I have only been to Houston on three occasions and only in the past few years, so I’ve really only scratched the surface of cool and fun things to do there. With a little online research, it would be pretty easy to create a vacation, just staying in the Houston area.
We all have different interests. For me, the country-western dance halls were the biggest attraction. I know of eight really great ones, in Houston alone, and have gone dancing in five of them: the Wild West, the Stampede, the Westwind Club (a smaller, neighborhood honky-tonk), Midnight Rodeo (with a cool racetrack-style oval dance floor) and the SPJST Lodge 88 (locally known as The Chandelier, which was founded by the local Czech community, is by far the oldest in this group, and has the largest dance floor).
The three I have not yet been to, but also look like great places to dance, are: Big Texas – North (which also sports a racetrack-style dance floor), Big Texas – South and Stetsons Nightlife. You can find more information on all of these, plus many more Texas dance halls and honky-tonks on the Dance Hall page I compiled for this blog. You should also check their individual websites.
For live Country, Alternative-Country, Americana and other styles of Roots music, I highly recommend McGonigel’s Mucky Duck Bar and Restaurant. I have performed at their open mic a couple of times, and had a blast. But, on the six other nights of the week, the Mucky Duck hosts great professional music artists. I also highly recommend The Dosey Doe “Big Barn” in The Woodlands, an upscale suburb north of Houston. Dosey Doe is a coffee company that owns three cool eateries all in that area. The Big Barn is their main concert venue, which also serves breakfasts on weekends.
I had performed at an open mic a couple of times at another very cool Dosey Doe eatery/concert venue, called the Dosey Doe Music Café, which is, sadly, now closed. Earlier this year, Dosey Doe, reopened their Music Café location as a BBQ restaurant, but it no longer hosts live music. However, I recently read that Dosey Doe is looking for a location in that area that they could open as a second live music venue, because the Big Barn doesn’t have enough available dates for all of the music acts who want to perform there. Keep checking the Dosey Doe website for updates. These are only a couple of the best intimate live music venues in Houston.
For a scenic day-trip, you might try a drive out to the picturesque farm and cattle country, northwest of Houston. Bernhardt Winery in Plantersville is amazing and hosts outdoor concerts. And the quirkily-enchanting (can I say that?) Antique Rose Emporium plant nursery in nearby, Brenham, is also not to be missed, even if you’re not particularly interested in gardening. The Rose Emporium is a great place to take a stroll and enjoy all of its curiosities.
The semi-remote beaches and beach restaurants on the Bolivar Peninsula, along the Gulf Coast just east of Houston, is another great day-trip. I would suggest approaching the Bolivar Peninsula from the north, by taking Interstate Highway-10 East out of Houston, to the small town of Winnie. At Winnie, take Highway-124 south. Continue on Highway-124 south until the end, which is the junction of Highway-87. Turn right onto Highway-87, heading south.
This is the northern end of the Bolivar Peninsula and is the most remote section of it. A short ways ahead, you’ll find yourself driving right along a narrow beach, with the Gulf of Mexico out your driver’s-side window. This stretch is completely undeveloped, except for the single straight line of lonesome-looking, weathered telephone poles receding out to the horizon. Highway-87 is the single, main road, running the length of the peninsula.
A little further south, you begin to see interesting beach-houses, raised at least ten feet off the ground on wood or concrete columns to help protect them from storms coming off the Gulf. And in this area, on your right, at the end of North Stingaree Road, in Crystal Beach, you’ll find the Stingaree Restaurant and Bar (…and marina…and bait shop), my seafood destination on the peninsula. Stingaree sits right on the Inter-coastal Waterway, where you can watch tugboats pushing barges, as they churn their way slowly past, only yards from your dining table or the bar. Stingaree is famous for its views of sunsets over Galveston Bay. Unfortunately, my timing has not yet allowed me to enjoy one. But, someday.
Continuing just a little further south on Highway-87, you reach the landing for the Port-Bolivar/Galveston Ferry, which is free to take your car across on, and which takes you to Galveston. There may be a bit of a line of cars waiting for the ferry, but the wait is pleasant and worth the ferry-ride and water-views.
There are a lot of good restaurants in Galveston. And if you are looking for some dessert, after your meal at Stingaree, I would suggest the Sunflower Bakery & Café on 14th Street as one. From Galveston, it’s an easy drive back into Houston, so this day-trip makes a convenient, scenic loop (Am I sounding like a PBS travel-host, much? Ay-yay-yay! I’m making myself crazy.).
On this leg of my trip, I’m only in Houston for one night…one night of dancing at one of the dance halls I mentioned earlier. From New Orleans, I’m anticipating arriving in Houston during the afternoon rush-hour, which is notoriously challenging. So, my plan is to try to avoid most of it by taking the Bolivar Peninsula/Galveston route, and hopefully enjoying a relaxing dinner at Stingaree. Best laid plans. Wish me luck!