Explore what's been happening in H-Town.
Houston. It was the first word spoken from the surface of the moon. It is the most diverse city in the country. It has a legendary food scene. And it also happens to be a particularly smart choice for a destination meeting or event.
“In Houston, we’re seeing a clear trend of meeting and conventions being scheduled for the second half of 2021. In fact, Houston is preparing for a record-breaking six-month stretch of conventions compared to the same timeframe in 2019,” says Leah Shah, public relations director for Visit Houston.
Houston First—the management corporation for 10 city-owned venues, including the George R. Brown Convention Center (GRB Houston), Houston First Outdoors and Jones Hall for the Performing Arts—has successfully rebooked 92% of 2020’s citywide conventions that had cancelled due to the pandemic. It has 32 events scheduled from July 1, 2021, to December 31, 2021. Thirty-one of those events have an attendance of 1,000-plus and are considered “impact events,” acting as demand drivers for area hospitality businesses. Seventeen of those events are considered citywide events which have contracted 1,500-plus hotel room nights on peak days, as well as the use of either GRB Houston or NRG Park.
Those groups will find plenty of new places to explore when they gather in Space City.
What’s New in 2021
POST HTX (Opening Fall 2021)
This one-time address of the downtown post office is being transformed into a community hub of restaurants, shops, office space, entertainment and event space. Live Nation has announced it will have a 5,000-capacity music venue called the Terminal, and dining options that have been announced for Post HTX date include Taco Fuego, the Butcher’s Burger, Salt & Time Butcher Shop, Soupreme, Gelu Italian Ice and Lea Jane’s Hot Chicken. And the cherry on top of this multi-tiered urban destination? Its 5-acre rooftop Skylawn Park. The park will feature panoramic views of the city and will include an organic farm and space for events.
The Nancy and Rich Kinder Building (Opened November 2020)
The Nancy and Rich Kinder Building opened late last year, making it the third gallery building of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH). The 237,000-square-foot Kinder Building is dedicated to the display of the museum’s growing international collections of modern and contemporary art. The Kinder Building is named in honor of Richard D. Kinder, chairman of the MFAH Board of Trustees, and his wife, Nancy. Although the building is not available for private celebrations (yet, that is; plans are to open it to events in 2022), its Café Leonelli is available for events after hours and its restaurant Le Jardinier, which opened in May 2021, will be available for private events. Café Leonelli is also developing a catering menu for off-site parties.
Houston Botanic Garden (Opened September 2020)
The 132-acre Houston Botanic Garden is a living, blooming, horticulture museum with curated collections of tropical, sub-tropical and arid plants from around the world. Showcasing the biodiversity of the Texas Gulf Coast, the venue features 2.5 miles of trails, 3 acres of regionally themed zones, a display of edible and medicinal plants, a sensory-engaging area with a boardwalk maze around a lagoon and nature play structures, and an intimate space that visitors can rent for weddings and other celebrations.
The Ion (Opened Spring 2021)
Once the address of a Sears store, The Ion is a 288,000-square-foot office and collaboration center for startups, corporations, venture capitalists, business accelerator programs, academics and others. The new center anchors a 16-acre innovation district and features shared workspace, prototyping and maker resources, event space, classrooms, and food and beverage offerings, including Late August, STUFF’d Wings and Common Bond.
Seismique (Opened December 2021)
The 40,000-square-foot experiential museum Seismique features works by over two dozen established and emerging artists along with advanced technological elements like projection mapping, holograms, augmented reality, light mapping, motion tracking, gamification and more. Seismique is available for a full facility rent-out, or one of its three private event spaces can be rented for smaller gatherings. Each individual private event space is able to accommodate 10 people, but the three spaces can be combined and opened up to accommodate a single private event for as many as 150 people.
New Hotel Openings & Renovations
Holiday Inn Express Houston Galleria and Staybridge Suites Houston Galleria (Opened February 2021)
The combined Holiday Inn Express Houston Galleria and Staybridge Suites Houston Galleria offer a total of 319 rooms and 2,600 square feet of shared, flexible meeting & event space.
