Welcome to the “Energy Capital of the World” (both literally and figuratively). Houston is one of the liveliest cities in the nation, and the truth is a 48-hour visit simply won’t let you see it all. But if a short-and-sweet two days are all you have, here’s how to maximize your time in H-Town.
Take a Downtown Houston Mural Tour.
If you wanted to check out all of Houston’s murals across two days, you’d have to clock in one every three minutes (and stay up all night in the process). There are some 1,000 murals within city limits, but luckily, the greatest concentration is confined to the downtown area.
You could certainly just wander the blocks and follow your eyes, or use an online map to identify the pieces that interest you. Alternatively, hit the streets with Joyride Houston and they’ll deliver you to the Instagram-worthiest shots and spots.
Grab a meal in Chinatown or Little Saigon.
Houston’s Chinatown is a bit of a misnomer—consider it more like “Asiatown,” as you’ll find Indian, Filipino, Indonesian, Pakistani, Korean, Malaysian and a dozen other influences defining this global scene. The district centers around Bellaire Boulevard and its never-ending stream of restaurants, shops and cafes. If you’re in need of recommendations, try Banana Leaf for unique Malaysian dishes or Sinh Sinh for classic Chinese BBQ.
Houston also has one of the largest Vietnamese populations in the country. Get a taste of its cuisine in the Little Saigon neighborhood, which lies just west of Chinatown. The one spot everyone talks about (including Food Network) is Crawfish and Noodles. Pho Binh (with seven locations around town) is another local favorite. Bottom line: Lunch or dinner in Little Saigon should fit perfectly into any two-day itinerary.
Wander Discovery Green and Buffalo Bayou.
Get yourself outside on the vibrant, 12-acre Discovery Green, and you’ll see how Houston is on the other side of its renaissance. What was once a concrete eyesore in the middle of downtown was transformed into this verdant gathering place for the millions who come each year to attend festivals and concerts, jog along the trails, dine at The Grove or just take in the lush views—in the center of one of the country’s largest metropolises.
But don’t stop there. Just a dozen or so blocks away you can access Buffalo Bayou, a 52-mile waterway that cuts through Houston and was a deciding factor in the creation of the city in the first place. Anchored by the 160-acre Buffalo Bayou Park (and linking half a dozen others), this slice of urban paradise is a great spot to run, cycle, paddle, people-watch, meet friends or simply wander.
Tour Space Center Houston.
“Houston, the eagle has landed!” You’ve heard that phrase, right? That’s this Houston. So many of your favorite space stories come from right here, and Space Center Houston—a Smithsonian Affiliate designed by Disney—puts visitors right on the final frontier. With over 400 space artifacts, state-of-the-art theatres and hands-on exhibits, this is arguably one of the best museums in the nation. Bonus: It’s also home to the Official Visitor Center of the adjacent NASA Johnson Space Center.
Explore the Museum and Theatre Districts.
Houston has an entire district dedicated to museums—it’s called the Museum District, conveniently enough. Within a few gorgeous blocks, you’ll be strolling from dinosaur bones to priceless paintings, from outdoor sculpture gardens to tangible exhibits on Slavic history. When you’re ready to take in some serious culture, you hit these blocks.
Or, you hit the 17-block Theater District. (Because Houston has that too.) Five incredible performance venues open their doors in this section of downtown, making this district the kind of place where you can feel free to get fancy. Grab your tickets, grab your pearls and grab your friends for one heck of a Houston evening.