After some hugs, a few laughs, and a good meal visiting family can get restless. A survey conducted by Motel 6 showed that the average American can tolerate their family for only 4 hours; with 75% saying that after 4 hours (3 hours and 54 minutes to be exact), they need a break from their families. Instead of lounging around waiting on them to return to their respective homes, distract them with the beauty of Houston. As residents of the fourth largest city in the South, we can sometimes take for granted all the gems our city has to offer and some of us may not even know everything in our backyard because we stay confined in our own little bubble. Use this holiday season to discover or reconnect to your city, all while giving you’re visiting family something to go home and talk about.
Over two million residents move about across 655 square miles speaking 145 different languages on a daily basis. It is home to four of the nation’s largest parks, 20 cultural districts, 14 major institutions, one of the largest malls in the U.S., the nation’s number one cancer hospital, and where the astronauts from all over the world train. This is not New York, Los Angeles or Chicago but Houston. A melting pot of diversity that welcomes visitors from around the world for various reasons daily and one that keeps people coming back are our attractions. Houston Style Magazine spotlights some of these treasurers, thanks to our friends at Visit Houston, that will be sure to delight your out-of-town guests this holiday.
Buffalo Bayou Cistern
In the year before the Buffalo Bayou Cistern was built the demand for water by residents in Houston was 20,000,000 gallons. Today that demand is 146 billion gallons. The Buffalo Bayou Cistern was Houston’s answer to quality unpolluted water. Upon opening in 1926, it was an 85,000 square foot reservoir that held Houston’s public drinking water. Over time the cistern sprung a major leak, and it was decommissioned in 2007. However, the space has been given a new purpose to allow the public to come in and view the beautiful architect, learn of its rich history, and give artists a new canvas to display their work. The average person will be in awe of the 221-25 foot tall, slender columns that go as far as the eye can see whereas an artist is inspired by what they can do with space. Through the Buffalo Bayou Partnership, artists now get the chance to explore that theory. See the beauty in this wonderful space and experience how your voice travels in a 17-second echo. Cistern tours are $5 per person for history or walk-in tours ranging for 30 or 15 minutes, respectively.
Buffalo Bayou Park
If your family starts to get cabin fear, let them take a spin outdoors at the Buffalo Bayou Park. Stretching from Shepherd Drive to Sabine Street, between Allen Parkway and Memorial Drive, there is plenty for everyone to get involved in. The kids are sure to like the 30,000 square foot Lee & Joe Jamail Skatepark while dogs will get lots of exercise at the Johnny Steele Dog Park. After a bite to eat in the glass tree house dining room at The Dunlavy, the family will be ready to work off the calories biking, canoeing or hiking on one of the designated paths. The beautiful scenery, as well as the Houston Skyline, makes for perfect Instagramable moments. Stay until dust to view more than 250,000 Mexican free-tailed bats that come out at night from under the Waugh Drive Bridge. Hours of operation vary for each section of the park. Plan your trip by visiting BuffaloBayou.org.
Avenida Houston/Discovery Green/Prismatica
Downtown Houston didn’t know how much Discovery Green was needed until it opened and with the addition of Avenida Houston it is the city’s number one hang out spot, especially during the holidays. Texas is notorious for its heat but one can always cooldown on the ice. Be cool underneath a starlit sky while ice-skating. Admissions are $11 and rent skates for $4. Warm-up from the cool with treats from the surrounding vendors like hot chocolate, pizza, and burgers; get some snazzy new digs from local clothiers, and enjoy live music while taking in the cultural diversity of the city.
Adding to the scenery of Discovery Green is a new colorful, interactive art installation that brings as much delight to kids as it does adults. Magical spinning prisms of light color the park courtesy of RAW Design in collaboration with ATOMIC3 and produced by Quartier des Spectacles of Montreal, Canada. The traveling art exhibit is known as Prismatica are life-size kaleidoscopes that really must be seen in person for the limited time they are in the city, so don’t miss your shot.
Before leaving be sure to stop by the Welcome Center located inside George R. Brown Convention Center to get those all-important souvenirs.
Houston Museum of African American Culture/Community Artists’ Collective
Before the Houston Museum of African American Culture, the African American story was just something that was mentioned. The emergence of HMAAC took the story from a mere mention to a conversation starter that provokes thought, a greater understanding, and filled a void that was missing from Houston’s art world. Allow your family to gain a cultural education of more than just the African Diaspora but for all people of color. On exhibit currently is the Vicki Meek: 3 Decades of Social Commentary displaying works from her mind from the 1980s to the present day that focuses on black radical thought.
When you are an artist you have to express yourself whether it is on the walls at your house, on various pieces of medium that you find or at the place that gave you a chance to show your work and you jumped on it. The Community Artists’ Collective is often that place for new artists trying to etch their way into an ultra-creative space. Having the purpose to educate the public, gives artists a space to engage the community around social issues, showcase new artists’ works, help artists sustain themselves as entrepreneurs, and provide human and financial resources to support the infrastructure of the city, the Community Artists’ Collective helps African American artists express themselves. Additionally, they support the development of the artist as well. At times an artist may only have the talent, but not the business savvy side to help them succeed in an already aggressive field. Michelle Barenes, Executive Director and Co-Founder, and Dr. Sarah Trotty started the local nonprofit so African American art would not die in Houston when so many art programs were being pulled from the school system.
Houston has far too many attractions than we could not possibly all mention in one story. This list just gets you and your family started. As you explore this great Mecca let us know what spots were your favorites. We can exchange locales and educate each other at the same time. We look forward to talking with you as we give our families (and us) something to talk about.
Special to thanks to Visit Houston for helping us learn more about the city we call home.