The holidays are upon us. 'Tis the season for holiday parties, overconsumption of food and booze, and if you’re one of the fortunate ones, some much-needed time off from the workplace. It’s also a time for friends and family. For some, that may mean a trip elsewhere; others aren’t so lucky. Many Houstonians will host friends, family or both this holiday season. And while it’s good to see these folks, cabin fever can quickly take effect. In short, after a while of hanging around the house and catching up, it may be time to get out and about — preferably within reach of a cold, alcoholic beverage. Fortunately, our the Bayou City has its fair share of local spots that are tailor-made for those situations.
10. THE HEIGHTS THEATER
Houston’s newest music venue has only recently opened — local son Hayes Carll christened the joint — but early reviews are favorable. Plus, the renovated and refurbished theater is located in the heart of the Heights, adjacent to a number of area shops, bars and restaurants. The calendar is stocked for December, including gigs from the likes of Hal Ketchum, Ruthie Foster and Flaco Jimenez. (339 W. 19th, theheightstheater.com)
9. CACTUS MUSIC
Cheating a bit on this one, since Cactus Music isn’t technically a music venue. What it is, however, is the city’s best record store, one that routinely hosts live music, complete with free beer. Plus, when hosting family and friends for the holiday, time-killing activities are key, and it’s quite easy to do just that here. The store features one of Houston’s best vinyl collections, along with various musical knick-knacks and gifts. Head over to the original Star Pizza after to keep it local and take in one of the city’s finest pizza joints. (2110 Portsmouth, cactusmusictx.com)
Houston weather can safely be described as unpredictable. Fortunately, this food hall and beer garden is located underground, insulating it from the city’s temperamental climate. Conservatory offers more than 50 draft beers of varying styles and tastes, in addition to several bottled offerings. Plus, it caters to those with varying appetites; the venue features five different restaurants, including crepes, Tex-Mex and Greek offerings. (1010 Prairie, conservatoryhtx.com)
7. NEIL’S BAHR
Speaking of killing time, that won’t be an issue at Houston’s premier nerd bar. Whether getting down on some old-school Nintendo 64, partaking in some trivia or firing up the karaoke machine, Neil’s Bahr is the place to be for locals and out-of-towners alike in the mood for a little drinking, gaming and general good times. (2006 Walker, neilsbahr.com)
6. PUB FICTION/IRISH COWBOY/3RD FLOOR
Sometimes, when you’ve spent most of the day cooped up with family members — many of whom have a way of getting on one’s nerves — it’s time to cut loose. Look no further than this trio of Midtown bars, perfectly suited for those who want to hop in an Uber or cab and tear the night apart. Irish Cowboy (formerly Celtic Gardens) boasts a live stage and one of Midtown’s most expansive patios. Pub Fiction, fresh off its renovation, also features a huge patio, along with televisions and drink/food specials aplenty. Plus, these places get so loud on weekends, you really don’t even need to worry about making conversation with your guests. (2303 Smith #100, pubfiction.com; irishcowboy.com; 3rdfloorhouston.com)
5. ANDERSON FAIR
Pretty much the opposite of the aforementioned bars, Anderson Fair is a quiet piece of Houston, one that showcases some of the city’s finest singer-songwriters. This is the place for a low-key evening with friends and family, one that features quality live music, multiple draft beer options and one of the friendliest staffs in Houston. (2007 Grant, andersonfair.net)
4. LA CARAFE
Believed to be the oldest bar in Houston, the La Carafe building is listed on the National Register for Historic Places. Originally established in 1847, the building has served as a public venue since that time. It’s also allegedly haunted, so you can scare the out-of-towners and perhaps given them a story to tell upon their return home. The jukebox is bumping and the drinks are relatively cheap; FYI, La Carafe is a cash-only bar. (813 Congress, 713-229-9399)
3. WAREHOUSE LIVE
Among the city’s premier music venues, Warehouse Live certainly ranks among its most diverse. From traditional concerts to burlesque shows to drag shows, and don’t forget the tribute bands and karaoke nights, Warehouse Live offers a little something for everyone. Plus, it’s near some of the city’s best bars and therefore makes for an ideal night out with friends and relatives. (813 St. Emanuel, warehouselive.com)
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2. LUCKY’S PUB
December is a sports fan’s dream. In addition to the NFL heading toward the playoffs, the month is loaded with college bowl games. Plus, the Rockets appear competitive this year, so even the NBA is worth watching. May as well check out all the games at arguably Houston’s best sports bar, one that features three area locations. The menu is loaded and the beer is cold, making Lucky’s among the city’s best places to kill some time while hoping the Texans can hold on to the AFC South. (Three Houston-area locations, luckyspub.com)
Fitzgerald’s basically is Houston music and ranks among the city’s most storied – if not the most storied – music venues. The calendar is busy this month, including the venue’s 22nd annual Christmas night party, so for out-of-towners who really want to gain a sense of Houston and its history, Fitzgerald’s is the place. It's also located on White Oak, alongside such local bars as Public House, Jimmy's Ice House, Little Woodrow's, and Christian's Tailgate. (2706 White Oak, fiztlive.com)