If you want to move to Houston or if you already live here, then you either already know or need to know the situation for walkers inside the city. Houston is not known for being the most walkable city because of the way it was originally designed. In fact, in spite of having the 4th largest population in the US, Houston is only the 22nd most walkable city. However, there are some neighborhoods that are easy to navigate on foot. Better yet, many of these spots pack plenty of entertaining activities into a short amount of space and make our list of the most walkable neighborhoods in Houston.
The vast differences in each of these pockets can appeal to anyone who enjoys shopping, dining, or relaxing in a beautiful setting. Whether you enjoy casually flipping through records in a music store, indulging in a tasty platter of food, or visiting an art exhibit, there’s an abundance of options to choose from to occupy your leisure time on a weekend or afternoon in Houston. And if you want to buy property in a walkable area or at least spend a day somewhere on foot, you can do that, too.
We’ve gathered ten of the most walkable neighborhoods in Houston that are sure to appease a long-time resident of Houston or a newcomer to the city. Have a scroll through our list and a stroll through Houston.
#1: 19th Street & Rutland Drive in Greater Heights
Ranked #4 in CNN Money’s Top 10 Big City Neighborhoods, The Heights offers charm and a small-town feel and has been dubbed as Houston’s own mini-Austin. The Heights was established over 120 years ago, and was originally inhabited by those who were looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the dense city of Houston. Now the area is home to young professionals who reside in upscale housing or remodeled historic homes.
Why we love Greater Heights: The small-town charm of the area can be enjoyed by taking a stroll near Rutland Drive and 19th Street, which provides a great blend of music, home decor, and dining. Those who love music can stop in at Vinyl Edge Records , recently named the Best Record Store in Houston. Looking to furnish your home in a funky, eclectic, or vintage decor? Visit Grace Hart & Company for a 13,000 square-foot-sized journey into the past with over 40 dealers selling hard-to-find pieces that you’ll cherish for years to come.
Quote: I love that I’m able to easily find fresh, local foods without having to make a trek to a specialty store in another part of town. The historic homes in the area foster a charming vibe in the neighborhood and has blended well as the years go by.
Bonus Tips: Buy farm-fresh vegetables and natural items at The Heights General Store [Founded by a Heights resident, this store boasts the freshest local items that serves as the neighborhood’s deli, kitchen, bar, and restaurant. If you’re looking for some artistic inspiration, visit one of the two exhibits at Gallery M Squared located inside the historic Heights Theater.
#2: West University between Edloe Street and Kirby Drive
While West University and Rice Village have over 300 shops, we’ve honed in on a few places you’ll love browsing. Big-name brands and high-end boutiques are abundant in the area, making this an ideal spot to meet up with a friend for a day filled with fashion, as well as food.
Why we love West University: Boutiques pepper the area and many are owned by Houston natives and local designers. Start your shopping journey at some of the smaller, noteworthy boutiques. As the winner in the second season of Project Runway, Houston’s own Chloe Dao has a collection at her DAO Chloe DAO boutique. From casual to couture, no matter what the occasion, there’s something for every budget. Be sure to visit Elaine Turner Designs , created by a chic Texan with a flair for sensible fashion. Also don’t forget Tootsie’s, one of Houston’s most adorable places to pick up a dress. There are plenty of other hot spots (such as Julie Rhodes Fashion & Home) to get in some shopping, making this one of the most walkable neighborhoods in Houston.
Quote: When I need to catch up with a friend for some great food and fashion, I head over to West Village. There’s always plenty of options and I like that I can find local fashion and great-tasting food, all within a small area that’s easily accessible.
Foodie tips: After a full day of shopping, you may find yourself famished. There’s no shortage of food options! Newer to the area is Cafe Chino, owned by May and Eddie Chan, that serves authentic Hunan and Pan Asian cuisine. Eddie earned the coveted title of North America’s Outstanding Chefs by Chefs in America and May received the H Texas Magazine’s Best Chef of the Year Award.
With it’s humble beginnings as a food truck as part of a school project, 100% Taquito has been selling tacos and recreating the authentic Mexico City dishes since 1996. Looking for BBQ? Check out Goode Company Barbeque [goodecompany.com]
And if you want to walk off a big meal, the Rice Track is just up the street.
