One great perk of spending college in New Orleans is your proximity to a ton of great southern spots that are just a road trip away. While a lot of students head east to gulf coast beaches or cities like Atlanta, Memphis, and Jackson, there’s a whole lot to be explored out west—enter Houston, Texas. The nation’s fourth largest city in arguably America’s greatest state (sorry, I’m more than a little biased) has literally everything one would want in a vacation. Someone once described Houston to me as if “LA and New Orleans had a baby,” and they’re mostly right: Houston maintains a certain southern charm throughout its design, consumerism, diversity, and massive sprawl akin to the west coast city. As a native Houstonian, I’ve done the drive between NOLA and Htown way too many times to count, and am here to guide you through it all to make your next roadtrip an unforgettable one!
The drive between New Orleans to Houston is about 5 hours on a good day, six with traffic. Expect to see a lot of swampland, oil refineries, and to spend an hour and a half on a bridge highway. It’s not the most scenic drive, but it’s certainly not the worst, and it gives you a great sense of the gulf coast! To make it less boring, I recommend stopping in Baton Rouge for lunch, which you drive right through. Make sure to hit up the White Star Market food hall, and Elsie’s Plate and Pie for dessert. You should also check out Louisiana’s capitol—the building is from the 1930s and is beautiful architecture. There are also several plantations around the outskirts of both Baton Rouge and NOLA to visit and tour. If you’re determined to get straight to Houston, just know that food options outside of BR are skim—but the Texas state line greets you with a Whataburger in Orange, TX and a Bucee’s in Baytown!
The hardest part of writing this article by far was narrowing down Houston restaurant recommendations. As the most diverse city in America, Houston has amazing food from nearly every part of the world. For fancier meals, go to Coltivare, Indianola, State of Grace, Tiny Boxwood’s, Caracol, Nancy’s Hustle, UB Preserv, Vibrant, Pondicheri, The Classic, Uchi, Giacomo’s, Hugo’s, or Yauatcha, to name a few. For ethnic food, go to the Hillcroft area for amazing Indian and Pakistani, Bellaire for Houston’s chinatown, Midtown for Vietnamese. The Heights, apart from it’s greater appeal, has great food options, as does Montrose. And, of course, you can’t visit Houston without tasting both BBQ and Tex Mex: Ninfa’s, Chuy’s, Irma’s, and El Real have you covered, as does Goode Company Barbeque, Tejas Chocolate and BBQ, The Pit Room, and Blood Brothers.
As a college student, your best bet is to rent an Airbnb. I would look for places in central Houston or “in the loop”—great neighborhoods are the Heights, Montrose, Midtown, Uptown, and West University. If you want to splurge on a hotel, go for the Hotel ZaZa in the museum district, and Le Meridien or The Icon downtown.
Houston’s shopping varies by its neighborhoods. The largest shopping district is uptown, which holds our largest mall, the Houston Galleria. Lower Westheimer, in River Oaks, has great places as well. Nearby is the high luxury River Oaks Shopping District and the trendy Highland Village. Memorial has some nice shopping as well. There’s also Rice Village, next to Rice University and near the Medical Center. Montrose has great vintage and design shopping. My personal favorite is The Heights; go to 19th street, as well as the heights mercantile center.
Houston has several great museums. My favorites are the MFAH (which holds the second bean sculpture, lesser known compared to Chicago’s), the Museum of Natural Science, and the free and Beyonce-frequented Menil Collection. Explore parks like Hermann Park, Discovery Green, and Memorial Park, or the Bayou Trails. See an Astros game at Minute Maid Park, the Rockets at the Toyota Center, or the Texans at NRG Stadium. Cool neighborhoods to explore include Montrose, The Heights, Rice/The Museum District, and East Downtown (EADO). Outside of central Houston, visit the NASA Space Center, which has a museum that includes the control center, as well as several rockets and a model of the space shuttle. If you’re wanting to extend your trip, spend 45 minutes to get to Galveston, Texas, a beach island off the coast. Spend the day at the beach, explore Galveston’s historic downtown, and be sure to stop at La Kings for dessert. Houston nightlife is vibrant: hit up 360 Midtown, Axelrad, Present Company, Boheme, Goodnight Charlie’s, Cle, or other places in the Midtown/Montrose area. And great music venues include Revention, White Oak, and Warehouse Live.
Houston: often overlooked, but only to their massive loss. It’s a place where anyone can find what they’re looking for, and much, much more. Let us know if you have any recommendations to add, or decide to take us up on the trip. We promise you won’t regret it.
COVER PHOTO: City of Houston