Let me start with two things about me. The first is, I love to travel, domestic and international. The second is that I LOVE my hometown of Houston, heck I basically dedicated a whole blog to it. I truly cannot see myself living anywhere else. I love the culture of Houston, the diversity, the size, the people, the opportunities and so much more. Well when you combine these two things, one would think I would get the appeal for tourists visiting my hometown. Well… I am still a bit confused as are many other Houstonians. We really are asking ourselves… Why is Everyone Visiting Houston? Particularly black folks!
Over the last few months, I’ve watched domestic travelers pile in to my city enjoying our restaurants, lining up at our bars during a pany and thus making Houston a hot topic on social media (Did y’all see us on Wendy Williams?!). Even via BGWB, I started getting more emails and DMs asking for advice for Houston visits. Several a week sometimes! At first I thought it was our loose restrictions in 2020, but as more cities start to open up people keep coming to Houston. So I did what I typically do. I asked my followers, mostly based in Houston, then I told them to ask their friends who live elsewhere and have traveled to Houston. This was all very scientific research of course.
As a tourist who seeks out tangible reasons to visit cities, I expected those for Houston as well. I mean we went to Paris to see the Eiffel Tower. You go to Phoenix for the spas and resorts. Not surprisingly I received one key tangible thing and everything else fell in the “vibe” category. So then I had to spend hours flushing out what exactly this vibe consisted of. Check out the reasons below!
My audience will be a bit skewed here because if they are following me they are likely foodies, but the overwhelming reason people gave was the food. As the most diverse city in the country, you can find just about any cuisine here in Houston plus fusions of different cuisines. While you may not be able to pinpoint Houston’s specific cuisine like you can in places like New York or New Orleans, I must say that we do a lot of things well here and outsiders have noticed too. Just google “best food cities” and Houston will definitely be included.
The Black Businesses
Listen, you can touch down in Houston for a weekend and spend all of your coint in black owned businesses. From hotels like Wanderstay Hostel, to sports bars like Prospect Park, to restaurants like the famous Turkey Leg Hut to businesses like Love & Make Candles. As these businesses gain large nationwide followings on social media, it only expands Houston’s reach.
One thing my cousins always note is how nice the businesses are here. While other cities may have black owned establishments, they said the businesses are older and “hole in the wall” spots. Whereas in Houston, we have beautiful sports bar, restaurants and businesses with dedicated Along those same lines, we also have so many levels to our black businesses. You can have a more high end dining experience at places like Lucille’s or Davis Street or enjoy fast food at other spots like Frenchy’s. So no matter what your preference is, you can find just about any black business that will meet it.
Successful Black People
For my fellow Black Houstonians we may not even fully realize this, but investigate your own friend circles. You are likely to know people working in oil and gas, lawyers, doctors and other professions that our culture equates with being successful. Even outside of the more traditional routes to success, we have Black business owners/entrepreneurs and just all around hustlers who are doing well in this city. While we can debate how we spend the Black dollar, the fact remains that visitors pick up on this “success” through luxury cars, large homes, expensive clothes and accessories. One follower shared that where they are from (a smaller town) you do not see this type of successful black person. They enjoyed rubbing elbows with Black people who are doing well and in the city that supports their prosperity.
We Go Everywhere
There are quite a few caveats here, but I would argue that unlike some other cities you will see Black folks in pretty much any level of restaurant, business or space in Houston. To me, this speaks to the success of Black Houstonians and it also speaks to the inclusiveness that many Black people feel when navigating spaces in Houston. When I walk in to our higher end steakhouses, or stores around town I will often see other patrons who look like me. I appreciate that and it is something that my family from out of town have noticed too.
Please do not take this as an absolute though. There are still some areas that my Black followers pointed to (Midtown and Washington) as areas that they will not visit due to their long history of dress codes/door policies that aimed to keep Black folks out. These are not areas that I visit anymore partly for these reasons above, but I’ve aged out of many of their concepts so I do not feel like I am missing much. Also, this may be a Houston thing, but Black Houstonians have also successfully taken legal action against businesses engaging in this illegal conduct. So the message that we don’t play, has been circulating for years. (An example from Midtown and an example for Washington)
Benefits of Large City
Houston is currently the fourth largest city in our country and will likely top Chicago becoming the third largest city in my lifetime. A city this size attracts a lot of permanent and temporary attractions. For example, one of my followers said that we get “pop-ups” that she doesn’t see in her home state. I had to follow up with her on that like “what pop-ups?!” She pointed to the Dr. Seuss Experience (here through August) as a touring exhibit that would likely not make it to her state, but Houston has. Mind you, I had visited the experience when it first opened and never thought of it as something that made Houston more appealing to visitors.
Also, while in Kansas City I visited the Black Pantry, a store that highlights Black owned businesses. Once the owner found out we were from Houston he asked us about our BLCK Market, a bi-monthly expo that highlights local Black businesses. Both my sister and I had visited the market more than once to pick up items, but were tickled at how excited he was about this concept. The general point here is these types of experiences are the norm for us while others recognize their value because they do not have it back at home.
Others noted that with our large city we have tons of museums/exhibits as well including the Buffalo Soldiers Museum (where the BLCK Market is hosted), Houston Museum of African American Culture , and Project Row Houses to name a few. None of my Black followers mentioned it, I will be getting them all familiar with the Houston Rodeo this year since I serve on the Black Heritage Committee *shameless plug*.
My biggest takeaway is folks are not coming for those stereotypical “tangible” tourist attractions like the Eiffel Tower or the Great Wall of China. They are coming for a culture they believe that exists here, a space where Black people are thriving, building businesses and existing in unapologetically Black spaces. As a blogger, I always try to highlight this, but I will do better to appreciate these things as I take them all in.
Let me also close with this… Houston is full (y’all saw the traffic!) and no longer accepting new residents lol.
Also because I am sure people will ask, here are some blog posts I have that may be helpful as you plan a visit to Houston.