5 Reasons To Visit Houston for the Arts and Entertainment

Houston has recently been named a city you NEED to visit in 2019 by Travel + Leisure and Bloomburg. I would wholeheartedly agree with them. You can fill up a good amount of time during any visit with arts and entertainment options. If you want to stay downtown you can head over to Houston’s Theater District and see a Broadway play, the Houston Ballet or the Houston Symphony! Houston’s Theater District is a 17-block area that alone holds nine professional performing arts groups and includes the 130,000 sq foot Bayou Place with parks, theaters, and restaurants. Houston is also one of only five cities to have permanent resident companies in all the areas of performing arts disciplines – The Houston Grand Opera, the Houston Symphony Orchestra, the Houston Ballet, Theater Under the Stars and The Alley Theater.

The long list of arts and entertainment only begins with the Theater District! You could easily fill up your time with the more quirky and cool side of the Houston art scene, which is what we chose to do this trip. I’m sharing five of MY reasons to visit Houston for some arts and entertainment!

Art Car Museum {140 Heights Blvd – Closed M/T, W-Sun 11-6}

Truly one of the weirdest and coolest things on this trip was the Art Car Museum, and that weirdness starts before you even enter the building! Everything from there on out is 100% unique to the museum and those that strongly believe in it. Every year a theme is chosen and the first 100 pieces of art submitted are taken, no questions asked. The point of the museum, according to the ‘Art Car Manifesto’ on the website is to bring awareness to “local, national and international artists with an emphasis on art cars, other fine arts, and artists that are rarely, if ever, acknowledged by other cultural institutions.” If you don’t know what an Art Car is, check out this video of the 2018 Art Car Parade in Houston!

River Oaks Theater {2009 W. Gray Street}

Originally built in 1939, River Oaks Theater is everything a weird and quirky old theater should be. At River Oaks you can find foreign and independent films, movies that are more of an “art house” type film and of course your cult favorites playing at midnight – The Room and Rocky Horror Picture Show. I had my first viewing ever of The Room. If you’ve never seen it I highly recommend going, but promise me that you won’t even look anything up. Find some friends and go check it out. I begrudgingly committed to that rule and I don’t regret it! You’re in for a treat because the film writer, director, and star will be at the theater in person March 1st, so, you’re welcome!

Station Theater {1230 Houston Ave – Thurs 8:30-10pm, F/Sat 8:30-11:30pm}

Fans of Improv and sketch comedy? Check out this hole in the wall, tucked away building known as Station Theater. You might be surprised to find such a cool place inside, but its lots of fun. I love good Improv, and Station IS good improv. You can also see some of Houston’s awesome street art on the outside of the building. If you get a chance to the see the SuperNova show, and also catch Baby Knuckle you’ll be in for a treat! Also, an item of note….its BYOB! Yes, bring that cooler and your drinks.

Cezzane {411 Montrose Blvd – above The Black Labrador Pub}

Named the best Jazz club in Houston by the Houston Press, Cezzane is a jazz club where talking is discouraged and there’s a one-drink minimum required. Get there early to get yourself a seat as this is a very small venue. They do offer two shows but are only open on Fridays and Saturdays. The current calendar is updated through April. You will see all sorts of dress here, but mainly people look as though they are going on a date night for coming from work. Enjoy the vintage, throw-back feel and check out Cezzane for your Jazz fix. As a side note, they make a mean Old Fashioned!

Sawyer Yards at the Silos {Main Parking – 2101 Winter Street, North Parking, 1824 Spring Street}

Right away I must admit that I was a very bad blogger for most of this trip. I really wanted to be in the moment and enjoy this trip, not live it out for everyone else on social media. As a consequence of this, I missed some photo opportunities. Do I regret really? Nope, not even a little bit! Located in old warehouses, rice silos and surrounded by an active railroad yard, you’ll find a huge art community. Sawyer Yards is home to one of the largest art communities in the countries! You’ll also find breweries, dining and public art galleries that complement this large community. The whole thing is pretty darn cool. If that wasn’t enough you’ll find awesome events like Second Saturday, where even more vendors grace the outdoor walkways with their goods and wares. Just prepare yourself to spend a good chunk of your day wandering the halls of the different “Streets”, and try not to get lost. There are TEN separate buildings that makeup Sawyer Yards, so don’t feel bad if you can’t explore them all, because you won’t. Second Saturday is the event that I got to go to. One the second Saturday of every month the art is open to the public from 12-5. Artists who make their art on-site choose to open their doors for you to purchase from them as they look on. I found it really neat to be able to meet the artists, and on many occasions see them working. Best thing, its free, no admission costs. You can wander to your heart’s content! Step outside and find a cup of locally made coffee and a funfetti mini-bundt cake to refuel between wanderings. Get your camera and best Instagrammer post ready because you’ll find some really cool street-art/murals here as well.

