Travel

The Coolest Things to Do in Houston After Dark

Sweat *slightly* less.

Visit Houston
Visit Houston
Visit Houston

Guess what? Matchmaking platform MyDatingAdviser.com just ranked the sweatiest cities in the US, and Houston came out in the top ten (no. six to be exact). We know that’s not exactly awesome news, but we do have a tiny sliver of silver lining for you-turns out, Houston is way less sweaty by night, and the city is a pretty excellent place to be after dark. While happy hour-ing your face off until you turn into a literal night owl is always a super fun time, there are many more unexpected plays to run during your post-sunset time. Stargazing in the park, catching a jazzy burlesque show, anteing up at a poker club until the wee hours of the night, it’s all on the agenda while the rest of the city sleeps.

Social Beer Garden HTX
Social Beer Garden HTX
Social Beer Garden HTX

Dance like no one’s watching (or listening) at a Silent Disco

Midtown
Fun-loving hangout Social Beer Garden puts on a funky Silent Disco every fourth Saturday of the month, with 12 live DJs spinning tunes for your ears only (okay, and anyone else who dons the three-channel headset). The fun starts at 9pm.

Let loose at a burlesque show

Downtown
Because burlesque would feel kinda weird in the daytime, the night is the perfect time to catch a show by a sultry burlesque troupe. Swanky dance and nightclub Hencke & Pillot hosts alluring burlesque and titillating cabaret performances from Red Velvet Entertainment on Thursdays-Sundays, with tickets starting at $35.

Unwind over hookah

Various locations
A longtime westside favorite, Cafe Mawal is a Mediterranean restaurant by day and happening hookah lounge by night, rocking traditional Bedouin tents, comfy pillows, and festivities till 1 am seven days a week; and the nearby Nomad is a sultry hookah and dining experience until 2 am, with house mixes from the Mesmerize hit with white gummy bear, lemon, mint, and ambrosia flavors to the white peach and kiwi kissed Astroworld. For a real chill time, Midtown’s laidback Cafe Layal is it. And those looking for a pump-up experience can check out the patio, balcony bar, and kitchen Lost & Found as well as soon-to-open hookah, music, and cocktail lounge Ratio.

George Observatory
George Observatory
George Observatory

Go stargazing in the park

Brazos Bend State Park
Escape the city lights and go stargazing with George Observatory‘s telescopes in Brazos Bend State Park. Depending on the season and time of the month, you can experience incredible phenomena from bright meteors and eclipses to Saturn’s rings and Jupiter’s cloud belts. Saturday Stargazing goes down at 9 pm and 10 pm for $10 a person (plus park entrance fees).

Have a moonlit movie experience on a rooftop

Galleria/Uptown
Settle in for an outdoor movie experience at the Rooftop Cinema Club, which rocks skyline views and a curated selection of cult films, classics, and new releases. The latest lineup includes flicks like Purple Rain, La La Land, Spider-Man: No Way Home, and the old school Top Gun. Snag some tickets in advance (the shows are known to sell out), hit the bar, dig into endless popcorn, and show up early to play some corn hole or giant Connect Four. Those looking for a Drive-Inn experience can check out Moonstruck Drive In and Showboat Houston.

Have a sensible chuckle at a comedy show

Various locations
The Houston Improv-known for booking national acts-is always a good choice, but there are some other, more underground comedic options to explore, too. Hit The Secret Group, half bar, half entertainment venue with stand-up comedy shows and open-mic nights; go the way of improv (and try a class yourself) at Station Theater; and check out the famous Open Mic Mondays and The Riot Comedy Show (Thursday – Sunday) at Rudyard’s.

Bust out your running man at an ‘80s dance party

Downtown
Weekends are throwback nights at Etro Nightclub with “I Love the ‘80s” video and DJ dance parties every Friday and Saturday and an ‘80s Tribute Night the last Friday of every month. This is your chance to dust off your funkiest dance moves and the neon-coated everything you’ve been stashing since your last college mixer. Doors open at 9 pm Thursday – Sunday, and the tubular times go till 2 am.

Joystix Classic Games & Pinballs
Joystix Classic Games & Pinballs
Joystix Classic Games & Pinballs

Get PacMan Fever at the arcade

Downtown
During its PacMan Fever events on the first and last Friday of each month, Joystix Classic Games and Pinballs opens up its arcade showroom for unlimited gameplay from 9 pm to 2 am (21-and-up, $15 per person at the door). You’ll find both new and vintage games, including classics like NBA Jam, Mortal Kombat 2, The Simpsons, Guitar Hero, and Mario Kart DX, and you can always pop over to the adjoining Eighteen Twenty Lounge for drinks. Nearby in the East End, Cidercade is another fun option for late night boozing and arcading.

