Hot, hotter, hottest. Downtown is on fire with activities, destinations, and events all summer long, and we don’t want you to miss any of it. From Astros to kombucha, Free Press Summer Fest to ballerinas, it’s all here, and it’s all Downtown. We dare you to try them all.
A HOT TICKET
1. FPSF (Free Press Summer Fest) is the music festival where sweating comes with the territory, and 2017 is no different. Taking place June 3-4, outdoors at Eleanor Tinsley Park, it’s a small price to pay –minus the literal price you pay for tickets – for access to such an extensive group of musicians and performers. Just a snippet of this year’s lineup includes Lorde, Cage the Elephant, Solange (Bey’s sis y’all!), St. Paul & The Broken Bones, Bishop Briggs, The Strumbellas, Grouplove, Milky Chance and all those other hip musicians playing tunes to the coolest kids in town. www.fpsf.com
MUSIC TO YOUR EARS
2. In Houston, the weather might not be always reliable, but finding local musicians performing nightly at the Nightingale Room (308 Main Street) is always a sure bet. The unique venue showcases bands and musicians of all genres rocking out from the balcony stage. In the spirit of efficiency, there’s also a tiny drink elevator delivering libations to band members, often offered as a token of gratitude from adoring fans. Check out www.NightingaleRoom.com for details and don’t forget to order the Cuba Libre on Nitro if you are of the imbibing sort.
3. Summertime brings the hot tunes of Prince – RIP – to the Jones Hall stage, July 15 at 7:30 p.m.. The Houston Symphony will be rocking the hits with conductor Brent Havens at the helm and vocalist Marshall Charloff on stage alongside the full orchestra and band. The tribute may even move some doves to cry.
4. Toyota Center fires up the big guns this summer with their mega-concert lineup that includes PitBull and Enrique Iglesias (June 18), Iron Maiden (June 21) and James Taylor (August 1), but in the name of Sweet Caroline, don’t miss Neil Diamond (July 16) on his 50 Year Anniversary World Tour. Never seen him before? This Solitary Man will make you a Believer with his Beautiful Noise, and you won’t even have to bring him flowers.
5. The gypsies are coming to town, but only for one night. No crystal balls here, just a mix of flamenco, salsa, pop and the energetic music stylings of the Gipsy Kings. Catch their show at House of Blues June 21 at 8 p.m.
IT'S OKAY TO BE TRASHY
6. Mimosas for Mom and Dad, live entertainment for kids ages 2-6. Truly a family friendly activity. Explore the world of Garbage Island – which is way less smelly than you’d think – with the whole family. It’s a blend of sketch comedy, improv and audience participation guaranteed to wake you up, make you laugh and possibly get your body moving for the dance party finale. Tickets are $10 for ages 2 and up, but parents, that also covers a complimentary beverage of coffee, mimosa or juice box for the kiddos. Saturdays throughout the summer, 11:30 a.m. at The Rec Room at 100 Jackson Street.
7. A massive BCycle expansion is underway, and the kiosks are now open 24 hours a day, with new pricing options like flat fees of $3 per 30-minute trip or memberships for $9 a month or $99 a year. Riders on the monthly and annual membership plans are entitled to unlimited 60-minute trips. Not yet familiar with the bike share program? According to their website, “BCycle is designed for short, one-way trips that are 60 minutes or less,” and the density and activities in Downtown just so happen to make it the perfect spot to take a set of wheels and explore.
8. Hop on the Bike Bar!
Just a few numbers to consider before you do.
16: How many passengers the specialty bike can hold.
2: How many hours each tour lasts, approximately.
3: The amount of stops you can make along your Bike Bar tour.
1012: The Congress Street address of Christian’s Tailgate, where the Main Street Bike Bar tours begin.
10: The number of bars along the route that your party will have the option to stop at.
20: Number of estimated minutes each stop will take.
832.241.2233: The phone number you can call to make reservations.
1: The number of Bike Bar tour drivers on board each excursion.
7: Days of the week you can book a Bike Bar tour.
FIND OUT WHAT'S BREWING
9. Join a thousand of your fellow beer lovers July 8 from 2-6 p.m. as they descend on Downtown bars like The Flying Saucer, Bovine & Barley, El Big Bad, The Brewery Tap, Christian’s Tailgate, Conservatory and more for the annual Summer Pils Saint Arnold Pub Crawl. It all culminates in a concert at Market Square Park, plus you’ll receive a souvenir pint glass to remember the historic day you spent sweating with friends and drinking tasty beers.
