48 Hours in Houston
H-Town, the Space City, where Beyoncé grew up, or simply “Houston.” Here’s your hour-by-hour guide to Houston, Texas.
They don’t call it the “Energy Capital of the World” for nothing—you’re going to need a lot of it if you want to make the most of your 48 hours in the fourth largest city in the United States. Lucky for you, I’ve got it all planned out. Let’s say your plane lands at 9am on Friday and have to catch a flight home on Sunday at 4p.m.
9AM: So you hop off the plane at IAH with a dream and your cardigan—just kidding. This is not LAX. You’re probably sweating already. Pick up your rental car (because you really can’t get around the city without one) and make a pit stop at the first Shipley Do-nuts shop you see!
Shipley’s is a Houston based donut chain that rivals all other donut chains but today we are not getting donuts. We are getting kolaches! To the uninitiated, the Kolache might be described as pigs in a blanket. But let me assure you there could be nothing more incorrect. Kolaches are a magical Czech pastry that has put it’s roots down in Texas. They do not exist outside of the lonestar state (as a student in NYC I feel the sting of this sad truth). They are usually made with a sausage in the middle but can vary to include cheese, jalepeños, ham or even boudain (a cajun delicacy which is a sausage most commonly stuffed with pork, crab, shrimp and dirty rice).
11AM: So you arrive at the place you are staying, all full with kolaches, and decide you want to do a little shopping but, it’s such a nice day outside you don’t want to miss it! What do you do? Check out the Houston Premium Outlets (with a pit stop at Buc-ee’s truck stop). It’s an outdoor shopping center where you can find great deals.
On the way there you pass by an enormous truck stop with a sign that reads, “Buc-ee’s”. You go in, marvel at their famed, immaculate bathrooms, buy some beaver nuggets (they’re like corn pops!), pick out a shirt with their iconic logo on it, and go on your way.
6PM: Time for dinner. You can’t visit Houston without having some great tex mex so I’m giving you not one, but two mouth watering options. Torchy’s Tacos or Chuy’s (depending on where exactly in Houston you’re staying. Torchy’s is a local favorite (just search #torchystacos on instagram) but Chuy’s is famous for it’s creamy jalepeño dip and tortilla chips. I go to Chuy’s sometimes just for that. Local tip: It’s free but you have to ask your server for it now).
8PM: You’re done feasting on your tex mex but the night is still young in Houston! Time to burn off some of those calories by heading over to Sky High Sports. It’s a giant indoor trampoline park. It’s only $11 for the first hour and trust me—one hour is enough. It’ll make you feel like a kid again to be playing dodge ball on a big trampoline court, or to practice doing flips into foam block pits. Who wouldn’t want that?
10PM: Now that you’re pooped from literally bouncing off the walls, it’s time to head back home. On your way, stop in a local supermarket and steer yourself to the ice cream aisle. There you will encounter freezer after freezer of heavenly Bluebell Ice Cream which is a southern obsession. My favorite flavor is “southern blackberry cobbler” which is vanilla with blackberry swirl and pieces of pie crust. Sweet dreams!
9AM: Free yoga at Discovery Green. Discovery Green is a little oasis in the middle of downtown Houston with an outdoor concert venue, cafe and art installations. There is a splash zone and playground for kids and even a stand where you can rent kayaks or toy boats to race on the pond. In the summer they have a variety of free events like concerts, farmer’s markets, culture and arts festivals and, of course, free morning yoga! Start your day by feeling the burn while you feel the Houston heat.
10AM: Now that you’ve worked up an appetite, just a few minutes away there is Villa Arcos for some truly authentic breakfast tacos. This taco shack is a local favorite and for less than $5 you can completely satisfy your chorizo craving and more with their extensive list of combinations.
11AM: Since it’s still early in the day, this is the perfect time to explore Montrose, a trendy district in Houston that has a variety of one-off, kitschy cafés and eateries as well as a treasure trove of vintage and thrift shopping. Make your way to Dunlavy street and take a stroll all the way down. Dunlavy street is home to a lot of really inexpensive stores but price range can vary. Nevertheless, you’ll definitely find something(s) you love!
2PM: Lunch time. This time of year is crawfish season so every seafood or cajun restaurant you see is going to be swimming in it. If you’ve never eaten crawfish, it’s really simple and fun (and messy). One person typically eats 2 pounds just by themselves. Just twist the tail off the body, crack open the soft shell with your fingers and pull out the juicy meat! Don’t forget to add some corn on the cob and whole redskin potatoes to complement your mountain of steamy crawfish!
4PM: Off to the Galleria. It’s the biggest mall in Texas, with 375 stores and over 3 million total square feet. Even if you don’t buy anything, it’s fun just to walk around or finally learn to skate backwards with an hour on the ice rink!
8PM: Time for some good ‘ol southern barbeque. I suggest the Harris County Smokehouse. It’s a no-frills local gem with some to die for BBQ.
10PM: After dinner head over to Studio Movie Grill to catch a late night movie. This isn’t just any old movie theater, it’s alsoa restaurant. Servers come and take your order while you watch your movie so you never have to worry about missing a minute because you suddenly have a popcorn craving. Along with traditional movie theater fare, SMG serves gourmet pizzas, burgers, quesadillas, pastas and an assortment of desserts (to list a few things) along with a full bar. Sit back in the comfy reclining chairs and order yourself a brownie sundae or frozen hot chocolate while you watch!
12AM: For a nightcap, take a drive down to House of Pies. This is another local favorite that’s always open late. It’s retro, homey feel and warm staff make this the perfect place to regroup after an eventful day. The pies are to die for—especially the lemon icebox pie.
9AM: You can’t leave Texas without going to What-a-burger! It sounds like “waterburger” but without the “r” on water. This fast food staple is easily spotted with it’s signature a-frame, orange and white striped roofs. Stop in for a honey butter chicken biscuit on your way to the next stop…
10AM: I’ve been coming to Trader’s Village since I was little. It’s only open on Saturday and Sundays and is the home to hundreds of local vendors selling everything from furniture, clothing, jewelry, fresh produce, and even animals (I was so close to convincing my mom to buy me a dwarf rabbit once…). There are carnival rides for kids and an outdoor food court with options from a bunch of local mom and pop businesses. It’s a really low stress alternative to the bustle and shine of the Galleria.
1PM: It’s time to start the long drive back to the airport but make sure to make a stop along the way for Sonic! Sonic’s aren’t unique to Texas—in fact they’re in 43 states—but if you’re not from the great USA, or you’re just an unfortunate soul living in one of the 7 states that has to suffer through life without a Sonic, this is a good stop before you make your long drive to the airport. Happy Hour for half price drinks is from 2pm-4pm. There are tens of drinks to choose from and even more combinations that you can request specifically. Limeades, slushies, “ocean water”—go crazy. I recommend a Texas sweet tea but if it’s a slushie kind of day (and really, when isn’t it?) I go for a pineapple slush every time even though the pineapple chunks always get stuck in the straw.
So there’s your crash course in Houston. Y’all come back and visit!