5. TOYOTA CENTER Aeros, Rockets and concerts. Oh my! Houston's Toyota Center is built to impress and hosts big-time, all-star performances, ranging from Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga to Metallica and Tool. When it isn't a sporting event, the venue's playing surfaces are removed, giving way to an extra 700 seats.
Toyota Center has a total seating capacity of 19,000, which is the venue's main appeal. The sound is solid enough not to complain, though you wouldn't want to see an orchestra perform here. (Few do.) Seating sells at a premium, and if you're ballin' on a budget, be careful not to get a corner that's heavy on echoes. Show up early and snag a spot on the street to save some cash. But there's also plenty of paid parking on-site, if you're running late to a show.
1510 Polk, 713-758-7200, houstontoyotacenter.com
4. CYNTHIA WOODS MITCHELL PAVILION The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion was recently graded the No. 2 amphitheater in the world in 2012, according to Pollstar, and numbers don't lie. This colosseum of a venue sold 390,000 tickets during the 2012 calendar year. Wowza.
Sure, it may be a bit of a drive for us inner-city dwellers, and it sure is aggravating having to show your ticket every ten steps you take (seemingly), but the Pavilion is still worth the trip and the trouble. It tends to book the major acts that come through town, artists looking to perform in front of the most screaming fans possible.
2005 Lake Robbins Dr., The Woodlands, 281-363-3300, woodlandscenter.org
3. MILLER OUTDOOR THEATRE Houston has hills, we tell ya! Or at least one of them. And, at the bottom of it, we built a venue. With a seating capacity of 1,600 and plenty of free shows during the summer, Miller Outdoor Theatre is the most frugal choice of all large venues in Houston.
Located in Hermann Park just next to the zoo and the reflecting pool, it doesn't take much to plan an entire day around a show at this outdoor auditorium. Bring your puppies, girlfriends, family members and friends; Miller Outdoor Theatre is fun for all ages. Remember to bring plenty of insect repellent, though. This is, after all, Houston.
6000 Hermann Park Dr., 832-487-7102, milleroutdoortheatre.com
2. JONES HALL FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS Whether you're looking for a proper night out, one of your favorite authors is in town or you just want a change of pace from the usual grimy (albeit charming) Houston music scene, Jones Hall offers an extensive lineup with top-notch acoustics to boot. The Houston Symphony, jazz troupes, performance artists such as the Blue Man Group and even the likes of Louis C.K. and David Sedaris are regularly scheduled to perform.
The staff is always friendly and will quickly help you find your seat, and an array of box offices makes will-call a breeze. If you think you can't afford tickets, you needn't worry; there ain't a bad seat in the house, and the back rows and upper levels are pretty affordable. And the seats themselves are cushy, with plenty of leg room to boot. Take a load off and enjoy something different this year.
615 Louisiana No. 101, 713-227-3974, joneshall.org
1. ARENA THEATRE Best of Houston® winner, 2012: With a capacity of about 2,750, Arena Theatre is the redheaded stepchild of Houston music venues. The part of Houston that doesn't use the Southwest Freeway as their major commuter artery tends to forget it's even over there by Sharpstown Mall, but it's been there -- albeit not continually operating -- since 1965. (The office towers adjoining the theater were built in the early '80s.)
But even with all the competition it has these days, the Arena manages to keep the lights on most nights out of the month. Its calendar this past summer was crowded with music across a wide variety of styles, including R&B, blues, country, rap, Latin and rock, plus comedy, boxing and MMA fighting. The seats are comfortable, the concessions are reasonable (even the cocktails), the sound is clean, the rotating stage never ceases to be a novelty and the gallery of posters for past shows in the walkway leading to and from the parking garage is second to none.
Fun fact: Late funnyman Bob Hope was one of the Arena's original investors.
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7326 Southwest Fwy., 713-772-5900, arenahouston.com