Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Downtown Houston: Metropolitan Island

photo by j-a-x - props to houstonist

Houston is large, but definitely not urban. The one exception is downtown, home to corporations like Continental Airlines, Exxon Mobil and Halliburton. Many skyscrapers were designed by architect Philip Johnson, including Pennzoil Place- two towers, shaped like trapezoids with tops angled at 45 degrees. The tallest building in Texas is the Chase Tower, designed by I.M. Pei.

Pennzoil Place

High taste is also in good supply in downtown, where the theatre district boasts the second most seats in an American city, only beaten by New York. Book a ticket to the Alley Theatre for Shakespeare and David Mamet, or the Hobby Center for Jersey Boys and Sweeney Todd. The Houston Ballet, Grand Opera and Symphony are also located within the six square block Theatre District. On the shores of Buffalo Bayou, even more entertainment is in store. Verizon Theater is a major venue for pop, country and rock acts and the Angelika Theatre is the coldest movie theater in town. The Aquarium is a theme restaurant and small carnival featuring a roller coaster right next to sixteen lanes of traffic on the overpass.

Main Street was touted as a resurgent scene during the Super Bowl held in Houston in 2003, but the shine wore off soon after. There are many good bars between Capitol and Congress, but don’t expect a crowd. The best nights for downtown are when the Rockets, Texans or Astros have a game at home. Minute Maid Park is only six blocks from Main Street, and the Rockets arena, Toyota Center, is two stops away on the rail line. Texans games are played south of the Medical Center at the new Reliant Stadium next to the Astrodome, but the rail line means that fans can park elsewhere in the city without having to drive through traffic or pay for parking.

Notsuoh (Houston backwards) is a hole-in-the-wall speakeasy that has survived through thick and thin in downtown since the 70s, and the chess playing, Lone Star drinking crowd is unlike any on earth. Next door to the great old neon sign “Dean’s Credit Clothing”, Notsuoh is located on Main at Preston Street.

There is a system of tunnels under downtown Houston that forms a network of subterranean, climate-controlled, pedestrian walkways that link twenty-five full city blocks and house amenities like Ziggy’s Restaurant and Starbucks.

Can't forget Discovery Green... good press about it HERE and HERE and HERE and HERE and HERE (Flickr group)

Warehouse District: Artists and Yuppies


In the Warehouse District, artists’ warehouses still dominate the landscape, but the refurbishing of industrial buildings and construction of new apartment complexes and townhomes is changing the neighborhood from a sleepy backyard into the suburb that everyone forgot about.

See great art exhibits at Diverseworks and Fotofest or stop by the Last Concert Café for folk music and margaritas. Underground art events usually happen in this neighborhood, where neighbors are few and far between. Be warned that you should have explicit directions for getting somewhere in the Warehouse District, as the older streets are narrow and sometimes confusing.

Skeez 181

McKee Street Bridge

Midtown Houston: Little Saigon is now Little Manhattan

pic via swamplot

The Vietnamese community has created a thriving center for Vietnamese-owned businesses in Midtown, affectionately (and now officially) called "Little Saigon" a district characterized by street signs displayed in Vietnamese. Cali Sandwich, Van Loc and Givral’s Sandwiches are just a few of the great examples of Vietnamese cuisine to be had in Houston. Vietnamese Catholic convents and Buddhist shrines dot the neighborhood, and many stores are named in Vietnamese.

The neighborhood has undergone a radical transformation in the last two years, with mixed-use development creating pockets of urban living rarely seen in Houston. This has been complementary to the upscale clubs and restaurants which have opened here recently and excelled at making Midtown a destination for young professionals.


Midtown pdf map HERE