Blossom Hotel Houston Medical Center (Opened June 2021)
The 16-story, 267-room Blossom Hotel Houston Medical Center is the only luxury hotel near NRG Stadium. The hotel features 9,000 square feet of event space, including Luna Ballroom, which can accommodate up to 400 people. Nine additional event spaces with flexible floor plans are available. Other amenities include a sushi restaurant, karaoke bar, and translation services.
Hyatt Place Houston Downtown (Opened January 2021)
Featuring 150 rooms, including 16 suites, the 16-story Hyatt Place Houston Downtown features meeting space for up to 60 people and is within walking distance of Minute Maid Park and the Revention Music Center.
Hyatt Regency Houston (Completed February 2021)
Hyatt Regency Houston has a multi-million-dollar new look that includes a complete transformation of its 71,000 square feet of meeting and event space, 955 guest rooms, corridors, lobby, restaurants and public spaces. As part of the renovation, the hotel’s meeting venues were outfitted with state-of-the-art technology, including increased broadband and enhanced streaming and video capabilities.
The Houstonian Hotel, Club & Spa (Completed 2021-2022)
The 40-year-old Houstonian Hotel, Club & Spa (happy anniversary!) is getting a $45-million makeover, including refurbished guest rooms, great room lobby and Trellis Spa. The renovation includes the addition of a new rooftop event space, a new indoor-outdoor restaurant and a new deck overlooking Buffalo Bayou.
Holding a city-wide event? Need a space to accommodate 3,000-plus delegates? Looking to meet near stadiums, parks and attractions? George R. Brown Convention Center is a smart choice.
The 34-year-old George R. Brown Convention Center was named for entrepreneur, civic leader and philanthropist George Rufus Brown. The first convention held at the center was the American Society of Travel Agents in October 1987.
The center features 1.9 million square feet of convention space, with 88 meeting rooms, six balconies, a ballroom, theater, show offices and conference rooms. Add to that a 90,000-square-foot mezzanine, 95,000-square-foot grand concourse, the 97,000-square-foot Avenida Plaza, and The Wharf, an intimate outdoor special event space. The center features free WiFi in all public spaces, and on-site dining options include Grotto Downtown, Kulture, Pappadeaux, Saltgrass Steakhouse and Starbucks.
Just What the Doctors Ordered
Texas Medical Center Research Campus to open in 2022.
The Texas Medical Center Corp., which operates the largest medical center in the world, has unveiled a potential $1.5 billion expansion for its newest campus called TMC3. TMC3 will be a biomedical research hub that clusters researchers and industry experts on a collaborative 36-acre campus.
Houston took the lead on addressing the pandemic.
In the last half of 2020, the Houston First sales division saw a 64% average increase in meeting-lead room nights in September through November. No doubt this was due in part to planners’ confidence in the city’s ability to quickly address health and safety concerns and enact new health measures and technological enhancements in response to the pandemic.
These measures included:
» Introducing Houston Clean, a citywide commitment to enhanced health precautions designed to mitigate virus spread.
» Opening the Avenida Houston Virtual Studio in the George R. Brown Convention Center. The studio provides more flexibility and connectivity for hybrid functions.
» Implementing Medistar Corp’s new biodefense air filtration system at the George R. Brown Convention Center, making it the first convention center to do so.
» Having the George R. Brown Convention Center, Jones Hall, Miller Outdoor Theater, Partnership Tower and Wortham Theater Center all GBAC Star accredited. GBAC Star is the cleaning industry’s only outbreak prevention, response and recovery accreditation for facilities.
Every worthwhile destination has its fair share of quirks and eccentricities and the Bayou City is no different—thank goodness. Here are a few of our favorite quirky things to check out between meeting sessions.
» Drink in the Beer Can House: One person’s trash is another’s art exhibit. As the story goes, in the late 1960s, the homeowner couldn’t bear to part with his empty beer can collection, so one night he got the brilliant idea to take those cans and line his home’s siding with them—and an iconic attraction was born. Featuring some 50,000 cans and pull tabs, the home is also landscaped with folk art. Today it is a workshop and gallery of the Orange Show Center for Visionary Art.
