Staying In

Take a Staycation: the Royal Sonesta Hotel

The Galleria is one of the state's premiere shopping and dining destinations—and it deserves more than a day trip.

By Megha Tejpal July 13, 2015

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Cocktails and snacks at the Axis Lounge inside the Royal Sonesta

Image: Megha Tejpal

Shopping may be a sport that is played year-round, but somehow the summer season is one in which we tend to literally shop until we drop (usually by way of a well-deserved post-mall nap). And in Houston, the best shopping is found at the Galleria, especially with new additions like La Perla, Topshop and Tod's raising the mall's profile across the country. But as those who make the trek from the city's far-flung suburbs all the way to the Galleria area know, a day at the Galleria can become quite the production. As the entire surrounding neighborhood from Uptown Park to the newly constructed BLVD Place becomes busier by the day and bustling with activity on the weekends, the Galleria is more staycation-worthy now than ever.

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The Galleria in a rare quiet moment. 


A hub for high end shopping, dining and nightlife, the Galleria attracts more tourists than anywhere else in the city, so why shouldn't Houstonians take advantage as well? With over 2 million square feet of retail space, the mall is home to over 400 stores, dozens of restaurants and three office towers. Anchor stores like Neiman Marcus, Macy's, Nordstrom and Saks 5th Avenue attract shoppers from across the world (literally; people fly in from China, Mexico, Dubai and other countries just to shop here), to say nothing of the global stars who've been hosted on the Galleria's full-sized ice rink.

When planning a weekend getaway around shopping at the Galleria, there is plenty to do and see in the mall alone. The aforementioned ice-skating rink and the newly added Little Galleria Play Area and Family Lounge will keep the little ones occupied while Mom gets some retail therapy. Restaurants, meanwhile, also run the gamut from family-friendly (i.e., Rainforest Cafe, nearly anything in the food court) to fancy (i.e., Del Frisco's Double Eagle, Peli Peli).

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The newly fitted Axis Lounge


Perched right on the 610 loop, within a mile of the Houston Galleria, is the towering Royal Sonesta Hotel. Many Houstonians may be familiar with the grand ballroom, which is often used for weddings, and the event spaces used for conferences, but the chic hotel also makes a fantastic choice for a luxurious weekend getaway. From the trendy Axis Lounge in the hotel lobby where guests gather for social hour to the oh-s0-comfy guest rooms, Royal Sonesta guarantees a true escape from the daily grind.

As Houston area hotels continue to up their game in a big way when it comes to food, Royal Sonesta is ahead of the curve with a mouthwatering social hour menu. The 44 Farms all-beef hot dog and the skirt steak street tacos will revive you after a long day of retail therapy, while the fresh pineapple-basil mojito is about as summery as it gets. The Axis Lounge provides guests a laid back yet fun atmosphere to catch up from the day, enjoy the stunning hotel lobby and perhaps consider options for the evening. In close proximity to all the Galleria hot spots, there is no shortage of things to do once the sun sets.

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Duck with spicy red curry at Songkran Thai Kitchen

Image: Megha Tejpal


At nearby Uptown Park, guests can choose from a multitude of dining options, from casual bars to upscale Thai to classic French cuisine. A charming, pedestrian friendly locale in the Galleria area, many of Uptown Park's restaurants and bars invite visitors to enjoy the sights and sounds on the scenic patios under the stars. 

Songkran Thai Kitchen allows diners to experience the spicy flavors of Thailand in an intensely romantic space. The menu boasts traditional favorites such as tom yum goong and pad thai noodles with chicken and shrimp to more bold dishes, including our favorite, the pla sam ros (crispy, whole red snapper). The restaurant features a full bar and a covered back patio offers a lovely setting in the evenings. An ideal choice for a birthday dinner or celebration, Songkran is a fine dining experience for the foodie who likes it fiery. Chef Jett Hurapan has found great success at Songkran Uptown Park, in fact, that he recently opened a second location of his popular restaurant in Sugar Land.

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Bread pudding at The West End

Image: Megha Tejpal

A more casual choice for the evening and also just a hop, skip and a jump from the Royal Sonesta Hotel is The West End located at Westheimer and Yorktown. In addition to a sprawling, open-air patio bar facing the busy Westheimer thoroughfare, The West End offers guest a one-stop shop to enjoy premium cocktails, beer, a full menu (including wings, fish tacos and a bacon-wrapped meatloaf that you must try)—even a private karaoke room. The ample TVs and bar tops inside make for a fun sports-watching environment, while the front patio is best enjoyed while lounging with cocktails under the clear summer sky. Though more of a bar scene, The West End serves food until 2 a.m., keeping it populated with party-goers into the wee hours of the night.

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