11 {More} Things To Do in Houston, Texas

Gerald D. Hines Waterwall Park – 2800 Post Oak Blvd, Houston, TX 77056

Built in 1983, the Hines Waterwall is a 64-foot-semi-circular fountain that re-circulates 11,000 gallons of water per minute! Yup, you read that right – PER MINUTE! It is really cool and experiencing the rush of the water and just how loud it is is something you just have to check out for yourself. Until 2008 the wall was actually privately owned but it has become such a part of the Uptown community of Houston that the Mayor purchased it and the little over 2.5 acre park area surrounding it. There is a parking garage across the way where the public can park for a small fee.

Eleanor Tinsley Park – 18-3600 Allen Pkwy, Houston, TX 77019

I didn’t realize how large Eleanor Tinsley Park was until I was looking up how to get there. Someone had told me that this was the place to get one of the best skyline views of the city. They were so right and I enjoyed hanging out and getting a look at the city that I have grown to really love. The park is actually just a small section of the Buffalo Bayou Park and features a Volleyball court, a skate park, art installations, performance areas, the Houston Police Officer’s Memorial, a really well-used and love running trail – and is the host of the Art Car Parade and the 4th of July Celebration, “Freedom Over Texas”. Other than a section of Glenwood Cemetary (which I learned is actually a part of Eleanor Tinsely) This spot where I took this picture is one of the best views of the entire skyline.

McGovern Centennial Gardens (Hermann Park) – 1500 Hermann Dr, Houston, TX 77004

The McGovern Centennial Gardens are a portion of Hermann Park in the Museum District of Houston. It houses a really cool Japanese garden, as well as a waterfall, which is quite the popular senior portarait place. They have a sculpture walk that includes the busts of many famous Texans and Houstonians, and they grow many native flowers and herbs here as well. There is lots of seating within the park and shady areas to eat lunch or take a break from the busy city bustle right outside of the gates.

Houston Love Mural

This mural is actually one of six murals that line the 1300 Block of McKinney Blvd, just down from Discovery Green. They are super fun and really colorful! Combine your love of Houston and a love a murals and take a picture with these babies while you’re downtown.

Discovery Green – 1500 McKinney St, Houston, TX 77010

I was so excited to meet up with my fellow Instagram, Houston-loving pal, Spacey Casey in Discovery Green! We got a behind-the-scenes personalized tour of the just over 11 1/2 acre park area outside of the Houston Convention Center. Originally a parking lot, when the area was left to the city the people of Houston were asked what they wanted here, and overwhelming the choice was to create some sort of outside space that could unify the city and bring together all of the best parts of Houston. This of course certainly included food and art. There are so many amazing art installations in the park, a small lake, which becomes an ice skating rink, and outdoor music venue and beautiful walking paths. There are playgrounds and splash pads, all designed with children in mind. They have done an outstanding job of creating a space where people can come an sit in the quiet, eat, play and be active, all right downtown.

Sig’s Lagoon (Record Store) – 3622 Main St ste e, Houston, TX 77002

Straying into the more unusual part of this list, I had to include Sig’s on this list only because it is a really cool spot in Houston. I had to restrain myself and only left with four records, leaving about ten more behind that I wanted. If you’re looking for something I’d be willing to be Sig’s has it. It is one of the neatest record stores I’ve been in and has quite the comprehensive collection. Prices are really on point as well. No gouging going on here as I’ve seen in other stores.

BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir – 1150 Brand Ln, Stafford, TX 77477

This came across my Instagram feed one day and I knew that I had to add to my Houston Bucket List. It is really very neat and the carvings are intricate and gorgeous. It is a peaceful place to visit and unlike anything I’ve ever seen. It is a traditional Hindu temple built by a denomination of a branch of Hinduism. The gardens are peaceful and quiet, and it is really great place if you want a calming stroll and just listen to nature around you. It is open all year around to everyone, from all walks of life and faith, but it is a sacred place and visitors should adhere to the rules. For more information about visiting the Temple visit the website here.