» Drive over to the Art Car Museum. Not too far from the Beer Can House, you can find another iconic attraction: the Art Car Museum, which is dedicated to contemporary art and an exhibition forum for local, national and international artists with an emphasis on art cars. Art car workshops were founded in Houston. Each May, the city hosts the Art Car Parade.
» Burp the bayou. In the middle of a brick column on the south side of Preston Street Bridge at Buffalo Bayou is a mysterious red button. With one push, the bayou bubbles up with a smile-inducing “burp.”
» Explore Houston’s underground. Beneath the city streets is a system of pedestrian tunnels, running for seven miles and linking 95 city blocks. The tunnel connects major city buildings, restaurants and retail stores.
» Park it and explore art. Smither Park is known as a work of art in progress. Located at the corner of Houston’s Third Ward and East End neighborhoods, the park is a half-acre outdoor gallery of elaborate mosaics created out of recycled and found materials and designed by more than 300 local professional and amateur artists.
» Take a historic dip in the reservoir. The 87,500-square-foot Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern is a former underground drinking water reservoir built in 1926 for the City of Houston. Today it houses changing art installations. Fun fact: it has a 17-second echo. It’s open for both public and private history and art tours.
» Orange you glad you met in Houston? Jeff McKissack, a Houston mailman, spent about 25 years transforming his home into a series of mazes, balconies, and mosaics, using reclaimed materials like old bricks and farm equipment and a whole lot of the color orange. McKissack has since passed, but his creation, known as the Orange Show, lives on. It is now the site of educational programs and folk art activities.
Just the Facts
1. “Houston” was the first word heard from the moon.
“Houston, Tranquility Base here” were the first words broadcast from the moon to Mission Control followed by, “The Eagle has landed.”
2. NRG Stadium was the world’s first domed stadium.
The NRG Astrodome, also known as the Houston Astrodome, was constructed between 1962 and 1965 and is the world’s first multipurpose, domed sports stadium.
3. Houstonites eat out more than any urbanites in the U.S.
Of course, Houston is also one of the most foodie cities in the country, so why wouldn’t its residents want to sample the buffet of goodness? The city has more than 10,000 restaurants, representing more than 70 countries and American regions.
4. Houston is the fourth most populous city in the nation.
Approximately 2.3 million people call Houston home.
5. Houston is the most diverse city in the country.
In fact, more than 145 different languages are spoken here.
6. The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is one of the biggest rodeos in the world.
The month-long rodeo attracts over 2.5 million attendees each year.
7. Houston is BIG.
At 655 square miles, the City of Houston could contain the cities of New York, Washington, Boston, San Francisco, Seattle, Minneapolis and Miami.
8. The City of Houston offers a 300-mile interconnected bikeway network.
Spread over 500 square miles, the network includes bike lanes, bike routes, signed-shared lanes and shared-use paths.
9. Houston is situated on two of the four major North American bird and butterﬂy ﬂyways.
In fact, the Houston Audubon Society has counted more than 400 species of birds in the Houston region.
Coming Soon to Houston
Hyatt House/Hyatt Place Houston Texas Medical Center (Opening 2022)
The 14-story, 350,000-square-foot Hyatt House/Hyatt Place Houston Texas Medical Center will feature 159 hotel rooms under the Hyatt Place flag and 139 extended stay rooms under the Hyatt House brand. It will also include a full-service restaurant and lobby café, two on-site bars, and a seventh-floor amenity deck with 3,500 square feet of meeting space, an outdoor pool and a fitness center.
Hilton University of Houston (Completion 2022)
Hilton University of Houston is a teaching hotel for students at University of Houston’s Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management. The hotel’s $30.4-million renovation will add a five-story tower with 71 guest rooms (increasing the hotel’s total number of rooms to 151). The hotel’s existing 80 guest rooms will be renovated, as well, along with the lobby and public spaces. An executive meeting space on the second floor will be added, too.
Thompson Hotel Houston (Opening 2023)
Construction is underway on the luxury Thompson Hotel Houston. The hotel is part of a larger mixed-use project, The Allen, which includes the recently opened Lifestyle Pavilion overlooking Buffalo Bayou Park. Above the Thompson Hotel will be the Residences at The Allen, a community of urban condominiums.