2023 most houston moments
Houston's 10 most memorable moments of 2023 — in photos
When reflecting on life’s most memorable moments, it’s often sights and images we most vividly recall. So, as we take a glimpse back at the year that was 2023 in Houston, we’re heeding legendary newspaper editor Tess Flanders’ advice that a picture is “worth a thousand words.”
Here, then, are our most memorable and consummately Houston moments of 2023 — in photos.
February: Memorial Park finally opens its game-changing land bridges
Years in the making, and made possible by Houston’s billionaire benefactors Rich and Nancy Kinder, the park’s land bridges over Memorial Drive finally opened to the public. At the sunny grand opening celebration, Mayor Sylvester Turner joined power players and regular folk, many who donned picnic baskets handed out by Texas’ favorite grocer, H-E-B. The bridges make for safe passage for humans and animals over all lanes of Memorial and connect both segments of the massive park. The land bridge opening marked a year that saw a new running park and stony stairs.
Photo courtesy of Memorial Park Conservancy
March: Bun B dons a UGK poncho during his RodeoHouston Southern Takeover
These days, it seems like it’s Bun B’s world and we’re all just living in it. This year, the rap icon turned 50 (we were there to help him celebrate), took his wildly popular Trill Burgers to the next level (more on that later) and managed to expand his historic RodeoHouston H-Town Takeover with his Southern Takeover this year. Can it get more H-Town than Port Arthur native Bun B repping UGK — the legendary duo he co-founded with the late Pimp C — by donning a poncho? At the rodeo? Big pimpin’, indeed, Bun. In a made-for-TV twist, the poncho was stolen (read our exclusive here), but one word from the OG (Original Godfather here) sparked a quick return.
The OG also rocked a UGK poncho. Photo by Marco Torres
April: Simone Biles marries Jonathan Owens
CultureMap was the first in Houston to report that our beloved gymnastics G.O.A.T. married her handsome fiancé/NFL safety Jonathan Owens. For their first ceremony, the couple — who know live in Green Bay since former Houston Texan Owens signed with the Packers — held a private affair at the downtown Houston courthouse, accompanied only by a judge and photographer. Biles’ look at the camera is at once triumphant, powerful, peaceful — and, we must be note — seems a perfect glare to any of her past (and comical) doubters.
Photo by Rachel Taylor/RaeTay Photography
April: Taylor Swift electrifies NRG Stadium
Swifties young and old packed NRG in their best Tay Era fits when Swift came to town. The 33-year-old It Girl of 2023 put on a masterful, two-night Eras Tour run that saw a three-hour performance each night — and even a minor hand injury. We loved seeing all the Eras Tour fits, friendships bracelets, and really, all the love at the closing night show. Even the harshest Swift critic can’t argue her nonstop wardrobe changes, athletic performance, and persona-shifting. And the love is mutual: she donated to charities here and even spurred a cat adoption special. We hope Bun B doesn’t mind us glossing Swift’s run as a mini “Tayke-over.”
Swift channeled rock goddess Stevie Nicks with her flowing dress. Photo: Bob Levey/Getty Images/Taylor Swift Twitter
May: Bun B, Lynn Wyatt, and Queenie Freeman hang with Queen Sophia
Speaking of Bun, we’ll never forget sitting with him, his darling wife Queenie, and Houston society titan Lynn Wyatt at dinner during a ceremony welcoming Spain’s Queen Sophia to Houston. Eavesdropping on longtime friends Wyatt’s and Bun’s chats while we sat at the MFAH dinner table — and the photo: priceless.