The Orange Show/Smither’s Park

It’s not really a saying, but after visiting these two weird Houston spots the saying “Stay Weird Houston” could definitely be a thing. High on my list of things I just didn’t have time for the first time around is The Orange Show and Smither’s Park. The story of the Orange Show is just as strange as the Orange Show itself. It was created by a Houston mail carrier, dedicated to his favorite fruit, the Orange. For almost 30 years Mr. McKissack used recycled materials and every day building materials he came across to create this maze of a building. Its a trip for sure, but has become a beloved quirk of the city. After Mr. McKissack died a foundation was created to preserve the area, which included Houston’s own ZZ Top. The rest is history. The foundation also helps preserve the Beer Can House which I visited last time, as well as the park next door, Smither’s Park, which is equally as strange and cool as The Orange Show. While I visited I even got to see some of preservation and work that goes into maintaining these amazing mosaic art pieces. Check it out next time you’re in town, and especially with the kids!!

                                                     

Terminal Museum – 8325 Travelair St, Houston, TX 77061

If its vintage in any way you can usually count me in, add a very 1940s, feel and you can absolutely count me in. The Houston Terminal Museum, while not expansive or super fancy, is still a really neat piece of Houston history. But its more than that, its a place to learn a lot about the history of airlines and air travel in general. I learned so much about the different companies and how they started, as well as several that I had never even heard of! And of course the stewardess fashion was top notch! The Terminal, which is located on the Houston Hobby Airport, is the first terminal built in Houston for leisure travel. It was used for flight until the late 50s, and was almost demolished in the 70s. Thankfull it was saved and we have the small, but pretty cool, Terminal Museum.

Terminal Museum 1

8th Wonder Brewery – 2202 Dallas St, Houston, TX 77003

Where can you go to get some good beer, hear some music and see all the things that you think of when you think of Houston Instagram? Why 8th Wonder Brewery! Check out the super cool Beatles statutes that are insanely tall, the We Love Houston sign, and Welcome to Brewston mural. From the name you know it is an actual Brewery and they have year-round brews, as well as special seasonal brews. Come and see what food trucks are on rotation and take a tour of the brewery, or distillery..yup, they also distill their own vodka and gin!

Rice University and Sky Space – Suzanne Deal Booth Centennial Pavilion, Houston, TX 77005

As a fan of architecture I had to make sure to stop by the beautiful Rice University while I was in town this time. Rice University is a private Research University that opened in 1912, and the beautiful architecture reflect that. It is really beautiful and feels like an old university.  If you go in the evening you can hop on over to the James Turrell Sky Space and view the light show. There is a LED light show, that that takes place and projects through an aperture in the ceiling. It somehow works with the sky’s natural light and occurs during sunrise and sunset. I’m going to be completely honest with you and say that I have absolutely no idea how it does what it does…..or really what exactly it is doing, but it is really neat. Take as seat and relax because it is a very calming time.

If you can believe it, I still haven’t crossed all the things off my Houston list. It’s a long one and I intend to eventually cross them all off. So stay tuned for that! But in the mean time, check out some other Houston posts!

Houston Coffee

Houston Eats

10 Things You Must Do

Visit Houston with CityPass

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Ten {More} Great Eats in Houston, Texas

Bebidas 2606 Edloe St, Houston, TX 77027

Situated in the the somewhat swanky River Oaks neighborhood of Houston sit Bebidas. As a Californian and a DC-ite I can tell you for sure that this place is a hipster-millennial, health conscious person’s paradise! Bebidas serves cold-pressed juices, brown rice bowls, kale salads and vegan options. They have fancy toasts, all day tacos, breakfast and a kids menu. Throw in the most adorable wallpaper and neon sign, sweet garden area and their famous Snowballs {dessert} put Bebidas on your list for lunch with girlfriends, an early evening date or a place to grab some respite from the Houston humidity.

Coppa Osteria 5210 Morningside Dr, Houston, TX 77005

Coppa Osteria is some of the best Italian food I’ve ever had, and it should be on the list of places you eat while visiting Houston. Located in the South Hampton/Rice University area, it has a small town feel as it sits on a quiet street perfect for outdoor dining and people watching. The inside and outside seating options are equally fantastic choices; and it blends a fancy Italian vibe, with its candelabras and large mirrors, with a casual sidewalk cafe – perfect for a date night or a casual dining experience. The pizza dough and almost all the pasta is made in house (and you can watch your pizza getting made inside).

Velvet Taco 4819 Washington Ave, Houston, TX 77007

When you need some really good food at 2am Velvet Taco is your best choice in Houston. Although I will say at 2am the over TWENTY options is a little overwhelming, but oh so good. Buffalo Chicken, Rotisserie Chicken, Nashville Hot Tofu, Cuban or Korean Pork and Kobe Bacon Burger are just a few of the options you have to pick from. Velvet Taco makes their own tortillas, slow roasts their own chicken and make everything from scratch. This is not your average fast food in the middle of the night. Where else can you get an artfully crafted meal that you might not remember the next morning? Don’t forget to pick up a slice of Red Velvet cake too.

