Greetings, Internet Stranger, and welcome to a one day in Houston itinerary. Houston usually isn’t listed as one of the most beautiful cities in America. It doesn’t have San Francisco’s bay, Chicago’s architecture, New York’s funky neighborhoods, or New Orleans’s charm.
Want to cut right to the chase, Internet Stranger? The best activity in Houston is this gorgeous mural tour with tons of five-star reviews!
Or if you want to explore all tours in Houston, check this search engine right here to find the best deals!
But get a little closer, and you’ll see that Houston can be a lovely metropolis, with fantastic street art, interesting buildings, and a top-notch museum or too.
Today we’re going to get up close and personal with Houston’s culture. It will be glorious! Let’s go!
One day in Houston itinerary
Where to Stay?
Houston is a fairly spread out city, so I was looking for a convenient location for my One day in Houston itinerary, right in the heart of downtown.
That’s why I chose the Hampton Inn Houston Downtown. It was right in the middle of the city, near all the best murals and the Minute Maid baseball park, aka the Juice Box. The staff was extremely pleasant and the breakfast was free every morning. The perfect hotel for me!
If you want a great deal on this hotel, click here.
And if you’d rather explore great deals on tons of other hotels in Houston, click here.
This search engine will help you find the most affordable and convenient hotel during your one day in Houston itinerary. With hundreds of options to choose from, I’m sure you’ll find something for your schedule and budget.
One Day in Houston Itinerary
Morning: Sam Houston Park
We’re going to begin our one day in Houston itinerary at Sam Houston Park, which is a living history museum of historic Houston homes. Before coming here, I didn’t even realize that Houston had homes! I thought the city was built entirely on oil, chrome, and Hakeem Olajuwon.
But in fact, Houston has a ton of fascinating history, and you can learn a plethora of facts exploring the history homes in Sam Houston Park. Plus, the trees will provide shade from Houston’s often brutal heat!
Most days of the week, Sam Houston Park offers docent tours of the houses. For the purposes of this one day in Houston itinerary, you’ll want to take the 10 AM tour. You can learn more about that here. Then get ready for…
Three Fun Facts: Sam Houston Park
1) Are There Any Really Old Buildings?
If you want to see some old building, head to the Old Place. (That’s not a joke; it’s really called the Old Place.) This wooden building was moved to Sam Houston Park from elsewhere in Texas, but it dates back to 1823. It’s the best example of Texas Colonial architecture you’ll find in Houston.
On the other hand, they say the Kellum-Noble House is the oldest surviving brick building in Houston. It was built in 1847, and it later became one of the first schools in Houston. The building’s identity has changed many times over the years, and it was even part of Houston’s first zoo. (Can’t really imagine the elephants loving this place too much.)
I don’t really think you can say you’ve been to Houston until you see this house.
2) What’s the Prettiest House in Sam Houston Park?
I think one of them is certainly the Nichols-Rice House, which is Greek Revival. You can tell because of the fancy Greek-style toppy thingies on the columns. This place used to belong to William Marsh Rice. They say he was one of the richest men in Houston, and my understanding is that if you’re one of the richest men in Houston, you’re very rich indeed.
The Pillot House is also quite lovely. This is a Victorian style house, which means that you need to dress it as “Her Majesty”. It was also apparently one of the first houses in Houston to have a kitchen attached. Did people need to leave their house to cook dinner before then? That seems inconvenient. I’m glad I live now, and not in the 1860s.
3) So Only Rich White People Lived in These Houses?
Absolutely not! The Yates House belonged to an emancipated slave named Jack Yates. He was a minister and an educator. His house was not originally located in this park; rather it was moved here later.
You might know that our holiday Juneteenth, which celebrates the ending of slavery in the United States on June 19th, started in Texas. That’s because Texas was the last state in the US to end slavery. So sometimes events and education related to Juneteenth take place in this house.
One Day in Houston Itinerary
Early Afternoon: Mural Tour
You might be wondering why you would want to take a mural tour of Houston. Is Houston famous for murals? Well, yes indeed! Houston has tons of wonderful public art spread all over the city. Unfortunately it would be very difficult to see all of it by ourselves, and impossible on foot.
That’s why I recommend getting this driving tour of all the wonderful murals in Houston. You’ll get to see the whole city, rest your feet and get out of the hot sun, take some amazing photos for Instagram, and more!
You can book this fantastic tour for yourself by clicking here!
I suggest getting the 1 PM tour if you are following this itinerary. But before the tour starts, we need lunch!
24 Hour Treat: Bayou and Bottle
I found it a bit difficult to find a restaurant for lunch near Sam Houston Park, so I was fortunate to stumble across Bayou and Bottle. This whiskey bar/restaurant had delicious lobster tacos, if you want to feel extraordinarily decadent. The lobster was a little spicy, and I’m not used to have it prepared that way, so I enjoyed the surprise.
