Houston, We Have No Problem

Your next getaway should be to Houston. I know, Houston – the thing Dallas folks love to hate, like JR and the Philadelphia Eagles. But H-Town is a fabulous food and cultural city and the perfect destination for a two-to four-day escape for couples, families, or friend trips. 

The verdant grounds of The Houstonian PHOTO: The Houstonian

What’s so great about it? For starters, The Houstonian Hotel and Club, a 27-acre retreat in the middle of the city, an urban resort unlike anything in Texas. Situated alongside Buffalo Bayou and less than a mile from the Houston Arboretum and Memorial Park, The Houstonian is sheltered from city noise and traffic. Behind the iconic Gate House that welcomes each guest, it truly feels like a place to escape.

The Houstonian planned a $23.5 Million guest room and spa renovation last year prior to the pandemic and was able to complete most of it while corporate travel and social events stalled, and the hotel was closed.

The result is an elegant hotel with modernized rooms and suites, designed for guests to work remotely before that became a necessity. The large bathrooms include warm hardwood flooring, brushed nickel fixtures and marble vanities. The bedrooms are spacious with a soothing blue/white/grey and cream palette.

Service at the hotel is exceptional on every level, from the front desk to the concierge, to housekeeping and room service, which kept its daily promise to deliver my order within 20 minutes or less. As comfortable and elegant as the rooms are, you shouldn’t linger there because there’s much to do at this urban oasis.

RECHARGE

The Trellis Spa Float Pool PHOTO: The Houstonian

There is nothing like The Trellis Spa in Texas. Literally. It’s the largest at 26,000 square feet which includes 6,500 sf of outdoor space with two swimming pool-sized hot soaking tubs, a cold shower, private cabanas, a meditation space, fire pits, and lounge areas.  The Soaking Pools & Garden are inspired by bathing cultures around the world that utilize cold/hot circuits to improve circulation and boost immunity, among other scientifically proven benefits. Food and beverage service and complimentary water and The Houstonian’s famous shortbread cookies are served in this area.

The inside float pool reminds me of an aquamarine solitaire in a beautifully detailed statement ring. It’s the centerpiece of the downstairs relaxation area, adjacent to the women’s locker room and along the main corridor of the spa. Ok, I’ll say it: it’s very Instagrammable.

The spa’s 22 treatment rooms are the settings for traditional and modern treatments that include touchless treatments. Trellis Spa retained its expert staff during the pandemic, shifting them to Trellis’ sister spa in River Oaks, Solaya. The staff are spa professionals and each one of the four that performed a spa service on me was an authority on the type of treatment, product and equipment used.

The Trellis Spa uses premium skin-care lines for their skin treatment protocols: Hydrafacial, Natura Bisse and Orveda, a vegan line based on Ayeurvedic philosophy. The Trellis Spa is one of only two U.S spas to use and sell Orveda, others being the ultra-luxury Las Ventanas, A Rosewood Resort in Cabo San Lucas, and spas in London, Paris, Monaco, and Geneva.

Modern treatment options include the CBD Massage, worth booking as it promised and delivered a relaxing massage that relieved stress and left me ready for a nap in a pool-side cabana afterwards.  

The Gharieni MLXi³ Dome PHOTO: D. Fiske

Another Trellis Spa exclusive is the Gharieni MLXi³ Dome and Celliss machines that deliver touchless treatment using innovative technologies including Infrared, Plasma and Light therapies. I booked the MLX Dome treatment which is a touchless head-to-toe treatment that had me laying in a heated cocoon, sweating out toxins and impurities while a light shield over my face pumped infrared light onto my face to help reduce inflammation.  Think of it as a high-tech reclining sauna. The Houstonian is the only spa in the U.S. to have Gharieni equipment which is considered the Rolls Royce of spa tables. After this treatment, a cool shower, and a few classes of fruit-infused water, I felt clean and detoxified.  This treatment is a must-try, if for no other reason than for the novelty of it.

The Houstonian Hotel & Club has Indoor and Outdoor Courts

PLAY

Guests of The Houstonian are welcome to enjoy the otherwise private Club, which includes a 175,000 square foot fitness center with more than 300 pieces of indoor and outdoor fitness equipment, 160 fitness classes, three pools, and indoor and outdoor tennis and pickleball courts. The Club’s resident pickleball pro is Bobbie Phoumy, who played in the U.S. Open Pickleball Championship days after giving me a complimentary hour-long lesson. Neither of us won but we had a great time trying.

