Houston's downtown has transformed in recent years from a purely commerce-focused CBD to a vibrant, live-work-play neighborhood. You'll find performing arts in the Theater District, a great mix of nightlife and plenty of activities at Discovery Green and Market Square Park.
Hotel Icon is situated in the former 1911 Union National Bank building and is a neoclassical architectural knockout. The 12-story swanky hotel is dog-friendly and features three-story penthouses—the only triplex suites in the city. Another historical Houston beauty, JW Marriott Houston Downtown, is housed in what was once Houston’s first skyscraper. Built in 1910, much of the former Carter Building’s original charm remains, like its Italian marble floors, the Lumberman’s bank vault, and many of the drinking fountains that were once the talk of the town for supplying each floor with iced water. A business-class favorite, The Westin Houston Downtown features stately modern design, lavish amenities while also being pet-friendly. The Doubletree Hotel Downtown offers oversized guest rooms and floor-to-ceiling windows for an expansive view of Houston’s skyline.
It wouldn’t be an authentic Houston experience without a meal at Oaxacan restaurant Xochi. Head chef Hugo Ortega won the prestigious James Beard Best Chef - Southwest category in 2017 for his creative menu that celebrates central Mexican cuisine, featuring a wide variety of housemade masa, moles, and for the daring—a selection of insects like crispy, spicy grasshoppers. Located inside the Rice Hotel, Azuma Sushi & Robata Bar is a sophisticated hipster sushi spot with unique roll offerings like the flash-fried Crazy Irishman Roll and The Red Devil Roll, drizzled in chili oil. Local Foods offers healthier fare with items like the almost-too-good-to-be-vegan cashew queso, colorful harvest salads, and a standout favorite, their truffled egg salad sandwich served on a pretzel bun. Hearsay Gastro Lounge can serve up a mean cocktail while you munch on their crab cakes with Cajun lobster sauce and stuffed chicken breast with sundried tomato, mushroom, and mozzarella.
El Big Bad makes a killer taco but is infamous for their selection of house-infused tequilas. Spice up your margarita with flavor combinations like pecan and cayenne, blueberry and habanero, or lavender and chamomile. Both Warren’s Inn and La Carafe are two of the oldest bars in the city, serving up a side of history with standard classics like a martini or Shiner beer. Historic hipster hangout Dean’s features the city’s first elevator to go with your craft cocktail. Tongue-Cut Sparrow is the hottest watering hole downtown with a masculine speakeasy vibe and an award-winning cocktail menu. Off the boozy path, head over to the Aquarium to pet the stingrays and meet the penguins, catch a show at one of the many amazing stages in the Theater District, or take a stroll through newly updated Market Square Park where rotating live music and casual food trucks abound.