The Weekend Has Arrived! What can you plan in H-Town?

By: Mert Akman

Mert in Comicpalooza

Life at Rice as a student can sometimes be filled with lectures, assignments, group projects, and late-night study sessions. However, it's not without its rewards and opportunities for fun and adventure. Fortuitously, we reside in Houston, one of the largest and most dynamic cities in the United States. This metropolitan landscape, replete with its unique advantages, awaits our exploration. When our spirits yearn for respite after a strenuous week, we often yearn to shut our laptops, misplace our Netflix passwords temporarily, and immerse ourselves in the vibrant life of Houston over the weekend. Today, in this blog post, I want to introduce you to my top general activities that capture the spirit and charm of this city. These include attending sports games, enjoying concerts, partaking in festivals, sharing good times with friends at restaurants/bars, and visiting Houston's natural attractions.

Home to the Houston Astros, Houston Texans, Houston Rockets, and Houston Dynamo, Houston is a playground for sports enthusiasts. If you are a baseball aficionado, you are absolutely in luck! Houston Astros tickets are pretty affordable, often accompanied by some compelling promotions. Even if you're not well-versed in baseball's intricacies, the atmosphere is sure to provide an enjoyable experience. For those who find their hearts pounding with the rhythm of American football, Houston Texans' games are equally exhilarating.

Furthermore, basketball enthusiasts like me have the Houston Rockets to cheer for. Though as of 2023, the Rockets might not possess the formidable roster they had in 2018, the upside is that it has made tickets more affordable. In fact, last year, I attended more than ten games and found that it was possible to score tickets under 15 USD for a regular Rockets game. Though not as popular as baseball, basketball, or American football, soccer offers an exciting alternative. And who knows? You might get a chance to watch international football giants like Lionel Messi, Sergio Busquets, or Carlos Vela if you keep a keen eye on Houston Dynamo’s schedule! Lastly, don't forget our university teams competing in numerous sports – they're a pleasure to watch and need our spirited cheers!

Music lovers, too, have much to celebrate in H-Town, thanks to its rich concert scene spanning myriad genres. Last semester, I enjoyed attending a Red Hot Chili Peppers concert, an experience that left me eagerly anticipating upcoming performances. For your ticket needs, Ticketmaster and Seat Geek are the go-to platforms. I have booked my tickets for 50 Cent, Pitbull & Enrique Iglesias & Ricky Martin, and Guns N’ Roses. One of the remarkable advantages of living in a city like Houston is the chance to see big names like Madonna, Drake, and Depeche Mode perform live - opportunities that might be scarce in smaller towns or outside the States. However, it's always wise to consider your budget constraints when planning for these events.

Before I moved to the States, I was completely unaware of the fantastic opportunities to meet actors and take photos at conventions. Houston, however, offers plenty of these opportunities, along with music festivals, traditional cultural festivals, and unique weekend events. Events like the Houston Rodeo, Houston Horror Film Festival, and Anime Texas add to the city's vibrancy. I recall attending Comicpalooza 2023 last semester, where I took a photo with Stephen Amell and Colton Haynes from the Arrow series. Yes, that's the photo you see below on my blog, taken right here in Houston on a bright Saturday – the secret's out! For planning your weekends, there are several websites, like Rostercon, that list upcoming events and celebrities attending them.

Food enthusiasts are in for a treat in Houston, known for its culinary diversity. The city serves everything from Mexican dishes, sumptuous burgers, and steakhouse classics to traditional Texas BBQ, all of a quality not easily found elsewhere – even within Texas, I daresay! My usual tactic when choosing a place to dine is to consult Google Reviews, which provides insights into quality, cost, and whether reservations are necessary. A couple of local favorites are The Pit-Room and Burger Joint. If you ever fancy trying Turkish food, Pasha and Istanbul Grill, located in Rice Village, serve up some delicious dishes.

Let's not overlook the bountiful natural attractions within a short distance from Houston. The beauty and allure of places like Galveston and Austin are within convenient reach, especially considering the sprawling scale of the United States. Each destination offers unique experiences that make a weekend road trip worth the time.

Galveston, a coastal city just an hour's drive from Houston, is a haven for those who adore beachside activities. Its sandy shores, such as those found at Stewart Beach or East Beach, are perfect for a day of soaking up the sun, building sandcastles, or enjoying a picnic with friends. The city also boasts a rich historical charm, as evidenced by the 19th-century architecture in the Strand Historic District and the fascinating collections at the Bryan Museum. For thrill-seekers, the Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier offers a variety of exciting rides and attractions. Sharing the cost of a car with friends and heading to Galveston can be both cost-effective and entertaining.

Although a bit further away, Austin offers a different charm. Known as the 'Live Music Capital of the World,' it presents numerous opportunities for catching live performances in various music genres. The city is also home to the expansive Zilker Park, where you can enjoy a peaceful walk, indulge in some canoeing on Lady Bird Lake, or take a refreshing dip in the Barton Springs Pool. Its thriving food scene, from food trucks to high-end restaurants, is another reason Austin should be on your road trip itinerary. The journey from Houston to Austin is a bit longer, but the cultural and natural experiences it offers make the trip an investment in enriching experiences.

Closer to home, if a refreshing swim is what you desire without venturing too far, Sylvan Beach is an excellent option. It's located in La Porte, a quaint city about a 35-minute drive from Rice University. This sandy beach on the shores of Galveston Bay is not just a fantastic spot for swimming but also offers a picturesque setting for a relaxing day out. The adjacent park, with its pavilion, fishing pier, and playground, is an additional attraction for individuals and families.

While we, as students, often get caught up in the whirlwind of our academic commitments, it's crucial to take some time off for ourselves. Exploring the natural and cultural riches our surroundings have to offer not only provides a well-deserved break but also broadens our horizons. So, consider these options the next time you yearn for a change of scenery. You'll return rejuvenated and ready to tackle the coming week's challenges.

Living in Houston while studying at Rice allows us to break away from our routine, recharge, and immerse ourselves in the city's many experiences. Make the most of your time here and explore this vibrant city – I guarantee you won't be disappointed.