Stepping Out: Houston

By Eddie Lee

Photographer: Lance Childers

Long recognized as a leader in the energy industry, Houston is home to more than 4,700 energy-related companies, including 17 in the Fortune 500. But there’s another kind of energy that defines the city—its vibrant food, art, and culture scene, in large part driven by its diverse population. According to 2020 US census data, people of color make up more than two-thirds of Houston’s three largest counties. So whether you call it the Bayou City, Space City, or just H-Town, Houston’s reputation as a high-energy city is rapidly growing.

Eat around the globe

Any conversation about Houston has to include its eclectic dining scene, offering cuisine from all corners of the world. One restaurant currently turning heads is Amrina. The modern Indian restaurant was named Eater Houston’s Restaurant of the Year in 2022 and called “one of Houston’s most exciting restaurants” by the Houston Chronicle. The Blind Goat is the place to go for modern Vietnamese cuisine. MasterChef season-three winner Christine Hà (the first blind contestant on the show) serves vivid dishes inspired by her late parents, who were refugees from Vietnam. Of course, no trip to Texas is complete without barbecue, and it doesn’t get better than Truth BBQ. What started as a small shack has evolved into one of the best barbecue spots in the state (Texas Monthly, which listed it as best in Houston, called Truth “transcendent”). You can’t go wrong with anything on the menu, but give yourself time because the line gets long.

Shop big, Texas-style

Need to find a gift for someone, or maybe just looking to treat yourself? Check out the Galleria and its nearly 400 stores in the Uptown District. You can also visit Rice Village near the Rice University campus, one of Houston’s oldest shopping districts. Covering a 16-block area, Rice Village is home to well-known retailers and small boutiques alike. Bibliophiles should be sure to make a stop at Brazos Bookstore. First opened in 1974, the independent bookstore is an institution of the city and was even saved from closure in 2006 by a group of loyal Houstonians.

See, hear, and discover

In the heart of downtown, the Houston Theater District is second only to New York in terms of number of theater seats in a concentrated urban area. Houston is also one of only five cities to have permanent resident companies in all major performing arts disciplines (ballet, opera, symphony, and theater), so you’re sure to find the show for you.

Museum lovers can visit the Houston Museum of Natural ScienceSpace Center Houston, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. But you don’t have to pay an admission fee to enjoy the city’s art scene. More than 1,000 public artworks can be found all over Houston in the form of outdoor murals and street art. (To locate the artwork, see houstonartsmap.com and houstonmuralmap open.com.)

Find wide- spaces

If you’re in need of fresh air, downtown Houston has more than 20 parks and green spaces. Among the most popular is Discovery Green, a 12-acre park that features gardens, shaded trails, a lake, and—for that dash of Houston culture—performance venues. You can also make the 50-mile drive north to Sam Houston National Forest. Hike a section of the 128-mile Lone Star Hiking Trail or take a paddleboat out at Double Lake. The calm energy of the forest’s pines, palmettos, and water makes an ideal contrast with the city’s bustle. DW



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