10. If you’re looking for something a little more intimate, stop by Downtown’s newest nanobrewery, 160ft Beerworks at 1310 Nance Street. Their small-batch beers rotate often, and can be enjoyed in the comfort of their tap room, which seats around 35 people.
11. Every August, Flying Saucer turns one year older, and throws a super fun party to celebrate. August 20, guests can enjoy special tappings, food pairings, special guests and fellowship with other beer knurds toasting to the continued success of Downtown’s OG beer bar.
12. Cruise down Buffalo Bayou on a pontoon boat for a unique excursion to watch the bat colony take flight from their Waugh Bridge home at dusk. Summertime means the bat pups are just learning how to fly. Cue the “awwwws” and squeals of delight here, however, human pups, aka, kids under the age of four, are not allowed on the boat tours. Tours leave around a half hour before sunset and last around 1.5 hours. Tickets are $30 a person, and reservations can be made for the June 10, 24, July 8, 22 or August 12, 26 online at buffalobayou.org/boat-tours
13. June 10, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., cruise down Buffalo Bayou from Allen’s Landing to the Port of Houston Turning Basin for the Port to Port boat tour. Find out the historical context from guide Andrew Groocock and see a side of the bayou’s upper channel that not many Houstonians have experienced. Cost of tickets - $45.
14. Ahh, the delights of Houston summer twilights. The sun goes down and summer seems somewhat bearable yet again. Join Buffalo Bayou Partnership on a half hour ride down the bayou between 6-8 p.m. Spots are first come, first serve, but there are several rides throughout the evening in case you don’t make it on the first ride out. Bring mosquito spray as well as $7 for adults and $4 for kids ages 4-12. Alligators have been known to lounge lazily on the banks, so there could be some excitement in store. Dates: June 15, July 17, August 19.
15. Summer is for scavenging along Buffalo Bayou, and the grand prize is a discount for bike rentals at Bike Barn or Buffalo Bayou Partnership pontoon boat tour passes. All you have to do is pick up a worksheet at the Lost Lake (3422 Allen Parkway) or Wortham Insurance (105 Sabine Street) visitor centers, explore a section of the bayou, answer the questions and enjoy the journey.
CUE THE THEATRICS
16. Keep the kids of all ages (4-18 years old) engaged via song, dance and monologue through the range of Theatre Under The Stars’ Humphreys School of Musical Theater summer camps designed for “all ages and ambitions.” Visit www.tuts.com/hsmt for details.
17. Lott Entertainment Presents Shaping Sound, a one-night-only engagement in Jones Hall, June 7, with Emmy Awardwinning Artistic Director Travis Wall and a troupe of dancers telling stories through movement.
18. It’s Snoopy, on stage, set to music! You can’t miss the world’s favorite beagle in TUTS’ The World According To Snoopy. Show dates: June 7-18.
19. Get out your jazz hands, because there are not one, not two, but THREE Broadway shows at the Hobby Center this summer, and they are going to be fabulous. In order of appearance: June 6-11 welcomes Something Rotten. Keeping the dream of the 1590s alive, the Bottom brothers sing, act and dance their way past artistic rival, Shakespeare, with their efforts to produce the world’s first musical. June 27-July 23: Disney’s The Lion King is a stunning stage production where audiences get lost in the Serengeti and fall in love with Simba the lion. August 15-20: The Bodyguard, which tells the unlikely love story between superstar Rachel Marron and her hired protector through the music made famous by the late Whitney Houston. I Wanna Dance With Somebody, I Will Always Love You, So Emotional and other songs will melt your cold, cold heart if the summer heat hasn’t already.
20. Hold tight y’all. There’s more, plenty more. Welcome back to the glory days of acrobats, contortionists, strong men, knife throwers and more without the guilt of animal labor (those elephants are not real, they’re actually extremely sophisticated puppets) with Society for the Performing Arts’ Circus 1903: The Golden Age of Circus. June 9-11.
21. So maybe you want less singing, more dancing. How convenient! There’s a show for that June 8-18 at the Brown Theater. Ballet meets Bollywood in Houston Ballet’s staging of La Bayadère. It has the intrigue of the Indian jungle, a pair of ill-fated lovers, a fire god, spectacular costumes, heartbreak, revenge, a serpent and of course, the gorgeous choreography befitting of Houston’s finest ballerinas.
22. There’s something for everyone come August 27 from noon to 5 p.m. as the annual Theater District open house kicks off on yet another steamy Houston afternoon. You can expect face painting, ballet lessons, conducting lessons, and pop-up opera performances, all culminating in a free show from the Houston Symphony and the chance to sit in on a dress rehearsal with Houston Ballet.
