I’m a recent transplant to Houston from Nashville, Tennessee, a city that relishes in its draw on tourists (ranking second on the most popular bachelorette party destinations list is just one of its claims to fame). Upon moving to the Bayou City, I questioned what I would be able to suggest to visiting family when they asked, “What’s there to do when we visit?” without the old standbys of Nashville’s “Honky Tonk” bars and country music landmarks.
Little did I know that my question would soon be answered two-fold when, in just my second week on the job at Integrate, I was given the chance to attend the inaugural Houston Tourism Summit (one of many examples of growth/learning opportunities that Integrate is quick to offer its employees).
The Summit, put on by The Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau and Houston First Corporation, was an incredible opportunity to not only meet and mingle with some of the Bay Area’s top marketing, advertising and tourism industry professionals, but it also enabled me to learn so much more about my new city, its past and where it’s headed.
So, how do you answer, “What’s there to do when we visit [Houston]?” Here are my Top 5 answers.
5. The Funeral History Museum. While I haven’t yet had a chance to visit, this unique Houston museum that has trademarked the motto, “Any day above ground is a good one,” is near the top of my list.
And it’s not just the Funeral History Museum that Houston has when it comes to the unique and special – I’d also recommend the Buffalo Soldiers Museum, with its expansive African-American wartime memorabilia collection, or the Museum of Natural Science – whose Paleontology Hall is the largest in the United States.
4. Any one of Houston’s NINE free museums. Did you know that guests can visit the Contemporary Arts Museum of Houston, Houston Center for Contemporary Craft, Rice University Art Gallery, The Rothko Chapel, Houston Center for Photography, Holocaust Museum Houston, Lawndale Art Center, The Menil Collection or The Jung Center of Houston absolutely free of charge? You can.
(That list doesn’t even begin to include all the Houston-area museums that offer great discounts on a regular basis and free admission at certain times of the year.)
3. One word… SHOPPING! Houston’s Galleria is the eighth-largest mall in the United States and the largest mall in all of Texas.
One of Houston’s popular destinations that I have had the opportunity to visit in my first month here – I can promise you that, not only will you be able to find almost any store you wish to find, you’ll also get your exercise traversing its more than three million square feet.
The great thing is, the Galleria, while expansive, doesn’t even begin to be the only excellent shopping that Houston has to offer – there are unique stores and shops all over the city.
2. Take in a festival. Being a city as large as it is, Houston has at least one great festival going on every weekend, and because of its incredible diversity, the festivals are regular examples of the different heritages that give Houston its unique framework.
Just to give you a taste – here’s what on my calendar right now.
– The Hue Mural Festival presented by Houston First is a celebration of Houston’s diverse arts community that is bringing together more than 70 artists from across the world that takes place Oct. 17-24.
– The 2015 Korean Festival Houston, where I’m planning on fulfilling my craving for kimchee and bulgolgi, is taking place on Saturday, Oct. 17 and showcases the Korean culture in the Greater Houston Community.
– The 2015 Houston Margarita Festival, a celebration of Houston’s favorite beverage that also features local musicians, salsa dancing, local food and vendors and a competition to name Houston’s best margarita. I may or may not be helping with the Houston Margarita Festival’s public relations and marketing, but either way, I’d be sure to grab a ticket to this event.
1. Eat some food… anywhere. In one of Houston First’s most recent Visit Houston commercials, Billy Gibbons from ZZ Top said, “Houston is all about good music and Mexican food.”
Mr. Gibbons is right, but it’s not just about Mexican food in Houston, it’s about all food. Anywhere you look, everywhere you go, Houston has an incredible amount of delicious food just waiting to be enjoyed. My current personal favorites include the cinnamon bun burger at Jonathan’s The Rub, the dinosaur cookie from Three Brothers Bakery, sushi from Aka, crab cakes from Paul’s Kitchen and everything at El Tiempo.
As Houston Mayor Annise Parker said in her Summit opening address, “People need to know the city of Houston – even if they haven’t met her yet.”
I second Ms. Parker because, even though Houston and I just met a few weeks ago, I absolutely cannot wait to get to know her more. On top of that, I can’t wait to get to help share the story of Houston and her citizens through my job here at Integrate.
Written By Alexis Tahara