Niko Niko’s 301 Milam St, Houston, TX 77002

Among the must-visit places in Houston that about four or five people mentioned to me before I went the first time was Niko Niko’s. Why? Well, because gyros and history. Opening their first stand in 1977, Niko’s has expanded to three locations and is the one of the historic pillars of the Houston restaurant world. In a city full of new and different, coming and goings, Niko’s has been providing the same amazing food and family experience for over thirty years. And if you were wondering if I might be over-exaggerating a little bit, Guy Fieri saw fit to include Niko Niko’s on Diners, Drive-In’s and Dives “Legends of Texas Episode”

The Rice Box 1111 S Shepherd Dr, Houston, TX 77019

As soon as I heard about this place {and more importantly – saw the pictures} I was really hoping I’d find the time to make it here. John Peterson, the creator of this dystopian vibe, loves two movies – Blade Runner and Big Trouble in Little China. The food truck gave you vibe, but the restaurants immerse you in the vibe. The neon lights, the exposed wires, combined with the industrial feel give you a unique experience. And while it is simply Chinese take out, its seriously good. You’ll find your food truck staples, for those that remember the good ole days when Rice Box was only a food truck, standard Chinese food fare, house favorites and Thai Tea on Nitro tap…I mean, for real that’s a thing. The chow mein was really good, but my absolute favorite thing was their Yang Chow friend rice. It adds a Chinese sausage to the mix that I’ve never had before and it was YUM!!! I had a real strong desire to eat the entire bin of it. You have two locations to chose from, and while its easy and fast for a grab and go meal, eating in and taking in the vibe is a must as well. 

Maharaja Bhog (Thali) 8338 Southwest Fwy, Houston, TX 77074

Looking for amazing Indian food and a unique experience? Maharaja Bhog provides a traditional Thali experience that is probably one of the most interesting food experiences I have ever had. Thali is an buffet type style dining experience served on a silver platter, or the Thali, to you. No need to get up and go through a buffet line. The idea behind this style of dining is to gather the six different flavor experiences – salt, sweet, bitter, sour, astringent and spicy on one platter. Indian food custom states that a proper meal should a perfect balance of all of that. This particular restaurant we went to is quite amazing, and is well known in the area and internationally, with Houston being their only US location. So, if you are in Mumbai or Dubai look them up. Otherwise, when in Houston, check out this really neat experience.

Present Company 1318 Westheimer Rd, Houston, TX 77006

High on my personal list of places to visit was Present Company, located in the Montrose area of Houston, is like an instagrammer’s paradise. One of my goals was to get a group of bloggers and influencers together in Houston. After visiting there the first time I completely fell in love, and I knew I had to go back. People have places they love – my mom loves San Francisco, my MIL loves Tahoe, I have friend that loves London and another that is simply nuts over New Orleans. My love is Houston. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I do, and places like Present Company are a part of that love. So, following along with other bloggers in the city I came across Souzi (Confidently Corporate). Together, with another blogger, we got together a group on bloggers and sampled new drinks, food and got to know each other. I connected with another amazing group of Houston photographers and talked one of them {Hidalgo – check out his stuff here} into coming out to take pictures and we were set! It was a blast and I really didn’t want to call it a night. We are already plotting our next get together. The people at Present Company are incredible, the drinks are so interesting and unique and the food is yummy. Plus, you really can’t find ambiance like this anywhere else! Go now, and thank me later.

Christy’s Donuts  1103 W Gray, Houston, TX 77019

I love me a good donut – specifically a donut with white frosting and sprinkles. When I asked around I heard that Christy’s was the place for a good donut in Houston, so I made a swing by while I was out on one of my crazy site seeing days. It looks like a small, hole-in-the-wall typical donut shop, nothing to write home about. But what they don’t offer in Instagram-worthy murals, they make up for in actual good donuts. They’ve been in the game for a long time and they know what they are doing. They are simply here to offer up some freaking good donuts and that’s all folks! No one can really say it better than Joanna from the Houstonia online magazine – with her Ode to Christy’s article. Check it out.

