You may not think of Houston for a couples’ vacation, but this city has all of the qualities for it: impressive art, stately hotels, glamorous restaurants and sultry bars. After a long weekend here—ideally outside of the humid summer months—you’ll be wondering how Houstonians have managed to keep this city to themselves.
The Menil Collection
The internationally renowned Menil Collection is perhaps the city's ultimate hidden jewel, with a main building that's tucked away on a residential cul-de-sac. Opened in 1987, the long, low-slung gray clapboard building was the first U.S. commission by the Italian architect Renzo Piano, and rotating displays of art, in galleries bathed in soft natural light, range from the prehistoric to the present day. Piano's second U.S. commission was the adjacent Cy Twombly Gallery, another building set on the 30-acre tree-shaded campus of art installations, sculpture parks, a bistro and the art-filled Rothko Chapel that are integrated into the surrounding neighborhood. Other satellite buildings include one that is aglow with site-specific works in fluorescent light by the minimalist pioneer Dan Flavin and the Byzantine Fresco Chapel— now a venue for long-term installations by contemporary artists. Dotting the campus, among many massive magnolia and live oak trees, are outdoor sculptures by Michael Heizer, Tony Smith, and Mark di Suvero.
The 132-room boutique hotel occupies the city's first tall building, the 12-story, neo-classical 1911 Union National Bank, and the original steel and brass vault doors hang imposingly behind the front desk. The size of the lobby is evident in dramatic 30-foot columns that rise to intricately carved ceilings, still pristine. Modern furniture surrounds a central round bar that's lively with the business travelers this downtown hotel attracts during the week. Period touches continue throughout the property, where the average size of the guest rooms is 400 square feet. A pass-through window connects the modern-furnished bedroom and subway-tiled bathroom, and original millwork is evident on the guest room floors. For big spenders, the lavish three-story penthouse suite boasts a 600-square-foot patio.
Slide into a booth for a mescal cocktail or a limited production sipping tequila at this new bar on Houston’s Main Street. Interiors have a contemporary Mexican vibe.
Asia Society, Texas
This culture and education center is housed in a striking building by Yoshio Taniguchi. He only used the finest materials—Jura limestone from Germany, American Cherry Wood, Basaltina Italian Stone—when building the $48.4 million structure. Along with viewing rotating artworks at the center, you can settle into one of the Brown Foundation Performing Arts Theater’s 273 plush seats, they’re made by the same guys that outfit Ferraris and Maseratis, for a performance or lecture.