Use this itinerary to plan a Houston-based, arts-immersed experience that will keep your family actively inspired with visual, culinary, theatrical, and musical delights from Friday to Sunday.
By Marci Regan Dallas
Houston is one of the nation’s most diverse cities, resulting in an outstanding multicultural arts scene for all Houstonians and visitors to enjoy. With a vast array of museums, galleries, artists, and performing groups, there is no shortage of things to do in this vibrant city. Check out my favorite spots for the ultimate arts-immersion weekend getaway in the Bayou City.
Friday, 6 p.m. – Check into a downtown Houston hotel where you will spend your arts-immersion weekend. There are many options for accommodations, including Aloft Downtown and Marriott Marquis.
I like Aloft Downtown because, not only do they highlight Houston visual artists on the walls in the lobby, but they also have live DJs and musicians who perform at their events. They also have a rooftop pool area that is always fun.
Another popular downtown hotel is the Marriott Marquis and I must recommend hanging out at the Texas-shaped lazy river– trust me the kids will love it! Plus, artists from across Texas were commissioned for pieces of art that reference Texas’ various personalities to be showcased throughout the hotel. From space to cowboys to open plains, they have it covered.
The hotels mentioned above are conveniently located near the Metro Rail and Discovery Green, a vibrant twelve-acre park in the heart of downtown and a constant source of fun. The park offers a wide variety of events perfect for families and friends.
Friday, 7 p.m. – Dinner at Xochi – a Mexican restaurant located on the first floor of Marriott Marquis, which is across the street from Discovery Green. It is one of celebrated chef Hugo Ortega’s new ventures and they have the most delicious and unusual flavor combinations. One of the best parts for kids and adults alike is the chocolate menu – who doesn’t love an array of delicious chocolate desserts to choose from? In addition to the food, my favorite characteristic is the art and floor tile throughout the restaurant – all hand-made by artists in Oaxaca.
Friday, 8:00 p.m. – Once dinner concludes, it’s time to cross the street to Discovery Green and Avenida Houston to spend the evening. The Avenida Houston campus includes the George R. Brown Convention Center (which has fantastic new art installations inside), the boulevard that fronts the Convention Center (which regularly hosts performances in their entertainment zone), and Discovery Green. Along Avenida campus, there are five new restaurants and more than six hundred events a year in Discovery Green, from movie nights and live music to performance artists and festivals, there is always something fun going on for the whole family.
Saturday, 10:00 a.m.- One of my family’s favorite breakfast/brunch spots is Liberty Kitchen, located on Studewood, because they have a lovely outside patio. The delicious brunch menu is served from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, so no need to rush – you have plenty of time! When deciding what to eat, we tend to gravitate towards the ever so buttery pancakes and make sure to load up on the sides. Oh, and for the adults, you don’t want to miss out on ordering the mimosas– after all, you’re on vacation!
Saturday, 11:30 a.m. – Head over and explore the creative campus of Sawyer Yards. The campus includes forty acres of industrial warehouses near Downtown, and is densely occupied with art studios, galleries, restaurants, unique fitness concepts, breweries and a public art plaza. My kids personally love to discover the art murals around town and there are some great ones at Sawyer Yards. Specifically, you will want to check out the one next to The Silos (the Art Wall at Art Alley) because it is perfect for a family picture!
Also, on the second Saturday of each month, Sawyer Yards hosts “Second Saturdays,” an event that brings together the over 400 artists of The Silos, Silver Street, Summer Street, Spring Street and Winter Street who open their studios to the public from 12-7 p.m. on the second Saturday of every month. My kids always love wandering in and out of studios, talking to the artists and making new discoveries. The last time we were there, my daughter met Monique Weston who makes earrings out of clock hands and vintage postage stamps (amongst other things); my daughter loved them and got to come home with her own treasure.
If your arts immersion weekend doesn’t fall on the second Saturday of the month, you can still visit Sawyer Yards to find the art murals, as well as visit the buildings’ rotating exhibitions in the hallways. Just make sure to check studio hours as each studio has their own operating business hours.
Saturday, 1:00 p.m. – Grab a late lunch at Vietnamese restaurant, Local Pho, which just opened on the Sawyer Yards campus. The menu features traditional Vietnamese favorites, from banh mi sandwiches to its well-known pho, and I absolutely love the iced Jasmine tea! The restaurant also has a great ambience and outdoor seating area so you can dine outside (if it’s not too hot, of course).
Saturday, 3 p.m. – Head over to El Gato Coffeehouse and Cat Café, Houston’s first cat café. It features cat art by local artists and an impressive cat walk created by James Waters Creations, who does custom millwork. Once you pay a fee ($12 for adults, $10 for students and $8 for children), you get to play with the cats for an hour while enjoying a cup of coffee or juice box. Another great aspect of this café is that all the cats are also available for adoption.
Across the street from the cat café is my four-year-olds’ favorite mini mural (one of the electrical boxes that are painted all over Houston) of a purple unicorn by Tra Slaughter.
Saturday, 6 p.m. – Dinner at either Barnaby’s or Niko Niko’s on Market Square Park. If you are a big Greek food fan then you will definitely want to try Niko Niko’s and if you’re in the mood for traditional American cuisine, Barnaby’s has you covered. This park also has a good programming schedule, which includes movies and bingo. If you’re like my kids, you can also sit back and watch the dogs in the dog park. Another highlight of Market Square Park is the Houston mural by GONZO247, located on the side of Treebeard’s. Head over for a family photo and you’ll see why this mural is the most Instagramed image of Houston.
Saturday, 7-9 p.m. – End the night by attending a show, either Main Street Theater’s youth performances at MATCH or The River Oaks Chamber Orchestra (ROCO). From September 23 to November 11, ROCO has a program call ROCOrooters which is a music education and childcare program for kids between two months and ten years old. The best part about this program is the adults get to enjoy the concert and have a date night, while the kids enjoy, pizza, fun music, a concert etiquette class and much more.
Sunday, 10 a.m. – Breakfast at Revival Market on Heights Boulevard. Revival Market is a Houston craft butcher shop and café that serves breakfast and lunch daily. Every ingredient served at this restaurant has been thoughtfully grown, raised and procured. My kids love a good chocolate croissant with crispy bacon, and you can both here!
Sunday, 11:30 a.m. – Before heading out of town, I recommend visiting the Bayou Trails because it is a great place to explore amazing public art along the bayou. I love happening upon Anthony Thompson Schumate’s Monumental Moments and my kids love the Dean Ruck’s Big Bubble, which is the red button on the Preston Street Bridge that makes the bayou bubble.
Marci Regan Dallas is the executive director of Fresh Arts, a local non-profit organization that builds meaningful connections between artists, arts organizations and patrons to bolster Houston’s thriving arts scene. Fresh Arts provides services in the arenas of professional development training, resource aggregation, community building, and audience development.