Amy’s Ice Cream 3816 Farnham St, Houston, TX 77098

Amy’s Ice Cream, opening in 1984, hails from Austin, Texas. And yes, there is a real Amy. With a flavor list a bajillion miles long, there’s something for everyone at Amy’s. From Apple to Avocado to super weird flavors like Guinness Gingerbread and Hatch Chili Peach, if you couldn’t find something that peaked your curiosity I’d be shocked. They call the servers “Scoops” and even have Scoop Olympics. Its a safe bet to say they take their ice cream seriously. And as a side note, their Mexican Vanilla Ice Cream is world famous…so even if you like things plain you’re safe.

Tout Suite 2379, 2001 Commerce St, Houston, TX 77002

The only NEW coffee shop I tried this visit was Tout Suite. Part coffee cafe, part bakery, part Brunch spot – Toute Suite is a huge location, with plenty of seating and perfect for working on your computer. Don’t be alarmed by the Tent City across the street, just be aware. I felt safe waiting outside for my Lyft, but if you aren’t expecting it it can be alarming. The highlight is definitely the macaroons, and trying to pick a flavor…or even three might prove difficult. I chose Honey Lavender, Birthday Cake and the Creme Brulee…but had a hard time passing up the Fruity Pebbles and the Churro. I would definitely add this place to my current list of best coffee shops in Houston. To see that list click here.

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All the Movies You Need to Watch {From CNN’s The Movies: The 80s}

When I saw that Tom Hanks was teaming up with CNN to put on another mini series, AND it was about movies, I was thrilled! The Decades series that they did was incredible, and if you haven’t watched it you can head over to Netflix and look for it. But this Movies series seems to be headed in the same direction of amazingness. So far I’ve watched the 80’s episode, and as a self-proclaimed movie buff I feel like they really nailed it, covering the movies that really made the 1980’s. In the 80’s movies became a little edgier in my opinion, but also sought to right many wrongs that as a society we had experienced in the 70’s. There was an overwhelming number of movies that covered the Vietnam War, and by the 80’s we were really starting to recognize that the treatment of veterans and the service members themselves was less than what should have occurred, and I really feel that movies like Born on the Fourth of July, Good Morning, Vietnam and Full Metal Jacket spent time giving the American People a view into the war that wasn’t like anything that had been portrayed in the news media, a more human view.

On top the 80s were really the golden age of Saturday Night Live stars and the movies they were in. Films like Ghostbusters (which is one of my favorites), Trading Places, Blues Brothers, Caddy Shack, Beverly Hills Cop, Three Amigos (which was not mentioned on CNN, and This is Spinal Tap are glorious comedies that stand the test of time…and frankly are a lot funnier than many things out. SNL stars even moved over to less comedic roles like that of When Harry Met Sally (a huge favorite of mine). Films today just frankly aren’t as good on the level that were in the 80’s and the 90’s. I feel like we’re lucky now if there is one good, non-remake or non-fast and the furious movie out at any one time. Maybe Hollywood is just running out of ideas? Sure special effects were in their infancy and sometimes they are pretty funny to look at, there’s a timelessness and re-watchability about many of these movies that you just don’t have as often anymore.

Movies in the 80’s also gave us Blockbusters and Franchise hits – like Die Hard, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Predator and Terminator. I mean, how can you argue with that. Movies with intense plots, story lines with depth. I mean, sometimes Indiana Jones was just a little more funny than deep, but you get what I’m saying. Below you’ll find the list of all the movies mentioned (which I painstakingly wrote down as I was watching), and I’ve grouped them into my must-see movies and all the rest; but all the rest are still pretty awesome!

What’s your favorite 80’s Movie?

HAPPY MOVIE WATCHING

                         

Other’s Mentioned

Raging Bull
Ordinary People
Blue Velvet
The King of Comedy
Heaven’s Gate
The Verdict
Hannah and Her Sisters
Zelig
Manhattan
Broadway Danny Rose
Purple Rose of Cairo
Crimes and Misdemeanors
Crocodile Dundee
Caddy Shack
The Women In Red
48 Hours
Trading Places
Beverly Hills Cop
Escape From New York
Mad Max 2
Brazil
Blade Runner
Aliens 2
Fatal Attraction
The Color of Money
First Blood/First Blood II
Commando
Missing in Action
Blood Sport
Conan the Barbarian
Predator
Platoon
Hamburger Hill
Sophie’s Choice
Silk Wood
Out of Africa
A Cry in the DArk
Ironweed
Glory
Reds
The Right Stuff
The Last Empire
Ragtime
Gahndi
Stranger Than Paradise
Drugstory Cowboy
Sex Lies and Videotape
Blood simple
Pee Wees Big Adventure

