Breckenridge Ski Resort/Facebook

Spring break is top-of-mind for many Houstonians, and many are escaping our humidity for crisp Colorado air and ski resorts.

And in the latest report from vacation rental specialist Key Data, more Houston spring breakers have set their sights on the Breckenridge Ski Resort more than any other destination. Two other Colorado ski resorts in Steamboat Springs (No. 2) and Vail (No. 3) are also at the top of the list.

Key Data determined their rankings based on the average nightly rate, the number of nights sold, the total accommodation cost, and the length of stay by travelers from Houston who made bookings in the month of March.

Though many Houstonians will stay in the great state of Texas, they won’t be sitting idle at home. They’ll be off to Port Aransas, which was ranked the No. 4 top destination for spring breakers in the report. Coming in at the No. 5 spot for the top destinations for Houston spring breakers is a city in the sunshine state: Destin, Florida.

For the curious minds wondering how much the average spring break stay is for the ski resort in Breckenridge, Key Data’s figured it out. The cost of the average 4.4-night accommodation at the resort adds up to $679 per night, or just over $3000 total. For those looking to stay closer to home by traveling to Port A, you’d be surprised to learn you’re not saving much money. Visitors will spend $852 per night, or $3,704 total for accommodations in Port A for the same amount of time as a spring break vacationer in Colorado.

In a press release, Key Data’s executive director of data insights Melanie Brown said the city’s spring breakers are divided into two categories this year: vacationers looking to see the mountains and embrace the snow, and those who want to catch some rays at the beach.

“Houstonians are having to part with quite large sums to stay in these locations, reflecting the huge popularity of these destinations with travelers from all over the US,” she explained.

The top 5 destinations for Houston spring breakers is:

  • No. 1 – Breckenridge, Colorado
  • No. 2 – Steamboat Springs, Colorado
  • No. 3 – Vail, Colorado
  • No. 4 – Port Aransas
  • No. 5 – Destin, Florida

Key Data also determined that 11 million nights for this year’s spring break week have been booked through online vacation rental marketplaces like Airbnb and Vrbo. That’s up 22 percent from last year, which accounted for 9.4 million nights.

The full report can be found at keydatadashboard.com.

Space Center Houston/Facebook

Houston soars in new list of best U.S. cities for family-friendly vacations


Houstonians looking to create lasting memories with their families don’t need to look further than their own city. In a new report from lawn care company Lawn Love, Houston scored No. 8 in the top 10 Best Cities for Kid-Friendly Vacations.

200 of America’s largest cities were ranked using 23 metrics, including affordability, family-friendly accommodations, attractions, transportation options, and more. Houston was classified as the third safest city for kid-friendly vacations, and earned the No. 6 spot in the category of “getting around” or ease of transportation.

In the category of most amusement and theme parks, Houston ranked No. 5 in a three-way tie with San Diego, California and Denver. With fun attractions like the Children’s Museum Houston, Space Center Houston, and the Houston Museum of Natural Science, it’s not hard to see the magnetism for children. Houston also tied at No. 3 with Baltimore, Maryland in the category of most children’s hospitals.

Houston also received the following rankings in other categories:

  • 13th – kid-friendly attractions
  • 17th – family-friendly accommodations
  • 59th – affordability
  • 75th – kid-friendly restaurants per square mile

When planning your next vacation, Christina Sharp, faculty member at MiraCosta College in California, says there are no rules that say all family members have to agree on what to do.

"Let folks carve out time for themselves and the activities they want to do and ensure that there are activities for everyone to do together," she suggests. "My 92-year-old father-in-law didn’t want to go to the beach – and that was fine. We went while he read. But we all did take walks, eat meals, and watch TV together – and it was wonderful."

Sharp also recommends families plan ahead when deciding their mode of travel, and to limit use of technology once at their destination in order to connect and bond with each other.

Rounding out the top 10 list is San Antonio, known for their combination of amusement and water park attractions. Other Texas cities on the list include Dallas and Austin, coming in at No. 11 and No. 29, respectively.

