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Cool things you can (still) do in Houston.

It’s kind of hard to explore all the cool things Houston has to offer these days. Hard, but not impossible. Enter this fresh take on our “Actually Cool” lineup, which zips through seasonal activities and opportunities you can partake in from a safe social distance (because Houston’s never really that cold), virtual and at-home experiences, and other fun things that will at the very least keep you distracted while we all get through this:



Visit the reopened Menil Campus

Free

Montrose

This local jewel reopened to the public in the fall, with reservations open for free timed entry. Hit the art museum for one of the best collections in town, complete with new exhibitions and Insta-worthy standbys like the Dan Flavin Installation and the spiritual Rothko Chapel (because we can all use a little zen right now); and if you’re hanging out in its green space, be sure to park yourself at least 6 feet away from others. Though it’s free, donations are welcomed, too.


Reserve a seat for an intimate cocktail experience

$$-$$$

Montrose

High-class cocktail very Tongue-Cut Sparrow can’t currently operate out of its tiny space Downtown, so it moved shop and reimagined the formal drinking experience in the old Penny Quarter space off Westheimer. Reservations are live on Resy, and walk-ins are welcome if space is open. Also just opened is MARCH, the fine dining concept from Goodnight Hospitality, which was supposed to open just as the pandemic hit. Though the restaurant portion isn’t open quite just yet, its lounge is here for an epic tasting of drinks, snacks, and sweets for a $48 ticket reservation (available via Resy).


Have an epic cookout and eat your weight in BBQ

$$-$$$

Greenway (& pop-up locations)

Pork ribs by the rack. Five-pound briskets. Smoked, pulled chicken. Links on links of sausage. It’s all chilled, vacuum-sealed, ready-to-heat, and available for preorder from one of Houston’s finest BBQ joints (and there are quarts of braised collards, sweet potato-banana mash, and loaded potato salad, too). For the time being, Feges BBQ will be dishing out the bulk BBQ at its Greenway Plaza location on weekdays (in addition to its limited lunch menu) and at its weekend pop-ups at the Urban Harvest Farmers Market on Saturdays and Heights Mercantile Farmers Market on the second and fourth Sundays.

Go old-school at a drive-in movie theater

$$

EaDo

Ending its run at the Sawyer Yards pop-up drive-in, Rooftop Cinema Club is now taking its retro movie experience over to EaDo, set in the former Space City Shows space. Look out for hits from Home Alone and Love Actually to Spider-Man: Far from Home. Cost is $28-$35 per vehicle, regardless of occupancy, and you can tack on concessions, food, and beverages from Rooftop Cinema Club or local food trucks The Burger Joint and El Patio.


Nama-stay away from others with a sunrise yoga sesh

Free

Buffalo Bayou Park

Imagine this: It’s early morning, before the sun and your fellow Houstonians rise. You wipe off your wine mouth from last night’s driveway happy hour and get your bottom over to Buffalo Bayou Park, where you can set your yoga mat down for a responsible, socially distant yoga sesh under the Houston skyline. If you need guidance, several Houston workout studios have online workout classes available for streaming, including Black Swan Yoga, DEFINE Body & Mind, and BIG Power Yoga.




Cook like a local chef

$-$$$

At-home

One of the reasons Houston is so cool is its culinary community, and the open, collaborative nature of our local chefs is a huge part of that. While we’re all doing our best to stay home, a bunch of top chefs are sharing recipes that will take you on a culinary tour of Houston from your kitchen. Visit Houston has curated a fantastic list, providing the instructions to make a pretty rockstar dinner out of dishes like chef Hugo Ortega’s flautas de pollo, Coltivare chef Ryan Pera’s Gulf snapper, and Fluff Bake Bar sugar fair and pastry chef Rebecca Masson’s strawberry pie. Need more inspiration? Brisket U’s got virtual classes that’ll get your pitmaster game goin; Underbelly Hospitality has been putting out a series of fun virtual events; and you can also work your way through mastermind and ace chef Chris Shepherd’s cookbook, Cook Like A Local (which was nominated for a James Beard Award earlier this year, NBD).


Take a hike

Free

Houston

Some say Houston’s not the prettiest city, and to that, we say, “Ok, you’re probably right.” But we DO have some pretty picturesque hikes and running trails. Lace-up and break a sweat on one of the most beautiful runs in Houston, including but not limited to the winding hike and bike trails of Buffalo Bayou Park, the even more discreet Buffalo Bend Nature Park, and the 1,700-acre George Mitchell Nature Preserve. If you don’t mind venturing a bit further out, you’ll also want to check out these amazing hikes near Houston.


Explore Chinatown’s to-go and dine-in options

$$

Chinatown

The entire restaurant industry is hurting right now, including Houston’s Chinatown which started seeing steep declines in business super early on in the crisis. Now’s a great time to continue showing your support to the community by dining in or calling in to-go orders at your go-to dumpling spot, noodle purveyor, vegetarian joint, ramen bar, crawfish stop, and pho shop.

See bats at the Waugh Bridge



Free

Montrose

True story: when the Waugh Bridge was built, no one realized it was the perfect structure to host a whole bunch of Mexican free-tailed bats. Well, apparently it was because locals started noticing a bat colony around ‘99. Before Hurricane Harvey, the bridge hosted about 300,000 of the little guys, and though some didn’t make it through the devastating storm, the colony remains. Today, you’ll find the bats hanging tight until they spiral out from the bridge’s crevices on warm nights around sunset. Head to the viewing platform and you may just catch a bat show, which never fails to both fascinate and creep the hell out of anyone you bring along.

Go mural hopping



Free

Houston

You can kill at least a couple of hours Insta-storying yourself in front of some of the city’s coolest local art attractions. Stops include but are not limited to Market Square’s “Houston is...” mural, the Biscuit Paint Wall on Westheimer, the We <3 Houston Sign, the 10-foot tall Midtown letters in Bagby Park, the “Greetings from Houston” wall on White Oak, Synchronicity of Color in Discovery Green, Downtown’s Art Blocks, and all the cool stuff over in the Arts District Houston.

See why we win James Beard awards

$$-$$$

Houston

Our JBA-winning chefs and restaurants continue to prove their worth even in the current dining climate. Over at his game-changing new American bistro, Theodore Rex, Justin Yu has reopened the dining room at limited capacity and continued the popular to-go service; and his partnership in neighborhood spot Squabble might have something to do with the reason it’s one of the best restaurants in town at this very moment. Chef Hugo Ortega has reopened all three of his popular Mexican stunners, Hugo’s, Caracol, and Xochi. Chef Chris Shepherd’s upscale, diverse riff on classic comfort foods are showcased through Underbelly Hospitality’s various offerings. Irma Galvan’s namesake spot fresh, homestyle Mexican haunt Irma’s continues to be an American classic; and Robert Del Grande, who won in 1992, continues to impress with dine-in and takeout at The Annie Cafe and Bar.


By Brooke Viggiano via Thrillist.com

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