Burn the midnight oil (or drink wine) at a late-night cafe

Various locations
Some of Houston’s coolest coffee shops keep late-night hours for those last minute study sessions and chill after-hours hangs. Sip beers and spend the night playing board games at EaDo’s Coral Sword, cozy up for Greek wines and good conversation at the quaint Agora cafe in Montrose, or turn your coffee into cocktails at Midtown’s beloved Double Trouble Caffeine & Cocktails.

Ante up at the poker table

Galleria
You’ll find members-only poker clubs all over Houston, including two popular ones in the Galleria area. Open 24 hours a day, 101 Poker Richmond hosts daily and weekly tourney alongside a full bar and kitchen; and Prime Social Poker Club rocks 24/7 tournament poker, live poker, backgammon, chess, cribbage, dominoes, and pool throughout its facilities, as well as a full bar, upscale lounge, and food delivered straight to your table so you can keep on WINNING.

Dine with divas at Hamburger Mary’s

Downtown
Dinner, dancing, and drag shows are on the menu at this local all-are-welcome hangout, which moved its digs to the bustling streets of downtown. Head here for a lineup of flamboyant dining experiences, from “Dining with the Divas” drag shows and “Cynful” Fridays to sing shows and trivia nights.

Slurp some late-night pho

Various locations
We’ve got some of the country’s best Vietnamese restaurants in our backyard, and bellying up for some pho before you go belly down for the night is a quintessential Houston experience. Just hit your nearest after-hours Vietnamese joint, including favorites like Mai’s, Pho Binh by Night, and Bun Bo Hue Duc Chuong Midnight; or switch gears and get your noodle fix at Ninja Ramen.

Bowl & Barrel
Bowl & Barrel
Bowl & Barrel

Knock down pins (or swing some clubs) while you drink

Houston
Bowling has made a big nightlife comeback thanks to a score of “fancy” bowling alleys, including CityCentre’s Bowl & Barrel, Memorial’s Bowlmor, Downtown’s 810 Billiards & Bowling, Pinstripes over in River Oaks (which offers bocce, too), and nostalgic good time spot Palace Social, a remake of the legendary Palace Bowling Lanes over in Bellaire. Each rocks craft brews, cocktails, and tasty pub grub to keep the night interesting even when you’re living that #GutterballLife. If golf is more your thing, then the totally fun interactive golf game, TopGolf, is your new thing.

Hike by moonlight at the Arboretum

Memorial Park
The Arboretum at Night series invites y’all to experience the Houston Arboretum & Nature Center after dark, offering night hikes and up-close encounters with live nocturnal animals (plus adult beverages for those 21+). There are a few select dates throughout the year, so be on the lookout for the next available opportunity to enjoy a safe/boozy hike at night.

Relax in a Topaz Cave or Igloo Ice Room

Northwest Houston
Before hitting the hay, hit the GangNam Spa: a 24-hour luxury wellness experience rooted in Korean culture, with over 30,000 square feet of specialty baths, saunas, treatment rooms, lounging space, and dining areas. That includes things like the Topaz Cave, a private relaxing space made of Topaz stones to improve memory and mental concentration and relieve stress; a Himalayan Salt Room made of 350 million-year-old natural salt base rocks for healing; and an Igloo Ice Room to close the pores, smooth skin, and enhance skin elasticity. Access the facilities for $39 on weekdays and $49 on weekends (but note that spa services will cost extra).

White Oak Music Hall
White Oak Music Hall
White Oak Music Hall

Catch some live music around town

Various locations
No matter what scene you’re after, Houston’s got a live music venue for you. Check out the lineup at the indoor/outdoor White Oak Music Hall, located right in the Heights with patio bar The Raven Tower right next door. Over on the eastside, The Continental Club and Warehouse Live (EaDo) and Satellite Bar (East End) are usually hosting a rock show of some kind; Downtown plays home to Bayou Music Center, House of Blues, and the hot new 713 Music Hall; Midtown’s rocking out at places like Continental Club and Shoeshine Charley’s Big Top Lounge; and you’ll often find big name acts at spots like the Toyota Center, NRG Stadium, and the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion in the Woodlands. Country fans will also want to check out The Rustic (Downtown) and McGonigel’s Mucky Duck (Upper Kirby); and acoustic folk acts take the stage at local institution Anderson Fair.

