Houston 101

Houston Bucket List Part 10 - Parks, Plays and Pie

Photo by Katya Horner
Discovery Green, downtown's urban oaisis.
Twice in the last decade, we at the Houston Press have compiled our list of the 100 things every Houstonian must do. The first list was nearly 10 years ago and limited to a very small radius around the city (30 miles). In 2017, we expanded it to include distances slightly farther away — up to 100 miles — given at how much is so close to us. How can we exclude the Gulf of Mexico?

In 2022, many things have changed and some remain the same. If you are familiar with these lists, you'll probably see a few old favorites. They are classics for a reason. We'll point them out as we go along. If not, now you can take a look at all the stuff you need to do in the coming weeks and months. We'll be releasing these 10 at a time over the next couple months, so enjoy and (cue Jurassic Park music) welcome to the Houston Bucket List, 2022 edition.

Houston Bucket List Part 9
Houston Bucket List Part 8
Houston Bucket List Part 7
Houston Bucket List Part 6
Houston Bucket List Part 5
Houston Bucket List Part 4
Houston Bucket List Part 3
Houston Bucket List Part 2
Houston Bucket List Part 1

Spend the afternoon at Discovery Green. [CLASSIC]

In 2008, the city was still dreaming up what to do with vacant space available on the east side of downtown. There were already a pair of new stadiums plus the George R. Brown Convention Center. A park seemed like the most bizarre choice for a city like Houston that seemed to to enjoy, as Joni Mitchell once sang, pave paradise and put up a parking lot. On this occasion, however, the city thought better of it and turned a blank 12-acre spot into Discovery Green, complete with a lake, restaurants, a performance amphitheater and plenty of green space under the canopy of skyscrapers.

Visit the Theater District. [CLASSIC]

Just across downtown from Discovery Green is the Houston Theater District, encompassing more seats of theater per capita than any city outside New York. The productions range from ornate productions of opera and symphony at the Wortham Center to national touring musicals at the Hobby Center; renowned plays at The Alley and concert events at Jones Hall. Jones Plaza is even getting a makeover and there are plenty of bars and restaurants nearby to pregame or postgame a performance.

See an independent theater production. [CLASSIC]

If you are feeling like something more intimate, consider one of Houston's diverse independent theater groups. From Catastrophic Theater, 4th Wall and A.D. Players to The Ensemble and Mildred's Umbrella, the city has a rich history of cutting edge live performances worth seeing.

Get some food (and a cheap massage) in Chinatown. [CLASSIC]

Did we mention that Houston is diverse...like really diverse? Take a drive down Bellaire Boulevard and find out just how much. Near the intersection of Beltway 8 is a stretch of blocks and blocks of Asian markets, shops, restaurants and massage establishments. Get some inexpensive reflexology and then grab a bite to eat. It is incredibly authentic and absolutely fascinating.

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The Garlic Butter crawfish at Crawfish & Noodles are something to behold.
Photo by Mai Pham
Get some Viet-cajun food at Crawfish & Noodles. [CLASSIC]

While you're there, consider one of Chinatown's most interesting creations: Crawfish & Noodles. The James Beard semi-finalist (in multiple years) is one of the great examples of the blending of Vietnamese and Cajun food imported to Houston from our neighbors to the east. It is also one of the most unique ways to partake in an annual right of passage, the crawfish boil.

Play bingo at SPJST Lodge 88. [CLASSIC]

What was once something just for old timers to while away a few evening hours has become something of a popular event on Thursday night just west of the Heights. The bingo festivities are certainly fun, but the place also has an open bar and encourages you to bring your own food. It's more fun than you might think, particularly if you enjoy shouting bingo and getting your drink on.

Grab late night eats at House of Guys. [CLASSIC]

There are a number of good restaurants open after the bars close, but none are as synonymous with late night grub as House of Guys. The Kirby location got its loving nickname from the crowds who would grab diner food and pie after the gay bars closed. And, listen, do NOT sleep on their pies. We can attest that they are absolutely legitimate. And what soaks up the alcohol better at 3 a.m. than a slice of apple pie a la mode?
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Shipley's is a Houston institution.
Kevin Shalin
Grab early morning doughnuts at Shipley's. [CLASSIC]

OK, so when you are hung over, your next stop should be Shipley's for coffee, a sausage kolache and a few sweet, yeasty donuts from this Houston classic. You can even watch them prepare the dough fresh through the plexiglass window. The line moves fast, even if you are stuck in the drive through at the old-school Ella location, so be patient and you'll soon feel better.

Watch a concert outside at the White Oak Music Hall. [CLASSIC]

Houston's live local music scene took hit after hit in the early 2000s as storied venues closed their doors for good. White Oak, however, staked out a claim for itself on the near north side and did it big with one massive indoor stage, a smaller, more intimate room and the occasional outdoor show on the banks of Little White Oak Bayou. It's quite a site with the skyline in the background behind the stand of trees along the water. It almost makes you feel like you aren't in Houston.

Climb an actual hill at the McGovern Centennial Gardens.

Speaking of feeling like being somewhere else, there is an actual hill in Houston. Yes, it is manmade, but it does exist at the McGovern Centennial Gardens in Hermann Park. The beautiful gardens contain a variety of different types of plants, sculptures from local artists, a large reflection pool and, of course, the hill with a spiral walkway to the top. It's a view you don't often see in Houston considering how incredibly flat we are.