Searching for your next great adventure? This Sweet July series taps top travel enthusiasts to share first-hand insight into their ventures across the country and world, so you know exactly what to expect and how to prepare once you book your ticket. Wishing you safe—and sweet—travels!

Today: Gabrielle Nicole Pharms shares her top tips for vacationing in her hometown, Houston.

‘Texas in the summer?!’

Hear me out. As a Houston native (and part-time resident), enduring summer’s heat has never been a breeze. However, what the Bayou City lacks in cool temperatures during summertime, it makes up for with a sizzling, thriving dining scene, an alluring art movement, a welcoming community and other awesome attributes.  

Another undefeated quality: H-town has maintained its number one spot for the second year in a row as the most diverse large city in America and the fourth most diverse overall, according to WalletHub’s annual ranking of the “Most Diverse Cities in the U.S. (2024).” When you have such an eclectic, multicultural demographic, it’s like one giant potluck city-wide. Bon Appétit, and welcome to Houston!

Houston is well-known for its murals and street art installations.



Originally a historic post office, POST Houston is the downtown gem where you can get both good food and your shopping fix. Whenever I visit POST, I like to try something different from their brilliant international food hall. Johnny Good Burger inside POST is a concept created by James Beard Award-winning chef Paul Qui and his business partner Johnny Hoang. There are only four burgers on the menu, but variety isn’t necessary when you’ve perfected something so well. The last time I visited, I opted for the delicious Frisco Burger, comprised of two juicy meat patties, caramelized onion jam, American and Swiss cheese, and their creamy, slightly tangy Frisco sauce, all on toasted sourdough.

Houston is full of fantastic burger spots. I have my go-to, depending on what side of town I’m on. In Montrose, for example, there’s Houston rap icon-turned-restauranteur Bun B’s Trill Burgers.


Located in Second Ward, Street to Kitchen is where you go when you want to experience tasty Thai fare. Benchawan Jabthong “Chef G” Painter, the recent James Beard Award-winning chef behind Street to Kitchen, grew up in northern central Thailand, where she garnered her Thai cooking chops from her grandmother, who operated a popular local restaurant. My favorite dishes at this phenomenal eatery are the garlic chive pancakes (a seasonal dish), Drunken Noodles, and Pad See Ew. As a whisky lover, I also enjoyed their boozy Frozen Thai Tea Toki-Yo, a combination of subtly sweet Thai Tea, coconut cream, and Suntory Toki Japanese Whisky.


Auden, located in the heart of River Oaks, has one of the best brunches in town. This sophisticated spot offers savory bites inspired by the Indian heritage and current Texas roots of chefs and husband-wife duo Kirthan and Kripa Shenoy. The cheddar herb biscuits and fluffy funnel cake are standouts from the menu. So is the Chicken 65 & Waffles, a flawless marriage of crunchy chicken with flavor-packed Indian seasonings and an airy buttermilk waffle. Even their Old Fashioned has an Indian flair, pairing Buffalo Trace Bourbon with garam masala (a floral, sweet, earthy blend of spices) and peppery and aromatic cardamom bitters.

Cheddar herb biscuits from Auden.
Funnel cake and the Chicken 65 & Waffles from Auden.



The Black woman-owned Wanderstay Boutique Hotel is one of the most charming hotels in the country—and it’s budget-friendly. This 10-room hotel is in the city’s buzzy EaDo district and exudes a fun, Instagram-worthy aesthetic. Each room has its own vibe-y theme, from Houston Sports, filled with jerseys and memorabilia of local teams, to Welcome to Hollywood, a quaint room adorned with movie memorabilia. Bonuses: Wanderstay is an adults-only (18+) hotel and dog-friendly (for a small fee)!


Staying at the luxe Four Seasons Hotel Houston is such a joy. During my most recent stay, I was blown away by the hotel’s beauty, distinctive amenities, and warm hospitality. My stay was an excellent experience from check-in—I was welcomed with a tequila tipple—to check-out. I highly recommend making reservations for their  20-seat speakeasy Bandista for a terrific nightcap and dining at their pan-Latin steakhouse, Toro Toro. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention I had my choice of luxury handbags during my stay. Yep, the Four Seasons Hotel Houston recently partnered with Vivrelle to launch an on-site collection of high-end handbags from brands like Chanel, Prada, Gucci, and more. You’re welcome!



Spa World Houston is a Korean-style spa and sauna offering many ahh-inducing services, including healing rooms, massages, scrubs, a Sleep Zone, an on-property Korean cafe and more. You can access most Spa World services (except massages) for $39 Monday through Thursday, while the weekend general admission passes are $49. With general admission, you have access to over ten different rooms. Each room has a unique therapeutic property to benefit your body. The Fire Dome is the biggest draw, which helps with skin health and regulating blood pressure. It is custom-built to model the traditional Korean Bulgama and is heated with natural oak wood logs.


Woman-owned Oasis Moroccan Bath is the first of its kind in Houston. The spa offers centuries-old Hamman beauty treatments to help nourish and hydrate your skin. Owner Saba Syed was inspired to open this luxury experience after she received Hammam in the Middle East over a decade ago. Your massage takes place in a private steam-filled relaxation room. The masseuse uses black Beldi soap infused with argan oil all over your body, followed by Rhassoul clay and a shampoo rinse. Then, you shower under a rainwater head before an orange body balm is applied to lock in moisture.

Art on display at the Museum of Fine Arts.



More than 150 museums are sprinkled across the greater Houston area, with 19 world-class institutions in the city’s Museum District. As I already mentioned, Houston has sweltering summers, so this tranquil, tree-lined area is your saving grace as you walk from gallery to gallery. The Museum of Fine Arts is my favorite. It’s the oldest art museum in Texas! This year marks its 100th anniversary. To celebrate the centennial, the MFAH has special events planned each month throughout the year.


During school break as a child, I loved competing against my parents at Putt-Putt. So, naturally, I’m obsessed with golf as an adult, especially the 80s and 90s nostalgia and neon aesthetic that Holey Moley Golf Club Houston delivers. The indoor wonderland has three nine-hole mini golf courses with cheeky, amusing themes. On Friday and Saturday nights from 7 to 11 p.m., local DJs spin back-to-back, enhancing the lively energy of the evening. When you’re ready to unleash your inner Queen Bey, you can take advantage of one of Holey Moley’s private karaoke rooms. When you work up an appetite, you can hit The Caddy Shack, an on-site full-service bar and restaurant. You must try their Grilled Elote Corn Ribs, which are corn on the cob “ribs” with cotija cheese, garlic aioli, Tajin and lime, and the fizzy and citrusy gin-based Rub a Dub cocktail served in a bathtub-shaped vessel with a floating rubber duck.

Grilled Elote Corn Ribs from Holey Moley.
The Rub a Dub cocktail from Holey Moley.

What To Pack

I swear by tinted moisturizer when enduring Houston’s summer of intense heat and humidity. The Lip Bar’s Just a Tint is an excellent option. This 3-in-1 tinted skin moisturizer, with SPF 11, hydrates like a moisturizer and gives you a hint of hue. 

If you tend to be a bit forgetful ahead of a trip (like me), you’re bound to forget at least one article of clothing. Thankfully, Melodrama Boutique always comes through in a clutch. Founded by Jackie Adams in 2002, Melodrama Boutique has gorgeous one-of-a-kind pieces and supports local designers. There’s also BLCK Market, the country’s largest monthly gathering (occurring every first Friday and second Saturday) of Black-owned businesses and entrepreneurs, where you can find even more fashionable goodies for now (and later).


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