Here are some of my favorite artists you can find at The Silos!

AEM Gallery

Anthony Pabillano

Joel Anderson Art

Anna Grove Art

Carol Simon Studio

Austin Magruder Art

Lenora Palacios Fine Art

Daria Aksenova Art

Bug In The Box

 

Read My Other Houston Posts!

Houston Bars

Houston Coffee Shops

 

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Visit Houston Part Two – 4 Places for Coffee Lovers in Houston

It is no surprise to anyone who knows me that visiting local coffee shops while I was in Houston was high on my list. I’m not ashamed to admit that I partake of my fair share of Starbucks. Local coffee out here in the suburbs isn’t exactly common; and one thing I came to understand about myself during my time in Houston that I truly am a city girl. Also, just how much I love local coffee shops and how badly we need more of those here. In Houston, it’s about more than just the coffee. It’s about the atmosphere, which often includes a jukebox or some live music. Houston really knows what it’s doing as far as coffee goes. There are a few more places that I just didn’t get to that are now on the “Next Time” list, which is getting longer every day. So if you want to check out more than what is on this list – Tout Suite, Campesino, Siphon, EQ Heights, A 2nd Cup and Black Hole.

Agora {1712 Westheimer}

In my last Houston post I mentioned that some of the coffee shops double as bars, Agora, located in Montrose, is one of them. Nestled behind a greenery-covered and rich, dark wood entrance Agora isn’t what you expect to find in a coffee shop. Agora, which is Greek for “Gathering Place” is a tribute to the owner’s heritage and contributes to the uniqueness of the place.  One of the coolest parts, aside from the Juke Box, is the eclectic mix of furniture that they have put together. It sets Agora apart and makes it what it a truly unique experience. The seating area is quite large, with an upstairs with additional seating and a few TVs to watch a game that might be on. Agora also provides, in true local coffee shop fashion, artisan coffees with specialty flavors that you won’t find just anywhere. The Brown Sugar latte is awesome, make sure you spot that lump of brown sugar on the saucer and drop it in! From the dark wood floors, open floor plan and exposed beams, Agora is everything you should be looking for in a Houston coffee shop.

Catalina {2201 Washington Ave} 

The first stop on my Houston coffee shop tour was Catalina coffee. Similar to other local-style coffee shops in the area Catalina pays attention to what and how they brew their coffee, as well as offering unique flavors and pastries. Local company, Amaya Coffee, is the brew of choice but Catalina often features guest roasters! The beans are obviously a local favorite but lots of people came to pick up a bag during the couple hours that I was there. That says a lot to me about a company. From the exposed brick walls and uneven concrete floor, Catalina teeters on the edge of Hipsterness but it totally works. The one downside is a lot of the seating is family style, long tables and chairs without backs. It doesn’t necessarily make for the most comfortable seating. There is a good amount of space, and fun outdoor seating  to choose from. The Lavender Latte and Spice Latte (when available) are absolutely yummy. And, if they aren’t sold out grab yourself a yummy giant cookie from another Houston favorite Weights+Measures Bakery! Friendly staff that seems to truly gets to know their local customers make Catalina a place you want to visit often. While there check out the rotating display of art or photography from locals.