STAYCATE THE PREMISES
23. Vacations are so last season. Now that the Marriott Marquis is finished, it’s time to book a weekend staycation right here in your own hometown. If for no other reason, to float down the Texas-shaped lazy river. All. Weekend. Long. Do not miss the opportunity to dine at James Beard Award nominee, Hugo Ortega’s Xochi restaurant for Oaxacan cuisine. Mole, the original awesomesauce, plays heavily on the menu, as do meats like suckling pig roasted in a wood-fired oven. Also - mezcal. Also - desserts with edible ants as garnish. Also - wood-roasted oysters. Also - a martini with house-pickled tomatillos. It’s legit. In fact, it’s too legit to quit.
24. Go on a honeymoon that never ends as part of your lovely staycation. Enjoy Boomtown-roasted and barista-prepared coffees AND come back later for cocktails at The Honeymoon Cafe & Bar at 300 Main Street. The charming New Orleans influenced cafe also serves up breakfast and lunch options, transforming into a cozy cocktail bar as day turns into night (and in the case of weekends, back into mornings before they close at 2 a.m.). Take home a bag or two of those lovely roasted beans as a reminder of your field trip and as a great way to start the next morning – or at least hold you over until your next visit to The Honeymoon.
25. Sundance Cinemas is another winner with indie films, a full bar and possibly the best part for those who love to find the perfect viewing spot, but hate having to get there a half hour early: reserved seating. Relax at the bar right up until show time, and if you’re not finished with that cocktail, it can go right into the theater with you. There are also full meal options available like pizzas and hot dishes as well as upscale movie snacks. Plus validated parking. What are you waiting for? 510 Texas Street.
26. Mosey on down the Avenida, which is easily within walking distance of the Marriott if you happen to be staycationing on a Thursday night – which, by the way, you totally should, because Thursdays are the new Fridays. While there, catch some tantalizing tango, some sensational salsa or a bit of bangin’ ballroom dance steps. Each Thursday between 7-9 p.m. on the Avenida, enjoy Dancing in the Streets! with free lessons and a heck of a good time.
27. Check out the free concert series at Discovery Green featuring artists like Jesse Dayton, Leyla McCalla, Rosie Flores and Ian Moore. Openers start playing at 7 p.m. on Thursdays during June.
28. If you’re wanting some dance time on a non-Thursday night, here’s another option: Spice it up with Friday night salsa at the Downtown Aquarium. Professional dancers will be on site teaching all the Latin moves with a DJ spinning merengue, salsa and more. The last Friday of the month features a live band so you can show off your new moves and spin, pivot and salsa your way into the evening. No cover charge, 7-11 p.m..
29. Your staycation fall on the first or last Friday of the month? You’re in luck! Joystix, a showroom with two stories and 10,000 square feet of classic arcade games, pinball machines, air hockey tables and other fun novelties is open for their Pacman Fever Fridays. From 9 p.m. to 2 a.m., $15 gets you in the door for free play. Enjoy various cocktails and what-have-yous at the Eighteen Twenty Lounge right next door to complement the evening.
30. Do date night outside with the GreenStreet Friday Flicks on the Lawn program showing Spider Man June 16, Jurassic World July 21 and The Internship August 18, all at 9 p.m.. Bring blankets, lawn chairs and a willingness to suspend your disbelief for an evening of cinema.
31. The Tipping Point store, which was inspired by the Malcolm Gladwell book of the same name, recently reopened at 214 Travis Street, Suite A. The retail selection here is highly curated with an inventory of limited-edition items like footwear, fashion, music, books, art, music and accessories and offering them to a trend-hungry consumer. Self branded as a “creative lifestyle destination,” The Tipping Point is also partnering with nonprofits and small businesses in the community “to create a springboard for creativity and innovation.”
32. LAUNCH yourself into a world of handmade goods from local artisans at this pop-up boutique sponsored by Houston First. Located at 701 Avenidas de las Americas, the regularly rotating group of vendors sells items that range from vintage or art-embellished kimonos, locally designed and handcrafted men’s and women’s wear, handbags, soaps, stickers, magnets, jewelry, art and more. It’s like all the best Etsy shops came to life and took root at the Avenida.
33. Keep up with the latest fashion trends without making a dent in your bank account, by checking out the two-story urban flagship of Forever 21 inside GreenStreet at 1201 Fannin. Whether it’s music festival attire you seek (FPSF!), professional wear or just some fun accessories, put it on the fashion crawl list and see what summer apparel is so hot right now.
