It’s reeeeeally important to not mess up Mother’s Day. It should, for most of you, be the most important day for your mom. At the very least, your mom carried your infant butt around for nine months and, to top that all of, raised you for another 18 YEARS! She deserves some major kudos on the reg, but you need to go ALL OUT on Sunday, May 14, this year, and I have an idea for you: A Downtown Houston Staycation.
Without going into too many deets, it’s been a rough year for my mom for a lot of different reasons that added up to the fact that she deserved a big-time M-Day gift. We’ve been working on staycation ideas, and I thought my mom needed one for herself. Also my brother got married on April 1, so I had to try to one-up him the following weekend. Ps. check out our CITYCENTRE staycation guide here — also a great idea for a Mother’s Day treat!
Below is a comprehensive guide to treating your madre right in a lil downtown staycation! I’ll tell you what all we ate and did, plus some other ideas for greater variety! If you’re an @itsnothouitsme follower, you saw this in real time on our insta stories! Go follow us so you don’t miss out on our next trip or staycation.
Stay at Magnolia Houston
I’m always so shocked at just how many stinking hotels there are downtown. There are literally thousands of options for you, but Magnolia Hotel’s Houston location is perfect for a mother-daughter stay. It’s really close to Market Street, where there are fun restaurants and bars, GreenStreet, with restaurants and activities, and just a walk away from Discovery Green.
The building was originally built in 1926, probably around your mom’s bday (jk, Mother’s Day is NOT a day for old lady jokes). It was the Houston Post Dispatch office, then an office for Shell Oil Company. It was renovated in 2003, and all the oil and ink remnants were replaced with colorful and classic decor and comfy beds. Nowadays, the building is touted as being a top boutique hotel, and I’d take a boutique hotel to a huge, 1000-room hotel for a relaxing weekend with mom.
We stayed in a suite, which was great for us because my mom is a human that operates on less sleep than I think humans should have (solid 7 hours), so when she woke up, she migrated to the kitchen/living space, while I slept soundly (thanks to Magnolia’s black-out velvet drapes) for another hour. Our room was so awesome, and I could not get over how comfy the bed was and that there was a, gasp, oversized tub. Post pool, I took a subsequent swim in there. I LOVE BATHS. Pro-tip: Bring a bath bomb and a bottle of wine for your mom!
The hotel has a bar (with an everyday happy hour!!!) as well as event space (there was a wedding the weekend we were there). Plus, there’s a shuttle that will take you and pick you up from anywhere within two miles for free! Uber who? However, by far my favorite perk at Magnolia was the pool. It’s on the top floor, and you do need a key card to get there (through the fitness center). It’s small, but mighty, since being on the top floor gives you an almost unobstructed access to the sun. I also loved the first floor Cafe Paris (ahh, Paris) that had amazing coffee that was so necessary for us between dinner and evening activities (because dinner included a couple drinks, obviously…)
I’m no hotel expert in the grand scheme of things, but this was one of my nicest stays — and right down the street from where I live. I remember walking into our room and thinking how hard was it going to be to go out and actually do things? It was kind of hard… but with the promise of food and exploring downtown, we persevered.
This post is sponsored in part by Magnolia Hotels, but all opinions are my own.
Play at GreenStreet
My mom and I have done a downtown Houston staycation before actually. I was probably in high school and I don’t exactly remember the occasion, but we got day passes to a pool downtown (I think it was the Four Seasons!), and we laid out by the pool, ate lunch and shopped around the Houston Pavilions. Now, if you’re a Houstonian you might remember them, but probably not. There were a bunch of office buildings connected and there were shops and restaurants — kind of like a mall but with businessmen and women. Such an interesting concept that eventually failed. Now, it’s GreenStreet, which has a similar concept: Food, entertainment and shopping, but open-air and way, way better. Here are some of my favorite things to do in GreenStreet (scroll down for restaurant recs).
Pete’s Piano Bar. In college, Howl at the Moon in Midtown was my JAM. Me and my roommates would be there almost every Thursday to the point when the musicians KNEW us. Oops. Safe to say I’m a fan of the dueling piano concept, and a few years later, ironically, my mom became a fan too. You would think your mom becoming a fan of a bar you frequented in college would be embarrassing. It wasn’t. Here I am, just an apple, right up next to my tree. Anyhoo, neither of us had been to Pete’s (oh how much we were missing!!!), but I have multiple friends who had taken their parents there when they came to town. It was PERFECT.
Everyone is always celebrating something at Pete’s. There were like 5 birthdays and literally a dozen brides. When you go, you gotta sign in on the chalkboard walls! I wrote, “I’m here with my mom” next to a big heart with a couple’s names in it. Yes, I am single. No, I wouldn’t have wanted to be there with anyone but my mother! 🙂
Knowing my mom and her slightly early bedtime, we opted to go early and leave early. The strategy slightly worked out, as we were back at the hotel in comfy clothes eating dinner leftovers before midnight, but the bar didn’t really get popping unto 10 pm or so when we had gotten there at around 9 pm, so I would recommend going around 10. I also 100% recommend getting one of the Schooners (52 oz and come with a lil floating duck) or a party cup (16 oz and come with a plastic tumbler) drinks. Here were our favorites:
- Dazed and Confused Party Cup: Citrus vodka, melon liqueur, coconut rum and pineapple juice. Not as sweet as it sounds!
- Porn Star Schooner: X-Rated pink vodka, cruzan mango rum, melon, pineapple juice and grenadine. Yes, I drink a fishbowl of a drink called “Porn Star” with my mother.
- Pineapple Express Schooner: Colorado High vodka, Cruzan coconut rum, banana liqueur, pineapple, OJ, and melon liqueur. I don’t like bananas, so I thought I wouldn’t like it, but the pineapple totally masked the banana.
