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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Houston Travel Guide

Houston is somewhere I have traveled through but never really experienced, that is until last weekend. Hannah finally let me come home with her {I exaggerate} and we decided to do Houston up. Below I am letting y'all in on all that we did and my suggestions for what else to do. I hope y'all like the guide and if you did some of the same things let me know! If I missed something also let me know, I already have places I want to go back the next time I visit Hannah-xoxo darling, Hayden

How to Get There:

If you are driving from Austin, I suggest taking 71 to I-10 {stop at Hruskas} and using the toll roads at your discretion. If you are coming from Dallas I-45 is an option but depending on the time of day, certain backroads look good. San Antonio to Houston is a straight shot on I-10. If you are flying, check out flights to Hobby Airport or George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH), Southwest is a huge part of traveling to & in Texas so check out flights into those airports. If you haven't experienced Southwest, please do, it's my favorite. 

Where to Stay:

I will fully admit, the times I have been to Houston, I stayed in something akin to a Holiday Inn Express and with Hannah so this is not my area of expertise. However, I do have a few places on my list to stay. The first is the Mariott Marquis Houston, it has a Texas shaped pool and I am all for it. The Hotel ZaZa is located right by Herman Park/the museums so if you are going for that stuff, it is your best bet. Sara's Inn is an adorable bed and breakfast that I want to check out one day, their food looks amazing. 

What to Do:

In Houston Proper:
McGovern Centennial Gardens
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
Discovery Green

Start at McGovern Centennial Gardens for beautiful views of the city and gorgeous plants. There is a free two-hour parking lot in front of the garden but it might take a while to find a spot -- be patient, it will work out. They host events in their building and there are nice, clean restrooms. Once you've done the gardens, walk next door to Hermann Park. There seem to be lots of festivals always happening in the park, we were there for a Japanese festival. There is also a railroad for children, a zoo and an amphitheater. Once you have gotten your fill of the fresh-air, stop for an afternoon at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. You can spend hours on hours on hours in this really good museum. the Colors of the Oasis exhibit was phenomenal and all of their old masters works were awe-inspiring. You can enter through either building but make sure you change buildings in the light hallway, it goes from blue to pink every few minutes. It makes for amazing photos. The Discovery Green is the next place to stop by, it isn't as large as Herman Park but it has interactive things and is super popular with children. They also have these really cool colorblock buildings. Hannah and I found these seats in the shade where you can sit far from each other but still hear one another due to sound-wave travel. For a bit of shopping, The Galleria is a fun spot. They even have an ice rink - which while I was there, the little kids were doing an ice skating recital of the Wizard of Oz - too cute. They have everything from Neiman to Nordstrom, etc. Multiple parking garages offer free parking and while you have stopped off walk a few blocks to the Gerald D. Hines Waterwall Park. It is this amazing art 64 foot
Gerald D. Hines Waterwall
tall instillation that is a continuing waterfall. 

Probably my favorite part of town is Montrose. It features the Menil Collection and the Rothko Chapel as well as multiple gallery walls. We didn't have time for the Collection but we did stop in at the Chapel. It is an interesting place to check out, I came out feeling extremely relaxed because it is just a room with no windows and it is relatively silent. The Chapel is non-denominational and kind of just used as a peaceful space in a hectic part of Houston. If you check the calendar before you go, they have concerts. Hannah and I were there before a Cello + Opera concert happened and we got to see them practice. 

Near the Chapel are a ton of the famous walls Houston is known for. The first, probably most famous, is the Biscuit Wall located at 1614 Westheimer Road, if you are going to do a bunch in a row, start at this one and work your way to the rest. Pavement Clothing is your next stop, it has the wall from the photo below and in the parking lot across from the store is the rainbow stripe one that looks much like TV screens that aren't working look; it's considered the Pride Wall of Houston. It's located at 1675 Westheimer Road. My recommendations are that you have someone to take your photo and you bring a selfie stick to take photos of the group. Also, stand in the shade of the building when you take the photos, they are much better than direct sunlight. Lastly, I think wearing some neutral works best, I wore black with a few accents. I know if I had worn a pattern I would have hated my shots. 

Make sure to stop by the Neon Gallery, a small art museum/gallery dedicated to neon artwork. Hannah saw it on Instagram so we knew we must go. There weren't a ton of instillations but, y'all, it was so worth it. The neon is phenomenal and it just inspired me to want tons of neon work for my future house. I was super into the one {to the right} because I am always thinking about my master plan -- who isn't? 
Outside Houston Proper:
A shot from the ferris wheel at Kemah

So there are a ton of places that surround Houston that each have unique features. One I most definitely want to point out is Kemah, located south and east of downtown Houston, it is a boardwalk and waterfront area that can be a lot of fun for families. Hannah and I went one evening as the sun was setting for the beautiful sunset and to ride the ferris wheel, if you haven't noticed that is kind of our thing. There are tons of restaurants on the boardwalk as well as rides like a wooden rollercoaster, a carousel, and some more fair-centered rides. 

