1. The Menil Collection and Campus
The Menil is an extraordinary island of art in the Montrose area of Houston. It includes the main museum which houses one of the world’s great art collections, a campus of other smaller arts buildings, the Rothko Chapel, the Byzantine Fresco Chapel Museum, and outdoor sculpture parks. It exists because of John and Dominique de Menil's vision and wish for a museum experience that would touch the spirit as well as the mind and permanently house their extensive art collection.
The main museum designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano skillfully uses natural light throughout the museum while filtering out the damaging ultraviolet rays to protect the artwork. Due to this design, each visit through the museum has a slightly different feel due to the changing light at different times of the day or year. This is one of my favorite places to view art when I need a little inspiration, and the museum has the added benefit of free admission to all visitors.
2. Terry Hershey Park Hike and Bike Trail
Terry Hershey Park has about 12.5 miles of paved trails extending from Beltway 8 all the way to the Barker Dam. The park, originally called Buffalo Bayou Park, was renamed after conservationist Terese “Terry” Hershey in the 1990’s. These trails are wonderful places to ride your bike, walk your dog, jog, or view nature. The Buffalo Bayou runs parallel to the trails and attracts squirrels, rabbits, butterflies, fish, and birds. I like walking in the early morning when there is a serene beauty to the trails. Other attractions along the trail include gazebos, exercise stations, a playground, and various benches and picnic sites.
3. House of Blues
I have seen several musicians perform at the House of Blues in downtown Houston. It is a smaller more intimate venue with both a standing/pit section as well as reserved seating in the upper decks. Either way you are close enough to see the band on the stage and close enough for the band to see you. In a performance by Thirty Seconds to Mars, the lead singer chose people from both the pit and the upper decks to come down and join him on stage at the end of the concert. I think that many bands prefer venues of this size where they can more easily interact with the audience. The House of Blues also has a Foundation Room which is a kind of hidden club with a bar and several small rooms for lounging or entertaining.
The Galleria has everything you could need or ask for in a shopping experience. It is now the fourth largest mall in the United States with over 375 stores and restaurants as well as two hotels and an ice rink. Overhead are glass atriums that fill the mall with light and the stores rise up on multiple levels that overlook the ice rink and other displays. The shops include Neiman Marcus, Cartier, Gucci, Tiffany & Co., Saks Fifth Avenue, Macy's, Ralph Lauren Collection, Louis Vuitton, Chanel, and Nordstrom. If you crave a sweet treat, there’s Dylan’s Candy Bar with its bins of sweet, sour, and chocolate goodies, or for fine dining you can visit Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House. My kids love to visit the LEGO Store with its interactive play area. Whether browsing or buying, the Galleria is a fun place to spend a few hours.
Developed as a self-contained community, the CITYCENTRE includes housing, shopping, dining, office space, a movie theater, and fitness facilities in a city square layout around common green spaces. In the suburbs of Houston, where everything is fairly spread out, it’s nice to park and be able to walk from shop to shop, eat dinner, and have a drink at a bar without ever going back to your car. The only drawback is it's popularity which can make it difficult to get into a restaurant on some weekend nights without a long wait. However, it's worth it to experience a slice of downtown on the west side of Houston.