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Houston, Texas, is an exciting mix of old and new where history meets innovation. The most heavily populated city in Texas and fourth-largest U.S. city in terms of residents, Houston started as a humble railroad hub in the 1860s. Today, it’s home to oil fields, NASA, a thriving finance industry, and a flourishing arts scene.
As Halloween looms closer, it brings to light Houston’s haunted side. This Southwest metropolis is home to a number of legitimately haunted houses and hotels. If you’re Texas-bound and in the mood for some haunted happenings, check out a few of our picks for haunted things to do in Houston.
Haunted History: The Rice Lofts (formerly the Rice Hotel)
In a former life, the Houston apartment high-rise known as the Rice Lofts was once the Rice Hotel, infamously known as the hotel where former President John F. Kennedy spent his last night before his assassination in 1963. Before it was converted into apartment buildings, guests of the hotel claimed to hear the rattling of objects, feel chills, see lights, and feel a ghostly presence in the room where JFK once slept.
The supernatural activity in this hotel was not limited to the former President’s room, however. The ghosts of couples on a dance floor were also said to have tripped the light phantasmic in the hotel ballroom. Since the hotel’s renovations, these ghostly dancers now perform their danse macabre on the Rice Lofts rooftop.
Putting the “Fun” in Funeral: National Museum of Funeral History
Located at 415 Barren Springs Drive in Houston, the National Museum of Funeral History boasts the mission statement that “any day above ground is a good one.” Founded in 1992, the museum harbors a collection of funeral service memorabilia designed to educate visitors and keep the traditions of the funeral industry’s practices and history “alive.”
Among some of the exhibits at the National Museum of Funeral History are a restored, hand-carved wooden hearse from the 1920s that once transported coffins to their final place of rest. Another exhibit (in conjunction with the Vatican) focuses on the burial rituals of popes. Yet another display focuses on a retrospective of the work of Dr. Thomas Holmes, a prominent Civil War-era embalmer. And in a strangely whimsical exhibit, the Museum houses 12 colorful, customized “fantasy coffins” designed by sculptor Kane Quaye of Ghana to depict the life’s interests of their inhabitants – including coffins designed to resemble an airliner, leopard, lobster, and even a Mercedes Benz. This unique museum is not to be missed on your tour of haunted Houston!
High Spirits: The Brewery Tap
Tired of walking around and want to grab a drink – and maybe do a little spirit-spotting? Check out The Brewery Tap, located at 717 Franklin Street (at the corner of Louisiana). This historic brewery building has an enormous selection of 35 beers on tap, an upbeat staff, games of darts for patrons to play, and (oh, yeah) its very own ghost.
From time to time, a friendly, otherworldly visitor named “William” materializes to chat with patrons at The Brewery Tap. According to bar lore, William is the ghost of a former brewery worker in the 1920s who died on the job. The owner even has a photo of this mysterious character and will show it to you if you ask nicely. Down a brew or two and find yourself in good “spirits” at this happily haunted Houston attraction.
A Haunting Walk in the Park: Glenwood Cemetery
Houston’s Glenwood Cemetery is among one of the most beautifully landscaped graveyards in the country. Designed around the ravines that trail to Houston’s historic Buffalo Bayou, the gently curving walkways of this 19th century cemetery makes it feel more like an extraordinary park than a place of eternal rest.
Visitors can stop by the gravesites of some famous folks interred at Glenwood Cemetery, such as eccentric billionaire and aviator Howard Hughes, actress Gene Tierney (who, ironically, starred in the film The Ghost and Mrs. Muir), and the remarkable Sarah Emma Edmondson (married name: Seyle) – a Civil War-era nurse and spy who dressed as a man to join the Union army. The cemetery is a popular spot for ghost hunters to congregate due to its high electromagnetic fields generated within its iron gates, and the legend that its owner – the victim of an unsolved murder – haunts this beautiful cemetery.
These are just a few haunted Houston attractions you can check out if you’re “plot”ting a trip to this fascinating city. Depending on how much additional (grave) digging you may want to do, you can unearth a number of haunted happenings throughout the city of Houston in time for Halloween – or any time you wish to visit the city and explore some spine-tingling spots.
If Central Park is New York’s heart, Golden Gate Park is San Francisco’s soul. A 1,000-acre rectangle wedged between Richmond and Sunset, the providentially engineered expanse of green stretches from The Haight to the sea. Flowers, lakes, museums and elbow room make Golden Gate a favorite haunt among residents and a must-do destination for city visitors. Any patch of grass in the park could serve as a leisurely picnic location, but with so many notable restaurants in close proximity, we suggest that you work up your appetite with a short walk and experience San Francisco’s stimulating culinary scene.
Haight-Ashbury abuts Golden Gate on the east end, just south of the park’s narrow panhandle. Shops full of vintage ’60s clothing allude to the district’s hippie history, but little else remains of that storied era – unless you make a beeline to the park’s Hippie Hill. If your idea of sensory pleasure tends toward the gustatory, you can still enjoy the “anything goes” attitude in The Haight’s profusion of restaurants.