The full top 10 list of best US cities for kid-friendly vacations includes:

  1. New York City
  2. Orlando, Florida
  3. Miami
  4. Las Vegas
  5. Chicago
  6. Tampa, Florida
  7. San Francisco
  8. Houston
  9. Los Angeles
  10. San Antonio

More information about Lawn Love’s report can be found at lawnlove.com.

F.D.’s Express Burgers and Wings/Instagram

3 innovative Houston food and drink pioneers score crucial grants from the Texas Food & Wine Alliance


Texas’ skyrocketing culinary scene is about to get a huge boost.The Texas Food & Wine Alliance’s grant program has awarded $107,500 to 19 culinary innovators around the state. This marks the Alliance’s 11th year providing funding to support culinary projects contributing to local communities.

The award winners were recently announced in a ceremony at Austin's Holdsworth Center. A private panel of distinguished culinary experts chose the winners out of 40 grant applications this year.

Three winners from Houston received a total of $12,750. Meanwhile, nine winners hail from Austin, three from Dallas-Fort Worth, and four from San Antonio. The awards range from $1,500 to $10,000, with a special $25,000 grant investment from Austin favorite Tito’s Handmade Vodka in honor of the company’s 25th anniversary. Grant funding will support chefs, farms, and culinary education groups, among others.

Here are Houston's winners:

Royal Caliber Ranch – $6,250

A winner of the Tito's Handmade Vodka Entrepreneur Grant, Royal Caliber Ranch is woman-led ranch raising diverse breeds of goats for nearly 20 years in Waller. Grant funds will help the business secure the dairy parlor's infrastructure, including labor and materials for a pole barn, concrete, and utilities needed per U.S.D.A. requirements, according to press materials.

J.I.V.E Juice Company– $4,000

The juice company specializing in cold-pressed fruit juices and smoothies using organic, non-pasteurized ingredients is the winner of the Houston Food & Wine Alliance Grant. Funds will facilitate product testing and a shelf-life study and assist in product branding and marketing.

F.D.’s Express Burgers and Wings – $2,500

This popular spot partnering with the Booker T. Washington Empowerment Center to launch a culinary training institute specializing in Soul Food received $1,500 from Truffle Masters Grant for Community Heroes and is also a Houston Food & Wine Alliance Grant recipient. Grant funds will supplement the cost of training those who require financial assistance.

Elsewhere in Texas

Austin-area winners received the most funding from the grant program, totaling $53,750, while San Antonio winners received $21,250. Dallas/Fort Worth winners were awarded $19,750. All of the 2022 winners reflect just how diverse the state's trailblazing culinary scene continues to expand.

“All of this year’s funded projects will further enrich the state through innovation and giveback,” said Erika White, executive director of the Alliance. “We’re extremely grateful to each of the Texas communities, our sponsors and their support in allowing us to reward these mold-breaking projects.”

In Austin, organic farm Trosi Farms was awarded the most funding, totaling $10,000 from Tito’s and the Austin Food & Wine Alliance. The wild crop-breeding operation will be able to use the funds to construct a germination shed for more stable plant start production. Locavore pioneer Boggy Creek Farm won $7,500 in grants to provide ADA-compliant accessibility to their new climate-controlled Tomato House. Texas’ first organic feed mill, Coyote Creek Organic Feed Mill & Farm, received $6,250 to help purchase a building to be used as a store for the local community.

The six other Austin area grant recipients, each winning $5,000, include Vista Farms at Vista Brewing, Jamaican family business Tierra Todun ATX, coffee roasters Rising Tide Roast Collaborative, culinary educator Chef Pascal Simon from Bake Austin, East Austin food truck Community Vegan, and Latinx pastry project Comadre Panaderia (who also just earned a James Beard nomination). All winners will be able to use their grants to improve efficiency and expand their businesses, or in Chef Pascal's case, further research and development for her upcoming cookbook for Gen-Z young adults.

