Photo courtesy of The Houstonian Hotel, Club & Spa

The iconic Houstonian Hotel, Club, and Spa has just landed at the top spot of the 2023 edition of Travel and Leisure's highly coveted list of readers' favorite Texas resorts. The hotel's ranking is the latest accolade to get added to Houston's ever-growing catalog of top-tier lodging recommendations.

As the only Houston-area hotel to make the cut, The Houstonian boasted the highest score out of all five resorts with a grand total of 91.38 points. Travel and Leisure readers lauded the exceptional guest service, the grand 27-acre campus, and the lavish and famed Trellis Spa, a local and Texas favorite for its no-detail-spared pampering and lush pools and amenities.

One part hotel and resort, one part mini city, the hotel thrives with myriad members and guests who pack the palace its top-tier exercise and wellness offerings, family-oriented membership, and elite, if-you-know-you-know status.

"The [Houstonian] claims the ultimate combination of city life with resort amenities, with a 185,000-square-foot health center and amenities galore right on the edge of lush Memorial Park, located mere minutes from downtown Houston," the report's author says.

Years-long, multi-phase renovations at the hotel were finally completed in September 2022, which added several new luxurious facilities. A few of the new offerings include two modern cycling studios and poolside restaurant The Kitchen at the Houstonian Club.

Shrewdly hidden in a veritable forest amid the bustle of the 610 Loop and Post Oak area, the hotel has enjoyed a 40-year reputation as one of the highest-status stays in Texas. President George H. W. Bush and Barbara Bush famously made their home there — the former president ("41," as he's lovingly known here) once brandished his drivers license to an interviewer revealing the hotel's address.

Former First Lady Barbara Bush, who, like her husband, displayed signature humility and grace to the hotel employees, somewhat shyly shared her chocolate cookie recipe with the staff when asked. Soon, the cookies would become a signature holiday treat for all visitors of the hotel. As CultureMap was first to report, when Barbara Bush passed away in 2018, the hotel shared her recipe with the public, a literally and figuratively sweet love letter to Houston and the world — and tribute to the unforgettable first lady.

For a truly Houston experience the new “Bush Suite” (so named in tribute to President and Mrs. Bush) offers adjoining rooms, luxe accommodations, photos and memorabilia from George H. W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum, and a view of one of President Bush's views: the pool. One especially poignant photo in the suite depicts then-President Bush calling President-Elect Bill Clinton to concede the 1992 presidential election.

Indeed, so intertwined are the Bushes with the hotel that generations of Bush children — including media darling Jenna Bush Hager — have been seen strolling the property in true second-home fashion.

Not surprisingly for a grand beacon of old-school, old-guard Houston prestige, The Houstonian has seen countless international dignitaries and celebrities as visitors or residents who enjoy the regal, refined aesthetic.

"This 27-acre urban oasis earns major kudos from T+L respondents of every type," the report says. "In typical Texan fashion, more really is more at the Houstonian — but quality never comes second."

The Houstonian holds on to its No. 1 spot for the second year in a row, after previously ranking No. 4 in the 2021 report. The hotel was also awarded an honorable mention in Texas Monthly's list of of best hotels earlier this year.

Elsewhere in Texas, the remaining resorts on Travel and Leisure's report are all Central Texas getaways in Austin and San Antonio.

The full list of Travel and Leisure's best resorts in 2023 are:

  • No. 1 – The Houstonian Hotel, Club and Spa
  • No. 2 – La Cantera Resort and Spa in San Antonio
  • No. 3 – Commodore Perry Estate, Auberge Resorts Collection in Austin
  • No. 4 – Omni Barton Creek Resort and Spa in Austin
  • No. 5 – Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort and Spa in San Antonio
Winners in T+L's report are decided by more than 165,000 readers who completed their World's Best Awards survey in 2023. Each resort hotel was critiqued based on their rooms and facilities, their location, guest service, food, and overall value.
More information about the resorts can be found on travelandleisure.com.

The Trellis Spa is the signature pampering space at The Houstonian Hotel, Club & Spa.

The Houstonian Hotel, Club & Spa
Photo courtesy of The Houstonian Hotel, Club & Spa
The Trellis Spa is the signature pampering space at The Houstonian Hotel, Club & Spa.

CultureMap editor Steven Devadanam contributed to this article.

