If you feel like jazzing things up a little or are in the mood for dramatic performances in Houston, you’re in luck! The Art District in Houston, The Washington Avenue, has become one of the most vibrant and recognized creative communities in Texas, boasting of sophisticated acts, classy shows and world-class performances by resident performers, bands, and comedians. It is also the largest. Old warehouses have been converted into live performance venues and welcoming bars, buildings transformed into SOHOs, and within some of the buildings are hundreds of studios belonging to some of the most creative groups and individuals in Houston.
Because of its unique blend of offerings and affordable opportunities, people believe that it has the highest concentration of working creative artists in the United States. The streets are also lined with restaurants, cafes, bakeries, fast food joints, and coffee outlets that has both the off-the-cuff ambiance and sleek, polished feel.
If you’re ready to let your hair down and spend the day simply soaking in the vibe, the Houston charter bus is always ready to take you around to the following venues. But first, here is a quick sneak peek!
615 Texas Ave, Houston, TX 77002
Located in the heart of downtown Houston’s art district, Alley Theater is a Tony-Award Winning indoor theater which houses ‘The Hubbard’, 9 towers and open-air terraces. Awe-struck visitors were not hesitant to leave behind them a string of positive reviews about its castle-like ambiance and a spiraling staircase. Alley Theater is one of the oldest resident theaters in the United States and not an easy structure to sidestep because of its prominent Brutalist-style which took the world of architecture by storm. In French, it simply means ‘raw concrete’. Its use has resulted in its accentuated look which was popular in the 1950s in countries like the U.K. Canada, Australia and a large part of Europe. The former humble dance studio of Nina Eloise Whittington Vance (who started the studio in 1947) also played host to renowned performances like the Pulitzer Prize award-winning Paul Zindel’s ‘The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds’.
Given enthusiastic nods of approval from fervent supporters and critics alike, it is said to be the most striking theater in the United States and a successful statement, of sorts, theatrically and architecturally. Its endearing qualities were also deeply recognized and quickly rewarded by the American Institute of Architects. For those who are visiting with young children or looking for educational opportunities, check out HYPE, the Houston Young Playwrights Exchange, program which offers bridge-building opportunities for young, aspiring writers and performers age 20 and younger.
615 Louisiana, Houston, TX 77002
Jones Hall, ever since opening its doors in 1966, has been formed the building blocks for local creative Houstonians. Staying true to the original dream and vision of its founder, Jesse Holman Jones (the publisher of the Houston Chronicle) and his wife, they step up the tempo with ample stage performances and live entertainment throughout the year.
The hall has been attracting more than 400,000 visitors from all around the country, and the world over, with its hundreds of yearly events. Today, home to the Houston Symphony and the Society for the Performing Arts, it continues to push small town boundaries and limits.
With its dominating, stunning structure made out of travertine marble facade, complete with an 8-story column and a remarkably grand entrance, the magnificent structure is anything but benign at first sight. Beyond that, the philanthropists and his wife succeeded in cultivating, motivating whole communities all around Houston and his lifelong contributions towards the common good of human beings continue to have an impact.
Hobby Center for the Performing Arts
800 Bagby St, Houston, TX 77002
Delicious wine and food are often associated with the performances hosted by The Hobby Center. And why not? It has an amazing ambiance, hypnotizing music and singing, admirable acoustics, and a balcony overlooking the Houston downtown area. Patrons are served South American food and drinks by the on-site Artista Restaurant located on the 2nd level of the building, healthy salads, pasta and paninis by Grand Lobby Bistro, while candies and an assortment of snacks and beverages (including delicious wines and refreshing cocktails) can be purchased at the concession stands outside the venue. After opening its doors in 2002 at the fringes of the Houston Theater District, the Hobby Center’s 60-foot high glass walls that offer views out towards the shimmering skyline of Houston, Tranquility Park, and the Houston City Hall, has been attracting besotted attention. They said it was the show before the show… and they’re absolutely right.
The theater was named after a local businessman and former Texas Lieutenant Governor, William P. Hobby, Jr. whose family foundation gifted the center. The Hobby Center replaced both the Houston Music Hall and the Sam Houston Coliseum and today, it presents residents and touring troupes with 2 main performance venues – Sarofim Hall and Zilkha Hall. The former can seat more than 2,650 patrons while the smaller Zilkha hall is actually an intimate 500-seater theater.
Wortham Theater Center
501 Texas Ave, Houston, TX 77002
Bold and beautiful – that’s how most people would describe the Wortham Theater Center along Texas Avenue. Lift your chin as you take a walk near the street and chances are, you’ll see it from the escalator. As grand and iconic as it is to the people of Texas, the theater also represents the deep-seated local culture and the legacy of its wealth during the early discovery of oil in the state of Texas and its perpetuating performing arts boom during the 1980s. Slotted to be built on a budget of $66 million, much of which was contributed by passionate supporters, it is a true evidence of what a community can do when they put not just their heads, but also their hearts and resources, together. The venue is a testament to the fact that ‘where there’s a will, there’s a way’.
The Helen Hayes Chandelier hangs in the Green Room after it was bought over from NYC’s Fulton Theater by Houstonians Billy and Janie Lisa Price. The ‘grand-scale staircase’ is actually a series of illuminated escalators designed by New York sculptor, Albert Paley. When team effort is promoted, Houstonians prove that a nearly 450,000 square foot event venue CAN be built under budget and ahead of schedule. The Wortham Center is home to Houston Ballet and Houston Grand Opera, and together with the series of touring and local performances, they have managed to attract more than 8 million people to its venue… and counting.
Light-Hearted Entertainment Abound in Downtown Houston
At the end of the day, however, it is not always about size. There are also smaller, more intimate and just as entertaining places strewn across the vast expanse of Houston’s landscape for you to visit to unwind in. For instance, a few short blocks away from Houston Art District, you can pop by Bayou Place for a nice drink and hang out with your friends, bring your kids to Cathedral House Montessori for art-focused early education programs, visit the quirky watering hole called Notsuoh along S Main Street, or get your funky vibes on at an Irish pub like Shay McElroy’s Pub.
The live entertainment venues were the springboards for many established local artists which includes the likes of Lyle Lovett and ZZ Top. There is the historically-significant Fitzgerald’s which has more than 3 decades worth of history and their open mic nights, the nondescript live entertainment by alternative bands at Numbers, and the renovated 1920s warehouse in Houston’s Eado neighborhood, Warehouse Live.
500 Texas Ave, Houston, TX 77204
Only a few blocks away from Houston Art District
Cathedral House Montessori
1112 Prairie St, Houston, TX 77002
314 S Main St, Houston, TX 77002
Shay McElroy’s Pub
909 Texas St # A, Houston, TX 77002
2706 White Oak Dr, Houston, TX 77007
300 Westheimer Rd, Houston, TX 77006
813 St Emanuel St, Houston, TX 77003
The Houston art scene is huge and beyond anyone’s imagination. Rewind a few decades ago, it would have only been a distant dream and yet, here we are today, with a city filled with an abundance of options. They’re now bolder than imagined and more creative than ever thought possible and we think you’re going to have a ball viewing all the shows!