Cafeza {1720 Houston Ave}

ocated in the First Ward, is a coffee bar with a Spanish twist, which also doubles as a bar and music venue featuring local Jazz and Indie artists. Grab some churros, breakfast tacos with a tapas-style influence as well as traditional coffee shop pastries. The seating area isn’t extremely large, with a few Europena type tables, chairs and stools in the front half, near where the music happens. You can choose from the long bar or on nice days you can sit outside on the open-air patio. Walls are covered with art that matches the ‘street-art’ style of Houston, all painted by local artists making the vibe extremely unique. Cafeza also has something called Steampunk coffee, which sounds like the most hipster thing in all the land. The coolest part of ordering it is watching them make it. Order one and it’s enough for two to drink AND I didn’t need to add a single thing to this cup of coffee, and I”m not normally a black coffee drinker. That is the first clue that this is quality coffee with great care being taken in the roasting and brewing process. Their happy hour prices are hard to beat, and make sure to check the calendar for their Tapas nights and drink deals every week!

Amaya Coffee { Finn Hall, 712 Main Street, Downtown} 

Amaya Coffee has opened up a small coffee bar in the newish Finn Hall in Downtown Houston. Amaya Roasting Co., a local Houston favorite used in many of the shops there, is dedicated to using ethically sourced and imported coffees from places like Guatemala, Costa Rica, Colombia, Ethiopia and more. This location is Amaya’s first coffee shop, and fans of the above-mentioned Catalina coffee will be happy that they now can get their favorite coffee in Downtown. You can find the same good stuff like Chai, Lavender and Spice Latte’s that you find at Catalina. What I personally love about Amaya coffee is the lack of a dark, almost burnt, roasting flavor that is so often found in coffees not done well. It’s a smooth, light flavored coffee that highlights the flavors that should be highlighted in a good coffee. I’ve become truly spoiled by Houston coffee and its hard to go back to a stark lack of local coffee shops.

I hope you know how lucky you all are in Houston! You not only have amazing local coffee, roasters that are conscious of how coffee should taste, as well as owners that truly pay attention to how the vibe of a coffee shop should feel. Bringing in the surrounding community by music or art brings out the true flavors of Houston that make it feel comfortable and homey.

Make sure to read my other Houston Posts!

Houston Bars and Houston Arts and Entertainment

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Visit Houston Part One – Six Bars to Experience

I just returned from an amazing trip to Houston this past weekend. You know the kind of trip that you never want to end, well this was it. It was everything that I was hoping for in a good-for-the-soul kind of trip. There is so much to share with you guys, but we are kicking off my Visit Houston series with a look at five bars you MUST experience while in town. With one caveat – two of the coffee shops I visited while I was there double as bar-like, but those will be included in the coffee-shop post coming up later this week.

Drinking in Houston is an experience. If they don’t have music playing, the ambiance and history is killer. From Houston’s oldest bar to the coolest ceilings you’ll ever see Houston is by far one of my favorite places to find a cocktail {and I live in DC people!}. So, let’s get down it, shall we?

 

La Carafe {813 Congress Street} – Believed to be Houston’s oldest bar, La Carafe is located in a building on the National Register of Historic Places and has been a public venue since its opening. Don’t bring your credit cards or your desire for cocktails here. La Carafe is cash only and boasts a pretty healthy wine and beer list. But I came for the cash register and the atmosphere. The amazing and giant all metal cash register still works and the ‘ching-ching’ of the bell is the best sound ever! The candles which burn endlessly are a thing of beauty, and if you were to visit La Carafe’s facebook page they just recently announced the latest passing of one of their candles. Sounds weird maybe, but go check it out and you’ll see what I mean. La Carafe also self-proclaims themselves the owner of the best jukebox in Houston, which I for one won’t argue with. The tunes during my time there were on point. For me the atmosphere and the music are what make a place like this, so leave your credit cards at home and make La Carafe one of the places you stop in Houston.

Public Services {202 Travis Street} – Housed in one of Houston’s cool old buildings that they don’t tear down (take notice cities!) is Public Services. Set up in the Cotton Exchange Building, built in 1884, downtown Public Services has found the balance between modern and vintage. With its large bar, oversized cushioned couches and dim lighting this may have easily been my favorite places. Even standing for a while doesn’t put you out because of the feel of this place! The service was wonderful, with knowledgable and friendly bartenders who bring your drinks to you wherever you happen to end up. My whole purpose for coming here was to find a particular kind of Scotch – Glenmorangie Nectar D ‘Or – because when you are visiting a fellow Scotch drinker you want to take advantage of that. Public Services specializes in hard to find Whiskeys so this would the place to go. If that wasn’t enough, they also offer special classes to educate you about liquor and wine.