#3: River Oaks on Westheimer between River Oaks Blvd. & S. Shepherd Drive
An affluent community nestled between Downtown and Uptown, River Oaks was once home to brothers William and Michael Hogg, sons of Texas Governor Jim Hogg. Their sister, Ima Hogg, also known as “The First Lady of Texas”, was a model philanthropist and art collector who has donated hundreds of pieces to the Museum of Fine Arts. Rich with history, this area now is home to boutiques and great dining.
Why we love River Oaks: Fashion is a large part of the River Oaks atmosphere, and there’s no shortage of local boutiques to peruse. Start at à bientôt , owned by Betty and Christina, a duo that has flown all over the world in search of the finest merch. Fashionable men and women will find the latest trend-setting items at Billy Reid and those that love a little sparkle can pick out their shiny new necklace or ring at Reiner’s Fine Jewelry.
But the boutiques only tell one sliver of the story. River Oaks Shopping Center offers some of Houston’s cornerstone locations to browse, find specialty items, eat or find entertainment. River Oaks Theater, a four-time winner of the Houston Press Best Theater in Houston Award, gives you the chance to see classic and modern films on a regular basis. Araya Artisan is a chance to get some of the city’s best chocolate. And delicious restaurants such as Brasserie 19 and Epicure Café have some of the tastiest food around.
Quote: I’m a huge fan of antiques and can always find an item to repurpose or give new life to at the Antique Pavillion. There’s just something about reusing a vintage item in a new way that keeps me going back to check out the latest items.
Foodie Tips: There’s quite a selection if you find yourself hungry in the River Oaks area. Choose from over 200 whiskies at Downing Street Pub after a long day at work, or enjoy an afternoon pastry at French Gourmet Bakery . Stop by Barnaby’s Cafe for lunch as you’re walking the dog and try out their highly-rated dishes.
#4: Neartown on West Alabama between South Shepherd and Montrose
Known to locals as one of the most diverse and eccentric areas of Houston, Neartown includes Montrose, Hyde Park, and Cherryhurst, to name a few. Bountiful in thrift shops and casual dining, the area is frequented by young adults, artists, and home to many in the LGBT community. The University of St. Thomas is near the Rothko Chapel , which has been deemed as a tranquil sanctuary where many meditate.
Why we love Neartown: Those who appreciate fine art will find some great pieces at The Menil Collection and Watercolor Art Society. Cactus Music , Houston’s oldest independent music store, features free live band concerts and great atmosphere. The historic River Oaks Theatre takes movie showings to another decade and has been dubbed as the Best Movie Theatre twice. One of the three Trader Joe’s in the Houston area is located within Neartown, making this a convenient spot to drop in for grocery shopping.
Quote: Where else can you find the best thrift shops in the Houston area and casual food at a great price? I love this area because there is such a diverse community that blends together to create a laid-back atmosphere.
Foodie Tips: There’s several dining options with tasty menu items including Black Hole Coffee House , Rudyard’s British Pub , Max and Julie, and Cafe Brasil. Looking for sweets? Try out The Chocolate Bar for dipped cookies, chocolate pizza, and even doggie treats.
#5: Highland Village, on Westheimer between Weslayan and Suffolk Drive
Highland Village is more than just a shopping area. It’s a wonderful part of Houston to live in or visit. The neighborhoods nearby have diverse housing options, the sidewalks are wide, and as far as Houston goes, the tree count is pretty high. A day of clear streets and parking lots in the area is extremely rare, but so is a day when it’s unpleasant to be on foot in the area.
Why we love Highland Village: This two block stretch has the finest grocery shopping in the Houston area. HEB’s high-end natural food champion Central Market offers a place to both shop and enjoy events, while Fresh Market (across the street) presents a good opportunity to buy whatever fresh produce you like. Or you can go even fresher with Urban Harvest Farmer’s market. There’s also a furniture store (Renovation Hardware), Apple Store, and a Sprinkles Cupcakes.
The possibilities are abundant, and all in a couple of blocks!
Bonus Tips: Check out the area during the winter time, when the palm trees along Westheimer are wrapped in Christmas lights for a truly southern holiday experience. Or, if it’s just a standard Sunday, browse Central Market to see some of the latest products offered by Houston vendors and growing companies from around the state.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of the “Ten Most Walkable Neighborhoods in Houston”! In the meantime, if you want to know more about walkable areas and pedestrian access in Houston,check out these two articles on Montrose, one of the most walkable neighborhoods in the city.
• Nice Spots in Houston – Five Great Ways to Spend a Saturday in Montrose
• The ULTIMATE Montrose Sushi List – Five Spots to Knock Back Fresh Fish in Houston’s Hippest Neighborhood