Everyone’s heard that everything’s bigger in Texas, which is good for oh-so-many reasons. But in Houston, the largest city in Texas, big is a way of life. The LGBT community in the city is diverse and welcoming to visitors, with multiple gay-owned and gay-friendly restaurants, bars and retail establishments. Whether you’re looking to escape to the beach or dream of worlds beyond ours at Space Center Houston, there’s always something new to experience.
As the fourth-largest city in the United States, Houston is a dynamic and diverse place brimming with world-class dining, arts, hotels, shopping and nightlife. Looking for a gay-owned B&B? Got it. Want to find great fashion? Done. In the mood to hit up the gay bars in Montrose? We’ve got your guide to the best spots. Come explore your Houston!
With such a large and visible LGBT community, it’s no surprise that big gay events happen here year-round. Pride Week in June is definitely the largest, with 10 days of events ranging from the Pride Superstar singing competition and the official nighttime parade to niche events for women and those into leather and gear. Wonderland, a major circuit/dance party, features well-known DJs and the best thing ever for summer in Texas — snow. In July, the QFest international film festival showcases local filmmakers and international auteurs alike with a multi-day event filled with movies and meet-and-greets. Every March, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo welcomes visitors from all over the world, including LGBT fans of cowboys, cowgirls and all the magic they can create atop a horse or bucking bronco. On Easter Sunday, Bunnies on the Bayou raises funds for charities in this large outdoor spring celebration.
Arts and culture
Houston has long been a major player in arts and culture, not just in Texas, but the entire nation. The Houston Museum District offers 19 different museums that are each walkable from one to another (depending on your heat tolerance in summer, of course). Highlights include The Menil Collection; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; and the Rothko Chapel, a non-denominational chapel that doubles as a work of modern art. The Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens are a showcase of American decorative arts in the former home of the best-named-philanthropist-ever, Ima Hogg. The Art Car Museum is one of the quirkiest on the list but an amazing exhibition of creativity.
For performing arts, Houston deserves a standing ovation. As one of only five cities with permanent professional resident companies in opera, ballet, music and theatre, there’s always something to experience in the Theater District.
Catch some of that famous Texas sunshine with a visit to the roller coaster and waterfront amusements at nearby Kemah Boardwalk or pull up some sand on Sylvan Beach, the only beach in the county. An hour or so by car to the south, Galveston Island boasts multiple beaches and plenty of ocean activities. For an out-of-this-world outdoor adventure, visitors are always awestruck at Space Center Houston, where you can tour Mission Control, NASA training facilities and several formerly off-limits sections.
The food scene in Houston is as diverse as its citizens, but there are several standouts that attract a nice LGBT crowd. Brunch, of course, is always a great place to start and one of the weekly celebrations on the gay calendar. Three favourites include Triniti, Eleven XI and St Genevieve. For fab weekday lunches, Caracol features light, seasonal Mexican seafood dishes; Revival Market serves up delectable sandwiches among its carefully crafted coffees and hand-selected grocery items; while Lucille’s delivers memorable Southern cooking, including fried green tomatoes and their famous chili biscuits. Just be sure to save room for dinner with chef-driven cuisine at Underbelly, the poster child for the new Houston food movement. Massive beefsteaks and abundant side dishes are always a hit at Vallone’s, a wonderfully modern steakhouse. Lesbian-owned Sparrow Bar + Cookshop is a local favourite. And everything at Korean-Japanese fusion hotspot Nara is flavour perfection, with a lively scene served up free of charge. For late-night noshing after the bars, Katz’s Deli is the most likely place to see many of the same faces from the dancefloor.
Many area hotels and resorts cater to the LGBT community and welcome us with open arms. Among the tops are the über-chic Hotel ZaZa in the Museum District, the quaint boutique feel at historic Theater District property The Lancaster Hotel, the Old World charm and service of La Colombe d’Or, housed in a 1920s mansion, the Royal Sonesta Houston, with its spacious rooms, and Doubletree Galleria. For the full pampering treatment, stay a few nights and book several spa treatments at the luxe Houstonian Spa.
Like Dallas to the north, Houston is a shopper’s paradise. The Galleria features more than 400 stores (Neiman Marcus, Gucci, Sax Fifth Avenue and Apple) in 2.4 million square feet of space. The city’s most unique shopping, however, can be found at Kuhl-Linscomb. Here, five separate showroom buildings offer buyers everything from skincare products and gifts to home furnishings and the coolest kitchen gadgets. Designer gifts from Jonathan Adler are always a hit, too. If you’re in the market for menswear, pay a visit to Hamilton Shirts, which has been creating custom dress shirts since 1883. The contemporary 310 Rosemont specializes in premium denim for men and women, while both sexes can snag the latest fashion finds at Sam & Lilli and Billy Reid. DuO is home to incredibly affordable on-trend, of-the-moment items. Frankel’s Costume is the place to rent or purchase costumes for that upcoming theme party. And it wouldn’t be a trip to Texas without procuring some cowboy boots, ready-to-wear at Cavender’s Boot City or fully customized at Tejas Custom Boots.
Bars and nightlife
Hope you’re thirsty — Houston’s got a bevy of beverage businesses. Popular among men are F Bar and nearby Meteor, with its onstage showers where guys strip down to their (wet) underwear and perform. South Beach is great for dancing, and multi-room JR’s Bar & Grill features dancers and crazy-cheap daily drink specials. Across the street in either direction, Montrose Mining Company welcomes “men’s men,” while Blur Bar caters to fans of hip-hop and Latin music. Neon Boots Dancehall & Saloon is the largest country bar in Texas and worth the slightly out-of-the-way drive. Guava Lamp is known for its karaoke, and Tony’s Corner Pocket hosts amateur strip shows on weekends. OKRA Charity Saloon is worth a visit because patrons vote with each drink they purchase for which deserving charity will get the next month’s entire profits. And if you’re looking for something really laid-back and casual, EJ’s and Boheme both have great patios.