From four-star cuisine to bargain shopping, this Texas city beckons visitors who want to have fun.
It's rodeo time, folks. Whether you're part of all the ropin' and ridin' festivities, or merely want to visit when the city's decked to its finest, Houston makes a fun three-day getaway. The best part: You don't have to sell the ranch to pay for the weekend. Pack your cowboy boots and the biggest hat that will squeeze through the door. This is one vacation that'll have you boot scootin'.
First things first. You'll need a rental car when you visit Houston. It's a big city with lots to see and do. Come prepared with a local map or directions. The maze of highways can be overwhelming if you aren't equipped.
Once transportation is settled, you'll want to trek to your hotel to unload all of your belongings. We recommend the InterContinental Houston any month, but especially in February and March when the property offers a fabulous rodeo package. This special, based on first-come availability, includes an overnight weekend stay with a welcome treat of Shiner Bock beer, tortilla chips, and spicy salsas. The deal carries a $119 price tag for a Friday or Saturday night stay. You can check in at 3 p.m.; (713) 627-7600 or http://houston.intercontinental.com.
Kick off the grand weekend with a celebratory meal of Mexico City classics at Hugo's on Westheimer. You'll have to pay a bit more for the authentic dishes, but it's worth it. Try the Camarones al Mojo de Ajo, shrimp cooked in lime-garlic oil, for $17.95.
After dinner, get ready to join the party downtown. Main Street is blocked off Friday and Saturday nights so folks can dance in the streets--literally. You'll find bars and restaurants with drink specials and live music every few paces from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m.
Saturday--The Texan Side
Grab a quick breakfast at your hotel, and then get ready for a truly Lone Star day. Start by jetting downtown to Palace Boot Shop. The mounted animal heads and antler-accented chairs add authenticity to this 85-year-old boutique. You'll see rodeo-ready belts, buckles, and suede items, not to mention some serious boots.
For cowboy duds that go for next to nothing, make your next stop Texas Junk Co., where owner Bob Novotney has been collecting Texas treasures for more than 25 years. You can score a pair of used cowboy boots for as little as $40. If you have attire covered, you'll still enjoy perusing this odd assortment that includes everything from vintage records to old band uniforms.
Next, zip into a Tex-Mex joint that locals are crazy about. Chacho's Mexican Grill emphasizes fresh ingredients for few pesos. Its fiesta setting, colored red, turquoise, and yellow, will turn you happy in an instant. Most plates average $6.99.
The fun doesn't stop after lunch. Head to the Beer Can House at 222 Malone. This house, entirely covered in aluminum cans and caps, makes an interesting stopover. You can't go inside, but you can look all you want.
For dinner, grab some good grub at Goode Co BBQ, a dining legend in town. With prices such as $8.85 for a beef brisket plate, dinner won't cost you much. Locals love the rustic atmosphere and the cafeteria-style line ordering.
Sunday--Chilaquiles and Culture
Sleep late, but keep in mind that checkout at the InterContinental is noon.
Brunch starts at 11 a.m. at benjy's, a restaurant in Rice Village that locals claim is one of the best for Sunday brunch. Enjoy the blue corn pancakes ($13.95) with orange-almond chicken and honey butter. Or try the Chilaquiles ($11.95), scrambled eggs sautéed with pico de gallo, salsa, tortilla chips, sour cream, and bacon. Make reservations, or you'll wait with the rest of Houston; (713) 522-7602.
After a filling meal, you're ready to hit some of the city's free museums. Visit one of the wackiest places in town--the Artcar Museum, which runs by the motto, "We have fine art on wheels." This small building is filled with cars that rotate in and out on a regular basis. While we were here, we saw a Volkswagen bug covered in Astro turf to look like a shaggy dog.
For something quite different from what you've just seen, visit The Menil Collection. Open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., the museum features 15,000 paintings, sculptures, and other works in a naturally illuminated setting.
Even though the art is sophisticated, the down-home allure of Houston during rodeo season may make you want to trade in your pinstripes for ropers.
For More Information
Contact the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau, 901 Bagby, Suite 100, Houston, TX 77002; (713) 437-5200, 1-800-446-8786, or www.visithoustontexas.com.
The Houston Rodeo
Even city slickers don Wranglers this month when the rodeo gallops into town. The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is the top drawing event of its kind in the country. That's not only because of the cowboy competitions, but also because of the amazing concerts and shows that pair with every rodeo. For three weeks in March, crowds fill Reliant Stadium and Reliant Park to enjoy entertainment of all kinds. The Rodeo Parade kicks off the celebration on Saturday, February 26, with more than 4,000 trail riders arriving in town and setting up camp in Memorial Park. The rodeo and all concerts take place March 1-20.
For tickets and official schedules, visit www.hlsr.com, or call (832) 667-1000. Keep in mind that the Reliant Park box office and TicketMaster are the only venues that sell valid rodeo tickets.
This article is from the February 2005 issue of Southern Living. Because prices, dates, and other specifics are subject to change, please check all information to make sure it's still current before making your travel plans.