5 Houston things

5 things every Houstonian should do before they die, according to the guy who wrote the book

5 things every Houstonian should do before they die, by a local expert

Art Car parade downtown fisheye
The Art Card Parade is a quintessential Houston activity.  Photo by Morris Malakoff

William Dylan Powell just "wanted to get out more," explaining what made him write his just-released book, 100 Things to do in Houston Before You Die, 2nd Edition.

Even though he's lived in Houston for 20 years and has previously written books about the city (Lost Houston, Houston Then & Now), Powell used writing a guidebook to explore all the nooks and crannies of this town. "When you live in a place where there are things all around you, you do get in a rut," he says. "I wanted to do a way to get out more."

The book is useful visitors and a must for locals: "Don't be the kind of Houstonian who only goes out when entertaining people from out of town," the book admonishes. "It's important to go and do cool things for yourself, for no particular reason." 

While Powell, who's promoting his tome, has compiled his list of 100 things, we wanted to know what are the top five, must-see attractions, the things that truly make Houston the city that it is? He offers up this list: 

Houston Art Car Parade
The Art Car Museum's yearly display of visually souped-up automobiles is a favorite of Powell's. "I really look forward to the Art Car Parade," he says. "It really brings together creativity and ingenuity, which Houston does very well." He knows the parade is coming up when he spots the participating vehicles rolling all over town. "You just see them leading up to the parade, and it's really swell."

The Original Ninfa's on Navigation
While people may argue bitterly about where to go to get the best fajitas, most people would have to agree that Texans might've never heard of fajitas if it wasn't for Ninfa's — or, more specifically, founder Ninfa Rodriguez Laurenzo (aka Mama Ninfa) bringing them here. "It's just one of those quintessential Houston places," says Powell. "People love the restaurants, but they really love the idea of Mama Ninfa too. She's sort of an icon."

Wiess Energy Hall
Powell has an affection for this place, especially considering his father was in the oil and gas industry. "That place is incredible," he says. "You can learn all about the energy industry, and it's really the only place of its kind. It's, like, 30,000 sq. ft. and costs $40 million and has all kinds of exhibits. It sounds boring, but I swear it's super fun."

Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo/RodeoHouston
"Houston was never really a big cattle town," says Powell. "When this comes around in mid-February, suddenly everybody's a cowboy." Despite its contradictory nature, Powell finds the city's signature event to be a consistently entertaining, down-home blast. "The barbecue is a super-exclusive event where everyone fights to get a wristband. The concerts are amazing, and it's more than just country music. It's a diverse lineup of artists."

Miller Outdoor Theatre
Looking for a cheap-but-still rewarding date night? Powell feels you can't go wrong with packing a picnic and checking out a free show at this damn-near-century-old amphitheater. "It brings together two things: a picnic and theater," he says. "So, for free, you can totally go out there and have some wine and some food and enjoy the show."