Houston 101

Houston Bucket List Part 2: Flowers, Football and Fresh Fish

In the spring, bluebonnets cover area roadsides and bayous.
In the spring, bluebonnets cover area roadsides and bayous. Photo by Jeff P via CC
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 2022 Part 1

Photograph the wildflowers. [CLASSIC]

Nothing quite says spring in Texas like bluebonnets spread as far as the eye can see. And for Houstonians, you need only train your eye on many of the local bayous for your view of the Texas state flower. The city and county have wisely spread seeds of Texas wildflowers along the banks of bayous like White Oak and the result is usually a blanket of blue, orange, pink and red flowers each spring. If you feel like a drive, head up 290 towards Brenham and watch all the people taking selfies and kid photos along the roadside. They only hang around a few weeks, so enjoy them while you can.

Enjoy the scenery at the Houston Botanic Gardens.

It's incredible enough that there is a sprawling botanical garden near Hobby Airport just blocks off the freeway, intersected by Sims Bayou. That fact that it opened just before the freeze to end all freezes two years ago and still has managed to deliver an array of remarkable plant displays is, frankly, a miracle. Take in the wide range of plant life and native habitats. It's already a sight to behold and should only get better with time.

click to enlarge Tailgating at Texans games is often more fun than the games themselves! - JACK GORMAN
Tailgating at Texans games is often more fun than the games themselves!
Jack Gorman
Tailgate with Texans fans. [CLASSIC]

The Texans haven't exactly been must see football for, well, forever. But, there is no shortage of stuff to see and eat at the tailgate that happens before every game in the parking lots surrounding NRG Stadium. Dedicated groups have staked out their spots, cooking all manner of food, drinking some cold beverages and dressing in their finest Texans gear. The game inside might be (probably is) boring and/or depressing, but the party in the parking lot remains entertaining.

Get your high school football on. [CLASSIC]

Friday Night Lights (the book, not the movie or the beloved TV series) was centered around the high school football in the Panhandle and West Texas, but don't sleep on Houston when it comes to high school athletics. There are powerhouse programs spread across the entire area and stadiums dotting the landscape with a ton of budding talent that could wind up in the NFL someday. So, grab a seat under the lights and get a glimpse of the stars of the future.

Go '80s dancing at Numbers. [CLASSIC]

There are so few remaining live music venues in Houston from prior to even 10 years ago (RIP Fitzgerald's) that it is hard to imagine one like Number's remaining intact for all these years. Thankfully, that monument to Montrose and all things goth continues to pump out those dark jams. On Fridays, it becomes the spot for Gen Xers to work it out to classic '80s dance music. Youngsters and Boomers are always welcome too. Spike your hair, put on that black lipstick and get your groove on.

Drink in historic Market Square. [CLASSIC]

Back in the late '60s and early '70s, Market Square was jumping with live music and nightlife. You may have found a young Billy Gibbons shredding blues guitar before he became the Reverend and front man for ZZ Top. Many things have changed in Market Square, but it remains one of Houston's signature places to drink, namely at Warren's and La Carafe. Warren's Inn, as it is more formally known, is where drinkers go to drink and La Carafe still holds claim to being one of the oldest (if not the oldest) constantly operating bar in Texas. Warren's is home to the strongest pour in town and Carafe is pure H-Town ambiance.

click to enlarge These aren't your grandma's patchwork quilts at the International Quilt Festival. - PHOTO COURTESY OF HOLLIS CHATELAIN AND QUILTS, INC.
These aren't your grandma's patchwork quilts at the International Quilt Festival.
Photo courtesy of Hollis Chatelain and Quilts, Inc.
Attend the world's largest quilt show. [CLASSIC]

It's true that Houston is home to one of the most unique artistic pursuits in the world in quilting. You heard us. You might imagine an old handed-down patchwork quilt from generations passed, but modern quilt making is not only sophisticated but incredibly elaborate. These are not throws you toss onto your couch for your dog to ruin. Many are remarkable works of art from all over the world. It's worth a visit to the International Quilt Festival if only to have that, "I didn't know they could do that with a blanket" moment.

Take a Sunday and hit the Airline Drive flea markets. [CLASSIC]

Houston's diverse Latin culture is rarely on more prominent display than along Airline Drive at the many flea markets bustling with visitors on Sundays. Honestly, you don't even need to get out of your car if you don't want to, but we highly recommend wandering around and exploring all the stuff you can buy, often for much less than you think. The smells of charred meat and churros mix with the sounds of kids laughing and the thudding beat of Cumbia to create one of the most interesting excursions you'll find just a few miles north of downtown.

Buy fresh seafood in Kemah. [CLASSIC]

Of course if you are in Galveston, a trip to Fisherman's Wharf is in order, but if you don't have the time to get all the way to the Island, Kemah is the next best option. Situated right on Clear Lake at the mouth of Trinity Bay, it's a nice spot to watch the luxury boats go by. It's also a killer place to find great fresh seafood tucked away under the bridge. Rose's, Golden, L&A and others are all tightly clustered on one block and loaded with an assortment of seafood from crawfish and crabs to salmon and snapper. Bring your ice chest. They'll supply the ice.

Check out the urban art in Graffiti Park.

It took a long time before Houstonians came to accept certain types of graffiti as legitimate art, but now much of it is synonymous with Houston. Imagine the city before Be Someone. Now, there is an entire area of downtown dedicated to the creativity of our city's thriving street art scene. You've probably seen plenty of Insta selfies in front of some of the more memorable works, but the unofficial "park" covering numerous building in EaDo is incredibly diverse and totally H-Town.
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Jeff Balke is a writer, editor, photographer, tech expert and native Houstonian. He has written for a wide range of publications and co-authored the official 50th anniversary book for the Houston Rockets.
Contact: Jeff Balke