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The Five-Point Weekend Escape Plan

Take a Breath of Fresh Air in Houston

Long known as the country’s oil capital, the Bayou City is experiencing a downtown renaissance, investing in new green space, impressive public art, and reinvigorated historic places.

1. Where to Stay

Sleep in coolly contemporary style within a former bank at the Hotel Icon.  

Stay in the midst of Houston’s hottest nightlife district at the Hotel Icon (from $179). Located in the former Union National Bank, the building dates back to 1911, but the airy rooms with sophisticated pops of jewel-toned color feel quite contemporary. Book a restorative massage (from $150 for 50 minutes) at the BALANCE urban spa or in your room. Downstairs in the lobby, the L&L Bar evokes an updated Texas vibe with chairs upholstered in faux cowhide and drinks using Texas spirits like the Bee Sting ($12) made with sweet tea, honey, lemon, and Whitmeyer's Texas Moonshine.

Take in sweeping skyline views at the Hotel Magnolia (from $117). The 22-story building once housed a newspaper office, as well as the Shell Oil Company; today, it contains 314 posh rooms decorated in muted colors with gold finishes and purple velvet drapes. Escape the Houston heat in the rooftop pool, and pop down to the lounge for a complimentary buffet breakfast. The adjacent hotel bar offers a free happy hour for guests every evening and then serves milk and cookies between 8 and 10 p.m. Added bonus: There’s a complimentary shuttle to any location within a three-mile radius.

Experience Houston history at the Sam Houston Hotel (from $130). Originally in operation from 1924 until 1975, it then sat abandoned (like many other downtown buildings) for three decades as businesses moved outside the city center. The hotel reopened in 2002 after undergoing extensive renovations, with 100 elegantly spare guest rooms outfitted in earth tones and cheeky cow-print throw pillows. If the Houston Texans or Rockets are playing a game, join the locals in cheering them on at the Sam Bar with a Lone Star beer in hand and a mess of spicy wings ($7).

Published on Dec 18, 2014 as a web exclusive.