Xochi turned heads.
The Menil Drawing Institute is the very first freestanding museum in the United States dedicated to modern drawing.
The MFAH's collection of more than 70,000 objects dazzled CNN.
The Wortham Theater is a must-visit.
Hugo Ortega is known for revolutionizing the Mexican food scene in Houston.
You can't pass up Yong at Finn Hall.
The space center is about to get even better.
The Menil Drawing Institute is gaining fame.
Space City denizens are, by and large, exhausted from trying to lure their out-of-town friends to the city for a visit. “Let’s just meet in Austin, I hear there’s a lot to do there” is a common refrain. Or the painful “Houston seems like a great place to live, but not to visit.”
Luckily, the days of the polite dismissals may be dwindling.
Why? Because Houston’s getting more and more national respect.
The latest to take note? CNN heaps praise on The Bayou City in a new story touting, “The Top Nine Reasons to Visit Houston in 2019.”
Travel writer Shivani Vora’s accolades are far-reaching, encompassing everything from Houston’s oft-photographed skyline peppered with all different architectural styles, to the historically significant NASA Johnson Space Center and the thriving, ever-growing art scene.
The CNN list takes off with the 250,000-square-foot space center, where admission is just $29.95 You can take a tram ride and view the world’s largest collection of moon rocks on public display and multiple flown aircrafts.
And it’s not just all the existing pros — Vora mentions the Mission Control Room revamp, set to reopen in July, which will make it identical to how it looked during the Apollo 11 mission.
Houston’s Museum Power
For museums, Vora applauds the trifecta of the Menil Drawing Institute, Museum of Fine Arts Houston and the Holocaust Museum Houston.
The Menil’s new Drawing Institute has been drawing praise since its November opening, Vora notes. The world’s first ever freestanding building dedicated to modern and cotemporary drawing is no small feat, and the institute comes in at 30,000 square feet of rotating exhibitions.
The sprawling MFAH gets kudos for its 70,000-plus objects from cultures across the world and its upcoming $450-million expansion, bringing even more space for contemporary and modern art.
The Holocaust Museum, the fourth largest in the nation, also catches CNN’s attention because of an ambitious expansion. It’s set to more than double in size to 57,000 square feet when it opens in late June.
The museum will feature an all-new human rights gallery, artwork by child survivor and painter Samuel Bak, and will be the first fully bilingual English and Spanish Holocaust museum in the country.
The 17-block Theater District wows CNN’s travel guru, with its more than a dozen theaters, ranging from grand stages to independent houses. She gives a special shout-out to The Wortham Theater and its new Don Giovanni show coming this spring.
Of course, the eating and drinking in H-Town can’t be overlooked. Like others before them, CNN takes note of the burgeoning food hall craze in Houston, highlighting Finn Hall’s Dish Society and Yong. Bravery Hall’s molecular cocktail bar and spacious patio make the list, along with Lyric Market’s planned 4,000-square-foot rooftop deck and underground speakeasy, and Capitol Tower’s Understory.
Then, there’s another kind of establishment that makes Houston special: the rare but rewarding gas station cuisine. Vora rightfully gives Space City a pat on the back for its top notch gas station food, like Sunrise Taquito at the Shell Station in Washington Corridor, with chorizo and made-to-order breakfast.
There’s Valero’s Ekko’s Greek Deli, known for its gyros and baklava, and The Shawarma Stop at a Shell in the Museum District, boasting pita bursting with beef shawarma.
On the other end of the spectrum, there’s Houston’s James Beard Award-level fine dining. A dozen different restaurants in Houston were nominated last year. Vora shines the spotlight on past winner Hugo Ortega’s Xochi restaurant.
Crawfish & Noodles gets a nod, too — the Viet-jun crawfish dishes of your dreams, courtesy of chef Trong Nguyen.
So, go ahead. Tell your friends to pay Houston a visit. CNN is clearly all in.