Photo by Daniel Ortiz
June: Houston-loving Drake crashes Trill Burgers and calls it “best” he’s ever had
Only Bun B could pivot from decades-long, OG rap icon into Trill Burgers the hottest smash burger and Houston, one that won best burger on Good America. When he opened the wildly anticipated first Trill Burgers brick and mortar location, the response was so massive that traffic on Shepherd Drive was affected for months. In an absolutely Houston moment, Drake — an honorary Houstonian for years who regularly shares his love for H-Town worldwide — stopped by to tear into a Trill Burger. He shared his review on IG with his 139 million followers: “The best burger I've ever had. For real,” he told Bun B, whom he calls a mentor. “My brother, I love you.” Houston loves Bun and Trill Burgers too; look for presences at Texans games, Dynamo games, pop-ups, and more this year.
Photo by Marco Torres/@MarcoFromHouston
August: Alex Bregman swaps his bat for Raising Cane’s headset
Boasting a work, and workout, ethic that rivals a Navy SEAL, Houston Astros superstar Alex Bregman rarely takes a day off — even on his day off. “Pressure is a privilege,” he told us when we joined him for his drive-thru shift at a local Raising Cane’s restaurant — a shift he undertook with his trademark focus. (He’s been a Cane’s fans since his days chowing down at LSU.) We know he can crush Breggy Bombs, but man, did Bregman crush hilarious welcome lines like, “Chicken, chicken, what combo you pickin’?” at the window to stunned customers. Since 2018, we’ve covered Bregman’s kindness to drive-thru staff with big tips. What about a surprise gift trip to a Cane’s, drive-thru, Alex? “Oh, we may have to bring back the drive-thru video and do it at Cane’s,” he replied with a grin.
Photo by Raising Cane's
September: Destiny’s Child reunites at Beyoncé’s jaw-dropping homecoming Renaissance tour stop
Beyoncé's Renaissance Tour Houston homecoming was so hotly anticipated, we spoke to fans at the show who flew in from other cities just because they knew these two shows would just hit different. With native Houstonians Lizzo and other big names in the audience, a Megan Thee Stallion cameo, dazzling graphics and lights, and show-stopping vocals, the night was best summed up with Queen Beys opening statement to the NRG Stadium crowd: “Oh tonight, H-Town, it's goin’ down.” In a night of stunning imagery, the one image from the show that has nearly broken the internet is the photo founding member LeToya Luckett shared of all original Destiny’s Child members together — with Queen Bey — backstage. Foreshadowing? We can only hope.
October: Chris Shepherd’s restaurant charity event smokes previous records
Few food events anywhere allow fans the kind of access to A-listers and national food celebs like Chris Shepherd’s Southern Smoke Festival, which raises funds to assist hospitality workers nationwide. But the biggest moment is the big check, where Shepherd presents the total raised over two days. This year’s haul was enough to make the always-jovial Shepherd cry — happy tears, of course: $1.8 million. (That's up $200,000 from the prior year.) “The amount of people that this will help,” he told the crowd. “The amount of mental health sessions that we can provide with this. The amount of rent we can help. The amount of people getting out of a domestic violence situation. It’s unfathomable.” By our math, a $2 million festival is well within reach next year.
The event raised $1.8 million. Photo by Emily Jaschke
October: Altuve’s thank you
A true pro sports good guy and giant of ability and character, Houston Astros second baseman José Altuve has been a calm, steady — and blameless (for the haters) — presence for the team and bridge to the 2017 championship. Understandably, few people on the planet could have more reason to be devastated after the Houston Astros 11-4 ALCS Game 7 loss to the Texas Rangers than Altuve, who kept the series alive with a heroic Game 5 performance. But as he stood in a sedate Astros clubhouse in Minute Maid Park after the 11-4 stunner, Altuve displayed the calm, balanced demeanor that has made him a team superhero during the Astros recent reign. When he took a moment with us, we asked him for a message to the fans who were still chanting "Let’s go Astros," at the bottom of the ninth inning for our Instagram story. His eyes still red from the emotion of the night, Altuve paused for a long thought before offering a heartfelt thanks, ending with, “we love them — they never give up, no matter where we are, and thats why I say they’re the best fans in the world.” The Rangers may have won the MLB title this year, but Altuve’s grace reminded us that he’s a true champion in every way.
Photo by Steven Devadanam