Everyone knows THE places to be in Houston. It's just a question of which one fits your taste (and wallet).
River Oaks, the Heights, Montrose, Bellaire -- everyone knows those places. But Houston is so vast, so unpredictable, that little bubbles of terrific neighborhoods pop up in the weirdest places.
Here are five of the most underrated neighborhoods in Houston, not ranked, just listed:
1.Idylwood Inside the loop, but southeast of downtown instead of the more fashionable west, Idylwood was developed in the 1930s and, like most of these underrated places, watched helplessly as development trended elsewhere.
Left behind were affordable classic homes, winding lanes covered by perfect trees, with parks and open space that takes advantage of Brays Bayou and the Villa de Matel convent, pictured above.
2. Oak Forest Even though its homeowners association's webpage is as intimidating as you'd want -- full of bossy announcements about parking and permits -- Oak Forest itself is a less prominent little sister to Garden Oaks, which used to be an underrated neighborhood but now is on everyone's radar. Oak Forest offers everything Garden Oaks does, more or less, but at cheaper prices. On the northwest side of town, it's outside the Loop but if traffic disaster strikes on the mainlanes there are plenty of alternative ways to get home.
3. Garden Villas Let's get the bad news out of the way upfront -- you're near Hobby Airport. Planes will be a part of your life. But so will great old houses from the `30s and `40s, lots of pecan trees, and reasonable prices. You get used to the planes, we're told.
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4. Robindell Hey, the guys at Swamplot voted it the city's most underappreciated neighborhood, so who are we to argue? Robindell is a small neighborhood on the borders of Bellaire and Meyerland. It's got the trees those areas have, but instead of McMansions it's been able to keep its older homes from being uprooted. Like many of these neighborhoods, you don't have to travel far to find trouble, but it's worth the occasional siren going by in the night.
5. Glenbrook Valley Hey, the guys at Houston Press (that's us!!) named it the city's "Best Hidden Neighborhood," so who are we to argue? (It'd be a little schizophrenic, really.)
Our description from last year: "it reminds us of a much more stylish Sharpstown, with houses that would do a Mad Men character proud set on lots practically the size of small farms."
The neighborhood's webpage embraces the `60s feeling, and residents there have been resolute in preserving the history of the place.