Photo by Mars Vaughn

Deciding what to eat at the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo can be a bit overwhelming. Sure, it’s easy to stick with classics like turkey legs and corn dogs, but what about all the other choices?

Enter the Gold Buckle Foodie Awards. Now in its 15th year, the event allows food vendors from across the NRG Park complex to submit their tastiest morsels to a panel of judges comprised of local media, chefs, and influencers.

Choosing from 18 finalists in six categories, the panel gamely takes on everything from chicken fingers and cheeseburgers to a rattlesnake corn dog and pizza slices large enough to feed a family.

Seeing as this year’s Rodeo seems to belong to Bun B — consider the almost 75,000 strong who packed NRG Stadium for his Southern Takeover — his burger concept Trill Burgers took one of the day’s top prizes. The OG Trill Burger, a classic double patty smash burger, earned first place in the Classic Fair Food category.

Of course, reasonable people can disagree on the fair’s tastiest treats. CultureMap columnist Ken Hoffman highlighted a few favorites that didn’t make the Gold Buckle list, including an all-new Nashville hot chicken sandwich, Hot Cheetos Cheese Pickle Pizza, and the Shipley’s Deep Fried Banana Split Sandwich. Dominic Palmieri of Ray Cammack Shows explained the importance of using real-deal Hot Cheetos and Shipley Do-Nuts in his creations.

“You can tell the difference between Cap’n Crunch and a discount generic brand,” he explained. “They don’t taste the same or cook the same. When you’re making a unique product like we are, you can’t take any risks.”

Not counting the risks of accidentally dripping Trill Sauce on your cowboy boots, that is.

Here’s the complete list of winners from 2023 Gold Buckle Foodie Awards.

Best Fried Food

  • 1st Place: Deep Fried Cookie Dough – The Original Mineapple Pie (Circle Drive 202)
  • 2nd Place: Deep Fried Lasagna Roll – Southern Fried Salon (Circle Drive 204)
  • 3rd Place: Chicken Tender Basket – Holmes Smokehouse (Rodeo Plaza 60)

Best Food-on-a-Stick

  • 1st Place: Pickle Pizza on a Stick – Swain’s Pizza on a Stick (The Junction 505)
  • 2nd Place: Apple Pie Candy Apple – Munch-oes Bakery (NRG Center Hall E 6119)
  • 3rd Place: Big K-Dog – Asian Streetness (NRG Arena 604)

Classic Fair Food

  • 1st Place: OG Trill Burger – Trill Burgers (Rodeo Plaza 130)
  • 2nd Place: Southern Fried Chicken Wings – Southern Fried Salon (Circle Drive 204)
  • 3rd Place: Ribeye Sandwich – Spring Country Kitchen (The Junction 506)

Most Creative Food

  • 1st Place: Deep Fried BLT – Texas Sized Pizza/Burger & Chili Shack (Rodeo Plaza 35)
  • 2nd Place Tied: Un-PHO-gettable Burger – Asian Streetness (NRG Arena 604); Rattlesnake Corn Dog – Pioneer Wagon (Circle Drive 205)

Best New Flavor

  • 1st Place: Brad’s BBQ Sundae – Saltgrass Steakhouse (Lobby 0063)
  • 2nd Place: Viet Taco – Asian Streetness (NRG Arena 604)
  • 3rd Place: Loaded Pork Belly Fries – Blue Ribbon Grill (Rodeo Plaza 45)

Best Dessert

  • 1st Place: Deep Fried Bread Pudding – Cajun Cowboy (Rodeo Plaza 55)
  • 2nd Place: Smores Pie – Finer Diner (Rodeo Plaza 47)
  • 3rd Place: The Ultimate Mineapple Pie – The Original Mineapple Pie (Circle Drive 202)
Photo by Marco Torres

Bun B, Erykah Badu, and Southern stars cowboy up for Houston Rodeo Takeover

the southern takeover

On Friday, March 3 night, Houston icon Bun B returned to the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo with a bunch of hip-hop/R&B artists, successfully packing NRG Stadium with people who were ready to take that trip down memory lane.