Out of the four San Antonio area winners, Talking Tree Farm received the most from the grant program, $6,250 to purchase shipping containers for storage and to buy a solar-powered cold room for their harvests. John Marshall High School’s culinary arts program will use their $5,000 grant to establish a morning café. Agricultural project Habitable Spaces and pasture-raised chicken farm Cielito Lindo Farm also won $5,000 each to purchase equipment or build infrastructure to further their endeavors in the culinary space.

The winners in the Dallas-Fort Worth include:

For this year's Honorable Mention, the Alliance chose San Antonio eatery Tacos Cucuy, who will soon open a brick-and-mortar space with an expanded menu. Tacos Cucuy are currently looking for support to develop a Tex-Mex charcuterie program called La Cura Carnes Especiales.

More information about the 2022 grants and its recipients can be found on texasfoodandwinealliance.org.

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Eye-catching new restaurant serenades Montrose with global cuisine and wood-fired steaks

cherry blossom restaurant

Houston’s next destination that blends eclectic cuisine with an eye-catching interior and a lively atmosphere has opened its doors. Muse is now open for dinner in the former Emmaline space at 3210 W Dallas St.

Part of of the Sundown Entertainment Group (Sugar Room, Todos Santos, and The Sporting Club), any conversation about Muse has to start with its eye-catching design. Inspired by owners Brandon Duliakas and Dan Wierck global travels, the space features an 18-seat wraparound bar, walnut accents, and lots of natural light. Most noticeable of all are the large cherry blossom trees that shade the restaurant’s banquettes. All in, the approximately 4,200-square-foot restaurant seats almost 200 people.

Turning to the cuisine, Muse offers serves a globally-inspired menu that hops across a range of genres. Created by executive chef and partner E.J. Miller (Riel, International Smoke) with an assist from sous chefs Dung Nguyen (The Dunlavy) and Andrew Aguilera (The Classic), Muse’s menu incorporates locally-sourced ingredients into shareable dishes that include hot and cold plates, sushi rolls, and wood-grilled steaks and seafood.

Specific dishes include:
  • Octopus salad with with shaved vegetables and soft-boiled quail egg
  • Sticky pork ribs with soy-tamarind glaze
  • Yellowtail aguachile
  • Wood-grilled lobster with green papaya salad
  • R-C Ranch bone-in ribeye with chili eggplant.

Pastry chef Maggie Lin (La Table) makes her own contributions with a Yuzu Tart with sesame shortbread; Profiteroles with lemongrass ice cream and macerated strawberries; and a Mocha Torte with red bean brownie and cafe su da mousse.

“Growing up in Houston, I’ve always enjoyed exploring global flavors and experimenting with a variety of traditional techniques,” Miller said in a statement. “While the name ‘Muse’ comes from the idea of a person or personified force that provides a source of inspiration, our menu is inspired by Houston’s unique multicultural dining scene.”

As they did for the Sporting Club and Sugar Room, Sundown turned to beverage consultants Ladies of Libation to create the restaurant’s cocktails. The results include the Japanese Breakfast a blend of orange blossom gin, bergamot, sake and white peach tea that’s served over dry ice from a traditional tea pot; the Matcha Colada with dark rum, coconut, matcha, pineapple; and lime; and the on-trend take on an Espresso Martini.

Those who prefer wine or sake will find plentiful changes, including 20 wines by-the-glass and a rotating list of sake. They’re overseen by general manager Patty Burbach.

Initially only open for dinner Tuesday-Sunday beginning at 5 pm, Muse’s future plans include construction of a rooftop patio and weekend brunch service.

Muse restaurant interior

Photo by Adrian Barboza

Muse opened Thursday, March 23.

The Texas architect helping define Houston's visual style searches for a nonprofit community partner

community building

These days, if you're asking Houstonians to come into an office, it'd better be a nice one. Nonprofit workers and beneficiaries often get the short end of this stick, with outdated buildings and cost-cutting, so one acclaimed Texas architecture firm is offering its services to spruce things up.

One nonprofit partner in Austin or Houston will receive $20,000 worth of services to directly support its mission from Michael Hsu Office of Architecture (MHOA). That can be accrued however the partner sees fit within design and consultation services, such as site analysis, feasibility studies, master planning, and even interior design help.

