Walkable Houston: Rice University

Photo courtesy of Rice University

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.

While you may not think of spending much time at Rice University (whether you’re a student or not), you may want to rethink that. A stroll along the 294-acre campus should be a bucket list item for any local.

Play & Explore

  • James Turrell SkyspaceHead to the Shepherd School of Music and you’ll find the magnificent Twilight Epiphany Skyspace. Built in 2012 and designed by brilliant artist James Turrell (also noted for his The Light Inside tunnel at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston), the acoustically-engineered pyramidal structure is equipped with a LED light sequence that projects onto the roof and evokes the sun’s arc. The public is invited to view magical performances of light and sound, which occur at sunrise and sunset, on select days (reservations are free but required).
  • Shepherd School of Music On the west end of campus, the elegant, state-of-the-art Alice Brown Hall houses The Shepherd School of Music. Check out its 1,000-seat Stude Concert Hall, the largest performance space in Alice Pratt Brown Hall, with mahogany trim, velour drapery, and a 1965 New York Steinway “D” piano at the stage. And look out for the new Rice University Music and Performing Arts Center, which will be connected to Alice Brown via a pedestrian plaza.
  • Moody Center for the Arts With a striking, contemporary design, this arts center serves as an experimental platform for creating and exhibiting works in all disciplines. The exhibitions spaces are free and open to the public, though some programs and events may require a ticket. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday 10am to 5pm.
  • Rice Cinema From early silent films to contemporary world digital cinema, this Rice Media Center theater regularly shows documentaries, foreign films, and experimental cinema, also bringing in filmmakers from all parts of the world to present their work.
  • Hamman HallThe Rice Players, the university’s oldest student-run theater company, puts on two large and a few small productions each year, typically in this 466-seat theater.
  • Rice Public Art Look out for pop-up art installations from the Rice Public Art program, which works in collaboration with The Shepherd School of Music, the Department of Visual and Dramatic Arts (VADA), the BioScience Research Collaborative (BRC), and the student organization Art Lab, among others.
  • Rice University Loop Runners love this oak-shaded, 2.9-mile trail that bends around the perimeter of campus.
  • Rice Stadium Catch the Rice Owls football team play at this 47,000-capacity stadium, which also houses the impressive Brian Patterson Sports Performance Center.
  • Tudor Fieldhouse Opened in 1950 and renovated in 2008, this historic court is home to the Rice basketball teams.
  • Reckling Park Head to this stadium to cheer on The Rice Owls baseball team.
  • George R. Brown Tennis Center This tennis center sits located adjacent to the Brian Patterson Sports Performance Center at Rice Stadium, with seating for 600 and state-of-the-art technology.
  • Wendel D. Ley Track & Holloway Field This 1,500-capacity facility is home to track and field and soccer.
  • Rice Aquatics Center Natatorium With 8 lanes and 4 diving boards and a picturesque long-course facility, head here to see the Rice University swim team.

Eat & Drink

  • 4.Tac0Located in the Rice University Student Center, this taco joint is known for its plant-forward creations.
  • Flo ParisHead to the Brochstein Pavilion and French-inspired cuisine from Flo Paris.
  • Rice CoffeehouseThis student-run café is located in the Rice Memorial Center by the campus bookstore.
  • ValhallaIn Norse mythology, Valhalla is a majestic, great hall in Asguard, ruled by the widely revered god of healing, death, sorcery, knowledge, and battle, Odin. But at Rice University, Valhalla has been the unofficial hangout ruled by Rice’s graduate students for over 40 years. This no-frills bar, run by graduate students and alumni, is hidden beneath the steps of Keck Hall. Head here to get a taste of college life through cheap pints and bottles with some Les Givral’s banh mi at the side.
  • The Whoo Deli Inside Sammy’s in the Rice U Student Center, this deli offers made-to-order sandwiches and more.
  • Willy’s PubThe university’s oldest and least family-friendly student-run business is open for lunch, dinner, and late-night in the RMC basement. Inside, you’ll also find a satellite restaurant from Ambassador Chinese.
  • Nearby eateries at Rice Village – Check out our Walkable Houston: Rice Village guide for a lineup of eateries and bars within walking distance from campus, including hotspots like Little Woodrow’s, Hopdoddy Burger Bar, Coppa Osteria, Helen Greek Food and Wine, Hungry’s, and Torchy’s Tacos.

Shop & Support Local

  • Rice University Farmers Market This Farmers Market pops up at Entrance 13B off of Greenbriar Drive every Tuesday from 3:30pm to 6:30pm (rain or shine), featuring dozens of offering locally-grown food and artisan goods.
  • Rice University Campus Bookstore Pick up Rice University apparel, gifts, accessories, supplies and more at this on-campus bookstore.
  • Nearby shopping at Rice Village – Check out our Walkable Houston: Rice Village guide for a lineup of shops within walking distance from campus, from gourmet sweet shop The Chocolate Bar to a boutique from local designer Chloe Dao.
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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 .