Bun first hit the stage for this year's Southern Takeover, dropping a couple of sanitized bangers from his days in UGK (Underground Kingz) with the late Pimp C, with a full band behind him. He rocked a black, fringe leather fit, complete with a poncho bearing the UGK logo and a cowboy hat bearing the Monster Energy Drink logo.

Then came the cavalcade of stars. Last year, he stuck to Houston artists: Paul Wall, Slim Thug, several Lils. This year, he opened up the lineup to artists from other Southern states. First up was Tennessee, as he brought out Tela, producer/performer Jazze Pha and duo 8Ball & MJG – all Memphis boys – to do a few numbers.

The crowd got more turnt when Bun introduced Mississippi MCs David Banner, as he and Houston MC Lil’ Flip performed their rambunctious collabo “Like A Pimp,” and Big K.R.I.T., who teamed up with Bun to do a cleaned-up version of their “Country Sh*t” remix.

The stadium rafters truly started rattling when welcoming talent from Louisiana. Lafayette singer Cupid had people line-dancing in the aisles when he sang his hit “Cupid Shuffle.” That was just an appetizer for the main course, which came in the form of Cash Money Millionaires Juvenile and Mannie Fresh.

After Fresh gave the crowd a few bars of that Big Tymers fave “Get Your Roll On,” Juvenile followed with two crowd-pleasers you just knew he was gonna do: “Rodeo” and the one-and-only “Back That Thang Up.” Bun came up unfortunately short with Georgia, a state rich with hip-hop talent.

He got Atlanta-bred Trinidad James, who wore a red, Roy Rogers-style cowboy outfit and did an adequate rendition of his hit “All Gold Everything.” (Houston radio personality HardBodyKiotti did briefly come out to help Bun led the audience in swag-surfing as they performed “Swag Surfin” from Stone Mountain’s Fast Life Yungstaz.)

As for Texas, it wasn’t as bountiful as the myriad Houston legends he rounded up last year, but there were still some memorable moments. A guitar-wielding Scarface did a couple of songs; one of them served as background music for an “In Memoriam” montage of all the local/national rap stars we’ve lost throughout the years.

Screwed Up Click alumni YungStar performed as a trio of slabs – carrying such Houston rap vets as Slim Thug, Killa Kyleon and the Botany Boyz – did a brief promenade on the stadium floor. (One of them was also covered with the logo from Bun’s Trill Burgers business.)

But the final guest was a real surprise. After telling the Houston audience he loved them, Bun showed them how much by bringing out Dallas neo-R&B queen Erykah Badu. Wearing a large coat and an even larger silver hat, Badu stalked the stage and occasionally flashed her grill to the cameras as she performed “On and On” and “Tyrone.”

The latter ended with Badu giving quite the dramatic, high-pitched finale. The show came to a close with everybody coming back onstage to join Bun in performing another UGK classic “Int’l Players Anthem (I Choose You).”

“We put 75,000 people in here tonight,” Bun told the audience, before all the performers hopped on the back of trucks and rode off the stadium floor. (The show announcer later declared that it was 74,573 audience members— that's more than last year's H-Town Takeover.)

Houston's OG gave an entertaining, family-friendly show that took people back to a simpler time, when people mostly used their computers to burn mix CDs.

Bun B Southern Takeover

Photo by Marco Torres

Hometown hero Bun B surveys a crowd of 74,573 adoring fans at his Southern Takeover.