- 8 Seconds Party Cup: Berry vodka, blue curacao, 7up, sweet and sour and tropical Red Bull. Got this for the pick-me-up, but it was better after I mixed in some of the Dazed and Confused.
House of Blues. My mom and I didn’t catch a show, but HOB is one of my favorite venues! A. Because it’s in the heart of downtown surrounded by amazing pre- and post-concert activities, but also B. the venue is just so cute, and there are always great shows, from comedy to country. Tickets are reasonably priced and every seat is a good seat.
#GrazeTheRoof. GreenStreet’s architecture is so aesthetically interesting. There are escalators and staircases everywhere and they sort of chris-cross in the center. Also in the center of GreenStreet: diagonal platforms with vegetation and sheep grazing. OK, not REAL sheep, but real vegetation! Spot a sheep and hashtag #GrazetheRoof.
Lucky Strike. Remember when 2-4 times a year in middle school one of your classmates threw a birthday party at a bowling alley and it was always smelly and the food sucked? Yeah, this isn’t that. I’ve discovered an appreciation of bowling in my mid-twenties, also I am super competitive, so bring it, mom.
This post is sponsored in part by GreenStreet, but all opinions are my own.
Eat and drink
Breakfast, lunch or dinner
This cute eatery is as stylish as it is delicious. Anastasia and I have been dying to go to Edgar’s since we first visited Part & Parcel, the Whitehall’s patio bar (unlike any hotel bar you’ll ever see). And Edgar’s Hermano was just as impressive. It’s coming up on its first birthday, so that’s reason enough to visit to celebrate. Here’s what we had and how we liked it (spoiler: we LOVED it all!):
- Pork Belly Benedict. The most amazing sweet corn grit cakes topped with crispy pork belly and a sunny side up quail egg (so itty bitty!), pomegranate jelly and fried green tomato sauce with tri-color potato hash. Drooling yet? We were. I’m not even pork belly’s biggest fan, but this dish may have reformed me. The cakes were the absolute best part for me.
- Southern Fried Stuffed Chicken. What an amazing world we live in that fried chicken stuffed with macaroni and cheese is a thing. Not only is this an ingenious idea, but there are also masa grits, roasted brussels sprouts and Dr Pepper bacon jam. I ate like a third of this at dinner, but then my mom and I drunk ate the rest at midnight after Pete’s. No regrets.
- Blackened Snapper. My mom’s a fish kinda gal. The blackened snapper is served on a crab etouffee, spanish rice & mexi-south style green beans. She loved it!
- Edgar’s Southern Bell. Made with Edgar’s Truth, the in-house made bourbon, peach liqueur, sweet vermouth and bitters. I sipped this so fast — so refreshing.
- Watermelon Margarita. My mom’s first drink and she was obsessed. Tequila, cointreau, watermelon and lime — so simple. So good.
- South Texas Mule. My mom’s second drink and she was still obsessed. Vodka, lemon juice, grenadine and ginger beer. It’s pink!
Lone Star Taco
Tacos any time
We were kind of at a loss as to where to eat breakfast when we walked past Lone Star Taco — a spot I have seen a million times but never eaten there. Encouraged by the line of people waiting to order, we popped in. I got two of the specialty tacos (both were amazing) and my mom got the bowl. She ate half and couldn’t finish! We got there right as they opened, so they didn’t have the rice and beans ready yet, so they offered her extra chicken. Not a bad deal!
Happy hour or dinner
This spot in GreenStreet took me straight back to Barcelona with its potatas bravas, sangria and its flamenco. We opted for the cheapest, most-filling plates and shared the sangria, so it ended up being a really cheap meal for the four of us. (My mom has left at this point, so I called in the crew!) My favorites were the meatballs (so many options) and the empanadas.
Downtown bar hopping
10 p.m. on
I think Houston’s downtown bars all have their own personality: Pastry War is funky and fun (while its second floor secret sister, Tongue Cut Sparrow, is elusive and sophisticated — reservations only), Okra Charity Bar feels like a college reunion, Boots ‘N Shoots feels like you’re actually in college again, at Dean’s you can actually have a conversation, and, well, I could go on and on. On the second night of the weekend, my mom had to leave, so it was just me and some pals running around town. We hit some of our favorites and tried some new-to-us places.
Other It’s Not Hou recs:
- Brunch at Walker Street Kitchen
- Dinner at Brasserie du Parc
- Brunch at Bovine and Barley
- All-you-can-eat brunch at Quattro
- Brunch or lunch at MKT Bar
- Patio brunch at El Big Bad
- Coffee and snacks at Tout Suite
- We say brunch at Hearsay Gastro Lounge
- Drinks at Part & Parcel
- Coffee at Around the Corner
If I know one thing about my mom, it’s that she loves a good pampering day. As I mentioned before, we had another staycation back when I was in high school and we had day passes to the Four Seasons. With that in mind, I looked into their newly renovated spa and pool! With any spa treatment, you can hang poolside (hammock or otherwise) for as long as you’d like! I really like this pool. It’s small and there’s always one chunk in the shade because of downtown’s towers, but there are poolboys who come set you up with a chaise lounger towel, water (or something stronger), and whatever else you might need. It’s such a little oasis. The manicurist literally had to come drag us inside for our services. But worth it! My mani was so cute and my manicurist (Rosie) is the sweetest. We had the whole nail room to ourselves, which was such a treat. Usually, when you get your nails done, it’s hard enough getting seats next to each other! Staycation or not, my next mani will probably be at the Four Seasons and I will live at the pool for the rest of the day. #Heaven
If the Four Seasons is booked or you want to try something new, the Marriott Marquis’ Pure Spa is amazing! We just got to visit, read the post here!