Houston On the Map as a Cultural Destination

(Photo courtesy of Houston Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau)
Buffalo Bayou Park.
(Photo courtesy of the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau.)

Austin may be the capital of Texas, but Houston is giving it a run for its money as new restaurants and bars are springing up around town, offering top choices on the dining scene, in addition to a variety of new attractions and hotel makeovers.

“Research tells us that people visit Houston for our food and culture, above all else,” says Greg Ortale, president and CEO of the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau. “In fact, The New York Times named Houston the No. 7 place to visit in 2013, and cited food and art as reasons to go. Houston truly is the cultural and culinary capital of Texas and beyond.”

For clients heading to Houston, they can explore the city’s sites and attractions with the Houston CityPASS, a discount ticket booklet. In addition to the Downtown Aquarium, Space Center Houston, Children’s Museum, and Museum of Fine Arts, the pass has added the Kemah Boardwalk—a waterfront area with rides, restaurants and shops—to its list in March. For more information, visit citypass.com/houston.

On the hotel scene, Hotel Derek near The Galleria mall underwent a multi-million dollar renovation, completed in March, affecting all 312 rooms and suites adding “bold colors, textured fabrics and natural materials.”

The hotel, located 10 minutes from downtown, offers guests an outdoor pool, 24/7 fitness center and complimentary transportation within a 3-mile radius. It also features the Italian restaurant and bar Valentino Vinbar Houston.

Travelers staying at the hotel and in need of retail therapy can book the Retail Therapy package, starting at $159 per night. The package includes deluxe guestroom accommodations; cocktails for two at Vin Bar; and complimentary valet parking.

For more information, visit hotelderek.com.

Meanwhile, the boutique 93-room Lancaster Houston Hotel will start its $10 million renovation this month, set to be completed this summer. The hotel, which will remain open during the renovation, will redesign its guestrooms and suites, as well as its lobby. Located near the Theater District, the new look for the property, which originally opened as the Auditorium Hotel in 1926, will be inspired by its location with “classic American styling” using men’s suiting fabrics and a rich color palette.

Call for rates. For more information, visit thelancaster.com.

As Ortale says, the culinary options are a reason to visit the city, and this spring rustic Italian restaurant Coltivare will open. Coltivare, owned by the co-owners of the popular market and eatery Revival Market, will feature small plates, salads and wood-oven fired pizzas with cheeses and salami from Revival market. The owners also plan on creating a garden that will provide both places with fresh produce and herbs.

Craft cocktails are also a hot commodity in Houston, and the general manager of Anvil Bar and Refuge opened her own cocktail bar Julep in February. Craft beer lovers are also getting their fix with the opening of City Acre Brewing this spring, brewing seasonal ingredients for its own label, as well as serving other regional beers.

One of Houston’s popular areas, the 160-acre Buffalo Bayou Park, is in the process of a $58 million renovation, planned to be completed in 2015. The renovation will restore the natural landscape, as well as add two pedestrian bridges, benches, picnic spots and more.

For more on Houston, visit visithoustontexas.com.