Many meeting attendees are natural walkers. They arrive in a destination, sans car, and most prefer to keep it that way. It’s simpler and a lot more affordable. When destinations work to sell their cities to prospective meeting planners and attendees, they often borrow a page from old real estate moguls with the adage of “it’s all about location, location, location.” Those moguls were right. People want things conveniently located, especially when we’re traveling. In a perfect world, nearly everything worth seeing, doing and experiencing would be just a few minutes’ walk away.
Houston embraced that line of thinking as they reimagined the area around their convention center. By next year, with renovations now well underway, Houston’s downtown convention district is said to “transform into a dynamic entertainment and hospitality campus.”
When I caught up with the marketing team at Visit Houston, I wanted to determine whether the “promotional truth” was indeed real. After peppering them with questions about whether convention attendees could find real Houston experiences within a five minute walk of the George R. Brown Convention Center, another adage turned out to be true: everything really is bigger in Texas. The list they suggested was huge and included everything from where to get the best donuts to finding a good printer. I’ve curated my favorites and pared the list down a bit for readability’s sake. The next time you’re meeting in Houston, you’ll want to check out these authentically Houston finds.
Best Local Eatery - Irma’s Original
Irma Galvan’s James Beard Award-winning Mexican restaurant has been a downtown fixture for more than 20 years, drawing in the lunch time crowd for authentic home cooking and Galvan’s famous lemonade. Irma’s Original received the James Beard Foundation's America's Classics Award, as a "small, regional restaurant that has carved out a special place on the American culinary landscape."
Best Fine Dining - Oxheart
Oxheart is a unique restaurant run by native Houstonians that serves up Texas's best ingredients, cooked in a focused and creative way. Their pre-fixe menu features super-intriguing options. I’m game for the Créme Fraiche crémeux with dried strawberries glazed in mushroom and sorghum, thyme, lime. And true foodies will delight; chef-owner Justin Yu was recently named as the Best Chef: Southwest at the James Beard Foundation gala in May 2016.
Best Ethnic Restaurant - Bombay Pizza Company
Imagine a fusion of Indian and Italian and you’ll begin to conjure up the vision of Bombay Pizza Company. Whether you’re game for a Tandoori Chicken pizza or traditional Lasagne spiced with Tandoori masala, you’ll find a one-of-a-kind experience here.
Best Craft Cocktail- Original OKRA Charity Saloon
Imagine a bar that never makes a profit. That’s exactly how the OKRA Charity Saloon planned it. Each cocktail, (or wine or beer, for that matter) comes with a ticket that allows patrons to choose their favorite charity each month to be recipient of the saloon’s proceeds. A collaboration of independent Houston bars and restaurants operate OKRA, highlighting conversations around community needs. They’ve already donated more than $750,000 since opening in 2013.
Best Microbrew - 8th Wonder Brewery
Houston’s Astrodome – proclaimed the 8th Wonder in the World when it opened in 1965 – inspired 8th Wonder Brewery’s dome-like warehouse located in East Downtown. Brews reminiscent of Houston’s aerospace, Astrodome and agricultural highlight the taproom selections, including Dome Faux’m Throwback Cream Ale, Rocket Fuel Vietnamese Coffee Porter and Pharm House Agave Saison brewed with blue agave nectar.
Best Outdoor Space - Discovery Green
A 12-acre park literally right outside the doors of the convention center, Discovery Green is a Houston’s community gathering place. Programmed with a myriad of special events, the park also features kayak and stand-up paddle board rentals, a monthly night market with upcycled furniture and other collectibles, and an innovative thought leader speaker series.
Best Shopping & More – Greenstreet
A redeveloped downtown street, Greenstreet has become a hub for shopping, dining and entertainment. The development features popular retailers like BCBG Max Azria and Forever XXI, along with great restaurants, galleries and entertainment venues including House of Blues where you’ll find Houston’s best live music nightly.
Best Running/Walking Trail - Buffalo Bayou Park
With 160 acres of natural beauty, Houston’s Buffalo Bayou Park offers the perfect opportunity to catch a breath of fresh air between sessions. With miles of trails for walking, running or cycling, it connects to many other parks and historic areas that you can enjoy by downloading the Buffalo Bayou Guide.
Houston’s vision is the real deal. To find out more about Houston’s walkable convention district and the authentic experiences your attendees can have, contact the sales team at VisitHouston.com.
Learn more about Houston’s destination developments in Redefining The Destination Experience.
Brought to you by Visit Houston