From downtown high-rises to laid-back districts: OutUK correspondent Adrian Gillan flies United to land in Houston!

America's fourth largest - and number one fastest-growing - city, Houston (a.k.a. H-Town), was founded back in the 1830s in a Texas region that has flown six flags since the European invasion: French, Spanish, Mexican, Texan, Confederate and now USA! Oil and maritime port industries powered its massive 20th Century expansion, and - whilst space exploration continues to assure its place in history - it is now home to one of the world's biggest healthcare hubs and boasts a massive food and arts scene; plus a sizable gay district. And it's all just a nine hour direct flight from London.


Get your bearings at the Houston Visitors Center (901 Bagby), a mine of info on local history, culture, attractions, eateries, shops and such. You might even hop on a Houston City Tour (double-decker in summer) from outside this imposing building, to help further orientate yourself.

The Houston skyline.
Courtesy: Greater Houston CVB
"The Eagle has landed... one giant leap for Mankind... Houston, we have a problem!" Whatever else you do, touchdown fast at Space Center Houston (1601 NASA Parkway), the official visitors' centre of NASA's Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, about an hour's drive out of town, featuring many literally out-of-this-world interactive exhibits including moon rocks to touch; a step inside the historic Mission Control room; a Space Shuttle simulator and real Shuttle on the tarmac outside; the complete mint-condition 100-metre-long Apollo 18 rocket, mothballed when NASA changed its plans back in the early 70s; the vast hangar where astronauts train; even talks from real-life astronauts!

The Theatre District boasts six performance halls - the highest concentration of Downtown theatre seats outside Manhattan - and happy home to permanent, professional, resident companies in all major performing arts disciplines: opera (Houston Grand Opera), ballet (Houston Ballet), music (Houston Symphony Orchestra, at the Jones Hall), and theatre (The Alley Theatre, including a lovely little studio space).

Houston's Museum District attracts over 7 million visitors a year. Key sites include the Museum of Fine Arts (1001 Bissonnet Street), with over 56,000 works from antiquity to the present; the Museum of Natural Science (One Hermann Circle Drive), featuring an IMAX Theatre, Planetarium and Butterfly Centre; and immaculately-kept Houston Zoo in lovely leafy Hermann Park. Located near the Museum District are the free-admission Menil Collection (1515 Sul Ross Street), one of the most significant private collections of modern times, with nearly 15,000 works dating from the Paleolithic era to today; and adjacent meditative Rothko Chapel (3900 Yupon Street).
The Jones Hall.
Courtesy: Greater Houston CVB
Back in the centre, check out the Downtown Aquarium, complete with its ever-roaming white tigers. For something a little different, just north of centre, do a tour-and-tasting at friendly Saint Arnold's Brewery (2000 Lyons Avenue), now home to Texas' oldest craft brewer! Drive out south east of Houston to enjoy the shops, eateries and fairground at the Kemah Boardwalk.

If you like your shops, apart from the aforementioned Galleria - Texas' largest shopping mall - check out boutique-brimming Rice Village (6100 Kirby Drive) near Rice University; or the picturesque Victorian Houston Heights shopping district (Heights Blvd., Yale Street and 19th Street).


Overlooking a leafy Downtown park, The Grove has a magical, spacious airy feel at any time, but really comes into its own awash with light by day, or on a midsummer's eve. It's extra hard to believe you're in the middle of a big city when you relax amidst the glass-walled, wood-and-steel surrounds; or as you scan the American Rustic menu brimming with tantalizing appetizers, salads, seafood, rotisserie specialties, steaks, sandwiches and decadent deserts. Moreover, the joint oozes eco-friendliness, with its very own second floor herb and tomato garden!


Houston's gay scene is reasonably absorbed into the wider city and community than many cities in the state, but the highest concentration of LGBT bars and clubs is still in the lovely residential Montrose district, just west of Downtown.

Isaac "AYE MIRA" Sanchez from Austin, TX, USA
CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons
Baby Barnaby's Cafe in Montrose is constantly humming with lively conversation, this cozy cafe is a popular Montrose neighborhood hangout. The snug diner has a sheepdog mascot surrounded by rainbows and service with sassy waiting staff. Barnaby's is where the boys gather to gossip for Sunday brunch and they serve fresh, uncomplicated, contemporary food.

The Brasil Cafe has artsy types, poetry buffs and music lovers from all walks of life hanging out in this warm coffeehouse. Contemporary art by local artisans adorns the walls, and tiny metal tables with South American Kokopelli-type creatures carved into the tops line a performance area. Brasil is a neighborhood hangout for the artistic gay set and a favorite spot for stimulating conversation.

Hugo's is housed in a 1925 structure designed and built by Houston architect Joseph Finger, who is also responsible for the Art Deco-style City Hall. The Latin-inspired building has been lovingly restored to feature its original beauty, and the interiors designed to include both "chic" contemporary touches and inviting traditional elements of old Mexico. The food is a mixture of refined Mexico City classics with a contemporary twist.

