24 Hours in Houston
We're excited to bring you on a tour of our proud city of Houston, a city that often surprises people by its status as the most ethnically and racially diverse city in the country. Houston boasts the fourth-largest population in the United States – and it's a welcoming place for all. Located just off the Gulf Coast in a state notoriously rich with oil, the city was originally built on exportation and energy economies. Since then, the economy has widely diversified and Houston has become one of the fastest expanding cities in the country – with booming real estate, medical and tech opportunities. Notably, Houston is home to the Texas Medical Center, the world's largest concentration of healthcare and research institutions, and it contains the second-most Fortune 500 headquarters of any U.S. municipality within its city limits (after New York). Houston is recognized worldwide for its oil and natural gas industry, as well as being the home of NASA.
Houston is regarded as a cosmopolitan destination, filled with world-class dining, arts, hotels, shopping and nightlife. Considering its endless job opportunities and low cost of living, it's no surprise that Houston draws an increasing number of transplants. With so much to see and experience in a visit, you may be enticed to stay longer than you planned.
Morning: Local adventure awaits
Chances are that it will be a beautiful, sunny, warm day in Houston, so start your morning enjoying Houston's natural beauty with outdoor activities. Houston is surprisingly green, with the most total area of parks of the 10 most-populous cities in the nation. Jog through Memorial Park around its three-mile loop or through the arboretum. From there, bike along the water through the two-plus-mile stretch of Buffalo Bayou Park and check out the bat colony. Then find yourself in Hermann Park, where beneath the skyline of the Texas Medical Center you can paddle boat with ducks, play a round of golf or explore the renowned and expansive Houston Zoo – the second-most visited zoo in the country. You're now in the Museum District, where you can visit any of the 19 museums, galleries and community spaces – including The Museum of Fine Arts and the Houston Museum of Natural Science, which boasts the largest paleontology hall in the United States.
If you prefer to relax and catch some rays, head to the pool at the Marriott Marquis downtown and take selfies while floating along their giant, Texas-shaped lazy river. Or make an hour's drive and hit the beach in Galveston, with its 32 miles of sand along the Gulf shore.
The foodie scene
The most important thing to do on a trip to Houston is eat, so pack a larger-sized pair of pants. Houston's rapidly growing culinary prowess is widely recognized, with several major publications naming the city "one of America's best food cities" and "the most exciting food city," just to cite a few. Houston's highly diverse population is represented by cuisines from over 70 countries and American regions in more than 10,000 restaurants. Local James Beard Award recipient and finalist celebrity chefs Justin Yu, Chris Shepherd and Hugo Ortega continue to flex their ingenuity with new and longstanding venues across all price points.
Texas is most famous for Tex Mex, BBQ and steak. Try fajitas and tacos at The Original Ninfa's and Pico's Restaurant. Chow down on BBQ brisket and splurge on the wagyu beef rib at The Pit Room. For an upscale steakhouse experience, savor the dry-aged beef at Doris Metropolitan or B&B Butchers.
Not a carnivore? Explore a wide variety of cuisines at top joints like MF Sushi, MAD, or Bludorn, authentic Vietnamese and pan Asian food in Chinatown, or Snoop Dogg's favorite, Turkey Leg Hut (which is self-explanatory). If your group just can't agree on dinner, head to a food hall such as The Post Office. These halls spice-up the city with their own unique flair and high-quality, diverse, delicious cuisine in a modern street-food atmosphere. Some also serve as event space for art markets and live performances.
When you're ready to wash it all down, look no further than Houston's growing brewery scene. In fact, so many breweries have been perfecting New England Style IPAs that the city has earned the nickname "Juiceton." About 65 breweries serve greater Houston with a wide array of beer styles and taproom experiences. Some notables include Buffalo Bayou, Heights beer garden, Kirby Ice House, 8th Wonder, St. Arnold and Spindletap.
Afternoon: Unique attractions
Let your inner rocket scientist take flight as you spend the afternoon exploring the Space Center Houston, the official science museum of NASA Johnson Space Center. The Johnson Space Center is the home of Mission Control and NASA's official astronaut training program. Learn more than you can imagine at these larger-than-life exhibits and check out the museum's 400 space artifacts, climb into the world's only interactive Space Shuttle replica, examine three flown spacecrafts and gaze at actual moon rocks.
If you're here in March, check out the Houston Rodeo – the annual Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, held over 20 days from early to late March, and the largest annual livestock show and rodeo in the world. The rodeo usually opens with a large BBQ cookout hosted by local and Fortune 500 companies, while the show features championship rodeo action, livestock competitions, carnival, pig racing, Rodeo Uncorked!, an international wine competition, shopping, sales and livestock auctions. The rodeo has drawn some of the world's biggest recording artists such as Cardi B, Ariana Grande, Usher, Lizzo, Bruno Mars, Maroon 5, Blake Shelton, Garth Brooks and Luke Bryan.
Sports fans can enjoy competition by every major professional league except hockey. The Houston Texans play their home NFL games at the NRG stadium (tailgating is a whole production of its own and the games are a riot). The Houston Astros carried the city to a World Series title in 2017 and postseason appearances in 2005, 2019 and 2021, while the Houston Rockets have been home for NBA all-stars such as James Harden, Yao Ming, Hakeem Olajuwon and Tracy McGrady.
There's something for everyone after sunset in this culturally rich and fun-loving city with its active visual and performing arts scene in the Theater District. It's one of the few U.S. cities with permanent, professional, resident companies in all major performing arts disciplines: opera, ballet, symphony and theater. Those with less spending cash can picnic on the lawn in Hermann Park, or enjoy various cinema art festivals, concerts and shows for free at the Miller Outdoor Theater, an enormous amphitheater.
Houston has a great bar scene as well with a variety of unique flavors. Challenge your friends to classic and contemporary arcades games at Cidercade Houston, a large modern warehouse with 275-plus free arcade games. If you're more of a cowboy at heart, check out Neon Boots Dancehall and Saloon, an award-winning C&W bar-themed dance hall with more than 11,000 square feet of dance floor. If bar hopping is your kind of night, West Washington Avenue is the place to go – located in the Greater Heights, it hosts arguably some of the best bars in town.
If Las Vegas-style pool parties are your jam, Cle is the place to be. The venue is spacious and fashionable, with daytime pool parties and an evening nightclub space that often hosts famous international DJs and music artists. For a classy way to end the night, check out Bisou in the River Oaks District. It's an upscale, contemporary bar lounge that always promises a great time and fabulous cocktails. They also serve an excellent brunch for the morning after, curated by master chef of France Frederic Perrier.
We hope you've enjoyed your 24 hours in Houston. Surely, you realize that it's just not enough time to experience all the wonderful things our great, big city has to offer. So we hope you'll come back soon!
Dr. Goldstein is PGY-7 and Dr. Hua is PGY-6 at Houston Methodist Hospital.