“Wood Wheel,” Bun B

“Pocket Full of Stones” Bun B

“Get Throwed,” Bun B

“Tired of Ballin’,” Tela, Jazze Pha

“Girls in the Club,” Tela, Jazze Pha, 8Ball & MJG

“Space Age Pimpin’,” 8Ball & MJG

“Like A Pimp,” David Banner, Lil’ Flip

“Country Sh*t (Remix),” Big K.R.I.T., Bun B

“All Gold Everything,” Trinidad James

“Swag Surfin,” Kiotti Brown, Bun B

“Cupid Shuffle,” Cupid

“Get Your Roll On,” Mannie Fresh

“Rodeo,” Juvenile

“Back That Thang Up,” Juvenile

“I Look Good,” Chali Boy

“Knocking Pictures Off the Wall,” YungStar

“Wanna Be a Baller,” YungStar

“Havin’ Thangs,” Big Mike

“Smile,” Scarface

“Mary Jane,” Scarface

“Big Pimpin,” Bun B

“On and On,” Erykah Badu

“Tyrone,” Erykah Badu

“Int’l Players Anthem (I Choose You),” Everybody

Courtesy of RodeoHouston

Rap mogul 50 Cent and big-spending Houstonians lasso record-setting night at Rodeo Uncorked! wine competition

rodeo's record-breaking wine

Hip-hop superstar 50 Cent (née, Curtis Jackson) loves the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo Uncorked! Champion Wine Auction. Not only did the Houston-based musician and entrepreneur emerge as one of the top bidders at the event, which took place Sunday, February 26, he also produced the top winner in the Rodeo’s Uncorked! International Wine Competition.

As CultureMap has previously reported, the hip-hop mogul produced the competition’s Grand Champion Best of Show, Le Chemin du Roi Brut, Champagne AOC, NV. Seven Houstonians — Julie and Alan Kent, Randa and Ray Gilliam, Andrea and Bruce Bryant, and John M. Cotterell — spent a rodeo record $325,000 to purchase the award-winning bottle.

2023 Rodeo wine auction 50 cent curtis jacksonThe winner bidders spent a Rodeo record $325,000.Courtesy of RodeoHouston

This year’s win built on the winery’s Chemin Du Roi Brut, Champagne AOC, Nevada, that took home the Reserve Grand Champion Best of Show prize in 2021.

In addition to taking the top winning wine, 50 Cent also purchased the 2023 Reserve Grand Champion Best of Show, Bernhardt Winery Antiquity Chardonnay Reserve, Danube Plain, 2020, for $165,000. Last year, the performer purchased the 2022 Top Texas Wine, a 2017 Hye Meadow Winery Boooom Red (Texas High Plains).

Overall, the 2023 Rodeo Uncorked! International Wine Competition included 3,071 entries from 18 countries, including Argentina, Bulgaria, France, Israel, Italy, South Africa and Spain. Texas wineries contributed 531 of those entries, and Australia, this year’s featured region, produced 160 entries.

Less wealthy rodeo attendees can still taste more than 75 of the award-winning wines at the Champion Wine Garden. Open daily throughout the rodeo’s run of February 28 - March 19, wine lovers may make reservations from a table for two up to a tent for 150.

Photo courtesy of Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo

Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo fires up dates for 2023 World's Championship Bar-B-Que Contest

get ready for cook-off

Now that fans know the entertainers who'll take the NRG Stadium stage or the 2023 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, it's time to turn attention to the unofficial kickoff of the rodeo run.

The 2023 World’s Championship Bar-B-Que Contestwill run Thursday, February 23 through Saturday, February 25 on the NRG Stadium grounds. The wildly popular event sees more than 250 teams from around the world will compete for best in show in sections like brisket, ribs, chicken, Go Texan, Dutch Oven dessert, and the Open Contest category.

Cook teams show up and show out in pits disguised as fire engines and covered wagons, from airplanes to armadillos. The more than 700 entries compete for best overall barbecue and other categories on Saturday, February 25, with results announced at The Garden Stage at 7 pm.

As always, team tents are invitation-only. But rodeo visitors can enjoy several public venues, including The Garden, Rockin' Bar-B-Que Saloon, and the Chuckwagon. More fun and wild rides can be found at the carnival. The private tents are a see-be seen affair with presenting sponsor Cotton Holdings sure to unveil yet another over-the-top tent that's as big as Texas.

Young grillers and smokers can compete in the Jr. Cook-off contest on Friday, February 24. Kids between the ages of 8-14 will be given a single steak to prepare that will be judged on appearance/presentation, tenderness, and taste. Awards will be presented to the top three contestants.

