The D.E.A.L.: Dining, Entertainment, Attractions & Lodging
by Jeanne Brei
Downtown Houston’s nationally renowned Theater District spans 17 blocks and features seven renowned performing arts organizations and many smaller ones in four venues: Alley Theatre, Hobby Center for the Performing Arts, Jones Hall and Wortham Theater Center. The Theater District also includes one venue dedicated solely to dance: Houston Ballet’s Center of Dance.
Houston is one of only a few U.S. cities with resident professional companies in the four disciplines of the performing arts: ballet, opera, symphony and theater. The city has more than 500 institutions devoted to the performing and visual arts, science and history.
The Houston Symphony resides in Jones Hall, an amazing architectural wonder that offers unparalleled versatility, enabling it to accommodate several art forms. Overhead, 800 hexagons create a moveable marvel that can be raised or lowered to regroup volumes, alter the physical circumstances of a room and manipulate acoustics. The auditorium can literally shrink from 2,912 seats to 2,300. The ambience of the hall is enhanced with its vibrant red velvet seating, golden teak walls and a sweeping loge that seems to reach for the stage. Outside, Jones Hall is just as beautiful, with its curving marble walls and a rectangle of columns. And in the lobby, there’s a “Gemini II” sculpture hovering just below the lobby ceiling that resembles shooting stars as it pays homage to the hall’s performers and acknowledges Houston’s role in space exploration.
From April to November, since 1923, the Miller Outdoor Theatre (in Hermann Park) has been a local favorite for free outdoor performances of professional shows by Theatre Under the Stars, the Houston Symphony and the University of Houston, among others.
Robust doesn’t begin to describe Houston’s cultural arts scene. The Houston Grand Opera is the only opera company in the world with Grammy, Tony and Emmy awards. The Alley Theatre has staged more than 25 world premieres in its history. Backed by private and public contributions, the theatre underwent a $46.5-million renovation in 2014-15. Theatre Under the Stars is one of the largest nonprofit producers of musical theater in America.
Nearby is Bayou Place which hosts the Revention Music Center, a movie theatre, restaurants, event venues and more. For those who like their entertainment more along the party variety, prior to the lockdowns Houston was ranked as the sixth best party hub in the nation with 1,256 bars, 123 dance clubs, 17 beer gardens, eight country dance halls, 13 jazz and blues venues, 63 karaoke bars, 98 music venues, three piano bars and 52 pool halls. They’re located in numerous nightlife districts including Downtown, Midtown, Montrose, Washington Avenue and Rice Village.
If sports are more up your alley, you can take in a Houston Rockets basketball game at the Toyota Center or watch the Astros swing away at Minute Maid Park—which are both downtown. Or you can head to NRG Stadium (formerly Reliant Stadium) to watch the NFL’s Houston Texans’ home games.