The sprawling metropolis of Houston is one of the jewels in the Texan crown, with a rich array of enticing things to see and do for visitors. Whether you’re looking for pulsating dance clubs, authentic Texas honky tonks, testosterone-fuelled sports pubs or swanky wine bars, or upscale restaurants, the city’s nightlife scene offers something for every taste.
Most of Houston’s most popular nightspots are concentrated around its compact downtown neighbourhood, including the Theater District, home to the renowned Houston Grand Opera, and the Historic District, where you’ll find an impressive choice of fashionable bars and restaurants. But venture further out and you’ll discover plenty of nocturnal pursuits to enjoy on the city’s fringes too. Here are 12 of the best things to do after dark across Houston.
Explore a museum after dark
When the lights dim at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, it’s not always sign for everyone to pack up and go home. Instead, it’s often the signal for the museum’s action-packed Late Nights programme to kick into gear, inviting children aged 6-14 and their chaperones to explore the museum after dark. The progamme runs throughout the year and features a range of fun and educational events and activities, including group dinners, stage presentations, a photo scavenger hunt, a planetarium show, and plenty more.
LOCATION 5555 Hermann Park Drive
See the lights from a double decker bus
One of the most popular ways to explore Houston after dark is from the vantage point of a double decker bus. During the winter holiday season there are daily 90-minute City Lights tours departing from City Hall and traversing the streets through downtown’s Historic District, the Theater District and many of the city’s other famous spots. You can take in colourful light displays while riding in comfort and sipping complimentary hot chocolate and listening to festive music, along with engaging and entertaining live commentary along the way. Tickets can be bought at Viator.com.
Be a fly on the wall in a Houston cocktail bar
There are few better ways to get under the skin of a city than by ensconcing yourself in one of its bars, kicking back with your favourite tipple and listening to the local chatter. One of the best places to do just this is Wooster’s Garden, which combines a modern setting with classic bar fare, along with an almost never ending selection of cocktails, craft beers and wines. A friendly and welcoming atmosphere will ensure you feel perfectly at home. Be sure to try out some of their homemade bread –the perfect way to line the stomach before sinking into some of the 40-plus house cocktails.
LOCATION 3315 Milam Street
Walk through a Winter Wonderland
For a few months each year, Houston Zoo is transformed into a visual extravaganza, with more than two million lights radiating the night sky above the popular attraction. Taking place from November through to January, the occasion is known as Zoo Lights and sees visitors descend on the zoo to enjoy the colourful light displays, festive holiday music, strolling carollers, nightly performances, hot chocolate, and more. You’ll also struggle to miss the 33-ft. decorated Christmas tree, which serves as the ideal backdrop for photos.
LOCATION 6200 Hermann Park Drive
Catch a theatre show
Situated in the vibrant Galleria-Uptown District of Houston, the A.D. Players Theater is at the heart of the city’s cultural life, hosting a rich and diverse annual programme of shows, including numerous night-time performances. Run by A.D. Players, a Houston-based Christian theatre company, the venue – which moved to its current new site in 2017 – is truly vast, spread over some 35,000-square-foot and with an impressive seating capacity of 440. It also houses a children’s theatre and year-round workshops.
LOCATION 5420 Westheimer Road
Immerse yourself in music and comedy
Houston was once something of a comedy mecca, but that reputation has waned in recent years. One venue focussed on reviving its mirthful heartbeat is The Secret Group, a dark, quirky nightspot featuring a bar area, rooftop patio and back showroom for music and comedy nights. Unlike most other comedy clubs, The Secret Group is underpinned by a real philosophy, with a strong community focus and a commitment to giving emerging local artists and performers a platform to make their name.
LOCATION 2101 Polk Street
Hit the Houston pubs
Houston has a vibrant nightlife scene and central to this is its myriad of atmospheric pubs. Visitors can explore several of them in one go by joining a Historic Downtown Pub Crawl, which immerses you in the history of the city while inviting you to sample some of the best tipples it has to offer. Among the highlights are a stop off at a gorgeous wine and whisky bar housed within the old 1800’s Cotton Exchange building, and a local hangout with a jukebox featuring tunes from the fifties. Along the way you’ll be regaled by your guide with stories about Houston’s pub culture. Tickets can be purchased via GetYourGuide.com.
Experience the ultimate epiphany
Built in 2012, the pyramidal structure known as the Twilight Epiphany Skyspace has rapidly grown to become one of Houston’s most distinctive landmarks, and is certainly one of the most unique after-dark activities the city has to offer. Designed by renowned American artist James Turrell, it can accommodate 12 people between two levels and is acoustically engineered to host musical performances as well as to act as a laboratory for music school students on select days after sunset. Inside there’s an LED light sequence that projects onto the ceiling and through an aperture in the roof to create a captivating visual spectacle.
LOCATION Suzanne Deal Booth Centennial Pavilion
Head down to Chinatown
After Los Angeles, Houston has the largest Asian population in America, so it’s little surprise that the city has given over an entire neighbourhood to restaurants and businesses run by this community. Houston’s Chinatown district delivers a sensory overload with its sights, smells and – of course – tastes. The area is at its most vibrant after dark, when it comes alive with opportunities to sample Asian food of every type, as well as to indulge in some retail therapy in the array of electronics, fashion and jewellery stores that remain open late into the night.
Watch a magical dance performance
Lovers of the performing arts have the perfect opportunity to indulge their passion thanks to the Houston Dance Company, one of the city’s most distinguished cultural institutions. A key player in the organisation is METdance, a company that runs a wide range of dance classes for children and adults as well as hosting regular dance shows at venues across the city. Upcoming events are listed on the official website and tickets can be booked online or by telephone.
LOCATION 2808 Caroline Street
Get a late night caffeine fix
Houston has its fair share of top quality coffeehouses – the problem is, most of them don’t tend to stay open until late into the evening. Step forward Agora, which keeps its door open until 2am each night, attracting the late crowd for coffee, snacks, gossip and more. Spread over two-storeys, the coffee shop also boasts an impressive décor, including several ancient art pieces, while popular magazines are dotted around for the enjoyment of patrons. There’s also a patio where you can enjoy your coffee on Houston’s balmy evenings.
LOCATION 1712 Westheimer Road
Catch a ball game
Much like in most cities across America, baseball is a big deal in Houston. The city’s main team is the Houston Astros, whose home stadium of Minute Maid Park draws tens of thousands of fans for each game. Nestled in downtown Houston, the ballpark is at its most atmospheric during night matches, with floodlights flanking the arena lending the green grass an almost radiant quality. For the unacquainted, baseball games can go on for a fair while, but the good news is that there are plenty of breaks in play to grab a beer, a hot dog or, heck, why not both?
LOCATION 501 Crawford Street
Sink into your seat for a movie
There’s nothing quite like the cosy and atmospheric environs of a historic movie house, and in Houston the finest venue of this kind is without doubt the River Oaks Theatre. Built in 1939, it remains a striking example of late-1930s Art Deco design and has also developed an impressive reputation for its screenings of both art house and foreign movies. An ideal attraction for a rainy day, it’s also a popular evening haunt, luring visitors in with its comfortable seating and eye-catching décor, not to mention a superb roll-call of films.
LOCATION West Gray Street