FLIGHTS ARE EXPENSIVE and fuel isn't that cheap, either. So what are those of us with wanderlust and limited funds to do? Try taking a vacation in your own city by immersing yourself in a different neighborhood for the weekend—and, potentially, seeing a whole new side of your hometown.
This new summer series serves as a guide to experiencing all that Houston's various enclaves have to offer, so book that Airbnb from the oil-and-gas dude who's never in town and get to exploring.
The Heights Experience
For this trip, you'll want to keep close to the action: in this case, the Noble Apartments next door to White Oak Music Hall. Studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments go for $50 to $85 per night.
Unlike last week's staycation destination, Upper Kirby, you'll need a car for exploring the far eastern corner of the Heights during this weekend trip.
7 p.m. Get settled into your apartment, then take a short drive through the heart of the Heights to Field & Tides for a Southern supper of fresh Gulf oysters, pimento cheese fritters in pepper jelly and pecan-crusted flounder topped with jumbo lump crab and spicy tasso butter.
9 p.m. Settle on a barstool at Alice's Tall Texan for a classic Houston icehouse experience, complete with frosty Shiner Bock poured into ice-crusted goblet by proprietor Alice Ward herself. Even if you aren't a beer-drinker (which is basically all that's served here), you might enjoy dominating a round of dominoes or two.
9 a.m. Fuel up for the morning's food crawl with fresh joe from A 2nd Cup, The cozy coffeehouse is actually a non-profit in disguise; proceeds from that fair-trade latte go to help fight human trafficking.
9:30 a.m. Take on the city's oldest and most beloved farmers market, Canino Produce Co. Within the market proper, which first opened in 1958, you'll find a standard assortment of farm-fresh fruits and vegetables. The real treasures, however, lay hidden in the long rows of stalls behind Canino: tubs of homemade mole sold by abuelitas, sacks of musky nanches or mangos sprinkled with chile powder for munching, delicate quail eggs in spotted brown shells, dried spices at prices lower than found in any Sprouts bulk bin, and—of course—taco trucks of all stripes.
10:30 a.m. You'll be craving some A/C by this point, so stroll across Airline Drive to El Bolillo Bakery. Grab a metal tray and a pair of tongs, then try to decide between the cases of help-yourself pan dulces behind the glass doors. (Don't pass up the oven-hot churros!)
11 a.m. Walk across the street to Flores Spice Market to stock up on any spices you didn't get at Canino, as well as a vast selection of Mexican candies, homeopathic medicines and piñatas. It's a one-stop shop...if those are the four things you're in the market for.
11:30 a.m. Just down Airline Drive is your final food crawl destination: Houston Dairymaids, which specializes in Texas cheeses. These days, the shop also sells a curated collection of other American cheeses, with over 150 varieties in stock. Can't decide? They'll let you taste anything they have in stock.
Noon There is perhaps no better Tex-Mex in Houston than at Teotihuacan, which is conveniently located at the end of Airline Drive as it dead-ends into North Main. If you're really hungry, dive into a parrillada heaped high with all of the restaurant's best grilled meats—just don't forget an order of queso to start.
1 p.m. Head back to the apartment for a nap! Also, to put all the stuff you probably bought in the fridge and/or freezer for later use.
3 p.m. Craving something cool during the heat of the day? Head to Stude Park, where the sparkling-clean community pool is open daily during the summer from 1 to 8 p.m. Did we mention it's free?
If you didn't bring your suit, here's Plan B: grab a raspa or two (strawberry is our favorite) from the Mango Beach drink stand that overlooks Studewood Park, then stroll along White Oak Bayou and try to eat it all before it melts. Bonus points if you can spot the wild parakeet population that's taken up residence in the kudzu and cattails along the water.
Despite all the partying I still managed to get my #cardio in this weekend 🤗. Swipe ⬅ for more pics ✌ City BCycles are #awesome! We checked these out @Stude Park and rode Downtown 😃 #getstrong #fithouston #getoutside #fitisfun #healthyandhappy #studepark #htown #houston_city_insta #cycling #noexcuses #bcyclehouston
7 p.m. Post up at a picnic table on The Raven Tower's 3,000-square-foot patio overlooking Little White Oak Bayou in preparation for tonight's show at the adjoining White Oak Music Hall. The bar only slings drinks, but you can grab a quick, cheap dinner from the food trucks that park outside.
8 p.m. Settle in for a show on the lawn at White Oak Music Hall, with the downtown skyline sparkling overhead. This summer's line-up at the music venue includes everything from Richie Ramone (June 28) and Reel Big Fish (July 9) to Blue Oyster Cult (July 29) and Betty Who (August 29).
9 a.m. Who needs a fancy hotel fitness center when you have Woodland Park, just a few shaded blocks from the apartment? Get in a few games of tennis on the recently resurfaced courts before breakfast. You can even rent a B-Cycle here for further exploration on two wheels.
10 a.m. Couldn't quite make it out of bed for that early-morning workout? Recover from the previous night's festivities with a restorative cup of tea at Morningstar, whose impressive menu of tea varieties is surpassed only by its line-up of inventive donuts. We suggest a matcha latte and matcha donut pairing for maximum impact.
11 a.m. Properly caffeinated, walk across North Main to Fusion Taco (which, as it happens, recently took home the top prize at our Taco Loco competition). Sunday brunch brings a special menu of breakfast tacos stuffed with everything from pork belly and eggs to fried avocado and shakshuka for the vegetarians among us.
Noon Enjoy the Sunday afternoon silence amongst shelves filled with over 100,000 volumes, novels and more at Kaboom, the city's premiere used bookstore.
1 p.m. Take your recently purchased tome across Houston Avenue to El Gato Cat Café, the city's first and only cat coffeehouse. Looking to take home a souvenir (in addition to all the cheese and churros and piñatas and books)? All of the "resident cats" are available for adoption.
2 p.m. Head home, cats, cheese and all.