Get kinky on a Tuesday

Montrose
Numbers Nightclub hosts a wide variety of events (like Doomsday Wrestling, for instance), but Kinky Tuesdays are one of its most popular. You’ll get a kinky-yet-classy and respectful glimpse into the BDSM lifestyle, with local vendors and performers, rope classes, and an open stage for aerial performers. There’s even dungeon equipment available-and if you have to ask what that means, you’re probably not ready for it. Doors open at 8 pm, and the cover is $10 for singles and $15 for couples.

Sam Houston Race Park
Sam Houston Race Park
Sam Houston Race Park

Watch the wieners run at Sam Houston Race Park

Northwest
Betting on horses isn’t the only attraction at this race track; you can also sip $2 beer cans and mini wines every Friday from 7 pm to 9 pm. Or you could swing by for the live Yorkie, Corgi, Pug, and Wiener races, too-it’s quite possibly the cutest way to spend an evening in Houston.

Take a twilight tour of the Bayou

Buffalo Bayou
In the summertime, the Buffalo Bayou Partnership offers 30-minute twilight boat rides along the Buffalo Bayou ($15 for adults, the last tour departs at 8 pm). You’ll start at Allen’s Landing, then escape the city and glide along Buffalo Bayou’s waters, looking out for graceful herons, jumping fish, and if you’re lucky (or maybe not), alligators chillin’ on the banks.

Wortham Theater Center
Wortham Theater Center
Wortham Theater Center

Take in some live theatre

Various locations
While you can always check out the current season of productions in the Theater District, with venues including The Hobby Center (favorite plays and Broadway productions), Alley Theatre (Tony Award winner of Outstanding Regional Theatre), Wortham Theater Center and Jones Hall (homes to the Houston Ballet and Houston Symphony, respectively), there are a number of smaller production companies that are worth a visit, too.

Over in EaDo, the funky Rec Room tells innovative stories through theatre, music, dance, and comedy; Midtown’s MATCH Houston takes any pretension out of the theatre experience, with affordable options in music, theatre, dance, visual art, and film; and 4th Wall Theatre Company offers cutting-edge live theatre and a Pay What You Can performance of every production (on Mondays in the last week of the run) over in Arts District Houston.Sign up here for our daily Houston email and be the first to get all the food/drink/fun in town.

Brooke Viggiano is a Houston-based writer who guesses she isn’t sleeping anymore. Stay up with her at @brookiefafa on IG or @brookeviggiano on Twitter.

Travel

Ditch your Phone for ‘Dome Life’ in this Pastoral Paradise Outside Port Macquarie 

A responsible, sustainable travel choice for escaping big city life for a few days.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

The urge to get as far away as possible from the incessant noise and pressures of ‘big city life’ has witnessed increasingly more of us turn to off-grid adventures for our holidays: Booking.com polled travellers at the start of 2023 and 55% of us wanted to spend our holidays ‘off-grid’.  Achieving total disconnection from the unyielding demands of our digitised lives via some kind of off-grid nature time—soft or adventurous—is positioned not only as a holiday but, indeed, a necessity for our mental health. 

Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, an accommodation collection of geodesic domes dotted across a lush rural property in Greater Port Macquarie (a few hours’ drive from Sydney, NSW), offers a travel experience that is truly ‘off-grid’. In the figurative ‘wellness travel’ sense of the word, and literally, they run on their own independent power supply—bolstered by solar—and rely not on the town grid. 

Ten minutes before you arrive at the gates for a stay at Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, your phone goes into ‘SOS ONLY’. Apple Maps gives up, and you’re pushed out of your comfort zone, driving down unsealed roads in the dark, dodging dozens of dozing cows. Then, you must ditch your car altogether and hoist yourself into an open-air, all-terrain 4WD with gargantuan wheels. It’s great fun being driven through muddy gullies in this buggy; you feel like Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park.  As your buggy pulls in front of your personal Nature Dome, it’s not far off that “Welcome…to Jurassic Park” jaw-dropping moment—your futuristic-looking home is completely engulfed by thriving native bushland; beyond the outdoor campfire lie expansive hills and valleys of green farmland, dotted with sheep and trees. You’re almost waiting to see a roaming brachiosaurus glide past, munching on a towering gum tree…instead, a few inquisitive llamas trot past your Dome to check out their new visitor. 