Jenni's Noodle House has jaw-droppingly cheap prices and a winking, witty atmosphere. This unassuming Vietnamese-American establishment gives customers expertly prepared Vietnamese food at remarkably reasonable rates. Jenni's is a favorite gay hangout because of it's the fun sayings like "it's all good in the noodlehood" and the fact that Jenni's is a big supporter of LGBT causes, including Pride Houston.

George Country Sports Bar is one of the most laid back establishments along the Fairview strip in the Montrose area. Cheap drink specials and a friendly atmosphere with a casual come-as-you-are dress code. It's a relaxing hotspot on the weekends, especially on the outside patio where you can enjoy the warm weather in spring and summer.

Rich’s has been a staple in the Houston club scene since the early 1980s. The two-story mega dance club in Downtown became known as the “Studio 54 of the South,” with guaranteed bumpin’ beats, great drinks, and a massive dancefloor that could fit hundreds. In 2019, it moved to 202 Tuam Street in Montrose and changed its name to ReBar, but soon after the owner Jeff Harmon returned the iconic name of Rich’s Houston. They gave the club a refit and turned it into what they call a vibe restaurant, lounge & boutique life experience, offering DJs spinning music, drag shows and more.

Isaac "AYE MIRA" Sanchez
from Austin, TX, USA

CC BY 2.0 Wikimedia Commons
Here's a mere sampler of some of Houston's other gay haunts:

Barbarella (San Jacinto, Midtown) - popular, fun club.
Blur Bar (Pacific Street, Montrose) - LGBT-friendly 2-story club, near South Beach and JR's.
Crocker Bar (Crocker Street, Montrose) - relaxed bar with karaoke.
Eagle Houston (Hyde Park Blvd, Montrose) - Leather-&-Levis gay bar, craft beer and adult gift shop.
JR's (Pacific Street, Montrose) - must-do gay haunt with Southwest-inspired decor and patio.
The Ripcord (Fairview Street, Montrose) - one of Texas' oldest leather bars.
South Beach (Pacific Street, Montrose) - lively bar and club.
Tony's Corner Pocket (W. Dallas Street, Montrose) - themed nights and strippers.


Halfway between the huge Galleria Mall and Downtown Houston, the Crowne Plaza Houston River Oaks is perfectly located near the major roads that will easily take you wherever you want to go in your much-needed-in-spread-out-Houston hire car! Failing which: a complimentary shuttle bus should help you out within a 3-mile radius.
The hotel rooms and suites are spacious and retro-stylish, with those on the upper floors affording views over Houston's multiple skylines. Other hotel amenities include an outdoor pool deck for summer months; a shop for all those useful gifts, accessories and snacks; a 24-hour fitness centre; connected multi-storey parking; and the ambient Reeds Restaurant for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
The Crowne Plaza Houston.
Courtesy: Crowne Plaza Houston
Located slap-bang in the middle of the Galleria shopping area, also due west of Downtown is the recently-renovated AAA-rated 4-Diamond Royal Sonesta Hotel Houston. It's an imposing 23-story 485-room affair, likewise with connected multi-storey parking and free local shuttle bus service. The hotel offers three main food and beverage outlets - the excellent ARA restaurant for a full-on sit-down; the buzzing Axis Lounge for a relaxed sip-and-nibble; and the funky Launch "grab-and-go concept" for those on the run!


Further general information on Houston:
Buying a fab-value Houston CityPASS ticket booklet saves you well-nigh 50% on admission to its 5 best attractions:

Book the best hotels at the best prices in all OutGoing Destinations including Houston.
Visit our online booking partners - for details of all their great deals.


Baby Barnaby's (602 Fairview Street, Montrose; T: (713)-522-4229; Website)
Barbarella (2404 San Jacinto, Midtown; facebook)
Blur Bar (710 Pacific Street, Montrose; Website)
Brasil (2604 Dunlavy Street, Montrose; T: (713)-528-1993; Website)
Crocker Bar (2312 Crocker Street, Montrose; facebook)
Crowne Plaza Houston River Oaks (2712 Southwest Freeway; T: +1 713 523-8448; Website)
Eagle Houston (611 Hyde Park Blvd, Montrose; T: +1 713 523-2473; Website)
George Country Sports Bar (617 Fairview Street, Montrose; T: (713) 528-8102; facebook)
Hugo's (1600 Westheimer Road, Montrose; T: (713) 524-7744; Website)
Jenni's Noodle House - Shepherd (3111 S Shepherd, River Oaks; T: (713)-523-7600; Website)
JR's (808 Pacific Street, Montrose; Website)
Rich's (202 Tuam Street; T: (346) 227-8613; facebook)
Royal Sonesta Hotel Houston (2222 West Loop South; T: +1 713 627-7600; Website)
South Beach (810 Pacific Street, Montrose; facebook)
The Grove (1611 Lamar; T: +1 713 337-7321; Website)
The Ripcord (715 Fairview Street, Montrose; Website)
Tony's Corner Pocket (817 W. Dallas Street, Montrose; Website)

Revised March 2024.


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