Walkable Houston: The Theater District in Downtown

Photo courtesy of Wortham Theater Center

While Houstonians definitely love their cars, there are nooks and crannies of the city that are best explored by foot. In our Walkable Houston series, we traverse those districts to find the prettiest parks, hottest restaurants and bars, coolest local art and shops, and most visit-worthy hidden gems.

One of Houston’s crown jewels is its majestic Theater District, set in the beautiful Downtown. There, you’ll find a mosaic of artistic performance venues, as well as bars, restaurants, and family-friendly attractions that are all just a stone’s throw away. Hop from block to block, by night or day, and enjoy some cultured time at the theater.

Note: For the purposes of this list, the Theater District is the area around and bounded by Preston, Bagby, Walker, and Milam Streets.

Play & Explore

  • Alley Theatre Home to a resident company of actors and located on Texas Avenue, this renovated non-profit theater creates and hosts an array of innovative productions—from classics and underrated plays to modern premieres. It offered over 450 performances in the 2017-2018 season, producing more performances than all other performing arts organizations in the Houston Theater District combined.
  • Jones Hall Set on Louisiana, the stunning Jones Hall is the permanent home of the Houston Symphony, as well as the Society for the Performing Arts. With a curving travertine marble façade, rectangular columns and elegant, vibrant red and gold interior, it sets the tone for a brilliant evening of music and art. Inside the theater, 800 hexagons can be raised and lowered to manipulate acoustics, and the room can shrink from 2,912 seats to 2,300.
  • Wortham Theater Center Opening in 1987, the 437,500-square foot Worthman center hosts two beautiful theaters, playing home to the Houston Ballet and the Houston Grand Opera. The Alice and George Brown Theater rocks a 17,000-square foot stage used primarily for the resident companies; while the 1,100-seat Lillie and Roy Cullen Theater hosts smaller opera and ballet productions and serves other arts groups and solo artists.
  • Hobby Center for Performing Arts With an impressive 3-story grand lobby, 60-foot-high glass walls overlooking the city skyline, this first-class performance venue boasts two acoustically distinguished theaters, the 2,650-seat Sarofim Hall and the 500-seat Zilkha Hall. Performing companies include Broadway at the Hobby Center Series and local musical company Theater Under the Stars.
  • Open House Look out for the annual Theater District Open House, where you can experience a behind-the-scenes thrill of the theatre for free.
  • Revention Music Center Over in Bayou Place, this performance venue rocks a superior sound system, seeing a plethora of artists from Coldplay, Twenty One Pilots, and Sting to Zedd, Ms. Lauryn Hill, and Dave Chappelle.
  • AMC Houston 8 Catch a blockbuster at this dine-in movie theater, also in Bayou Place.
  • Downtown Aquarium Go on an underwater adventure at the Downtown Aquarium, where you can dine among aquatic life at the in-house restaurant, check out over 300 species from around the globe alongside special exhibits, and enjoy games and rides including the Shark Voyage train ride and Diving Bell Ferris Wheel that soars 100 feet into the air.
  • Sesquicentennial Park Located in the heart of the Theater District near Wortham Center, this 22-acre urban park is flanked by the Buffalo Bayou. Check out art installations, including the 70-foot-high Seven Wonders pillars, the George H.W. Bush Monument, and the Big Bubble, a bubble of water you can activate in the bayou by pressing a big red button over by the Preston Street Bridge.
  • Hermann Square/City Hall Nearby off Walker and Bagby sits Houston’s City Hall and the Hermann Square Reflection Pond. Look out for celebrations and festivals on the sprawling lawn.
  • Tranquility Park A short walk away on Rusk and Walker, this tranquil park offers an oasis of flowing fountains and pools, serene walkways and grassy mounds.
  • Market Square Park Close by on Milam, this neighborhood park hosts a variety of events, from movie nights and Blanket Bingo to pop-up festivals and annual celebrations, plus Greek eats and drinks (both boozy and not) from Niko Niko’s.

Eat & Drink

  • Aquarium RestaurantDine on crunchy fish and chips, mixed grills, and kids eats from popcorn shrimp to pirate’s pasta as fascinating sea creatures swim right in front of your eyes.
  • Birraporetti’s DowntownJust steps away from the theaters, this Theater District restaurant offers Italian classics from lobster ravioli to veal parmigiana. Check out Sunday’s live jazz brunch buffet and live music Mondays.
  • The Blue Fish Over in Bayou Place, this chic Japanese spot offers everything from toro sashimi and family-style whole fried fish to kobe sizzler and panko-crusted lobster sushi rolls.
  • Coterie Set in the luxurious Market Square Tower, this all-day café and wine bar is the perfect retreat. Linger over wines and lattes while noshing on brioche cinnamon rolls, Wagyu burgers, and cacio e pepe pizzas.
  • Cultivated F+BDine on Ahi tuna tartar, short rib tacos, filet mignon au poivre, and chocolate ganache cake at this elegant Hotel Lancaster spot.
  • Diana American Grill This show-stopping restaurant sits right in the Hobby Center, offering eats from James Beard award-winning chef Robert Del Grande (also of Café Annie). Dine on Gulf red snapper, Black Angus ribeye, and rigatoni Bolognese before or after a show.
  • Hard Rock CaféThis worldwide sensation sits in Bayou Place, offering rock-and-roll nostalgia alongside burgers, salads, smokehouse selections, desserts, and booze.
  • Little Napoli Head to this Bayou Place restaurant for traditional Italian eats, including brick-oven pizzas, veal marsala, salmon piccata, and lasagna.
  • Pad ThaiTom yum gaai, pad thai, crispy duck, and yellow, red, and green curries are all on the menu at this Louisiana haunt.
  • Perbacco This hidden gem offers Italian tastes like linguine alle vongole, baked cannelloni pasta, grilled beef tenderloin, pollo alla toscana, and snapper in wine sauce off Milam.
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Brooke Viggiano is a food and lifestyle writer residing in Houston. When she's not contributing to publications like 365 Things to Do in Houston, Thrillist Houston and the Houston Press, she's on the hunt for the coolest happenings in the city. You can follow her musings on Twitter @BrookeViggiano .