HOURS OF HAPPINESS
34. After all that shopping, it may be time for a refresher, which just happens to be the perfect time to stroll on down to Main Street (or hop and Uber or find a BCycle station or a $6 cab ride anywhere inside the Downtown area) for The Pastry War’s Mezquila Hour, which means half-priced mezcal and tequila seven days a week from 4-6:30 p.m. It should also be noted that there are no actual pastries at The Pastry War, but who needs a croissant when you have HALF-PRICED MEZCAL AND TEQUILA? P.S. Free games of pool and complimentary aguas frescas also available during this hora feliz. Did we mention that the tequila and mezcal are half-priced? Because you should really just focus on that part.
35. If you’d like even more hours that embrace the concept of happiness through food and beverage discounts, La Calle Tacos has al pastor tacos for $1, a bottomless Michelada station ($2) and buckets of cerveza for $11 between the hours of 3-7 p.m. Monday through Friday. Now, that’s a deal as caliente as a Houston summer.
36. Conservatory Happy Hour: 3-7 p.m. every day
How happy is it? $4 drafts and food specials
What is a food hall? A fancy food court with local purveyors slinging handcrafted bites.
What can I drink? Tons of draft beer. Selections of wine. Various non-alcoholic beverages.
How does it work? Very well, thank you for asking. But seriously, choose what food you want, go to that individual vendor to purchase, find a seat. Sit. Enjoy!
What food can I eat? Current vendors are Melange Creperie, offering a variety of sweet and savory crepes and sides; Moku Bar, serving up poké bowls (an Asian-influenced raw fish dish that tastes way better than it reads) and tempura; Arte Pizzeria with fresh pizzas and Italian bar fare; El Burro and their delicious small-batch barbecue.
Where is it? 1010 Prairie.
37. Not that you need an excuse to drink wine on a Wednesday during the summer, but the Heritage Society is giving you that added incentive with their Wine Wednesdays from 5-8 p.m. Escape the madness for a few hours and enjoy snacks from Phoenicia Specialty Foods, plus wine and beer on the patio while basking in the glow of Houston’s historic grandeur. If you make it before June 24, also take the time to check out their recent exhibit Tropical [IM]pression: A Gulf Coast Hurricane Retrospective – a look back at the city’s stormy past through photographs and submissions from Houstonians who experienced Hurricanes Rita and Ike.
38. Go-getters, hustlers, coders, and generally hungry entrepreneurs now have a haven Downtown at Station Houston. The innovative co-working space is also its own community featuring lots of programming, meet-ups and events like Open Pitch Practice (June 16, 3:30-5 p.m.) which is like open mic night, but for entrepreneurs looking for investors. Stop in, stop by, make yourself comfortable and make a few connections while you’re there.
39. Hot dogs and Astros games are a summer tradition, and on Wednesdays that tradition gets hopped up on steroids (which is OK with hot dogs, but definitely not OK with baseball players), with $1 dog night. So come out and root, root, root for the home team, and grab as many hot dogs as you can comfortably hold and still make it back to your seat. Come back on Fridays once your heartburn has subsided and stay to the end of the game to watch the spectacular fireworks display.
40. There are nine home games for the only professional women’s sports team in Houston this summer otherwise known as the Houston Dash. Let’s restate that. NINE opportunities for you to watch some stellar athletes, that as of press deadlines, were in FIRST place in the National Women’s Soccer League. Games are located in BBVA Compass Stadium with matches at 7:30 p.m. on the following dates: June 17, 28, July 8, 15, 22, August 13. Also Sunday, August 27 at 7 p.m.. And we know that you’re already furiously looking to your phone now to purchase tickets, but just in case you need another nudge, consider the fact that Carli Lloyd, the player that scored a hat trick in the 2015 Women’s World Cup final game, is a proud Houston Dash player. Not that we’re name dropping or anything…
41. Not to leave the guys out here, there are also five home games for the Dynamo between June and August. June 23, July 5, July 29 and August 12 at varying times. Come experience one of the loudest, most festive sporting events in town.
42. “BINGO!” Practice saying it over and over until you’ve perfected the ideal level of excitement while still holding your composure, because June 15, July 20 and August 17 starting at 7 p.m. there will be Bingo games and music benefitting Market Square Park and Buffalo Bayou Partnership. Here’s a handy checklist so you can be prepared for an evening full of win.