You don’t need to have a whiskey drink, but why not try one since you’re here? You are not driving the cart for the mural tour after all! I opted for the Dr. Pepper Old Fashioned, since we are in Texas and DP rules here. The waitress asked me if I wanted a second, and I was tempted, but decided to limit my day drinking.
PS. The bathroom here has black toilet paper. Here is proof!
See! I would never lie to you about something like that.
Anyway, now that the world’s fanciest toilet paper has been presented, it’s time on our one day in Houston itinerary for…
Three Fun Facts: Houston Mural Tour
1) What is the Most Famous Mural in Houston?
Our guide, whom I shall call Dusty, said that the Houston is Inspired mural that you can see in my photo above is the most Instagrammed image in the entire city. I guess there’s someone whose job it is to look at all the images geotagged in Houston and see which one shows up the most often? Seems like an easy and fun job!
This mural was part of an initiative to highlight the art scene and the culinary scene in Houston. That way people wouldn’t just associate Houston with banging on trashcans and having problems in outer space and whatnot. The artist is named Gonzo 247, which is a cool name but it makes me wonder what happened to the 246 other Gonzos.
2) Who is the best mural artist in Houston?
I’m not sure about that because I didn’t see every mural in Houston. But I was very impressed by the lovely murals of a French artist who goes by the name of Mr. D. You can see more of his work here. My favorite mural of his is this sunset-colored number with the feather in it, partially because Dusty helped me take this picture where it looks like I am blowing a feather.
But then Mr. D also made this mural that looks like God in the Sistine Chapel, except that God is holding a spray can here. I don’t think God is holding a spray can in the real Sistine Chapel, but I can’t be 100 percent sure. It’s been a little while since I have been to Rome.
Dusty said that it took over 500 cans of spray paint to make this one mural, and I can believe it! It’s truly a massive thing to experience in person.
3) Are there political murals?
Yes! One of the most visually interesting is this mural with a black and white image of President Obama opposite a colorful and smiling image of his wife, Michelle. Dusty said that this mural used to be of Obama alone, and sometimes people would graffiti over it. But then they added the image of Michelle and people stopped doing that.
The last stop on the tour was at Graffiti Park, which is a bit different from the rest of the murals. The other paintings we saw on the tour were commissioned, but Graffiti Park is done by amateurs and art enthusiasts. A lot of the paintings here did have a political theme, like this image of George Floyd that you can see above.
24 Hour Tip
Those were some of my favorite murals on the tour, but there were many more that I saw that I didn’t have time to share.
Check rates and availability for yourself by going here
That way you can see them on your own! Which one will be your favorite on your one day in Houston itinerary?
One Day in Houston Itinerary
Late Afternoon: Museum of Fine Arts
After spending all that time driving around and looking at art, we’ll be ready to enjoy an art-conditioned building and some more classic works. That’s why I suggest heading over to the Museum of Fine Arts. It’s open to 6 or even 9 PM most days, so there will be plenty of time to explore after the mural tour on your one day in Houston itinerary.
The Museum of Fine Arts is as massive as you’d expect something in Texas’s largest city to be. In fact, it has three different buildings. But for the purposes of this itinerary, we’re going to stay in the Audrey Jones Beck building, which is the one with the gift shop. And it’s here we’ll learn at least…
Three Fun Facts: Museum of Fine Arts
1) Is There American Art?
Why of course! The Museum of Fine Arts has an excellent collection of American artists from the 19th century. One of my favorites is this painting called “Children in a Garden (The Nurse)” by Mary Cassatt. You can tell that it’s a Cassatt because it’s done in an Impressionistic style and there are women with children in it, as opposed to hot girls or lily pads like the other Impressionists like.
I appreciate Cassatt’s interest in the inner life of women and children, and I also appreciate her use of parentheses in the title of her painting, like in the title of the song “I’m Free (Heaven Helps the Man)” by Kenny Loggins.
I also enjoy this genre of painting in the American section known as trompe l’oeil. Trompe l’oeil means to trick the eye, and trompe l’oeil artists try to fool you into thinking that some elements of the painting are real. But of course, if your subject is cash, and it looks like real money, you can get into some trouble with Uncle Sam that way.
2) What About European Art?
Mais bien sur! If you liked the trompe l’oeil paintings and want to see something realistic, check out one of the Dutch still lives, especially this one portraying a banquet. Doesn’t it look like that lemon is about to fall off the table? I tried to reach out and catch the citrus before it tumbled, but then the guards got mad at me, so I had to back away.
And if you want a famous European artist to go with Mary Cassatt, try this painting of Saint Jerome by El Greco. It’s very easy to tell that a painting is an El Greco. Just look for religious subject matter, pointy elongated shapes, and colors that take you by surprise. And in general there’s that El Greco feeling of being kind of bummed out, but in a nice way.
