Most cities, downtown is the hippest, happening part of town, and for years and years, that didn’t seem to be too true of Hou. However, times have changed, bars have sprinkled all around Main Street, Discovery Green and GRBCC has thrived, the Metro Light Rail has spread out all around, and Houston’s Downtown Living Initiative has made it realistically affordable to live in 77002.
So, park your car and explore our beloved and ever-changing Downtown Houston.
Don’t live in DT, but still wanna experience it? Check out our staycation guide and that time we went to the Marriott Marquis pool.
Where you need to go
- Best park: Discovery Green –ton of free events and workouts
- Best Brunch: Walker Street Kitchen
- Best Brunch Buffet: Quattro
- Best French Food: Brassiere Du Parc
- Best Fast Bite: Phoenicia Specialty Foods — go during lunch if you work downtown!
- Best Pizza: Bombay Pizza — omg Indian fusion *heart eyes emoji*
- Best Late Night Pizza: Frank’s –open to 3am on weekends
- Best Happy Hour Deal: Bovine and Barley
- Best Late Night Eats: The Conservatory — get the crepes!
- Best Drinking for a Cause: Okra Charity Saloon
- Best Bar for Fun and Games: Dean’s
- Best Hidden Treasure of a Bar: Tongue Cut Sparrow (second floor of Pastry War)
- Best Bachelorette Party: Prohibition Supper Club and Bar
- Best Place to Sing your Lungs Out: Pete’s Dueling Piano Bar
- Best Workout: Sphere Class at the Four Seasons
- Best Spa: Pure Spa at Marriot Marquis
- Best Shopping: GreenStreet
- Best Coffee: Café Bene
- Best Place to Dance the Night Away: Boot n’ Shoots — second floor y’all
- Best Rooftop Bar: Live Sport Bar – I know dumb name, but the patio is fireeee
- Best Pool: Marriott Marquis — duh
- Best Coworker-Worthy Lunch Catch Up Spot: Local Foods — located off Main St.
- Best Coworker-Worthy Dinner: The Grove
- Best Coworker-Worthy Happy Hour: Part & Parcel
- Best Breakfast: Niko Niko’s at Market Square — breakfast gyros ftw
- Best Thai: Banana Leaf
- Best Margs: El Big Bad
- Best Mural: Houston is Inspired by Market Square
- Best Beer Selection: Flying Saucer
- Best NYE Party: Crystal Ballroom at the Rice Hotel
- Best Old AF Bar: La Carafe — oldest bar in Houston?
- Best Southern Food: Treebeards
- Best HRW Menu: Xochi
- Best Beer Garden: Saint Arnold Beer Garden
- Best Hand Crafted Cocktails: Cottonmouth Club
- Best Indoor Cycling Class: Ryde
- Best Staycation: Le Meridien Houston Downtown
What you need to know
The Central Business District is pretty much synonymous with “Downtown Houston,” and it’s got some weird rules. Like no public outdoor drinking, which means no boozy picnics in Discovery Green (Fun fact: you can pop bottles at any other public park! Just be respectful and follow glass/no-glass rules). Other than that, the Central Business District is business as usual.
The MetroRail is pretty clutch when it comes to navigating DTHTX. Tickets are only $1.25, and please, please pay that. If you get caught riding
dirty without a ticket, you can be fined up to $500. OUCH. The METRO website has all sorts of helpful tools if you choose the Rail for your commute, click here to learn more. If you’re headed to an Astros game or to the Toyota Center, definitely keep this in mind to avoid the crazy post-event traffic! Plus, if you work downtown, know that you can also take the GreenLink bus for free to get around during work hours!
Trains are cool. Also cool: TUNNELS! How fun does tunnels 20 feet underground sound? Spoiler: they aren’t THAT cool. Mostly full of quick-stop eateries, the 6-mile tunnel system is primarily for downtown bizmen and women’s breaks and connects 95 city blocks. Plan not to have cell service when exploring, and warning: since this is a thing mostly for the business community, don’t count on things being open week nights and weekends. You can access the tunnels from Wells Fargo Plaza and McKinney Garage on Main, or from an office building, if you have connections.
Downtown is cool, and has its own vibe, different from it’s neighbors like Midtown or Washington Corridor. Downtown peeps are young professionals — maybe even on the older side of young professionals. When going out in downtown, you don’t need to squeeze into tight dresses or high heels (or whatever the male equivalent is to that), but you do have to dress a little nicer than a casual patio bar.
Despite all the eateries and bars, Downtown is a bit of a food desert when it comes to grocery stores. Your closest one might be in Midtown, unless you want to spend an arm and a leg at Phoenicia (which is great and def makes our list of where to go). Keep that in mind before you move downtown and sell your car — you might be trekking weekly to the West Alabama HEB.
Parking’s a pill anytime there’s a weekend event downtown, which happens OFTEN. Metered street parking is always available (if you search hard enough), and is free on Sundays and after six p.m. every other day. Weekend event parking or garage parking will cost you no less than $10, but here’s a super convenient web map that tells you where you can park. Pro tip: Get the parking meter app so you can pay from your phone when the meter is running out!
Speaking of events, there are just too many to even list. Some of our favorites are: The Art Car Parade, the Chevron Houston Marathon, Houston Margarita Festival, Pride Houston, Freedom Over Texas, Oktoberfest Houston, Bayou City Art Festival Downtown, Thanksgiving Day Parade, and more!
Also, don’t forget the Theatre District which has everything you’ve ever wanted with respect to concerts, ballet, symphonies, and plays.