Designs by MHOA are likely familiar to Houstonians, who may recognize the firm's work at Uchi, Loro, Da Gama, the Montrose Collective, and many more hard-to-miss modern buildings. Many clients have locations in both Austin and Houston, where Hsu grew up and another office is based, resulting in a growing visual connection between the two cities.

This is the second iteration of the Design for All Partnership, following the success of 2022 as an inaugural year with Austin Angels, a community-building organization that supports youth and families in foster care. Although the partnership began last year, MHOA is still working on a community center on 2.5 acres in Buda that used to support a church facility.

Renderings of the new space show an angular structure that prioritizes storage and openness from one area to the next, plus lots of colors through murals. The organization is now in a fundraising phase to bring the ideas to life.

Austin Angels appealed to the architects because of its capacity to anticipate the needs of its community and a background in hospitality design. This overlap is fitting for the goal of the partnership, which beyond providing one-time services, is meant to meaningfully connect the organization with the design industry.

The next partner will also embody values that align with MHOA's, but also must fit within a few hard criteria for eligibility: it must be a registered 501C3, be within 50 miles of the Austin or Houston metropolitan areas, and propose a project equal to or smaller than 50 acres for master planning or 20,000 square feet for architecture and interior design.

“Our firm has always done our best to balance community-focused work in our project mix,” said Michael Hsu. “Similar to Austin Angels’ project, we’re looking for a partner who is actively contributing to our communities in Austin or Houston.”

MHOA has released a Request for Proposals (RFP) and is accepting applications until May 19 at 5 pm. It will also be accepting questions until April 14, and plans to start conduct shortlist interviews between June 5-9. The new partner should be announced on June 22, and services will start shortly thereafter in July.

Willie Nelson receives prestigious honor and inaugural endowment at UT Austin

Willie forever

Willie Nelson has earned countless awards for his seven-decade music career, but the legend is also well known for his activism — particularly in the areas of farming and food security. In recognition of his longtime advocacy work, the LBJ Foundation will present its most prestigious honor, the LBJ Liberty & Justice for All Award to Nelson this spring.

The award will be presented at a special gala tribute dinner on Friday, May 12, 2023, which in turn will benefit the newly established Willie Nelson Endowment for Uplifting Rural Communities at the LBJ School of Public Affairs, a part of The University of Texas at Austin.

According to a release, the endowment will fund research and student fellowships focused on sustainable agriculture, eliminating hunger, resilient energy, sustainable water, and natural disaster recovery to benefit rural and farm communities.

Along with Neil Young and John Mellencamp, Nelson organized the first Farm Aid concert in 1985 to raise funds for struggling farmers, which has since raised over $70 million for those who own and operate family farms throughout the United States. He has also helped raise millions around disaster relief, for families of the victims of the 9/11 attacks and for veterans, as well as working toward environmental and animal advocacy, and voting rights. His Luck Family Foundation provides financial grant assistance and other resources to artists, organizations, and programs in need, donating proceeds from Luck Reunion events to Farm Aid and other longtime charity partners like the Texas Food & Wine Alliance.

“Willie Nelson is a national treasure who gained fame through his sheer musical talent and won hearts as someone who truly cares about the lives of his fellow Americans," says Larry Temple, Chairman of the LBJ Foundation Board of Trustees, via release. "A product of rural Texas, Willie has never forgotten where he comes from. His longtime efforts to raise money and awareness for family farmers through Farm Aid and numerous other endeavors to help those in need throughout his career make him a true inspiration.”

The dinner will honor Nelson's lifelong support for rural communities, embodying President Lyndon Baines Johnson's commitment to public service, particularly in the areas of farming and food security. With their similar backgrounds as rural Texans, both President Johnson and Nelson shared a keen awareness of the struggles of those who work in the agricultural industry.

“The bounty of the earth is the foundation of our economy," President Johnson shared in a 1965 Special Message to Congress on Agriculture. "Programs in every aspect of our nation’s life depend on the abundant harvests of our farms.”