Houston Theater District

Article by Ted Gresham
Photography by George Hosek

Petula Clark’s delightful song “Downtown” must have been written for Houston’s Theater District. Well, perhaps not, but it should have been. Broadway might take up a few more square feet and be a bit more elaborate but how could it compare to Houston’s mix of snazz, Jazz, pizzazz and Texas class entertainment?

The Theater District of Space City is a universe full of entertainment possibilities and boasts more seating capacity than any downtown district in the U.S. besides New York City. There’s concerts, plays, serious opera to silly comedies, all on stages at one location or another.

Where else could one find Verdi, Wagner, Beethoven and a delightful, award-winning romantic comedy on stage the same day within walking distance? Who said Houston was all Hee-Haw and country twang?

No need to be lonely or alone, just go downtown! The music of the traffic in the city might be inspiring but it can’t compare to that found in the five performing arts venues in the Theater District.


From the intimacy of Alley Theater’s Neuhaus Stage, with under 400 seats, to Wortham Center and Verizon Wireless Theater’s massive auditoriums, lonely and alone just isn’t part of the mix. More than two million people visit the Theater District each year.

Not all on the same day, of course, but on any given weekend there are enough folks and sufficient Texas hospitality to keep the blues away. At least until the House of Blues debuts at the soon to open Houston Pavilion.

Visitors will be tempted to linger on the sidewalks and absorb the neon and bright lights that envelop the District. It’s not just the lights but the architecture that is amazing, too.

The glistening wings of Hobby Center rise three stories above Tranquility Park giving the impression the building will lift from the ground any minute and soar above the Houston skyline.

On a clear night when the lights are bright the Center shines brightest as one Houston’s finest architectural and performing arts triumphs.Four blocks up and a block over from Hobby Center, Wortham Theater Center’s exterior is truly impressive.

Pass through the eighty-eight foot entrance and you’ll discover a lavish grand hall rising six stories overhead. The Wortham, built entirely with private funds at a time when the boom was bust and cities were erecting sports stadiums rather than Opera Halls, is living proof that Houston is a whole lot more than Rodeo.


A short walk from the Wortham visitors will find the castle spires of Alley Theater, the most personal of downtown venues. The theater is unique in many ways.

The building, built in 1968, houses a performing arts company that dates back even further, to the early 1940’s, when it began giving performances in a tiny room off Main that seated only 87 people and had a tree through the roof that let in the rain during Texas thunderstorms.

Cattycornered from the Alley south east stands Jones Hall or, officially, the Jesse H. Jones Hall for the Performing Arts. Covering a city block, the building’s architecture is unusual and extraordinary, a circular building under a square roof supported by majestic columns on all sides.

The Hall was completed in 1966, two years before the Alley. Originally housing Houston’s classical performances including Ballet, Opera and Symphony, it served as a counter-balance to the Alley’s wonderful series of plays and popular entertainment for several decades. An incredibly diverse list of performers and celebrities, from Mikhail Baryshnikov to Bruce Springsteen to Bill Gates, has taken center stage beneath its unique adjustable-acoustics ceiling.

Of course the Theater District’s main attractions are its live performances. There’s probably a gentle Bossa Nova playing somewhere. The Houston Ballet are on their toes, making audiences want to be dancing with them… except it’s not nearly as easy as it looks. There’s definitely inspiring Symphony and thrilling Opera. The Houston Grand Opera, founded in 1955, is the only company in America to win a Grammy, a Tony and an Emmy award for its performances. That’s a bigger deal than one will find in the Big Apple!

Things will be great when you’re downtown. Not only are there plenty of live performances to choose from, there are movie shows, too! Besides Verizon Wireless Theater, where everything from rock concerts to Roller Derby is staged, Bayou Place Entertainment Complex houses several restaurants, bars, game-rooms and a movie multi-plex.

There’s lots of “little places” to go before or after a concert, or even on those evenings when all the big shows were sold out and you’re looking for a bit of fun. If pop music is more your style Verizon Theater and Jones Hall usually has some of the best rock and popular performers on stage.

