Houston's best life hacks make city life better.
Topo Chico is worth every penny — but why not get it on the cheap?
Houstorian puts Houston front and center.
Take a free trip to the HMNS thanks to CityPASS.
Ninfa's has released their treasured queso recipe.
Bun B is one great professor.
There are many Little Free Libraries all over Houston.
Frank's Grill is the no-frills hangover breakfast cure you so desperately need.
Nordstrom doesn't just have great shoes. It boasts the best Galleria parking too.
Living in Houston, Texas is truly a privilege. This world-class city has so very much to offer, from some of the greatest restaurants in America, to some kick-butt sports teams, a creative collection of cultural institutions and unparalleled diversity.
But there are the occasional drawbacks, from humidity to parking. Overall, though, Houston is more than worth it.
With that in mind, PaperCity has gathered up some Houston Hacks for living your best Space City life. Whether that’s landing primo parking, learning the tricks of the trade to Tex-Mex’s crowning achievement, or dressing like you wouldn’t belong anywhere else, we have you covered.
There may be some things you know, and there may be some things you don’t. Either way, we hope you enjoy it.
Weather the Weather
Making It Up
In order to survive the notorious Houston humidity, you’re going to have to take some care with your cosmetics case. Must haves:
— Blotting paper or oil-absorbing tissues, whatever you want to call them, for the humidity in spring, and summer and, well fall
— SPF lip balms to protect your pucker during long runs or trips to Galveston. We recommend the superlative-scented Sun Bum sticks in either coconut or watermelon
— Waterproof mascara for those torrential-downpour kind of days
— Anti-humidity hair serum or spray, to keep the frizz down and your hair nice and sleek
Forgive us if the next one makes us sound bossy, but there are certain essentials you will absolutely need to keep in your motor vehicle in order to survive the Houston elements.
— Your favorite pair of sunnies so you can easily keep your eyes on the road
— A small, handy umbrella to get from Point A to Point B during one of our mini-monsoons
— An extra pair of shoes, if you’re able, also in case of the rain
— Bug spray, because you never know when you’ll need it
In queso you haven’t heard
If you’re a self-respecting Texan, you need to know how to make a killer queso. And sure, that could mean combining a healthy portion of Velveeta with Ro-tel. Or, you could step it up with your very own Ninfa’s Chile Con Queso. Luckily, their recipe is online — with Velveeta, yes, but also cilantro, grated cheddar, pickled jalapeno and more.
You can’t Topo this offer
If you love Topo Chico — and as a Houstonian, you definitely do — you know that prices for the supreme fizzy water vary wildly. It may be cheaper than Perrier and San Pellegrino, which are clearly inferior, but it can still add up. Walmart may have 12 bottles for just over $7, but Instacart wins the day with a whopping 20 bottles for $13.73.
To be perfectly Frank
With a bevy of Houston bars and opportunities to partake in boozy beverages, it is key that you know the best breakfast and brunch spots to cure that pesky hangover. You could always hit up the bougie spots that make up Top 10 lists, or you could go to one of the many unassuming, delicious and no-frills Frank’s Grills scattered throughout town.
They’re consistently highly rated, and lines never get too bad because service is so quick. Be sure to order your bacon extra-crispy — they’ll listen.
Read Between the Lines
The avid reader out there knows that the Houston Public Library is a must. They just can’t do without their library cards, the only way to truly satisfy their voracious reading habit — especially when they want the real deal, not just something to scroll through on a Kindle. But if you want to play things on the cheap — and you have an open mind — consider one of the tons and tons of Little Free Libraries in Houston.
Access to this wide variety of books is gratis — you just have to take a book and return a book.
Hip To It
When it comes to the Houston hip hop scene, few artists are as influential as the epic Bun B. If you want to come face to face with this legend, you don’t have to wait for the lucky day there’s a concert. You can actually learn from him at Rice University, thanks to his Religion and Hip Hop Culture course.
For six weeks, you can absorb the intersection between music and doctrines. Talk about an elective.
There are plenty of great concert venues in Houston. You can check out myriad musicians with a million different genres. But if you want to be the one on stage, it can be tricky to find the best open mic night — one where you know where you won’t potentially be heckled.
Head to McGonigel’s Mucky Duck, an aces Irish pub-meets-concert-venue to strum your guitar and bare your soul. You can make the most of your three songs (or 15 minutes), whether you want to play something original or riff on a classic. It’s a safe space, and a fun one.
You’d Better Beylieve It
Whether or not you’re a fan of her music, starting back with Destiny’s Child, or after she went solo, you have to be a fan of Beyonce in Houston. Or at least pretend to be one. You will never hear the end of it if you proffer a different opinion, so there’s really no reason to rock the boat.
Snap an Insta at Frenchy’s to show your solidarity, if you’re not willing to lay down the big bucks for tickets on her next tour.
Houston’s incredibly impressive Museum District has always been a point of pride. But the price point of admission hasn’t always been. There are certainly the obvious hacks: the MFAH is free on Thursday, except for ticketed exhibitions. From September through May, the first Tuesday of each month is free at the Houston Zoo, from noon until close — however it’s the second Tuesday in January.
The cultured can always opt for individual memberships. Still, the CityPASS is a great way to start.
The pass includes admission discounts for Space Center Houston, Downtown Aquarium, Houston Museum of Natural Science, the Houston Zoo or the MFAH, and the Kemah Boardwalk or the Children’s Museum of Houston. The cost is $63 per adult and $52 for children between 3 and 12. Kids under 3 typically get in for free at museums, but you can check individual sites.
All Gussied Up
To a Tee
For those of you who always want to look your best, we know it’s tempting not to look like everybody else. And if you like to show your Houston pride through your duds, it can be hard not to sport the same Astros or Rockets tees you see every day on the street.
So if you want some more nuanced, unique H-Town pride clothes, look no further than Houstorian. You’ll find tees featuring a graphic of the loop, an aerial view of the iconic Astrodome, a proud mutton bustin’ message and even a shout-out to Mattress Mack. The clothes really do make the man — or woman.
Two Steps to Success
We may be in the big city, but we’ll never lose our country roots here in the land of big skies and bluebonnets. Some people may wait until Rodeo time to dust off their cowboy boots — only to get them dusty again — while others sport them as long as the seasons allow.
It may be tempting to just trot on over to Cavender’s, but if you want to truly pick yourself up by your boot straps, go to Wheeler Paul Boot Company for a totally customized product. Handcrafted to your exact specifications, you’ll find carved tops, casual boots, dress boots, historical boots and even those categorized as “over the top” featuring such motifs as parrots, catfish and the Houston Texans. They’re a pretty penny, but they’re more than worth it.
A Drive in the Park
When people think of parking in Downtown Houston, visions of garages that cost what feels like $20 a minute dance in their heads. But there are some parks spread around that are $0 for the first 15 to 30 minutes, in case you’re on the go. But best of all, on-street parking is, in fact, free after 6 pm Mondays through Saturdays. Not to mention free all day Sundays.
Let’s Go to the Mall
The most dreaded part of a trip to The Galleria is finding a parking space, especially now that they’re wise to randoms parking in the Dillard’s lot. There’s a great deal of contention regarding the best lot to park in — with some people throwing up their hands and going for the valet — but the people we spoke to had a resounding answer: the Nordstrom lot, both for filling up last and ease of exiting.