By Ed Uthman, Houston, Texas, USA – Own work, CC BY 3.0

Captain Fox Hearts Bad News Bar {308 Main} – After you catch your breath from saying the name its time to hike up the narrow stairs to the bar. Captain Foxhearts truly feels more like a speakeasy, which makes the vibe kind of awesome. Combine that with the deep red walls and dark wood and the ambiance is a winner. You can also step out on the patio if it’s not too cold. If you’re looking for a quiet and chill place this might not be exactly what you’re looking for but their version of an Old Fashioned was interesting enough. Snag a classic Old Fashioned for $5, a deal you can’t beat.

Deans Downtown {316 Main Street} – Located in another original building built in 1893, Dean’s has seen several incarnations – department stores, other bars and Deans Credit Clothing. The bar table is made from 100-year-old timber reclaimed from the Saint Arnolds Brewery. My favorite part about Dean’s was probably the outside, with his fluffy velvet couches and chairs, and cool artsy tables (one that had keys mixed in with the marbles) lets you be a part of what’s going on at the bar but with a little fresh air. Grab yourself one of their killer Old Fashioned (what can I say, I’m a creature of habit).

Houston Watch Company {913 Franklin Street} – For a more low-key end to your evening find yourself sitting at the bar at Houston Watch Company. With a cozy feel, excellent Old Fashioneds and some chill bartenders Houston Watch Co is a nice place to relax for a few hours. Located in the Historic South Pacific Railroad the original watch company was the “unofficial timekeeper” for the local railroad employees. You won’t find televisions or loud obnoxious music, but you will find good cocktails and a variety of whiskeys to choose from.

Ready Room {2626 White Oak Drive} – Located in what is known as Heights, Ready Room is a nondescript building next to Ritual (another great place to visit, which you’ll see in a future Houston post). Created with giving a huge nod to old Houston in mind, the owners of Ready Room created a menu with different sections, they call ‘Wards’ that pays homage to the original Wards of Houston. Grab the Lincoln drink from the Third Ward, which I had. Its a different take on the classic Old Fashioned. But what makes The Ready Room special and unique only starts with their menu. From the amazing tile ceiling (probably the coolest ceiling I’ve seen in a bar), the dapper dressed barbacks, the pineapple lights and dim lighting combine together to make this Speakeasy feeling Jazz club at the top of the list of places you should visit in town.

 

 

You might have a stellar tour guide like I did, but at least this list can get you started in the right direction. The Houston Bar scene has dramatically improved and become downright stellar over the last six or so years. This list barely scratches the surface!

Visited any awesome Houston Bars? I wanna hear! Find me over on Instagram and share.

make sure to check out my other Houston Posts!

Houston Coffee Shops and Houston Arts and Entertainment

 

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5 Reasons to Visit West Virginia this Fall

Fall Farm West Virginia

I love West Virginia. It is a place that is my soul and makes me feel so deeply when I am there. Have you ever been to a place like that? My mom is from West Virginia, so that probably helps explain a little bit about why I love it so much; but there is so much that is unexplainable. Those are the reasons that I love to visit West Virginia, and the reasons that living there would make me happy. But lets talk about some of the other reasons that visiting West Virginia in the fall is the perfect time of year to go.

 

Be a Leaf Peeper!

If you’ve ever driven down 79 into the Charleston area of West Virginia…words can not explain the beauty if you happen to catch the leaves changing at the right time! One of my favorite places to check out the leaves, and just visit in general, is Hawks Nest State Park. Some of the most spectacular views of the state can be seen at this park, including the amazing New River Gorge Bridge.

History is Alive in West Virginia

 

Take a peek at West Virginia History – Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine – We love this place, and the drive is beautiful. Check out some of the most important history of West Virginia, and what makes her, her! Coal mining is in my family, as it is in most, and was the life blood (and still is if you ask most people) of this beautiful state. Visiting the coal mine is a must-do event any time of year, but going in fall just kicks it up a notch. Summer hours are from April-November, so add this to your list of things to do when you come see the fall foliage. Blenko Glass Museum and Factory – The Blenko Glass Museum is on Travel Channels Top 10 Factory Tours list, and there is a good reason. You can see glass being blown, check out of the museum of glass and get some killer details on a product made in America. These people are true artisans and I love supporting local business. The Blenko pieces I have are some of my favorite things I own, and they make amazing gifts. They also hold events periodically through year, like come at the end of this month and blow your own pumpkin! Sign up for their event notifications on their website and don’t miss out on all the cool stuff you can do at Blenko.

