“There is no need to leave once you arrive,” explains Octave Brunet. He’s talking about the Omni Houston Hotel, a glittering urban oasis that graces the swank Galleria area with striking architecture and resort-style amenities. Although it suffered in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, the top-notch hotel will be back and better than ever in 2018. That’s the Houston spirit. Continued convention, business, and tourist travel—as well as trendy “local tourism”—has the nation’s fourth-largest city thriving, even as local recovery continues. Meanwhile, the hospitality industry continues to enjoy an extended hotel boom, as a plethora of high-end developments crops up across town.
The cranes dotting the skyline foretell a dynamic city reshaping its own identity. As Houston sheds its strictly-business mantle and embraces its fun side, hotels no longer have to cater primarily to business travelers. In fact, they’ve moved beyond the black-and-white delineation between business and pleasure altogether. With a strong national economy, years of climbing occupancy rates, and a developer-friendly state, the stage is perfectly set for new developments in Space City—and the stars of the show are shining brighter by the day.
Here & Happening
The Marriott Marquis Houston opened in December, 2016 to immediate acclaim. The haute hotel is a holistic addition to the downtown area—no small compliment when referring to a city of Houston’s size—and it earns the accolade with its unmatched features: A skybridge connecting to the George R. Brown Convention Center, over 100,000 square feet of meeting space, a vast ballroom, six signature culinary outlets, and an already-iconic Texas-shaped Lazy River and infinity pool.
The Marriott Marquis houses 1,000 opulent guest rooms, as well as a thoughtful art collection and Houston-centric design details. Even the elevators glow with H-town pride: Each features a striking image of an astronaut floating in space, honoring NASA’s intrepid galactic explorers.
Gracefully elevated to 110 feet in the air and surrounded by an unobstructed panorama of the downtown skyline, the Marriott’s Park View Terrace is easily one of the most unique amenity decks in the city. In addition to the one-of-a-kind Texas-shaped Lazy River, it features a full-service poolside bar and grill called the High Dive, making it the perfect stop for relaxing, al fresco dining, and catching up on emails poolside.
Back at ground level, more dining options abound. Of the Marriott Marquis’ six fantastic restaurants, two emanate a particular Houston pride. Bustling sports bar Biggio’s, named for and created in partnership with Astros Hall of Famer Craig, is the perfect place to relax before or after a ‘Stros showdown. Meanwhile, 2017 James Beard Award-winner (and HHM cover boy) Chef Hugo Ortega heads up his latest concept, Xochi, which serves a delicious Oaxacan-inspired menu in a luxe setting.
Of course, visits to the Marriott aren’t only for play—the renowned George R. Brown Convention Center hosts many of the city’s most important events in its staggering 1.8 million square feet. With its climate-controlled skybridge offering guests direct access, the Marriott Marquis is the perfect host to out-of-town convention-goers.
We embrace and reflect the local culture of each city we have a presence in.
–Octave Brunet, Omni Houston Hotel
Across town, the 11-story Omni Houston Hotel cuts a striking figure even as it recovers. Chic red accent walls adorn the exterior, and a curved façade ensures that every room includes an unbeatable view. That’s just the beginning—once travelers set foot in the expansive lobby, they find a world of entertainment waiting within. The sprawling campus boasts a slew of luxe amenities, including the Mokara Spa, award-winning NOÉ GRILL, pools and cabanas, and the popular Black Swan nightclub (complete with resident black swans Sam, as in Houston, and Rose, as in “The Yellow Rose of Texas”).
Mr. Brunet, the Omni Houston’s Director of Sales and Marketing, is rightfully proud of the hotel’s obvious appeal. “We attract all types of travelers, from group conventions to business travelers to staycationers, wedding parties and various other social events.”
It’s not difficult to see why. The Omni Houston’s Uptown location lends itself perfectly to travelers, but it also appeals to locals in want of a great cocktail and a prime location to see and be seen. It’s hard to do better than the perfectly-appointed Black Swan nightclub, a gem of the Omni enjoyed by a unique mélange of international visitors and life-long Houstonians.
Hotels as a cultural hub? As Mr. Brunet sees it, they’re a natural fit. “We embrace and reflect the local culture of each city we have a presence in,” he explains. “As an example, our hotel lobby contains a gallery of paintings by a famous local artist, David Adickes. We recently held a wine and art pairings dinner with Mr. Adickes, where attendees met him and learned about the inspiration for the famous paintings and sculptures throughout the City of Houston.” Such an authentic connection to the city stands to benefit visitors and Houstonians alike. All anticipate this local gem’s reopening.
