Pssst – Valentine’s Day is just around the corner! Wanting to impress a first date? Or tired of the old dinner-and-a-Redbox date night routine? We’ve got you covered. Below are 20 Houston date ideas for any budget.
PICNIC AT THE PARK
$: Pack a picnic from home, and rent a Bcycle at Spott’s Park or one of the many B-stations along Buffalo Bayou. Ride alongside your love and explore 160 acres of the recent $58 million renovation project that includes fountains, art sculptures, landscaped gardens, and unbeatable views of the downtown skyline (best selfie spot: Rosemont Bridge). Take a quick break to tour the new art installations at the underground Cistern. There are plenty of romantic spots to spread out a blanket and dine under the sun (or stars). As the sun sets, join other onlookers to watch thousands of bats emerge from Waugh Bridge on their nightly hunt. (Bcycle rental is $5 for 1 hour, and $2 for each additional hour.)
the downtown skyline from Rosemont Bridge
$$: During warmer weather months, check the Market Square Park calendar for upcoming outdoor movies and Blanket Bingo nights. Bring lawn chairs or a blanket, and grab gyros and a sangria carafe at Niko Niko’s food stand. Afterwards, swing by The Honeymoon Cafe & Bar for an artisan coffee or cocktail in a swanky, dimly-lit Parisian setting, or settle into a plush antique loveseat and order an exotic foreign whiskey at Public Services Wine & Whisky bar in the historic Houston Cotton Exchange Building. (Market Square Park events are free – hooray! Niko Niko’s entrees are $18.95 and under and will satisfy even the hungriest eater.)
$$$: Rent a pedal boat and spend a leisurely afternoon pedaling across the lake at Hermann Park. Then wander towards the new eye-popping Centennial Gardens, making a brief stop at the peaceful Japanese Garden, and speculating on the location of buried treasure beneath the park. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, walk to nearby Dak & Bop ($$) for Houston’s best Korean fried chicken (and kimchi empanadas, to boot), or take a 10-minute Uber ride to Bistro Menil ($$$), the Museum District’s hottest new restaurant. (Petal boat rental is $10 for 30 minutes; entrance to the Japanese Garden and Centennial Garden is free; check restaurant menus for prices.)
Hermann Park’s newest addition, the Centennial Gardens
DINNER + MOVIE
$: Grab a chicken shawarma wrap and some drinks at Mediterranean grocery Phoenicia Specialty Foods and cross the street to Discovery Green, which frequently offers free outdoor movies, among countless events. (If your interest isn’t piqued by any upcoming events, also check the calendar of events for Miller Outdoor Theatre, just a mile down Main Street.) (Phoenicia pita wraps from $6.95; downtown parking free after 6 PM; Discovery Green and Miller Outodoor Theatre events free to the public.)
$$: Dine with your date at a buzzy new dining spot in the Heights. (We recommend Southern Goods for trendy comfort food, Bernadine’s for elegant seafood and craft cocktails, and Arthur Ave for artisanal Italian cuisine – a rare gem in Houston. For more ideas, check out Treadsack’s popular, beloved restaurants.) Follow up dinner with a film at Sundance Cinema or River Oaks Theatre. Both theaters cater to adults and feature lounges with full bars. (See restaurant menus for prices; Sundance movie tickets $11.25 to $14, and $6 on Tuesdays; River Oaks Theatre tickets $8.00 – $10.50.)
$$$: Impress your date with a romantic dinner curated by one of Houston’s many award-winning chefs. We suggest dining al fresco at Coltivare, sharing a progression of small plates at Pax Americana, or indulging in traditional French fare at cozy Cafe Rabelais. Then for the ultimate luxury cinematic experience, reserve a pod at iPic Theatre in Houston’s posh new River Oaks District. iPic’s “pods” include two reclining leather seats, a plush throw blanket and pillows, and bottomless popcorn. Swoon!
Coltivare’s warm, rustic atmosphere and fresh flavors yield the perfect milieu for a romantic evening for two
TURN UP THE SPICE
Houston is now the most ethnically diverse city in the nation. You could eat out every night of the year, for an entire lifetime, and still not exhaust all of Houston’s diverse dining options. Spice up your date with an exotic culinary (or entertainment) experience.
