BY Andrew Collins
September 15 2009 10:00 AM ET
Houston’s abundance of fortune 500 headquarters (only New York City has more of them) draws corporate hot shots and industrious conventioneers to this larger-than-life metropolis that covers an area nearly the size of L.A. and Chicago combined. But beyond the city’s gleaming office towers lies a landscape of astoundingly fine restaurants and shops, and a robust arts- and science-driven museum scene that’s among the world’s most esteemed.
When it comes to letting the good times roll, Houstonians are as spirited and friendly as their Cajun Louisiana neighbors to the east, and this attitude is especially apparent in Montrose, one of the nation’s largest gay-identified neighborhoods. Beyond this enclave of see-and-be-seen restaurants and saucy nightspots you’ll find plenty of temptation to sneak away from whatever business obligations may have lured you to Houston, from the cultural riches of the Museum District to the tony boutiques of Uptown and the Galleria development.
Houston’s hippest digs are inside the swanky and sexy Hotel Icon (220 Main St.; 713-224-4266), a fashionable neoclassical tower that garners as much attention for the bold design of its 135 posh rooms and suites as for its critically acclaimed amenities. Let the ace massage team at Balance Day Spa knead your laptop-knotted muscles into jelly before you convene with cohorts at Voice Restaurant and Lounge to savor creatively prepared seafood and steak. Around the corner the intimate Alden-Houston Hotel (1117 Prairie St.; 877-348-8800) has just 97 elegantly minimalist units -- all with granite bathrooms and capacious tubs for two. The Alden’s stylish *17 Restaurant, with its sexy crimson-and-cream color scheme and locavore-intensive menu, earns kudos among foodies and scenesters.
In the Museum District, not far from Montrose, the chic Hotel Zaza (5701 Main St.; 888-880-3244) includes 315 rooms with marble and stone accents and step-out balconies overlooking the neighborhood’s leafy parks. Splurge on one of the poolside bungalows, perfect for sun-worshippers. Traditionalists eschew the aforementioned havens of hipness in favor of the classically luxurious Houstonian Hotel, Club, and Spa (111 N. Post Oak Lane; 713-680-2626), a superrefined haunt of old-money Texans surrounded by 18 acres of piney woodlands. The service is exceptional and discreet, and the beautifully outfitted Houstonian exercise club and Trellis Spa keep fitness buffs buff.