Photo by Steve Lee Photography

Houston fitness expert works out why exercise is crucial for mental health


Working up a sweat means more than just getting fit. Gyms and exercise studios across the city offer different types of exercise classes led by highly trained fitness professionals, but it's not just about physical fitness. According to the Mayo Clinic, exercise can also significantly benefit mental health.

Since May is Mental Health Awareness Month, we sat down with Connie Emmerson, B.S., ACSM Wellness Coach, NSCA and ACE personal trainer at The Houstonian Club to discuss the mental benefits of exercise. Emmerson is a seasoned fitness and wellness professional with nearly four decades of experience in the industry.

Read on to find out more about the benefits of exercising on mental health that shouldn't be overlooked.

Less stress

“Exercise decreases stress by releasing endorphins in your brain,” explains Emmerson. The endorphins send signals to the body that improve mood, reduce stress or relieve pain. According to Emmerson, light exercise is recommended for stress reduction because more challenging workouts can mimic stress by increasing sweating, heart rate, and heavy breathing.

More Zs, please

The benefits of quality sleep are essential to overall health and wellness. For those who struggle with getting enough shut-eye, Emmerson recommends incorporating exercise into their routine. "Regular exercise improves sleep by regulating your circadian rhythm, which calms the body and allows people to have a deeper, more productive sleep pattern," she says.

Back off, depression and anxiety

According to Emmerson, exercising regularly helps with anxiety and depression by improving sleep quality, boosting confidence, releasing endorphins, and increasing energy. She also highly recommends exercising outside in the sunlight.

"Exercise and sunlight release the feel-good chemicals serotonin and endorphins," says Emmerson. "Walking outside is a great way to get in a light workout with the added benefits of sunshine and a great view. The combination can be very uplifting."

Keep it moving

Emmerson recommends that her clients exercise as often as possible and believes exercise doesn't have to happen in a gym or structured environment.

She encourages movement throughout the day and stresses the importance of weightlifting and resistance training at least twice weekly.

"Exercise can happen in a store while shopping, in the kitchen while cooking, in a park, or at a gym. It doesn't have to be planned," says Emmerson. "Some people make the mistake of doing an hour of exercise and then not moving much for the rest of the day. It's better to keep moving."

Can't stop, won't stop

What is the best type of exercise to help increase mental health? According to Emmerson, the best exercise is one that people enjoy and will stick with. She also recommends activities that increase heart rate and move several muscle groups simultaneously to ensure an endorphin release.

Photo by Steve Lee Photography

May is Mental Health Awareness Month and The Houstonian Club is highlighting the benefits of exercise on mental health.

Photo courtesy of La Colombe d'Or

Masterpiece Montrose mansion-hotel books No. 1 spot on Texas Monthly’s list of best stays

stay here

Though we are in the era of short-term rentals, Texas Monthly is out on the prowl to recognize those truly local hotel gems scattered across our wonderfully vast state. And a Houston hotel has earned the No. 1 recommendation spot.

In the four years since their 2019 edition of “Where to to Stay Now,” Texas Monthly has proved not every home on Airbnb offers as luxe of an experience as a business that was designed for it. Plus, a hotel isn’t going to charge you ridiculously high cleaning fees.

Topping this year's recommendations is Houston’s own La Colombe d’Or, the landmark mansion that overlooks the historic Montrose neighborhood. It was built over a century ago and named after an inn and restaurant of the same name in France. As CultureMap reported, the hotel underwent a major transformation in 2019, reopening in 2021 with a newly renovated house and bungalows, and a 34-story tower.

La Colombe d’Or, also known as “golden dove,” is richly decorated with art. Some would say it resembles a museum with its 400-plus original paintings, sculptures, and other art pieces decorating the common areas, guest rooms, and hotel gardens.

The Grand Galvezin nearby Galveston also earned a nod on Texas Monthly's list. Much like La Colombe d'Or, the Grand Galvez resort is also more than a century old. It features an extravagant full-service spa, saltwater pool, and even a swim-up bar. Patrons often come to check out the hallways plastered with pictures of prominent figures (sometimes with less-than-stellar reputations) who have visited the hotel. Reports of ghosts that have haunted the resort during its 112-year history are also a draw for both skeptics and ghost-hunting enthusiasts.

All 10 hotels on 2023’s "Where to Stay Now" list have either recently opened or undergone massive renovations since the publication's previous edition. Commonalities between the hotels include a love of art, historic preservation, and attention to those tiny details that truly outshine the convenience of a short-term rental.

