Mapping out the perfect girlfriends’ getaway weekend in Texas’ largest (and possibly most exciting!) city Houston is a bright lights, big-city, drive-to destination so full of fabulous options for culture, cuisine and shopping that it’s hard to believe someplace so near and so obvious could be so often overlooked by San Antonians. Perhaps it’s because Houston is such a close backyard neighbor — only three hours by car east on Interstate 10, or — that those in the Alamo City may feel they already know it well enough. But do we? How much of Houston have you explored? Have you been to its museums, visited the theater district or dined at its hottest restaurants? Maybe it’s time you revisited this exciting, quintessentially Texan city. With 6.18 million residents in the Houston/The Woodlands/Sugar Land metropolis, this is the fifth-largest metropolitan area in America and a hub for music, museums, art galleries, shopping, fine dining, coffee shops, cafes, gardens and more. And since it’s only 198 miles away from San Antonio, it’s the perfect place for a quick weekend trip or a nice long summer stay. Here is our latest insider guide itinerary for a SAN ANTONIO WOMAN weekend in Houston with friends
- Cut out of work a few hours early, throw a bag in the backseat, and follow I-10 E to the exit sign where it says “Downtown Destinations,” and soon you’ll arrive downtown at The Four Seasons near the George R. Brown Convention Center. You’ll want a hotel like this set in a central location that’s easy to find if you don’t yet know your way around town.
- The Four Seasons is a good headquarters for your girlfriend weekend because it not only has large executive suites with living rooms where you and your friends can lounge, it also has a tower of guest apartments you can rent just like any other hotel room on property. These suites come complete with kitchenettes and pull-out sofa beds so everyone will have a place to sleep. Best of all, the rates for these little apartments are affordable and run about the same as one executive suite in the main hotel tower, and they’re all quite reasonable if you’re splitting the bill.
PICK UP REINFORCEMENTS
- Across the street from Four Seasons Houston you’ll find Phoenecia Specialty Foods, a large gourmet food market. This is a good place to pick up wine, cheese, bakery items, Mexican Coca-Colas and whatever else you may want to nosh on in your suite over the course of the weekend. If you’re too tired to go out the first night you arrive, have dinner in the hotel’s Quattro Restaurant, a warm, inviting retreat with a focus on contemporary Italian cuisine from chef Maurizio Ferrarese.
- MAKE YOUR WAY TO MAIN STREET
Within walking distance of the Four Seasons, Main Street is a good place to start exploring Houston. There you’ll find plenty of popular watering holes, like Captain Foxheart’s Bad News Bar & Spirit Lodge, a hidden gem of a bar with craft cocktails and a balcony overlooking Main Street. Long for a taste of home? Walk next door into The Pastry War cantina, and try one of their house-made margaritas.
- After enjoying coffee and breakfast in the room, or even poolside by the big fourth-floor pool and hot tub, or in Quattro, you and the girls may want to splurge on little “Tapas Treatments” offered poolside from The Spa. “Tapas treatments” are mini-spa treatments, including a “Mango Mini Massage,” a “Coconut Scalp Soothie,” a “Tropical Food Smoother,” and more — all priced affordably so you can each have a quick individual spa experience without taking up your entire morning.
- Then, when you’re ready to see the city, stop at Common Bond Bakery on Westhemier for a pastry to hold you over while you shop a bit. Yes, they have more than bakery items — it’s a good place for brunch — but for now it’s time to hit Houston’s boutiques.
- Nearby there are great vintage clothing and furniture shops, including a favorite upscale resale store where well-heeled Houstonites sell their glad rags (complete with Chanel, Louboutin, Dior and other designer labels) at More Than You Can Imagine, a woman’s high-end fashion consignment boutique. Other Houston shops worth visiting? See the fine fashions at Chloe Dao, owned by the second–season Project Runway winner of that name. Then check out Baanoua, a stylish fashion boutique in the upscale River Oaks area. Then there is the flagship store of fashion designer David Peck.