The party continues at The Garden Stage, where Texas Country acts strum their stuff, while the Rockin’ Bar-B-Que Saloon also features live music, a DJ spinning tunes, and a large patio.

Visitors should consider ride sharing or look for parking at these lots:

Yellow Lot

  • Location: 610 to Main St., enter Gate 16 off Main St.
  • Hours: 6 am to 10 pm
  • Price: $25
610 Lot
  • Location: West Bellfort and Kirby.
  • Hours: 10 am to 10 pm
  • Price: $25

Tickets can be purchased online or at the contest gates and start at $20 for adults, $5 for children, and free for kids aged 2 and under. Admission to the World’s Championship Bar-B-Que Contest includes a complimentary sliced barbecue brisket and sausage plate, access to live music areas, and admission to the carnival. (Importantly, admission does not include access to private cook-off tents.)

Fans can also score a Grounds Season Pass allowing access to all Cook-off events for $50.

Event times are Thursday, February 23, 5 pm to 11 pm; Friday, February 24, noon to 11 pm; and Saturday, February 25, 9 am to 11 pm. More information can be found at rodeohouston.com or on the official RodeoHouston app.

Photo courtesy of LiveNation

Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo tickets finally go on sale for 2023 concert season

lasso up those tix

Fans of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo who're eagerly awaiting their chance to score tickets for the 2023 shows can get ready to add to cart. Tickets for this year's concerts (February 28–March 19) at NRG Stadium go on sale Thursday, January 12 online.

New this year, ticket sales will go in two waves — 10 am and 2 pm — on Thursday to accommodate the online surge. Wave 1 tickets are for February 28–March 9 shows, while Wave 2 tickets are for March 10–19 shows.

An online waiting room for both windows opens at 9:30 am (Wave 1) and 1:30 pm (Wave 2). Importantly, the early waiting room entrance does not guarantee ticket access, rather a chance to buy.

Individual ticket prices start at $25, plus a $4 per ticket convenience fee, and are offered as follows:

  • Upper Level: $25 or $30
  • Loge Level: $40
  • Club Level: $50 or $55
  • Field Level: $44
  • Action Seats: $155
  • Hess Chute Seats: $375

Once purchased, tickets will be delivered electronically via the AXS Mobile ID; customers should plan for around 48 hours for delivery. Access purchased tickets via the AXS mobile app and the email login used to purchase tickets.

Should the rodeo sell out of standard tickets, fans can still purchase verified resale tickets through official AXS. These tickets will be available around 4 pm that same Thursday (January 12), per the rodeo. This helps buyers avoid high-priced, third party ticket vendors and stick to the source.

As CultureMap reported, RodeoHouston revealed this year's lineup on January 5. This year's showcase features a hometown name (Parker McCollum) on Opening Day, closer Luke Bryan on March 19, and a big return of Houston hip-hop icon Bun B for Black Heritage Day (Friday, March 3), this time not with a an H-Town Takeover, but with a Southern Takeover.

For tickets, full schedule, and more information, visit RodeoHouston online.

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Houston's 10 best pastry chefs conjure sweet and savory treats

Meet the Tastemakers

“Sweet” may be the first word that comes to mind with desserts, but it certainly isn’t the only one. “Tart,” “comforting,” “herbaceous,” and “satisfying” all have their roles to play, too.

The nominees for the 2023 CultureMap Tastemaker Awards Pastry Chef of the Year understand that sweetness needs to be balanced. They know that a sprinkle of salt makes any chocolate dessert taste more chocolatey or that roasting strawberries brings out their sweetness. With their diverse skills, they produce savory items that leave people wanting more and sweets that are, if we’re being honest, better than anything grandma ever made.

This year’s nominees produce cookies, cakes, breads, kolaches, doughnuts, pop tarts, ice cream, and more. Their inspiration comes from both childhood favorites and culinary traditions the span the globe. Even people who claim not to like dessert will probably find something to devour from this distinguished group.