Texas Monthly's recommendations include:

  • La Colombe d’Or in Houston
  • Hotel Lulu in Round Top
  • Lively Beach in Corpus Christi
  • Hotel Drover in Fort Worth
  • The Loren at Lady Bird Lake in Austin
  • Stanton House in El Paso
  • Grand Galvez in Galveston
  • Thompson Dallas
  • Willow House in Terlingua
  • Commodore Perry Estate in Austin

Texas Monthly also included the newly renovated Houstonian Hotel, Club and Spa on their list of honorable mentions. The Houstonian has long been regarded as one of the city’s best hotels, even earning recognition in Forbes’ 2023 Travel Guide.

The Houstonian Hotel, Club & Spa renovated suiteThe newly renovated Houstonian Hotel, Club & Spa scored an honorable mention. Photo courtesy of The Houstonian Hotel, Club & Spa

The 10 honorable mention hotels are:

  • The Barfield, Autograph Collection in Amarillo
  • Hall Arts Hotel in Dallas
  • Houstonian Hotel, Club and Spa
  • Cotton Court Hotel in Lubbock
  • Hotel Dryce in Fort Worth
  • Thompson San Antonio-Riverwalk
  • Canopy by Hilton San Antonio Riverwalk
  • Plaza Hotel Pioneer Park in El Paso
  • Austin Proper Hotel
  • Hotel Turkey in Turkey

More information about the hotels can be found on texasmonthly.com.

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner delivers his 'best' in rousing, final State of the City address

leaving it better

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner has garnered a reputation locally, regionally, and nationally as a calm, measured civic leader. But during his final State of the City address on September 27, the two-term mayor sounded more passionate preacher than politician, trading podium for pulpit.

"We are diverse, yet inclusive,” Turner fervently declared to an energetic crowd of some 1,500 at the Hilton Americas hotel ballroom downtown. “We are greener, more compassionate, more united, and more forward-moving than we ever imagined, but at the same time, we work every day to be inclusive. We are greener, more compassionate, more united, and more forward-moving than we can ever imagine.”

Turner drew several ovations, but none more rousing and zealous than his final line: “What I can say to Houstonians is that I have given you my best,” he said, his voice momentarily breaking with raw emotion, “and I am proud of the city that I shall pass forward.”

It’s not hyperbole to say Turner’s eventful time in office could fill a book; each luncheon table received a copy of A Winning Legacy, a new book chronicling his eight years as mayor.

“Not anxious to leave...”

Boasting an eight-year run that saw seven federally designated natural disasters in eight years, a Super Bowl, and two World Series championships — to say nothing of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent shutdown and the local fallout from the George Floyd murder — Turner was unapologetically proud of his record and showed no intention of departing.

“Let me just be clear: I am not anxious to leave,” he said flatly, “and if I could run again, I would,” that line also eliciting lively cheers. To the next mayor (Turner joked that he switched channels when watching the recent mayoral candidate debate), he warned: “Be careful of what you promise. Be careful on how you criticize, because you haven’t looked under the hood.” He also reassured the next mayor of Houston that it’s occasionally okay to “U-turn” on a campaign promise if the situation calls for it.

He roused the audience by reminding them of the many trials Houston faced over his two terms. Putting it in perspective, Houston First chairman David Mincberg described 2016 when Turner took office as, “pre-hurricane, pre-COVID, pre Beyoncé setting Houston aglow this past weekend,” adding that when disaster struck, Tuner was known for “calling early and often.”

A bright future

His sense of accomplishment was evident when he described the city he will leave for his successor — especially the long-disputed budget. “I will hand to — whoever the next mayor will be — instead of $160 million in the hole, we’ll give you a surplus of nearly $420 million,” he said to rousing applause.

Pension liability, another fiercely contested issue, was another proud accomplishment Turnter touted, noting that the City's pension liability is now $2.2 billion, considerably lower than $8.2 billion when he took office.

Always an advocate for expansion and development, Turner noted that Houston will receive nearly $2 billion in the coming years to transform the convention center, surrounding district, and the downtown area, a project that he says will “re-stitch neighborhoods” and serve as a “keystone” for future development. The Sunnyside Solar Farm — the only one of its kind in the U.S., will be operational in 2024, he added. A new, cutting-edge Solid Waste Northeast Transfer Station will open in 2025, and the North Canal Stormwater Project and the Lake Livingston Flood Water-gates in Kingwood are in initial design stages.