- If all that shopping has made you hungry, near the Galleria area, tucked in the back of a delightful garden shop, is a delightful little patio café called Tiny Boxwoods, with fresh menu offerings such as a salad with grilled chicken, spiced pecans, blue cheese crumbles, sliced apples and mixed greens, splashed with an apple cider vinaigrette dressing. On some weekend nights they show old movies out on the patio.
- From there, head to The Galleria shopping mall. With 3 million total square feet of space and more than 375 stores, it is the largest mall in Texas and eighth-largest in the USA.
- But first, you may want to get a fresh juice drink or even a fresh juice cocktail at True Food Kitchen.
- After exploring all the fine stores at The Galleria, you’ll find it’s dinner time. Best to duck into the bright contemporary space of chef Hugo Ortega’s famed Caracol restaurant, featuring Mexican coastal cuisine. Or venture out to Midtown to Weights and Measures Bake Shop and Bar, a 5,000-square-foot casual neighborhood restaurant, bakery and bar located in a 1950s industrial warehouse space. But where else do Houstonites like to dine? Da Marco Italian Restaurant is a jacket-required fine dining spot with accolades from Gourmet magazine, which once rated it one of the “Top 50 Restaurants in the USA.” Another popular fine dining spot is Brasserie 19, the newest Houston dining destination from Clark Cooper Concepts.
- But before you call it a night, check out the Monarch Lounge or even the outdoor poolside bar at the trendy, over-the-top, slightly ostentatious (but truly fun!) Hotel Zaza, formerly the famed Warwick Hotel, located in the Houston Museum District. (Try their signature pink cocktail, “The Big Flirt”).
- Since Sunday is a day of rest, you may want to sleep in a bit and then spend time outdoors. Houston has many delightful parks and hike-and-bike trails. The Four Seasons offers guests two B-Cycle bike-sharing station passes, so you can pick up a bicycle downtown and ride it along the well marked bike lanes all the way to places such as The Heights. There you and your friends may want to pop into Lillo and Ella with its new twist on Asian cuisine—also famous for its distinctive cocktail program. Or check out Coltivare, a new Italian/American spot from Revival Market’s chef Ryan Pera and Morgan Weber.
- If you like art museums, the Menil Collection has one of the largest Matisse collections in the country, and the Museum of Fine Arts will feature a Spectacular Rubens exhibit this spring, along with Unfolding Worlds: Japanese Screens and Contemporary Ceramics, both showing through May 10.
HEADING OUT OF HOUSTON
Now that you’ve had a small taste of Houston, you can understand why locals consider it a city of unexpected delights and pleasant surprises. So wave goodbye to its sparkling skyline as you head west, and then make a promise to your best girlfriends to return next year.
SELFIE SPOTS IN HOUSTON
You’re going to want to share your weekend fun with everyone via social media, on Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and more, so Four Seasons Houston offers free “selfie-sticks” that guests can check out for the day. With these, you and your friends can get great shots of yourselves at the city’s most picture-perfect locations.
Where to go to get superb “selfie” shots? Start here…
- MOUNT RUSH HOUR –Houston’s own version of Mount Rushmore features huge 18-foot-tall white busts of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Sam Houston and Stephen F. Austin, created by Houston artist David Adickes. Officially American Statesmanship Park, locals call it Mount Rush Hour because it is located on the 1400 block of Elder Street, not far from the speedy intersection of I-10 and 45.
- IN FRONT OF THE “WILLIAMS WATER WALL” (Transco Fountain) at The Galleria
- . ON THE SABINE RIVER BRIDGE with the skyline in the background, as seen from Eleanor Tinsley Park on the west side of the city’s urban center.
- 4. AT THE ASTRODOME.
- 5. IN FRONT OF THE “WE LOVE HOUSTON” sign on I-10 at Heights Boulevard.