By B. Root
If you have ever found yourself asking, “What else is there to do in Houston?” then A.J. Mistretta’s new book is for you. 100 Things to Do in Houston Before You Die is a collection of activities and attractions throughout the city. The book is a wonderful guide for visitors and residents alike, and includes top restaurants and bars as well as great places for art, recreation, entertainment, and shopping. I had the pleasure of speaking with Mistretta about his Bayou-City bucket list.
B. Root: What led you to compile this bucket list for Houstonians? Did it begin as a personal endeavor that turned into something more?
A.J. Mistretta: I was actually approached by the publisher about doing this book. It sort of made sense, since my day-job is doing public relations for Visit Houston, and I know a lot about the city and the experiences here. I thought about the opportunity and decided to do it.
I think you did a great job of compiling things that I’ve always wanted to do but keep forgetting about for some reason, such as Texas Junk and The Orange Show. How long did you work on compiling this list?
The whole process took me about four months of nights and weekends when I wasn’t on the job. It was a fun experience.
As I was going through the book, I came across quite a few things I had never heard of before. What are some things from the book that even longtime residents of Houston might be overlooking?
Great question. I think many locals aren’t aware of what’s right around the corner from them. For instance, Long Point Road isn’t necessarily a pretty part of the city, but it has one of the best collections of international restaurants you’ll find in Texas. We have some [well-known] museums here, like the Museum of Fine Arts and the Museum of Natural Science, but a lot of people aren’t as familiar with the Printing
History Museum or the Museum of Funeral History. Similarly, while many people know about Space Center Houston, they may not be familiar with their “Level 9 Tour” that takes a small number of guests on a truly behind-the-scenes exploration of NASA’s Johnson Space Center.
These are the kinds of things I try to explore in the book.
And what your own favorite things to do from the book?
I’m big on the outdoors, so I love those sections of the book most—the gardens at Bayou Bend, hiking at Armand Bayou Nature Center, seeing the bats emerge over Buffalo Bayou. Discovery Green and Market Square Park, both in the heart of downtown, are truly two of my favorite places to be.
A “Top 100 List” can be an ambitious undertaking. [Laughs] Have you been able to do everything listed in your book?
Most of it, but there are still a few things in there I haven’t gotten to do. A pickup game at Fonde [Recreation Center] with NBA players comes to mind. [Laughs] I also haven’t skydived—not sure I’m going to, either!
Have you considered following 100 Things to Do in Houston Before You Die with another bucket-list book? Perhaps for your hometown of New Orleans or the entire State of Texas?
I’ve talked to the publisher about doing another project with them. I’m not exactly sure what it will be yet—perhaps something looking at another city or region. But I enjoy writing and sharing knowledge. This definitely won’t be the last book!
So if you have ever wondered what else there is to do in Houston, grab a copy of 100 Things to Do in Houston Before You Die and start exploring. Houston has a lot to offer; sometimes you just need to know where to start. As Mistretta writes in the preface, “It’s a great time to be in Houston, whether you’re living here or just visiting.”