Who will win? Find out April 13 at our Tastemaker Awards ceremony. Dine on bites from this year’s nominees, sip cocktails from our sponsors, and witness as we reveal the winners. Buy your tickets now.

Alyssa Dole - LuLoo's Day & Night
After a extensive career that’s seen her work everywhere from Coltivare to Pinkerton’s Barbecue, Dole has found a home at this bakery and cafe in Garden Oaks. Working in partnership with Blood Bros. BBQ, LuLoo’s serves sandwiches on Dole’s bread and a range of sweet and savory pastries, including Australian-inspired sausage rolls and barbecue kolaches. Upstairs, Dole leads LuLu Belle’s Bakeshop, a wholesale bakery that supplies breads to Blood Bros. and a number of other Houston restaurants.

Kelly Helgesen - Nancy's Hustle
After a successful career in Chicago that included a Zagat “30 Under 30” award for her work at Lula Cafe, Helgesen moved to Houston to reunite her professional relationship with Nancy’s executive chef/co-owner Jason Vaughan (both are alumni are legendary seafood restaurant L20). At Nancy’s, she maintains the quality of menu staples like the savory parmesan cheesecake (and those English muffin burger buns Justin Verlander is so fond of) while also adding seasonal specials such as a recently-introduced buttermilk sherbet with roasted strawberries and sesame puff sticks. We’ll keep our fingers crossed that she finds a way to share her bagel-making skills with Houstonians on a more regular basis at some point in the future.

Kripa Shenoy - EaDough Pastries & Provisions
This chef comes to Houston via New York City, where she worked at Marea, which recently held one Michelin star and earned the 2010 James Beard Award for best new restaurant in America. At EaDough, a to-go only kiosk along the Columbia Tap Rail hike and bike trail, Shenoy turns out a breakfast-focused roster of sweet and savory pastries that includes kolaches, muffins, cookies, scones, and croissants. Later this year, Houstonians will experience more of her talents when she opens Auden, a vegetable-forward, globally inspired restaurant, with her husband, chef Kirthan Shenoy.

Lucianna Emiliani - Louie's Italian American
After beginning her career in Houston, Emiliani moved to California, where she worked in L.A. for the acclaimed Tartine Bakery. She returned home to help her brother, chef Angelo Emiliani, open Cafe Louie (named for her), where she earned raves for her croissants, morning buns, and other viennoiserie. When Cafe Louie evolved into Louie’s Italian American, she developed a couple of classic desserts for the menu, including a tiramisu that’s among Houston’s best. Thankfully, her croissants are still available at Saturday morning pop-ups and coffee shops around Houston.

Marie Riddle - Bludorn/Navy Blue
Like so many of the people behind both Bludorn and Navy Blue, Riddle comes to Houston via New York, where she worked for legendary French chef Daniel Boulud and Milk Bar founder Christina Tosi. At Bludorn, Riddle and her team oversee a revolving roster of desserts that includes the restaurant’s signature Baked Alaska. For Navy Blue, the flavors lean a little lighter, with standouts that include a tart Key Lime Pie and the carrot cake she’ll serve at the Tastemaker Awards ceremony.

Rebecca Masson - Fluff Bake Bar
It’s almost hard to believe Fluff started selling pastries at Revival Market 12 years ago. Now firmly established at its location near the Heights, Masson has earned an impressive reputation, and a previous Tastemaker Awards win, for signatures like the Veruca Salt cake, Couch Potato cookie, and the Star Crossed Lover (Rice Krispie treat topped with caramel and covered in chocolate). Fans know to line up early on Saturday mornings, because weekly specials such as croissants, barbecue kolaches, and quiches sell out quickly.

Ruchit Harneja - Musaafer
After learning to cook from his mother and grandmother, this pastry chef traveled the world, racking up experiences in India and Europe before joining the opening team at the Galleria’s fine dining Indian restaurant. In press materials, the chef describes his style as incorporating unexpected ingredients such as fresh green chilies, garlic, ginger, fish, and meat. Those skills have served him well on the current season of the Food Network’s Spring Baking Championship: Easter, where a hickory-smoked honey caked won a challenge — and a temporary spot on Musaafer’s menu.