 

 

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4 Easy Ways To Keep Your Kid’s Brains Active This Summer

I don’t know about your kids, but mine aren’t the biggest fans of doing much educational stuff during the summer. I get it and if I asked my mom she would probably say it wouldn’t have been my favorite thing either. But, the summer slide is a real thing! I came across a great article from NWEA, the Northwest Evaluation Association – a not-for-profit organization that has been operating for over 40 years! In this article they discovered that kids moving from 3rd to 4th grade can lose up to 20% of their learning from the previous school year. This is especially true in subjects like math and reading! Other statistics say that by the time child reaches high school 2/3 of the reading achievement gap can be attributed to the summer slide. Forcing kids to do endless amounts of work isn’t the best way to combat this. While all kid’s go through periods of time where school isn’t their favorite, making a positive connection with learning, to me anyway, is important.

So, how do we make learning fun during the summer?

  1. Incorporate learning into everyday activities: This is an easy one! Baking keeps the brain working with reading, math and figuring out how to use the recipe. Plus, it also incorporates stuff like working together and ends with a fun dessert usually! Other ways we do it is countdowns to vacations, how many more days left to this activity or that activity. Using car time to do multiplication facts or reading license plates is also fun.
  2. READ READ READ: I can’t stress this enough! The saying that “Reading is fundamental” is probably the most true statement I’ve ever heard. It is the basis of of EVERYTHING! My oldest isn’t a huge reader, like my daughter or myself, that just means we spend a little more time looking for books he likes. My kids still have a quiet time, even my almost 13 year old. During that time they can take a cat nap, draw, read, build Legos or something like that. Its good for their brains and gets them calm. Reading for at least 20 minutes is a great place to start! Reading endurance is a huge part of learning and something your kids are probably hearing about in school as well.
  3. Simple workbooks – I love the Summer Bridge books because they help the kids work towards a goal, gets them ready school the next year AND are only one page (front and back a day). Its an achievable goal that doesn’t force the kids to do pages and pages of one subject, which might not be their favorite. Plus, my kids like it because it mixes things up, it isn’t just a bunch of one subject every day. We have been doing these bridge books since my oldest was in Kindergarten. They are $10 and you can get them in my Amazon store. They are a perfect price point!
  4. Visit your local library – If your kiddos don’t have a library card the summertime is a perfect time to get one! Libraries usually have more activities during the summer time as well as a summer reading program with prizes!! Visiting the library during the summer is easier for us, and my kids are at the age now where they love to sit and read at the library! Learning to use the library catalog to find books that interest them and then going on the hunt for them all by themselves. More learning!!!

While summertime is for having fun, vacations and being outside, keeping your brain working and active is important for starting school off on the right food come summer’s end.

What ways do you incorporate learning into your summer activities?!

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Visit Houston – The Renzi, Museum of Fine Arts Houston

I was so excited to have the opportunity to visit the Renzi on my trip to Houston. The Renzi is a part of the Museum of Fine Arts Houston collection and is a house museum in the River Oaks neighborhood. The home was donated by Houston philanthropists Carroll and Harris Masterson and full of amazing 17th-19th art, furniture and dishes. It is an absolutely incredible home with incredible grounds as well. The home is kept very much as it was when the Masterson’s lived there, incorporating many items belonging to the Mastersons, with some items brought in that fit with the time periods. The entire house is just gorgeous and interesting, but some of my favorite parts were the library and the ballroom – yeah, you read that right…a ballroom. Complete with family crest inlaid into the floor. No big deal! The Mastersons also spent some time producing Broadway plays, because when you have a lot of money and time why not right?!

Visiting the Renzi is different than your typical museum. Due to the nature of the collection, it is done by reservation and docent-led tours only. There are six tours available Wednesday through Saturday, and four slots on Sundays. The gardens, however, are open for self-guided tours every day, and those are free. Renzi also provides a military discount and kids 12 and under are free! This puts it at a very affordable option in the Houston area.

But for locals, would really recommend looking for one of Renzi’s special events. There are several options throughout the year including Twilight Tours in May, Family Days, Opera and Symphony performances, sketching and art times and focused tours. After you check out the Renzi, make sure to look for the other house museum in Houston, Bayou Bend, which focuses on American Art.

 

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