One might catch Gordon Lightfoot at the Verizon or Tony Bennett serenading the audience at Jones Hall. Want plays? How about a Monty Python spoof on stage at Hobby Center or To Kill a Mockingbird at the Alley?

These offerings merely skip along the surface. Choose a venue, decide what you want to see, and do a bit of digging. You’re certain to find your niche.

During daylight hours drop in to the Houston Visitor Center next to Tranquility Park, across from Hobby Center. You’re bound to find somebody kind to help and understand you!

The Houston Theater District has the best entertainment for Grownups found in the city. Don’t wait a minute more! If you do, tickets may be all gone. Get your fancy duds out. Everything’s waiting for you! Now that you’ve discovered the Houston Theater District you’re going to be all right now!

Houston's Bayou Place features The Downtown Aquarium

The six acre Downtown Aquarium  entertainment complex is an amusement park onto itself, featuring an upscale restaurant and bar, a fully equipped ballroom and  geographic and aquatic exhibits.

The Aquarium Adventure Exhibit features six different adventures, boasting more than 500,000 gallons of fresh and saltwater tanks.

They include a Louisiana Swamp with live alligators, a Ship Wreck you can walk through, an Ancient Mayan Sunken Temple, the Amazon Rain Forest, an Offshore Rig in the gulf of Mexico and a hands on Touch and Learn Marine Life Exhibit. People of all ages will enjoy the spectacular views from the top of the Diving Bell Ferris Wheel.
For the kids a carrousel fitted with sea horse's, alligators, seal's and many other aquatic characters or they can play in the dazzling, dancing water fountains.

The Shark Voyage offers guests a ride on the CP Huntington miniature Train and are taken right through the center of an enormous shark tank.

So load up the kids and head to the NEW downtown Houston and get ready for the adventure of a lifetime!

410 Bagby
Houston, TX. 77002


ad players, 2613 Saint, 713-871-0083
Actors Theater of Houston Inc, 4112 Austin, 713-529-6606
The Alley Theater, 615 Texas, 713-228-8421
Artista, 800 Bagby, 713-278-4782
Atomic Cafe, 1320 Nance, 713-222-2866
Best of Broadway, 515 Post Oak, 713-622-7469
Bill & Ted's Excellent Theater, 11875 W Little York, 832-243-9438
Broadway Across America
Community Cup Center, 10904 Scarsdale, 281-484-5830
Company Onstage The, 536 Westbury Square, 713-726-1219
Country Playhouse, 12802 Queensbury, 713-467-4497
Da Camera of Houston, 1427 Branard St., 713-524-7601
Encore Theater, 4816 Main, 713-527-8277
Ensemble Theater, 3535 Main, 713-520-0055
Express Theater, 1900 Kane, 713-802-9980
Gilbert & Sullivan, 1177 W Loop S, 713-627-3570
Hobby Center, 800 Bagby Street, Suite 300, 713.315.2400
Hobby Center for the Performing Arts, 810 Bagby, 713-622-7469

Houston Ballet
Houston Symphony Orchestra
Opera In The Heights, 1703 Heights Blvd., 713-861-5303
Silver House Theater, 1107 Charters, 713-547-0126
Society for the Performing Arts Family Fun Series, 615 Louisiana Street, Suite 100
Spa Houston
Stages Theatre, 3201 Allen Pkwy, 713-527-8243
Talento Bilingue De Houston, 333 S Jensen, 713-222-1213
Texas Mime Theater, 2714 Florence, 713-880-9868
Texas Opry Jamboree The, 32243 Old Hempstead, 281-356-6779
Texas Theatrical Productions, 5154 Spruce, 713-666-2676
Theater Lab Houston, 1706 Alamo, 713-868-7516
Theater Lenz & Co, 3337 W FM 1960, 281-397-9067
Theater SW, 713-661-9505
Theater SW, 8944 A Clarkcrest, 713-977-6028
Theater Suburbia, 1410 W 43rd, 713-682-3525
Theater Under the Stars, 800 Bagby, 713-224-0177
Unhinged Productions, 1320 Nance, 713-547-0440
Verizon Wireless Theater, 520 Texas Ave, 713-230-1666
Wortham Theater, 510 Preston
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