Shawn Gawle - Goodnight Hospitality
Part of Goodnight’s commitment to offering world class dining experiences included recruiting Gawle, a veteran of Michelin-starred restaurants in Chicago and the Bay Area, to come to Houston. Under his direction, the company’s pastry program includes a complex range of sweet and savory items that ranges from cookies and canale at Montrose Cheese & Wine to Rosie Cannonball staples like Focaccia di Recco and Basque cheesecake to March’s elegant plated desserts and diminutive mignardise. Balanced flavors, seasonal ingredients, and refined techniques are the ties that bind all of his efforts.

Stefani Velasquez - Papalo Mercado/Ema
At both the stand in downtown’s Finn Hall that she operates with her business partner, chef Nicolas Vera, and at a weekly booth at the Urban Harvest farmers market, diners count on Velasquez nostalgic desserts inspired by Mexican pan dulce and other traditions. A veteran of Hugo Ortega’s H-Town Restaurant Group, Velasquez’s output covers a wide range, including conchas, pop tarts, her signature horchata-filled Berlinésa, and specials that utilize Vera’s nixtamalized masa. The chef adds that she uses eggs from her father’s farm and as much seasonal produce as she can.

Vanarin Kuch - Koffeteria
The past year has been a busy time for the chef-owner of this EaDo bakery and cafe that’s devoted to serving flavors inspired by Houston’s diverse immigrant communities. By winding down Koffeteria’s wholesale operations, Kuch has been able to expand his output with more sweet and savory offerings that range from a Chinese sausage taco and breakfast sandwiches on housemade buns to matcha latte croissants and Cambodian elote cornbread. In addition, occasional Cambodian dinners and dessert omakase services allow Kuch to demonstrate a diverse set of skills that got far beyond his daily (and very delicious) grab-and-go creations.

Lucianna Emiliani
Cafe Louie/Facebook
Lucianna Emiliani

Ken Hoffman takes a swing at Houston Astros' pitch to build a new downtown hotel

Hoffman's Houston

Astros owner Jim Crane says the team is ready to break ground on a major construction project that will include a hotel and entertainment complex across the street from Minute Maid Park as soon as the 2023 baseball season wraps up – hopefully with another World Series parade in downtown Houston.


But another hotel? Another entertainment complex? More construction downtown? My first reaction was, how much more does Houston need? I remember when the Super Bowl was held in Houston in 2004, clubs and restaurants sprung up downtown practically overnight, only to disappear virtually the morning after. When it came to downtown development, the expression “less is more” turned out true. At least that Super Bowl.

I asked my contacts in government and the Houston welcome wagon, is this a good idea, building a hotel and entertainment complex next door to Minute Maid Park? Do we need it? Can we sustain it?

The answer every time was a resounding yes! For a couple of reasons: first, downtown Houston, coming out of Covid, is booming, leadership is creative and budget-minded these days, and most important, if Jim Crane is behind the idea, you can trust it’ll work. The guy’s got a track record.

“In 2004, the idea was to turn downtown’s Main Street into Bourbon Street. Is that what we really want? It was a misguided plan, the wrong philosophy, and businesses opened and closed in short order,” a source told me.

It was a different story when the Super Bowl returned to Houston in 2017. This time Houston saw the Marriott Marquis, a 1,000-room hotel complete with an iconic Texas-shaped swimming pool, open in time for the tourist onslaught. Also, Avenida Houston greeted downtown visitors with new restaurants and entertainment venues. Both the Marriott and Avenida Houston have continued to thrive long after the Super Bowl left town.

“We want our downtown to attract visitors while providing services for the growing number of singles and families who are making their home downtown. As we continue to host major events and conventions, there will be a need for more hotel rooms,” the source said.

The Astros’ plan to build a sprawling hotel and entertainment complex originally was discussed in 2021 but was put on hold due to Covid. Now Crane and the Astros are ready to come out swinging. Similar complexes operate successfully next to the baseball stadium in St. Louis, Chicago and other cities.