3) What About More Famous Artists? I Need More Fame?
Oh, if it’s fame you crave, the Museum of Fine Arts definitely has you covered. How about a painting of the sea by Turner? No one does waves better than Turner!
And if it’s a ship you’re looking for, you can’t do better than Eugene Delacroix!
Thought Renoir only painted buxom girls wearing awesome hats? Well, actually he did this still life too. No girls, no hats, just a bouquet and a fan someone has inexplicably stuck in a vase.
And if Monet is your favorite artist, we’ve got this late-stage Monet without a single lily pad inside. Actually, it’s pretty hard to tell what’s going on in this paintings. Those actually might be lily pads that are burning in hell. (What awful thing could lily pads even do that would result in their being punished in this way?)
One Day in Houston Itinerary
Evening: Dinner at Theodore Rex
It’s now time on our one day in Houston itinerary for dinner, so we’re going to Theodore Rex. Theodore Rex calls itself relaxed fine dining, which is the perfect kind of vibe for Houston. Go here and get a couple of small plates, a main course, and a dessert, and you’ll be all set.
The menu changes from time to time, but pretty much everything I got is one of their specialties, so at least for now it’s still on the menu.
I suggest starting with something light like the melon with hot peppers, cilantro, jasmine tea and calamansi, and Hungarian peppers.
What I liked is that the melon was fresh and summer-sweet, but then you have this kind of heat all over it which made it feel like an exciting and adventurous experience. Like if you could turn the song “Summer Lovin'” into a dish, it would be this melon dish.
Then we have this tomato toast, which is probably the most famous dish on the menu. It is just bursting with flavor–one of those things that almost makes the tomato feel like meat just because it is so rich and umami.
They bring out the tomato topping and the bread separately, so you can put on as little or as much as you want. (I chose to put on a whole heckuva bunch. Yes, that’s the technical term in Texas.)
The main course I suggest is the chicken breast glazed in coconut with rice. Theodore Rex is famous for the high quality of their rice, and this was ecstatically fluffy, though I admit I could not finish all of it after the bread.
The coconut chicken was served with an anchovy garlic chili ginger sauce, which was you needed to balance the sweetness from the coconut, but then it was also kind of salty…a little spicy…also some savory…really I just wanted to eat that sauce with a spoon. That’s why I appreciated that they just listed the ingredients on the menu so you can sort of sit there and pick them all out yourself.
Now I’m going to give you an order. If it’s your first time at Theodore Rex, you need to eat this butter cake. Don’t argue with me! You’ll thank me later. This warm butter cake is topped with strawberry jam and cultured cream, so it’s like a cross between a scone and ice cream.
I wouldn’t have thought to put like butter and cream together like that because I would’ve thought it was too rich, but actually the cultured cream wasn’t too rich at all. It was just a tremendously decadent treat, and the perfect end to our one day in Houston itinerary.
One day in Houston itinerary
- An excellent small cell charger so you can keep taking pictures of your One day in Houston itinerary
- My favorite guide to Texas, including Houston
- These great TSA approved clear toiletries bags, so I can always keep spare toothpaste and travel sized toiletries in any carry-on
- The most reliable travel umbrella that is small enough to fit in my purse, but strong enough to stand up to powerful winds
- My book Get Lost, that I wrote myself with all my best travel tips. This book will show you how travel can take you on a journey of self-discovery.
One day in Houston itinerary
How to Get There?
By Car: This is an easy way to get to your One day in Houston itinerary, if you are coming from somewhere else in Texas. You can drive here easily from Dallas or other major Texan cities.
However, I don’t know how to drive, so this wasn’t an option for me. Fortunately Uber is widely available in Houston. You will need a car for this One day in Houston itinerary because the landmarks are too spread out otherwise. If you need to rent a car, you can use the search engine Expedia to find the best price from the available car rental companies.
By Plane: Fortunately, there is an airport in Houston! In fact, there’s more than one, but you’ll probably be flying into the George Bush Airport. (Again, I recommend using a search engine like Expedia to search for the best prices on flights.)
By Bus: You can use the Megabus to get to Houston from nearby cities like Dallas. It’s a pretty cheap ride–if you are car-free and coming from a fairly nearby destination, this might be the way for you. I used the bus to get to Dallas, and it worked perfectly.
That’s a Perfect One Day in Houston Itinerary
What would you do with a one day in Houston itinerary? What does a lily pad do to get sent to Hell? And does the Sistine Chapel have any spray paint cans in its paintings? Please email me at email@example.com and let me know!
Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that while each article is about how to spend 24 hours in a place, that doesn’t mean you should ONLY have a one day in Houston itinerary. If you have time for another day in Houston, try this itinerary.