Austin | Dallas | Houston
Adventures in H-Town

When a newcomer plays Tour Director: Spreading the message of Houston to visitors and locals alike

News_Sarah_No Reservations_Cockrell Butterfly Center_exterior_day
Houston Museum of Natural Science Courtesy of Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau
Places-Eat-Goode Co. Barbecue-Kirby Drive-exterior-1
Goode Co. Photo by Chris Conyers
Places-Eat-Empire Cafe-exterior-1
Empire Cafe Photo by Chris Conyers
News_El Real_diners
El Real Photo by Julie Soefer/Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau
News_Sarah_No Reservations_Cockrell Butterfly Center_exterior_day
Places-Eat-Goode Co. Barbecue-Kirby Drive-exterior-1
Places-Eat-Empire Cafe-exterior-1
News_El Real_diners
News_Cathy Parsons_head shot_column mug

One of the best things about loving one’s newly adopted city is having the chance to show it off when old friends and family come to town. I honestly go a little nuts when I have the opportunity to play Tour Director to my guests, who dare to let me plan virtually every minute of their Houston visits.

The most recent recipient of my eagerness to show off my new home was one of my best Tennessee pals. Sandy and I go waaay back, and after months of talking about it during late-night marathon phone calls, we finally scheduled a lil’ girls-only getaway to H-Town. 

As I did with my son, Adam, a couple of months ago, I went into major Planning Mode pre-visit to line up the best of what the city has to offer. But it's hard — very hard — to showcase Houston’s charms with only three or four days in your timetable.  I put out an alert to my new Houston friends asking for their favorite places, but good grief!

Their combined lists were just as long as my own. I was concerned that I would get overwhelmed by the wealth of choices and then choke at the last minute — not a good feeling. But as usual, once I realized that my guests have all been pretty open-minded as to the options, it got easier to just go with it. And the icing on the cake was the knowledge that my super cool and very understanding boyfriend, RT, was completely on board to make sure that my Tour Directing would result in a trip to remember every time.

As a long-time Houstonian who embraced the city after moving here 20 years ago, he is the perfect ambassador to any newcomer.

 The drive into Highland Village is just such a show-stopper, and this palm tree-lined street is still one of my favorites. 

So if you have old college buddies, family or other friends looking to roll in for a fall getaway, I will outline how I handled my hostessing duties. And by all means, feel free to send in a list of all the places I missed! There's lots more company heading this way.

Ideally I like my guests to arrive around noon-ish, and if they fly into Hobby, I have the chance to drive into the city and really show off the skyline. (I personally believe the view from I-45 northbound is pretty hard to beat — day or night). For Sandy’s visit, I opted to swing around to one of my favorite Tex Mex places — Escalante’s, which is more of a Ladies Who Lunch than an Urban Cowboy kind of establishment. As always, it was the ideal lunch spot.

The drive into Highland Village is just such a show-stopper, and this palm tree-lined street is still one of my favorites.

Also on the agenda were Goode Company Bar-B-Q, a kitchy seafood joint with an upstairs patio in Galveston, Galveston Beach for major people watching, Grappino’s on Dallas, Empire Café, the funky strip of antique stores on Westheimer, El Real, Discovery Green, about half the stores in the Galleria (a place that I still get lost in), The Houston Museum of Natural Science, Rice University's campus and Hermann Park.

I apologized profusely that this was all we had time to see before I dropped her back off at the airport. Since she flew in on Saturday and left on Tuesday, that meager list was the best I could do. I think she is now fully recovered and ready to come back for round two.  I hope she hurries, because we barely scratched the surface.

 No minute was wasted. No attraction went without consideration. The entire trip was Go Time. 

My son, a film editor living in Nashville, met with a similar fate during his time in the Bayou City. We squeezed in virtually every possible activity that we could manage in his three-day visit.

No minute was wasted. No attraction went without consideration. The entire trip was Go Time.

It was a virtual festival of laughs and fun, which is one of the reasons I love this city. It astonishes me that some people who have lived here for a long time just have no idea how lucky they are. I remember reading a letter to an editor of one of the weeklies and seeing the complaint that “we don’t get anything good here."

Seriously? In Houston?! Nuh-uh.

I feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day/week/month to take advantage of even a fraction of the amazing activities and events that this city has to offer. From a dizzying and constantly growing assortment of restaurants, shops, art spaces and museum happenings, sporting events and the vibrant film community, well, I just feel incredibly lucky to be here. And I love a good birthday celebration.

So happy 175th, H-Town! Thanks for inviting me into your midst.

Newsletters for exploring your city

Daily Digest

Houston news, views + events

The Dining Report

News you can eat

Insider Offers

Curated experiences at exclusive prices

Promo Alerts

Special offers + exclusive deals

We will not share or sell your email address