An Astros-themed hotel adjacent to Minute Maid Park is particularly intriguing. The lobby could be home to an Astros museum and team Hall of Fame. Rooms and restaurants could be decorated in honor of Astros legends – the “Nolan Ryan honeymoon suite,” or “Strech Suba’s Bullpen Bar and Grille.” There could be meeting space for autograph and memorabilia shows. There could be a broadcast facility for post-game interviews and analysis. And maybe one day, fingers crossed, a betting parlor like the Cubs have at Wrigley Field.

The Astros have a contract to play at Minute Maid Park through 2050 – the only long-term contract that doesn’t make Crane cringe. Anything that enhances the fan experience and generates revenue is good for the team and the city. I might even consider going downtown on non-game nights.

Houston's state-sized lazy river floats to the top 3 most picturesque pools in Texas


There’s no better cure for the unbearable summer heat than a dip into the chilly waters of some of Houston's best pools. And you can’t forget to snap a cute photo or video for your Instagram and TikTok feeds. The place to be this summer? Floating down the Texas-shaped lazy river at Marriott Marquis Houston.

The relaxing rooftop oasis, which sits on the sixth floor of the hotel in the heart of downtown Houston, was included in a new list of the "most picturesque pools" in the United States, and the third most photogenic pool in Texas. It stretches a mind-boggling 500-plus feet and is heated at 80 degrees throughout the year.

The study by BonusFinder.com analyzed data from TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube to find the most mentioned, photographed, and viewed pools from around America. The Texas lazy river finished at No. 18 in the overall rankings, which included pools from across the country. However, the pool ranked as the third best Texas pool on the list, following behind Dallas' The Joule (No. 14) and Austin's Barton Springs (No. 4).

The Marriott Marquis Houston has poolside programming for hotel guests that often includes live music and rentable cabanas, pergolas, or day beds. They also offer day passes Monday through Thursday on certain dates throughout the year, so you can book a resort-like experience year round.

Austin's Barton Springs was named fourth most picturesque overall, and was actually the most Instagrammed pool in the U.S., the study says. Videos of Barton Springs had been viewed over 28.5 million times on TikTok and hashtagged over 15,000 times on Instagram.

In total, Las Vegas hosts six of the top 10 most photogenic pools on BonusFinder’s list. Mandalay Bay Beach and The Mirage in Las Vegas were deemed the No. 1 and No. 2 most photogenic pools, and just above Barton Springs in the third place rank was The Neptune Pool at Hearst Castle in San Simeon, California. Other pools on the list were found in Glenwood Springs, Colorado (No. 6) and Atlantic City, New Jersey (No. 10).

The top 10 most photogenic pools in the United States are:

  • No. 1 – Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas
  • No. 2 – The Mirage in Las Vegas
  • No. 3 – The Neptune Pool at Hearst Castle in San Simeon, California
  • No. 4 – Barton Springs in Austin
  • No. 5 – The Tank at Golden Nugget Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas
  • No. 6 – Glenwood Hot Springs in Glenwood Springs, Colorado
  • No. 7 – The Backyard at Red Rock Casino in Las Vegas
  • No. 8 – Stadium Swim at Circa Resort and Casino in Las Vegas
  • No. 9 – Encore Beach Club at Wynn Las Vegas
  • No. 10 – The Water Club at Borgata Hotel Casino and Spa in Atlantic City, New Jersey

Fintan Costello, the managing director at BonusFinder.com, said Americans are “turning their attention to where they can kick back and enjoy catching some rays by the poolside” with their spring break and upcoming summer holidays.

“Luckily, the study shows that the U.S. is blessed with some of the best and most picturesque pools in the world and there are plenty of idyllic escapes that can be found across America, without ever having to leave the country,” he explained in a statement.

The full study can be found on bonusfinder.com.

Mariott Marquis Houston's Texas-shaped lazy river pool

Photo courtesy of Marriott Marquis Houston

Find this photogenic pool at the Marriott Marquis downtown.