Another key city project, the I-45 Expansion Project, is moving forward as Houston’s expansion continues to boom.

A pro-business champion of innovation, Turner also harked to The Ion, a hub of innovation. “Houston is a smart city,” he said of the explosion in innovation here. In a nod to Houston’s unmatched diversity, Turner noted that the Ismaili Center, just the seventh in the world, will soon open its doors to all.

His one regret? “I would’ve loved to have the bullet train moving.”

Build forward

To build a city, Turner later said during a Q&A session, leadership must “build forward, not backwards.” Turner credited his daughter, Ashley, in his future-minded approach. “Dad, don’t build a city for people your age and older,” Turner recalled his daughter advising, “build a city for people my age and younger.” The proud Dad also noted that Ashley told him that “Houston needs pop and sizzle,” though both are certainly evident. “You have to be futuristic in your thinking,” the mayor advised.

The fast-paced event saw Turner recognize a host of city employees, cut a birthday cake, and grin as Houston-born comedian Mo Amer led the crowd in a “Happy Birthday” singalong. Amer, whom Turner gifted with a recent Mo Amer Day honoring the success of his smash Netflix show, cracked to Turner that he was “the greatest mayor we’ve had the last eight years.” When Turner quipped that he’d like a guest starring spot on Mo, Amer assured him of a role: “Oh yeah, you’ll be Guy No. 4.”

Wrapping a farewell keynote address that spanned myriad emotions, Turner was reflective when asked about his next move. “That is in God’s hands,” he said, adding that “I’m going to take the time to soak it all in.”

While his term ends on December 31 this year and his future has yet to crystalize, Turner said savored each and every day of his term — and he is satisfied.

“Whatever comes next for me will be icing on the cake.”

Meet the dynamic duo behind the MFAH's French fine dining restaurant, plus our visit to Balboa Surf Club

What's Eric Eating Episodes 316 and 317

On this week’s interview episode of “What’s Eric Eating,” chef Alain Verzeroli and Felipe Botero join CultureMap food editor Eric Sandler to discuss Le Jardinier. Developed by Verzeroli, the French fine dining restaurant celebrates vegetables with seasonal menus that draw upon local ingredients.

The conversation begins with Verzeroli explaining how his first meal at a two-star Michelin restaurant inspired him to enter the world of professional cooking. Ultimately, he came to be employed by legendary French chef Joël Robuchon where Verzeroli would earn three Michelin stars as the executive chef of Le Restaurant de Joël Robuchon in Tokyo. He tells the incredible story of how he came to work for Robuchon, and, as he explains in the interview, how spending almost 20 years in Japan inspired him to create Le Jardinier.

“What I learned in Japan is respect for nature. They celebrate the sakura, the cherry blossom, the autumn leaves falling from the trees,” he says. “They have a sense of having a picnic to celebrate the cherry trees that only lasts a couple of days at most. Pausing the crazy rhythm of life just to be in tune with nature. For me, it was something I was discovering, this link to the rhythm of nature. That’s the reason I created Le Jardinier — to be more in sync with nature.”

Le Jardinier Felipe Botero Alain VerzeroliChefs Felipe Botero and Alain Verzeroli are this week's guests.Photo by Alex Montoya

Listen to the full interview to hear Verzeroli’s opinion on whether the Michelin guide should begin evaluating Texas restaurants. Botero offers insights into the restaurant’s day-to-day operations and previews its newly launched happy hour menu.

On this week’s news episode, Sandler and co-host Felice Sloan discuss the following topics: the Houston restaurants included in the New York Times’s latest list; the closures of Kim Son’s Stafford location and Pho Binh by Night; and the latest delays in the reopening of Montrose staple Baba Yega.

In the restaurant of the week segment, Sloan and Sandler share first impressions of Balboa Surf Club, the new seafood restaurant from the Dallas-based restaurant group behind il Bracco. After discussing their favorite dishes, they weigh in on when they would choose to dine at Balboa versus Navy Blue and Little’s Oyster Bar.


Subscribe to "What's Eric Eating" on Apple podcasts, Google Play, or Spotify. Listen to it Sunday at noon on ESPN 97.5.