What to bring? Yourself. Your friends. A blanket (duh!). OK, so possibly a camping or lawn chair if you don’t want to sit directly on the ground. Your listening ears. How else will you hear the caller say, “B 19” or “I 9”? $10 cash. A childlike sense of wonder (optional). An attitude of fun and excitement (also optional).
EAT, DRINK AND BE MERRY
43. You kombucha last dollar you’re going to love this. Kombucha is not a country in Latin America, though it totally sounds like one. It’s a drink made from fermented tea that many also claim is a magical elixir full of good bacteria to enhance your digestive system. Luckily for Downtown, it’s also a drink made by the legendary health food expert Pat Greer and it’s found on tap at Local Foods this summer. Get a refreshing taste at the newest location of the all-scratch-made sandwich shop that recently moved into the 10,000 square feet of space at 420 Main Street Bonus: Pretty much everything else on the entire menu. Plus beer and wine. A special weekend menu. Brunch (OMG!). OK, so these are all way more than bonuses. Let’s rephrase. Step 1. Go to Local Foods. Step 2. Enjoy the heck out of your beverages and your meal. Step 3. Thank us later.
44. Push it, push it real good. Cool down and chill out with adult push pops from Reserve 101 this summer. These boozy popsicles are available for $7 a pop, with fruity versions as well as a salted caramel bacon creamsicle that features bourbon as the star ingredient.
45. Two words: Prosecco popsicles. The frozen adult confections abound in Downtown, and you’ll find this one at the Four Seasons poolside bar. While you’re there, make sure to scope out the hotel’s newest lobby bar and restaurant, Bayou & Bottle. As if that weren’t enough to draw you in, there’s now a Topgolf Swing Suite that can be rented out by the hour for groups of up to 15 featuring two golf simulators, a lounge-y vibe, plenty of high definition televisions and perhaps the most enticing of all, air conditioning.
PRIDE WITHOUT PREJUDICE
46. The Houston LGBT Pride Celebration is going on 39 years! It’s almost over-the-hill, but still knows how to party. Join the epic event with 700,000 of your closest friends and allies and travel to Wonderland and beyond. The festival itself starts June 24 at noon with the parade kicking off at 8:30 p.m. Everything is free to the public, minus the VIP areas, which can be accessed for a fee. Dress as your favorite Alice In Wonderland character, or just as yourself. It’s safe to say that literally anything goes when it comes to Pride attire. Do plan ahead and don’t forget sunscreen, water, patience and remember it’s a marathon, not a sprint.
ART YOU GLAD YOU CAME TO THIS BLOCK?
47. Catch Sidewalk Cinema, the newest Art Blocks installment located in two windows of the Sakowitz garage at 1111 Main Street. This video-focused addition is a collaboration between the Downtown District, the Downtown District Public Art Committee and a partnership with the Aurora Picture Show. The inaugural installation, which runs through July is Color Play, a 40-minute reel of six video works by four female video artists played on alternating loops. “The location for Sidewalk Cinema isn’t your typical gallery or theater set-up, so I selected work that might catch people’s attention as they rush by,” said Mary Magsamen, curator for the Aurora Picture Show. “My hope is that people will stop and watch — for 30 seconds or 30 minutes — and that they’ll find something that speaks to them from one of the four artists featured.” Color Play features the works of Kasumi, Kawita Vatanajyankur, Jodie Mack and Houston’s own Emily Peacock.
48. While you’re meandering among the three blocks of public art installations near 1000 Main Street known as Art Blocks, be sure to take a selfie under the vibrantly colored installation of woven wooden slats known as the Trumpet Flower. In addition to its likeness of a whimsical upside-down tornado, it does provide a very practical function of providing shade from the intense Houston summer sun. #TrumpetFlowerHou
LET THEM EAT FRIES
49. Let them eat fries? So maybe it wasn't the famous line from Marie Antoinette, but it might be the second-most famous thing to come out of France (OK, Belgium). The French fry takes center stage at Saint Arnold Brewing Company come July 13, in celebration of National French Fry Day. We do mean literal center stage, as there will be someone on site dressed as a carton of French fries. Word on the street is that there'll be all-you-can-eat fries with a buffet of topping options, beverages and maybe even a random dude dressed as a ketchup bottle, all for a flat fee of $20.
50. Prohibition has gone through some changes recently, rebranding the restaurant portion as a casual oyster bar open for dinner only, but the extravagant burlesque shows in the revitalized Isis Theatre are still part of the supper club. Come for the oysters, stay for the theatrics. But just know they’re two separate entities with separate menus and separate entrances. 1008 Prairie.