$: In the heart of Garden Oaks there is a Hindu temple between a warehouse and a YMCA. Alongside the temple is an Indian restaurant with the coveted 4.5-star rating on Yelp. Govinda’s isn’t fancy, but what it lacks in appearances, it makes up for in flavor. Who doesn’t love a buffet? After eating your heart out, head to Cottonwood for a fireside craft beer with live music. (Govinda’s dinner buffet $11.95; Cottonwood pints $5-$8.)
$$: Jealous of everyone jet-setting to Thailand lately? For a fraction of the cost of a trans-Pacific flight (and sans jet leg), you can indulge in Houston’s impressive Asian cuisines. Slurp noodles at House of Bowls; sample Vietnamese crawfish at Crawfish & Noodles; or sample the ramen at Tiger Den; Finish off dinner with rolling ice cream at Class 502 (if you’re confused, see photo below) and, if you’re brave, karaoke at Yes KTV. (See restaurant menus for prices; rolling ice $4.99; karaoke $33 per hour.)
$$$: Never been to a live burlesque show? It’s time to pop your cherry and book a table for you and your beloved at Prohibition Supperclub. The Moonlight Dolls perform several shows nightly, most with a Jazz Age/Gilded Era theme. The location, built in 1912 as Houston’s first silent film theatre, has been preserved with dazzling art deco decor. Some reservations include a three-course dinner; the food is mediocre, so consider dining elsewhere beforehand. Pro tip: reserve a table early for front-row seats; you won’t regret it. (Tickets $25 – $65; prix fixe dinner $45 or $65 per person.)
TAKE IN SOME ART
$: Spend some leisure time exploring the free exhibits at the Menil Collection, a remarkable private collection of thousands of works of art. (If you’re up for museum-hopping, add detours to the Rothko Chapel and the Lawndale Art Center.) When you’ve feeling hungry, grab some grub from a food truck and recline on the lawn at Menil Park, or head to nearby Aladdin’s for cheap yet generous portions of Mediterranean fare. Wrap up the date with a drink at Houston’s craft cocktail mecca, Anvil Bar. (Menil Collection admission free to the public; check Roaming Hunger for food truck locations; Aladdin’s dinner platters $9.99-$11.99)
Houston’s Menil Collection houses an excellent wide-ranging art collection in a modern, serene setting
$$: Delve into the diverse exhibitions at the Museum of Fine Arts, one of the largest museums in the country. Plan to stay for a film in the museum’s theater – MFAH provides an alluring array of artistic films and documentaries, and frequently hosts foreign film festivals. When your feet become weary, take refuge at Brasserie 19, the Museum District’s uber-popular new French locale. Wrap up with a nightcap at romantic, dimly lit Moving Sidewalk downtown. (MFAH admission $15; check MFAH film schedule for current screenings; Brassserie 19 entrees $27-$43.)
a liquid-nitrogen-chilled French 75 at romantic Moving Sidewalk bar
$$$: Never has it been a better time to be a theater fan in Houston: Hamilton will be coming to town in 2018! The Hobby Center has an impressive line-up of other off-Broadway shows throughout the year. To whet your appetite for a night of fine art and entertainment, begin with dinner at Uchi. (We insist that you sample the shag rolls and balsamic-roasted Brussels.) After the show, share a candlelit bottle of wine at nearby La Carafe, Houston’s oldest bar, before you turn in for the night.
BREAK A SWEAT
Sometimes the most memorable dates are the least traditional ones. Gear up and pack a water bottle for an active day with your loved one.
$: Own a bike? (Or know someone you can borrow one from?) Join thousands of other riders on the last Friday of every month for a casual bike ride “starting from downtown Houston and going wherever.” Meet at Market Square Park around 7 PM, and expect to ride until 9:30 or 10 PM. Critical Mass is a quintessential Houston bucket list item. Central Market and Whole Foods Market have great deli counters to buy a picnic to fuel your ride.
$$: These days, you don’t need to book a trip to Colorado to experience kayaking firsthand. Rent a tandem boat from Bayou City Adventures and paddle down the Buffalo Bayou. (Or, take a weekend skyline tour led by an experienced guide.) Cool off afterwards with tacos and a beer or frozen margarita at Velvet Taco. (Tandem kayak rental $40; weekend skyline kayak tour $50; Velvet Tacos $2.75-$5.25)
$$$: Seek the thrills of skydiving without leaving the 610 loop. iFly offers indoor skydiving for the rebel at heart, and makes for a fun, adventurous date. Challenge your date to a python chili bowl or kangroo burger at Sammy’s Wild Game Grill, and top it off with an infused tequila at The Pastry War. (iFly flights from $79.95 per person; Sammy’s burgers $9.25-$16.95.)