Houston Bucket List 2017: Frying, Drinking and Camping

Rain or shine, cold or brutal heat, the trail riders coming into Houston for Go Texan Day is a sight no Houstonian should miss.
Rain or shine, cold or brutal heat, the trail riders coming into Houston for Go Texan Day is a sight no Houstonian should miss.
Sarah Tucker

Back in 2013, we put together Houston’s first Bucket List. We’ve heard from a lot of you who have pinned the list to your refrigerators or tucked it away in a folder so you might take a crack at all 100. We hope you made it through your list because a lot has changed in four years in Houston.

Four years later, it's time for a new, revised edition complete with new attractions (or sadly closed old ones) and expanded to include a wider area. In our first bucket list, we limited ourselves to 30 square miles from City Hall. This time, we’ve expanded that to 100 miles, which covers places like Galveston. It seemed to us that our entire area is ripe for the list making.

For the next few weeks, we’ll be unveiling 90 of the 100 essential things to do in and around the Bayou City. Our top 10 will appear in an upcoming issue along with a full, printable list much like last year, so stay tuned.

Our first installment included marathons, mega churches and two stepping. Our second batch took us to Galveston for the first time and late-night grocery shopping. Next up was diversity and birds (and the diversity of birds). Finally, we got into some art and bingo. Our fifth post included gators, roller derby and Halloween. Last week, we rounded out the first six posts with, well, flesh in various forms. For number seven, we dive into some grand Houston traditions, including cowboys, fried chicken, seafood, drinking, camping and getting some culture.

Upcoming Events

Put on your best cowboy gear to watch the trail riders on Go Texan Day.

If you have never taken Go Texan Day off, put on some boots and moseyed on down to Memorial Park to watch the trail riders roll into town, you need to get on that. Trail riders from across Texas come to Houston every March as part of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. They spend the night in Houston – many inside Memorial Park – before riding in the parade the first Saturday of the rodeo. It’s a spectacle and something kids of all ages enjoy.

Enjoy some fried chicken at Barbecue Inn.

There aren’t many places left like Barbecue Inn, tucked into the corner of Yale and Crosstimbers just north of Garden Oaks. It hasn’t changed much since it opened in 1946: the wood paneling, the waitresses who call you "Honey" and, of course, the food. This is Southern home-style cooking at its finest. Even though the restaurant has "barbecue" in its name (and excellent varieties on the menu), come here for the fried chicken. Former Press food critic and author Robb Walsh ranked it as his best in the city and we can’t disagree.

See an international soccer match.

We all love the Dynamo, but the soccer matches that draw the biggest crowds often feature international teams, particularly those from Latin America. With such a substantial immigrant population, it’s no wonder. The events are held either at BBVA Compass Stadium (where the Dynamo hang their cleats) or at NRG Stadium, especially matches that feature Mexican teams. The affairs are as lively as you might expect and will give you a taste of the kind of atmosphere you might find at a stadium in another country, which is, needless to say, intense.

Go down into the Cistern.

Buffalo Bayou Park has rapidly become one of the city’s great treasures since it opened in 2015, but it was an unlikely discovery that has drawn national attention. In 2010, a former water reservoir was about to be demolished. The Buffalo Bayou Partnership, the organization that maintains the park, swooped in to the rescue. The hauntingly beautiful underground structure, with its concrete columns and 17-second echo, now houses art installations. It is a must-see for Houstonians and visitors to the city.

Get some culture in the Theatre District.

Houston is blessed with not only some of the finest facilities in the country for seeing performing and visual arts, but some of the best organizations that orchestrate (sometimes literally) the performances therein. From the Houston Grand Opera and Houston Symphony, and the Houston Ballet to the Alley Theatre, Theatre Under the Stars and Da Camera, entertainment options abound and are all neatly squeezed into the northwest corner of downtown.

The crab cake with beurre blanc is just one of the classic dishes at historic Gaido's in Galveston.
The crab cake with beurre blanc is just one of the classic dishes at historic Gaido's in Galveston.
Phaedra Cook

Get some seafood with a view at historic Gaido’s.

In an increasingly sophisticated food scene, it’s comforting to have a few old standbys. And Gaido’s is really old. The classic Galveston seawall eatery has been dishing up fresh Gulf seafood since 1911. If you are looking for cutting-edge cuisine, this isn’t it, but the beautiful ocean views and delicious offerings and traditional menu are staples of life on the island.

Drink in history (and alcohol) in Market Square.

If you happen to be taking in a show at the aforementioned theater district, a great place to stop off after is Market Square. The lovely one-block park is home to Niko Niko’s and summertime outdoor movies, but the bars are what most people come to see. La Carafe, one of the oldest in Texas housed in a building on the national historic registry, and Warren’s Inn, where real drinkers go to drink, are the most infamous and well-known, but Okra Charity Saloon, just around the corner, has made its mark in recent years raising money for a range of Houston charities. There is certainly no shortage of quality watering holes here.

Go camping in Huntsville State Park.

Just about an hour north of Houston (and barely within the confines of our 100-square-mile provision for this list) is Huntsville State Park. Located inside the Piney Woods of East Texas, it contains 21 miles of wooded nature trails for hiking and cycling and a 210-acre lake perfect for fishing and swimming. You can rent a screened-in cabin for the night or bring a tent for one of the campsites. It’s beautiful, quiet and a perfect spot to take in a big starry Texas night sky.

Dance to ’80s music at Numbers.

Every Friday, historic Montrose alternative club Numbers rolls back the clock to the early days of the venue: the ‘80s. Cheap drinks and classic hits from the era, many of which have been played by the original artist at one time or another in the venue, are a staple of this long-running tradition. You don’t have to wear shoulder pads or Miami Vice pants if you don’t want, but no one will question you if you do.

See the entire area on top of the San Jacinto Monument.

We will admit to being a tad nervous about heights, but even that wouldn’t stop us from climbing to the top of this historic Texas monument to see across the entire region. The observation deck is one of the few remaining public spots up that high and the view is unique, covering the entire Port of Houston area all the way into downtown. Try it in the fall right after a cool front when the rain and breeze have blown off the surrounding haze and clouds. It’s pretty incredible.


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