A shot from the Chance the Rapper concert
Another interesting place to visit is staight north of downtown Houston, The Woodlands. It is a community in an intensely wooded area, I truly didn't understand how many trees surrounded this area. They have a pretty lake and boat house with a pavilion. The Cynthia Woods Mithcell Pavilion features tons of different music acts, I saw Chance the Rapper but coming up they have John Legend, Jimmy Buffet, and a concert of Matilda. Stop by the really nice Market Street for shopping at Brooks Brothers, lululemon, and more. 

Lastly, you must make a trip out to the Sugarland/Stafford area. This is south and west of Houston proper and features one of the most beautiful buildings I have ever been in...if you are from Texas you will not understand how this is possible, but trust me! The BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir is
located on the border of Sugarland and Stafford, in-between two apartment complexes. Be careful not to miss the turn when you are marveling at the beauty of the building from the road. The Mandir is bright, white and absolutely stunning. The grounds surrounding the Mandir are peaceful and if you are looking for a place to get your head together or de-stress, this is it. Hannah and I visited on a Sunday morning around 10am and walked out feeling more at peace with ourselves, and I was feeling lower stress for the upcoming week of finals. Make sure to check their schedule, some times of the day the Mandir is closed, also, wear pants and nothing too revealing. They have a gift-shop that is much more of a fascinating food store than anything. 
BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir

Where to Eat:

Hungry's - Located in Rice Village, this place is a staple of any Houstonian's diet. The just re-did the building and it looks amazing. Hannah and I opted to sit inside because the wait was so much shorter. I was really craving breakfast foods so I went with the all-day brunch menu {eggs, fruit, potatoes, bacon and toast}. Hannah had the Gyro plate, she loved the season fries. The parking lot is insane so I would suggest the complimentary valet {something I don't normally suggest}. 

Tiny's Milk & Cookies - If you saw my Instagram story last week, you will know how obsessed I quickly became with Tiny's Milk and Cookies. The chocolate chip cookies come out of the window warm, with melted chocolate chips and a delicious brown sugar cookie. Just thinking about it is heaven. The first day I had two cookies and devoured them both the second day I limited myself to just one because they are so rich. This sounds insane, but order a lemonade with it, their lemonade is quite possibly some of the best I've ever had and it works weirdly well with the cookies, call me crazy. Tiny's is a product of Tiny Boxwoods a beautiful restaurant in Montrose that I want to check out the next time I'm in Houston. Milk and Cookies is in Rice Village and has no seats. You walk up to a window and order, there are tons of moms with prams and the occasional tourist. Who knows, you may spot Hannah now that she knows it exists. 
Breakfast Klub - Okay, this is a serious conversation about some delicious breakfast foods. The Breakfast Klub is something that you have to be committed to, the line starts up super early {even on weekdays}. Hannah and I got there around 8:30am, we only had to wait about 15 minutes to place our order but when we left around 9:30 the line was wrapped around the building. You absolutely must get the waffles, locals seem to love the chicken wings and waffles {but it was too early for me to get into that} so I got a plain waffle with eggs and bacon. The syrup is self-serve by the silverware and it comes out hot. I personally think hot syrup is one of life's greatest indulgences. 
Star Pizza - After a long day of museum hopping, there is nothing better than a Chicago style deep-dish pizza, trust me. Star Pizza has got it going on, they have some strangely shaped booths with really interesting little messages, but they have got it going on. Hannah and I shared a deep-dish half with cheese {for me} and half with pepperonis {H}. We also had side salads that came with homemade breadsticks {I fainted a little when she said that they came with the salads}. It was delicious, I haven't had a good deep-dish Chicago pizza in years, but this is the real deal. The cheese was the kind that didn't want to separate for the slices, it was so gooey. 
Goode Company BBQ - Goode isn't somewhere I went with Hannah but it is one of my families' favorite BBQ joints in Texas. They have multiple locations in the Houston area, so please visit one of them. The brisket is king at each establishment but the real star is the pecan pie...I kid you not. It is some of the greatest pie you could ever hope to consume.
Ichibon - Ichibon has multiple locations in the area but Hannah and I visited the one at Kemah. Most of the restaurants on the boardwalk are for seafood lovers, and if you know me, I hate seafood...I know I am from Florida and that is crazy. I will only eat grouper occasionally and for me to eat sushi it has to be fully cooked or vegetarian to eat it. But Hannah is the same way! So she took me to Ichibon and I was pleasantly surprised. I am fairly judgmental of Texas seafood because I grew up with really good seafood, even though I didn't eat it. I had a Spider Roll: fried shrimp, rice and seaweed as well as a hand roll of fried crawfish - something new to me that I actually really liked! Overall, it was a good sushi places, if you are out at Kemah, try it! 

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