CultureMap Wine Guy Chris Shepherd on a must-attend dinner at March toasting French wines

wine guy wednesday

Editor's note: Long before Chris Shepherd became a James Beard Award-winning chef, he developed enough of a passion for wine to work at Brennan's of Houston as a sommelier. He maintains that interest to this day. When Chris expressed interest in writing about wine-related topics for CultureMap, we said yes.

In this week's column, he tells us about a special wine dinner at one of his favorite Houston restaurants. Take it away, Chris.

March restaurant chefs and Jon Bonn\u00e9

Photo by Zach Horst

Chris Davies, Jon Bonné, and Felipe Riccio review the dishes at March.

Here we go! Have I got a wine dinner for you!

This Tuesday, October 3, the team at March will host renowned wine writer Jon Bonné for a one-night dinner celebrating the release of his amazing new book The New French Wine. If you don’t have this book, drive illegally fast to the nearest place to buy a book and get your hands on this one. If you work in a restaurant, a wine bar, or just frequent either of those places, you should have this book on the shelf.

Over the past few years, we are seeing a change and an influx of new wines coming from France. Wines are becoming more available and even more approachable. Trust me, I love the houses and vineyards in Burgundy, Bordeaux, Champagne, and Loire, but now we are seeing this deep rooted love of different areas and some new winemakers that are embracing that as well. History wasn’t wrong. It’s just as Jon Bonné writes, “C’est Compliqué,” or “It’s’ complicated.”

I’m going to share a paragraph from his book that says a lot to me. Jon writes:

The state of wine in France matters because France is (and, with luck, forever will be) the soul of the global wine industry. Its grape varieties remain benchmarks around the world. Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir and Chenin Blanc, Gamay, and so on are the base materials for so many other wine regions, whether it be California or the Adelaide Hills, or even Tuscany. And reference examples from France remain just that: precedents by which other places measure their progress.

I personally agree with all of this— history tells us this. When I spoke to Jon today, he told me, “I would argue that nothing this big has happened to the French wine business since Phylloxera over 150 years ago.”

We’re seeing the newest winemakers and lesser known regions everywhere now on wine lists, in shops, and even at the grocery stores. We’re seeing sections for Beaujolais, Languedoc, Roussillon, Provence and even the Jura.

This book took Jon over either years to write, and it’s a masterpiece. It breaks down the whys, the whos, and the wheres from region to region. France has been hard to discover forever, but this book has it all laid out for you. You want to know more about the new and the old producers of Champagne, yep! I feel like the dog that had been chasing the car forever, and I finally caught it. Thank you for that, I was getting tired.

Now, on to the dinner. It’s no secret that the folks at Goodnight Hospitality are good friends of mine. I love what they do at Montrose Cheese and Wine, Rosie Cannonball, March, and I can’t wait for Marigold Club to open. They just get me — delicious food and beverage in a very thoughtful way.

Felipe Riccio, who is the chef/partner at Goodnight, is a young, very smart chef. And he truly understands wine. Believe it or not, there are not many chefs out there that focus on wine as much as food — Erin Smith at Feges BBQ, Terrence Gallivan at Elro, Felipe. I’m sure there are a few more but not many. It takes work and passion to learn wine but once you fall into it, it’s on!

Felipe and his team at MARCH are in the middle of the Sicily menu right now but are planning this one-night, amazing dinner. Master sommelier June Rodil, Mark Sayre, Gillie Dougherty, and Felipe sat down and picked the wines for this dinner by region and then dove into the deep end of the pool to work the menu. You want to talk about special? Yeah! You need to get this ticket, I already did because it is going to be one for the memory books. I would suggest if you want a killer experience then head on over to the MARCH website and book your seat. Everyone involved is just over the moon with excitement.

June told me, “Rather than being in constant search for the same old icons, Jon is discovering new French wine icons and unlocking their history and culture while sharing with us what we should be collecting for the future.”

I know that collecting is just as important as being able to enjoy now. In this book you will find both, and that’s pretty amazing. I hope you join Jon, Felipe, June, me and the rest of the team on Tuesday. Let’s raise a glass of Champagne and have an amazing conversation and dinner! See you there.


Contact our Wine Guy via email at chris@chrisshepherd.is.

Chris Shepherd won a James Beard Award for Best Chef: Southwest in 2014. The Southern Smoke Foundation, a nonprofit he co-founded with his wife Lindsey Brown, has distributed more than $11 million to hospitality workers in crisis through its Emergency Relief Fund. Catch his new TV show, Eat Like a Local, every Saturday at 10 am on KPRC Channel 2.