To fully capture the awe of inhabiting a geodesic dome for a few days, a little history of these futuristic-looking spherical structures helps. Consisting of interlocking triangular skeletal struts supported by (often transparent) light walls, geodesic domes were developed in the 20th century by American engineer and architect R. Buckminster Fuller, and were used for arenas. Smaller incarnations have evolved into a ‘future-proof’ form of modern housing: domes are able to withstand harsh elements due to the stability provided by the durable materials of their construction and their large surface area to volume ratio (which helps minimize wind impact and prevents the structure from collapsing). As housing, they’re also hugely energy efficient – their curved shape helps to conserve heat and reduce energy costs, making them less susceptible to temperature changes outside. The ample light let in by their panels further reduces the need for artificial power. 

Due to their low environmental impact, they’re an ideal sustainable travel choice. Of course, Tom’s Creek Nature Domes’ owner-operators, Cardia and Lee Forsyth, know all this, which is why they have set up their one-of-a-kind Nature Domes experience for the modern traveller. It’s also no surprise to learn that owner Lee is an electrical engineer—experienced in renewable energy—and that he designed the whole set-up. As well as the off-grid power supply, rainwater tanks are used, and the outdoor hot tub is heated by a wood fire—your campfire heats up your tub water via a large metal coil. Like most places in regional Australia, the nights get cold – but rather than blast a heater, the Domes provide you with hot water bottles, warm blankets, lush robes and heavy curtains to ward off the chill.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

You’ll need to be self-sufficient during your stay at the Domes, bringing your own food. Support local businesses and stock up in the town of Wauchope on your drive-in (and grab some pastries and coffee at Baked Culture while you’re at it). There’s a stovetop, fridge (stocked as per a mini bar), BBQs, lanterns and mozzie coils, and you can even order DIY S’More packs for fireside fun. The interiors of the Domes have a cosy, stylish fit-out, with a modern bathroom (and a proper flushing toilet—none of that drop bush toilet stuff). As there’s no mobile reception, pack a good book or make the most of treasures that lie waiting to be discovered at every turn: a bed chest full of board games, a cupboard crammed with retro DVDs, a stargazing telescope (the skies are ablaze come night time). Many of these activities are ideal for couples, but there’s plenty on offer for solo travellers, such as yoga mats, locally-made face masks and bath bombs for hot tub soaks. 

It’s these thoughtful human touches that reinforce the benefit of making a responsible travel choice by booking local and giving your money to a tourism operator in the Greater Port Macquarie Region, such as Tom’s Creek Nature Domes. The owners are still working on the property following the setbacks of COVID-19, and flooding in the region —a new series of Domes designed with families and groups in mind is under construction, along with an open-air, barn-style dining hall and garden stage. Once ready, the venue will be ideal for wedding celebrations, with wedding parties able to book out the property. They’ve already got one couple—who honeymooned at the Domes—ready and waiting. Just need to train up the llamas for ring-bearer duties! 

An abundance of favourite moments come to mind from my two-night stay at Tom’s Creek: sipping champagne and gourmet picnicking at the top of a hill on a giant swing under a tree, with a bird’s eye view of the entire property (the ‘Mountain Top picnic’ is a must-do activity add on during your stay), lying on a deckchair at night wrapped in a blanket gazing up at starry constellations and eating hot melted marshmallows, to revelling in the joys of travellers before me, scrawled on notes in a jar of wishes left by the telescope (you’re encouraged to write your own to add to the jar). But I’ll leave you with a gratitude journal entry I made while staying there. I will preface this by saying that I don’t actually keep a gratitude journal, but Tom’s Creek Nature Domes is just the kind of place that makes you want to start one. And so, waking up on my second morning at Tom’s —lacking any 4G bars to facilitate my bad habit of a morning Instagram scroll—I finally opened up a notebook and made my first journal entry:

‘I am grateful to wake up after a deep sleep and breathe in the biggest breaths of this clean air, purified by nature and scented with eucalyptus and rain. I am grateful for this steaming hot coffee brewed on a fire. I feel accomplished at having made myself. I am grateful for the skittish sheep that made me laugh as I enjoyed a long nature walk at dawn and the animated billy goats and friendly llamas overlooking my shoulder as I write this: agreeable company for any solo traveller. I’m grateful for total peace, absolute stillness.” 

Off-grid holiday status: unlocked.

Where: Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, Port Macquarie, 2001 Toms Creek Rd
Price: $450 per night, book at the Natura Domes website.

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