Elsewhere in the city, a wave of new construction is keen to further raise the bar for luxury travel experiences—or shatter it altogether. One approach? Make a trip to your hotel feel like a remarkable destination in and of itself. Such is the case at the forthcoming Hotel ZaZa – Memorial City, which deftly melds decadence and design in a series of themed suites.
“We like to think of the suites as taking the guest on a great fantasy adventure,” says principal designer Kimberley Miller, who also worked on a sister location in the Museum District. “The suites evoke either a sense of place, like ‘French Connection’ or ‘Beach House,’ or they can achieve a feeling, like the ‘Breathless’ suite.”
Staying in a themed suite transports the guest to another place…. It really is like staying in someone’s home.
–Kimberley Miller, Designer of Hotel ZaZa Memorial City
It’s a designer’s daydream, made reality for design-forward guests. “ZaZa is unique, in that it really has no rules—it never feels like it has to conform to big box brand mentality,” Miller explains. “ZaZa has always led the charge among lifestyle brands to be thought-provoking, have a sense of humor, and bring art, style, and fashion together to truly inspire.”
Miller and her team are taking great pains to weave the thread of the ZaZa vision into an unforgettable tapestry ahead of its December opening, and their dazzling concept demands nothing less than laser-eyed attention to detail. “Each piece in the suite is hand-picked for an experience or feeling, much like how one would choose pieces for a bespoke residence. Many pieces will be one-of-a-kind from vintage sources or high-end designer showrooms. We also custom-make many pieces to align with the concept.”
The result? The Hotel ZaZa is a dream, a lush homage to design, reverie, and custom luxury. It scoops you up at the door and deposits you beyond the boundaries of imagination. “Staying in a themed suite transports the guest to another place—we believe it inspires guests, too. For people who travel often, I believe the suites offer a ‘non-hotel’ experience. It really is like staying in someone’s home.”
At the hotly-anticipated Post Oak, Houston tycoon Tilman Fertitta’s latest headline-grabbing endeavor, some guests truly never will leave—they can move in. Soaring towards an early 2018 opening as the city’s first vertical, mixed-use development, the Post Oak incorporates high-end residences, designer shopping, a full-service spa, and gold-standard dining—to say nothing of the 240 rooms and suites reserved for guests in search of the city’s most lavish visitor experience.
Mr. Fertitta, star of CNBC’s Billion Dollar Buyer, is famous for his no-nonsense approach and firm convictions. “I’ve always wanted to build a luxury hotel in Houston,” he reveals. “The one thing I hear as I travel across the country is, ‘Guys, where do you stay in Houston?’” Not one to rest on his laurels, Mr. Fertitta decided to tackle the problem head-on—sparing no expense.
“Right now, we are searching all over the world for art that will complement special places in the hotel. The art in the hotel alone will be worth millions of dollars.” In any hotel worth its stars, fine art is a given, but Feritta’s property promises to drive craftsmanship to a new level with an exquisite two-story Rolls Royce-Houston showroom. These distinctions won’t be the only masterpieces on the grounds—guests will also have two culinary tours de force at their fork tips.
Posh palates are already watering in anticipation of Mastro’s Steakhouse, the first in Texas. With sister locations in Beverly Hills, Chicago, and Manhattan, Mastro’s is bringing the best of urban dining to Space City. 35-year Houston institution Willie G’s will also have a place at the table—this time with a new concept. Fans of the iconic establishment will find old favorites hidden among bold new menu items, while newcomers will be delighted by the contemporary new look and spacious patio. Mr. Fertitta was unequivocal. “I can tell you this: People who are spending the night at this hotel won’t have to leave the property to find the perfect place to eat.”
In much the same way, travelers to Houston needn’t stray far to find world-class dining, entertainment, and big-city fun. The moment you arrive at any number of Houston’s finest hotels, you’re a swift elevator ride from some of the most lavish amenities around. Get used to the idea: Houston is fast becoming a coveted destination for extravagant excursionists the world over. It appears as though the new developments gracing the city will be able to have their Texas-shaped lazy river and relax in it, too.
Featured image courtesy of Hotel ZaZa – Memorial City