I can't speak to it's authenticity, but I found everything we ate to be delicious. (We ordered based on our waiter's recommendations.) If you are looking for a place to eat and stay for drinks, the bar upstairs has become just as popular as the dinner menu.

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Uchi

Very rarely food leaves me speechless. One bite of their and I had no words. This outpost of the Austin hot spot gets the best sushi in Houston vote from me because it checks all the boxes when it comes to raw fish, inventive creations and an intimate, but hip scene. Your tab can get pretty pricey, but it's worth every penny. They do save tables for walk-ins so if you have trouble getting a reservation there is still a chance. Or, arrive early for their daily 'Sake Social' where you can sample the highlights of the menu accompanied with sake (or beer, or wine), at a fraction of the cost.


Coffee & Sweets


Drink

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Better Luck Tomorrow

Better Luck Tomorrow, AKA “BLT” is a casual hangout with amazing “bar food” and a hipster vibe. The retro decor at this Heights hotspot is on point; we are big fans of the neon lights and the quirky patio furniture. The food menu is by James Beard Award-winning chef Justin Yu; try The Party Melt if you’re hungry (trust us!). The drinks menu has been crafted by industry notable Bobby Heugel and his team of mixologists. Come here for a good time!

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The Nightingale Room

Exploring Houston’s expanding bar scene is not complete without visiting Downtown. Main Street is home to a row of hip watering holes including The Nightingale Room, which is known for its vast collection of vinyl records and nightclub atmosphere on weekends. The bar’s second floor has live music on Thursday evenings, and the curated selection of cocktails can be sent up to the second floor on a drink elevator! We’re a fan of the rum punch bowl meant to share with 3-4 people.

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W Alabama Ice House

For an authentic Texas ice house experience, you have to come here! West Alabama Ice House has been around since 1928, and being there feels like you’re in a small West Texas town. To say that this place is casual is an understatement. You will fit in just fine wearing denim cut offs and flip flops. Grab a Lone Star beer at the bar and an insanely delicious barbacoa taco across the street at Tacos Tierra Caliente food truck, and hang out at a picnic table in the backyard. The people watching here is prime.


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The Menil Collection

The Menil Collection is arguably the gem of Houston, and one of the most significant art institutions in the world. Located in Montrose, The Menil Collection campus includes the main building, designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano, which holds an extensive collection of paintings, objects, photographs, etc. from the de Menil family’s personal collection. The campus is also home to a dedicated Cy Twombly gallery (breathtaking!), the Byzantine Fresco Chapel, and Dan Flavin installation. The Rothko Chapel, operated independently from the Menil, is also within walking distance and is truly a cultural masterpiece. Surrounded by beautiful “Menil grey” bungalow homes, the restaurant Bistro Menil is the perfect place to enjoy lunch or drinks while in the area. This is a must when visiting Houston!

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Houston Museum of Natural Science

This is the perfect museum to visit as a family and spend hours getting lost in the winding exhibition rooms. From the butterfly center and planetarium, to the wildlife and prehistoric exhibitions, this museum is very interactive and keeps you (and your little ones) entertained all afternoon. The rotating exhibitions are fantastic as well; we are eager to check out the gladiator one that is currently showing! Knox loves watching the videos in the Planetarium; he literally believes that we fly into space! (And we let him think that!) He also asks us weekly to go visit the dinosaurs!

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The Houston Zoo

Visiting the Houston Zoo in Hermann Park is an excellent way to spend an afternoon outdoors as a family. The zoo is quite large - 55 acres - so wear comfy shoes and bring a hat for wandering around. Make sure to check the schedule in advance so that you can make the most of their offered activities, like feeding the giraffes! If you have littles, there is a train that runs from the Zoo entrance and makes a loop around the area. It’s always a must do with the boys!

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McGovern Centennial Gardens

For an afternoon stroll through beautiful flowers and greenery, head to McGovern Centennial Gardens at Hermann Park. The tranquil Japanese Garden and lush Rose Garden are a couple of ideal places to relax on a bench and enjoy the surroundings. Also, the interactive (and edible!) family garden is a place where kiddos of all ages can learn about growing produce and sustainability. We like to pack a picnic and eat lunch in the garden on our Zoo days.


Shop


Stay

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Four Seasons Hotel

Four Seasons Houston has gone through extensive renovations in the past year, and we love the new design and amenities. Bayou & Bottle, the hotel’s lobby restaurant and bar, has been designed with mid century modern decor, and we love the swanky, upscale vibes. It’s the perfect venue to grab a pre or post dinner beverage if you are planning to spend the evening downtown. The new spa & fitness center is one of our favorite wellness destinations in Houston, and we also love grabbing a drink on the pool deck that overlooks downtown.