BlenkoGlass1

Fall Festival Time!!

Fall wouldn’t be fall without a good festival, and West Virginia provides some great options! I might be partial to hanging out in Charleston at West Virginia’s largest Octoberfest, “OctoberWest!” Check out the amazing WVtourism for more about West Virginia’s Fall Festivals.

 

Hang out in Charleston, on the Kanawah River

In and around Charleston – Hang out on the Kanawah riverfront in Downtown Charleston. Check out one of the most beautiful State Capitol buildings ever, visit the WV Governor’s mansion, and stroll along the beautiful riverfront. Take a Riverboat Cruise.  Check out smaller towns like Dunbar and their Fall Fest, or head over to Polka and check out a haunted hay ride (of which I’ve done before! I love some small fun!!

CharlestonWVbuildings
Kanawha River

Haunted Fun in West Virginia

West Virginia is home to some old stuff! Hanging out where Civil War ghosts walk is a pretty cool thing! West Virginia is also home to the Trans-Allegany Lunitic Asylum, a place you don’t want to miss this fall if you happen to be into that kind of thing. Have you heard of the Pumpkin House? If you haven’t, you’re missing out! And while it isn’t necessarily haunted, putting this attraction on your list of Halloween Fun in West Virginia is a must! Head over to Point Pleasant and see if you can spot the Mothman! We go almost every time we are in West Virginia! There’s a funky museum, a super cool statue, and you can kind of drive down one of the roads where mothman was spotted. While the nature reserve is officially closed to the public because of the old bomb shelter and artillery storage areas, you can kind of drive down and get totally spooked!!!

Mothman Statue

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Visit Seattle Pt 2 – Ride The Ducks and Buy Used Books

Ride the Ducks Seattle is a must-see while visiting! You get to see so much of the city, from land and water, that would be hard to recreate on food or car! If you want to see the “Sleepless in Seattle” House this is the only way to do it. The house is in a secure gated community and can really only be seen from the water. So we knew that taking a water tour was high on the list. Good news for all my military readers, they offer a great military discount. The tour is pricey, but getting to Seattle and parking (as I mentioned in my last post) is ridiculously easy and inexpensive. Plus you get to see some beautiful sights and learn a ton about the city. I think it would be hard to see and learn all you do on this tour in any other way. Also, if you scroll down you can see the best tour guides ever!!!

 

I learned more than I ever wanted to know about houseboats and people who live on their boats and the difference between them. There are true houseboats and you’re paying for the area space of the water (into the millions), but the rule is that they have to untether themselves and “go out to sea” once a year. It’s some crazy stuff. But how cool would it be to live on the water?!

This is gasworks park where everyone comes out on the one sunny day of the year to get their tan on! Apparently, we brought the good weather with us. And here we were hoping to experience real Seattle weather, but that was a big fat nope!! Gasworks park is on my bucket list! If you watched “Ten Things I Hate About You,” this is where they filmed the paintball scene.

 

See that brown house in the middle, barely recognizable? Yeah, that’s the sleepless house. We were giddy!! Don’t judge!

 

Just a little taste of some of Seattle’s crazy and cool public art! It’s so crazy how much there actually is. 

Best tour guide and driver ever!! We were blinded by the ridiculous not Seattle sun, so I had no idea what this picture would look like…and I totally cut off my mama!! Sorry mom, love you!

 

Add this place to must see used book stores. The lady in this place was amazing and they had everything!!! They even had some really awesome first editions and hard to find books. Also, they have the coolest cats that hang out there. 

Did you know Seattle is the birthplace of Nordstrom’s Department Store? Well, I had to take in some of the more historical sights and view the First Nordstrom’s location (shown above). The bottom portion has been completely redone but the part of the building on the second floor and up is original architecture.

They then moved to the location below (which is now under revitalization) and have been there ever since. The Flagship Nordstroms is beautiful!

 

See What Other Must-See Things You Need to Add to your list in Seattle here

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