If you’d rather run or walk outdoors, The Houstonian grounds include a tree-canopied paved trail that provides access to the Memorial Park trail.

The Houstonian has a robust events and activities schedule that will appeal to adults, kids, singles, couples – everyone, really. Sage n’ Bloom is the in-house florist and hosts classes on floral design. Wine and bourbon dinners showcase brands such as Stags Leap and Woodford Reserve and you can kids of all ages will enjoy pastry tours and classes. The team has gotten quite creative with events since the pandemic, and last year hosted a distanced movie night showing Urban Cowboy and the actual mechanical bull from the movie was there for photo ops. 

EAT

Houston has a diverse, thriving, award-winning food scene with reservations at top spots Nancy’s Hustle and Squable hard to get.  No worries, though, because The Houstonian’s “Tex-Lex” cuisine checks all the boxes for foodies and novices alike.  Named for the terroir of the three chefs in charge, Texas, Louisiana and Mexico, Tex-Lex cuisine is represented in all Houstonian restaurants and bars, from upscale dining at The Tribute to elevated spa cuisine at Trellis.

The Tribute’s elegant renovation includes museum-worthy fixtures and art and upholstered banquettes covered in custom toile that depicts The Houstonian Hotel.  It’s a beautiful space and the food is equally creative and reflective of the local culture.

The signature menu item here is Snapper Ponchartrain, a thick piece of fish perched on dirty rice with a cascade of sauteed crawfish on top.  The Cajun and Creole flavors meld perfectly with the Gulf Coast snapper and it is easy to see why it’s a best seller.  My favorite Tribute items are the Post Oak charred oysters with chorizo butter (which were insane) and the stuffed Bandera quail.  The tribute to local and regional food traditions and ingredients is what makes The Tribute so much more than a “hotel restaurant,” rather it’s an upscale neighborhood restaurant with all the best of regional flavors under one roof.

The Houstonian Chef Neal Cox Hosted a Crawfish Boil at The Manor House PHOTO: B. Montes

When the weather cooperates, the hotel hosts food festivals on the lawn of the Manor House, the elegant, historic home where President George H.W. and Barbara Bush lived for many years, including while he was CIA Director.  There could only be one place able to pull off this juxtaposition of a Bayou City crawfish boil and a historic home filled with photos of President Bush with world leaders and that’s The Houstonian. 

LOOK AROUND

Houston has a vibrant arts and culture scene, worthy of exploration. The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston recently completed a decade-long expansion and enhancement with the opening of the Nancy and Rich Kinder Building. The building is enormous and beautiful by day or by night, when the glass tubes surrounding the concrete exterior and gently illuminated. The museum attracts world-class exhibitions to supplement its magnificent permanent collection. Currently, Hockney – Van Gogh: The Joy of Nature exhibit is on display until June 20. Hockney’s huge, bright canvases are mesmerizing and pull you from one gallery to the next and back.  It’s truly one of the best exhibits I’ve ever seen.

Houston’s Museum of Natural History could end up being an all-day outing that will get and keep your kiddos engaged long after you leave. The Cockrell Butterfly Center welcomes you into a natural habitat of butterflies that flirt and grant occasional kisses to lucky visitors.

It’s hard to believe The Houstonian Hotel is in the middle of America’s fourth largest city. PHOTO: K. Rettig

The Houstonian Hotel is a living monument to Houston, surrounded by oaks and magnolias with vibrant flower beds and a verdant lawn that’s inviting, homey and elegant all at once.  Maybe Houston isn’t the first place you think of when considering a getaway but it’s a fabulous destination.  An easy three-and-a-half-hour drive from Dallas on I-45 which is infinitely better than I-35, you can drive, take Vonlane or fly into Houston Bush on Southwest Airlines. For more information or to book your stay, visit www.houstonian.com


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Kersten Rettig

Kersten Rettig has represented some of world's best known brands in her 30+ years in marketing and PR, including Montblanc, Rosewood Hotels, Highland Park Village and Taco Bell. As a former restaurant owner, she knows the business and has a deep affection for the hospitality industry. She is a Park Cities resident and a happy wife, mom of three and dogmother. Follow her @KerstenEats.

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