A Family Guide to Houston

The Ultimate Guide to a Houston Family Reunion

The perfect collection of venues, restaurants, and tips for your next family reunion

By John Lomax and Katharine Shilcutt August 3, 2014 Published in the August 2014 issue of Houstonia Magazine

Scouting the Reunion

Houstonia abounds with reunion sites for families large and small. For one-day reunions too large to hold at home—especially in cooler times of the year—city and/or county parks are a terrific option. The gigantic Bear Creek Pioneers Park on the Bayou City’s western fringe offers no fewer than eight reunion-friendly pavilions—variously equipped with barbecue pits, electrical outlets, and hose bibs—and many of them are shaded and near playgrounds. Be advised, Bear Creek is dry—that is, alcohol is forbidden—except when it’s wet. (In very heavy rains the Army Corps of Engineers can and will allow the entire park to be flooded.)

Another option: rent a beach house or two anywhere from Bolivar to South Padre. The old folks can chill on the porch while the sun is blazing, the younger generation can frolic in the surf, and everybody can reconvene in the evening over boiled shrimp, steaks, and cool libations. The massive beachfront Texas Starin Surfside rents for $2,900 per weekend or $4,490 per week in high summer. Sounds steep, but bear in mind it sports no fewer than seven bedrooms; stash the kids together, and multiple families can split the cost, leaving room in the budget for nearby Galveston’s myriad attractions.

This year, the oldest honky-tonk in Harris County, Tin Hall in Cypress, is celebrating its 125th year of boot-scootin’ fun. The rambling two-story dance hall, complete with DJ services and full-service bars, makes for a fun and special reunion spot. Then there are Houston’s event-themed guest ranches—especially good for large groups—such as H&H Ranch just north of the Beltway, which requires a minimum of 50 guests and offers catered barbecue, catfish, or fajita meals at one of its seven pavilions, not to mention a pool with its own lazy river, and extreme sport activities.

For the ultimate old-school Texas experience, take a short road trip to Blisswood Bed and Breakfast at the Lehman Legacy Ranch. An hour west of town in Cat Spring, pet-friendly Blisswood’s vast 650-acre site offers 10 houses and cabins, a petting zoo, abundant wildlife viewing, catch-and-release bass fishing, archery, horseback rides, bike trails (and rentals), and skeet shoots. —JNL

Reunion Pacific

Take years of simmering resentments, add beer and the blazing Texas sun, and what do you get? A precarious situation, that’s what, although not necessarily. With a little advance planning, you can virtually guarantee that Uncle Jimmy won’t come at Uncle Fred with a barbecue fork. A few tips:

Select how many generations you want to invite. Just your parents and siblings and their kids? Grandparents, aunts and uncles too? Whatever criteria you use, be consistent if you want to avoid hard feelings. And remember too that each added generation adds not only guests but expenses. 

Unless your reunion is very small—here defined as 25 attendees or less—reach out for help on planning and execution. Start a Facebook event page so family members can pitch in. Form some committees—the food bunch, the reservations brigade, etc.—if need be.

Curate the guest list. Cursed with a rude, racist, rabble-rousing relation? Cut ’em. —JNL 

The Madding Crowd

Dining by the dozen? These places handle large clans with ease.

Buca di Beppo

This tongue-in-cheek Italian joint is built to accommodate families and groups of all sizes (you can even book a party of up to 20 people online with no fuss). Dishes are served, well, family-style, and there’s even a gluten-free menu.

Fung’s Kitchen

A dim sum palace like Fung’s is accustomed to seating large parties—there’s no such thing as a table for two there—and everyone in your party will be able to grab something they like from the food carts full of Chinese dishes that roll around the football field–sized restaurant.

The Grove

The Grove’s five private dining rooms can hold anywhere from 20 to 240 people (hey, some of us have really large families), and all afford breathtaking views of Discovery Green and the downtown skyline—especially beautiful at night.

Kim Son

Kim Son’s private rooms can easily accommodate 50 to 800, though it’s just as easy to walk in—even with a large group—and be seated right away. The menu of Vietnamese and Chinese classics offers plenty of favorites. —KS

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