Houston has a rep for being a sprawling metropolis that's difficult to navigate without a car—and we won't deny that it is. But it doesn't mean you can't have a fantastic weekend in this city without getting stuck in traffic. How? Book a hotel downtown and then stay put. Here's our carless guide to this area:
Where to Stay
The Hotel Alessandra is a new-ish property that offers luxury at affordable rates. Situated downtown, it's in a prime location for your weekend-without-a-car getaway. Guests enter the lobby in old-school grandness via a grand marble staircase, and rooms are outfitted with lots of design-savvy touches. Think brass fixtures, Art Deco mirrors, and an emerald green velvet sofa. There's also a lovely restaurant, and a bar for pre-dinner cocktails. Guests have access to the property's rooftop pool (perfect for steamy Houston afternoons) along with car service in the downtown area courtesy of its house Maserati. We found summer rates for $245 per night and a pre-paid October weekend rate for just $219 per night. Our advice: Book in advance.
Where to Eat and Drink
Xochi from famed chef chef Hugo Ortega, was by and far one of the best meals we had on our weekend getaway. The menu is comprised of dishes from Oaxaca, Mexico, and everything from the edible flower-topped cocktails (which are as pretty as they are delicious), to crudos, to grasshoppers and moles, are delicious and affordably priced. (Dinner dishes range from $12 to $30.)
The Grove, an ultra-urban restaurant designed by chef/owner Robert Del Grande, features a variety of steaks, seafood, and rotisserie specialties in a fun and fresh (and big — this is Texas, after all) atmosphere. But go for Sunday brunch. The buffet is stocked with seafood, meats, salads, so many pastries, and has an omelet bar — all for $35. Mimosas, mojitos, red and white sangria, and margaritas are available for $15 with one-cent refills.
Lucienne, located in the Hotel Alessandra, is a Mediterranean restaurant with a more mainstream Euro bent, all in a gorgeous setting. Executive Chef Jose Hernandez brings French techniques that might include cauliflower crepes or house-made gravlax; the burger is best for lunch and we loved that there wasn't a wait on Saturday. The restaurant offers a 4-course tasting dinner menu for just $55.
And Cottonmouth Club, from Mike Raymond and veteran bartender Mike Neff, is a new cocktail experience downtown. They describe the place as "the least cocktail-y cocktail bar we could come up with," so what you'll find is a very relaxed atmosphere, excellent music, and incredible drinks (try the Cold Brew Negroni). They even have a happy hour.
What to See and Do
Don't miss graffiti park, located in Houston’s EaDo neighborhood, which is walkable from your hotel. Here, nearly every square inch of building is covered in colorful street art. A lot of the impressive work was created as part of the Houston Urban Experience Mural Festival, an annual celebation of artists that launched in 2015. You’ll find an homage to local rappers, political powerhouses, and the city of Houston. Even better? It's completely free and super Insta-worthy. Next door is Leeland House, a quaint bistro and bar for cocktails, bites, and brunch. If the weather isn't too hot, enjoy mimosas on the porch.
Built in 1926, the underground Cistern at Buffalo Bayou Park once held a portion Houston’s public drinking water. Today, the 85,000 square-foot public reservoir is part of an incredibly impressive work of art. (Seeing this theme here in Houston?) If you’ve ever wondered what it felt like to be bathed in a kaleidoscope of lights, the current art installation by Franco-Venezuelan artist Carlos Cruz-Diez is a must-do. Installations rotate periodically. ($10 for adults)
Finally, take in an Astros game at Minute Maid Park. Located right downtown, there's no need to drive or buy a parking pass to check out the 2017 World Series Champions. The ballpark is fan-friendly (with air conditioning when it’s super-hot!), a retractable roof, great food (get the helmet nachos!), local craft beer, and the beloved train.