Axum Café transports the heady aroma of East Africa to its airy dining room at 698 Haight Street. Meat, poultry and fish simmered in tomatoes, onions and jalapeno peppers share menu space with vegetarian entrees of chickpeas, lentils, potatoes, spinach and mushrooms livened with classic Ethiopian spices.
The Zagat-recommended Magnolia Pub & Brewery at 1398 Haight Street serves bistro-style fare on steroids alongside its cask-conditioned ales. You may actually volunteer for a knuckle sandwich here: beef knuckle on a roll delivers a punch of flavor with giardiniera and charred onion aioli. Or snack on such morsels as goat cheese-stuffed dates wrapped with bacon and drizzled with a kolsch gastrique, Scotch quail eggs and Monterey Bay sardines.
If an inexplicable force seems to draw you out of the park, it’s probably the Latin beat coming from Cha Cha Cha. This Caribbean-fusion eatery and its altars to the saint-gods of Santeria is worthy of a detour, though its location on Haight Street – at 1801, just one block from the attractions-dense east end of the park – make it an easy diversion. You can put together a tapas-style lunch – try chicken wings glazed in a guava-chipotle chile sauce, fried platanos with black beans and sour cream, and a chicken curry or ricotta-spinach empanada – or opt for a sandwich, such as the Cubano Clasico.
When the flavor diversity (or other influences) leaves you jonesing for a good ole American standby, visit The Pork Store Café at 1451 Haight Street, where homestyle favorites such as a club sandwich, BLT and grilled cheese command the table.
The park’s northern boundary stretches along Richmond, a district known for its multicultural atmosphere. Clement Street, as you head toward the Presidio, is a sort of unofficial food court of Chinese, Vietnamese, Burmese, Thai and Korean cuisine. For samusa soup like your “imaginary Burmese grandma used to make,” Brandon Kleinman, writing for The Blog at Huff Post, recommends Burma Superstar at 309 Clement Street.
The Asian character continues as you head west, but plenty of other cultures represent with a sprinkling of French, Spanish, Jewish, Japanese, Egyptian, Moroccan, Indian, Russian, Mexican, and yes, American, restaurants in the mix. If the thought of more than a momentary slow-down puts you on edge, grab a pork bao (or three) at Jook Time at 3398 Balboa and keep on going. This typical Chinese street food wraps barbecue pork and veggies in a tender steamed bun. SF Weekly’s SFoodie recommends this as one of the top 10 dim sum restaurants in the city. Soup sounds good at any time of the year in San Francisco, where average high temperatures rarely climb above 70 degrees. When the fog descends, you should immediately go find warmth in a bowl of ramen at Miki’s. Lauren Sloss at Serious Eats calls this restaurant at 3639 Balboa Street “a cozy respite from the cold.”
It’s easy to forget that San Francisco is, technically, a beach town. But on the ocean side of the Sunset District, a laidback surfer vibe cuts through the ever-present fog. Take advantage of the time warp and head to 4001 Judah Street, where carbs are still very much in vogue. Alissa Merksamer of Serious Eats recommends making the trek to Outerlands on a Sunday, when you can order the “much-ballyhooed restaurant’s best treat,” a Dutch Pancake. The maple syrup-drizzled popover/pancake cross comes with built-in bacon.
Harkening back to the glory days of worker’s cooperatives, Arizmendi Bakery at 1331 9th Avenue is a darling of the crowd-sourced reviews. The owner and staff turn out daily pizza specials according to a monthly menu. This isn’t the place for pepperoni or personal opinions, but if you like to take chances with sourdough crust and toppings such as marinated artichoke hearts, arugula, caramelized onions, goat cheese and sugar-plum tomatoes, grab a slice or two to go.
It’s a straight sight from San Francisco to Japan, and Yum Yum Fish at 2181 Irving Street may leave you wondering if you’ve been teleported to Tokyo. The fish market-style counter service adds to the authenticity, though Yelp reviews overwhelmingly recommend ordering your sushi and sashimi to go.
Let’s say you catch a slice of sunshine and want to eat lunch outdoors. Since you can’t go two blocks in San Francisco without passing some place selling food, you should have no trouble rounding up provisions. For the quintessential picnic fare – a sandwich – stop into Arguello Super Market for a turkey and avocado sandwich on Dutch crunch bread (which Lauren Sloss wants to make the National Sandwich of San Francisco).
Or try the meat-packed subs at The Yellow Submarine, which practically define American excess. You’ll find this Sunset institution at 503 Irving Street. For a Middle Eastern take on the sandwich, visit Sunrise Deli and order a falafel to go. You can visit either of two locations near Golden Gate Park, one in Sunset at 2115 Irving Street or the newer shop at 1671 Haight Street.
The Rainbow Room is shining brightly once again, high above New York City on the 65th floor of 30 Rockefeller Plaza.
Doors of the famed restaurant and dance hall reopened in early October for brunch, dinner and entertainment. After being closed several years for renovations, the legendary Rainbow Room is back with the same spirit, style and sophistication. The dazzling crystal chandelier and revolving dance floor are still the centerpieces of the room, just as they were in the 1930s and beyond.
The Rainbow Room will be open to the public for most holidays, Sunday brunch, and on Monday nights for dinner and special performances in a variety of genres, including jazz, swing and more. The venue will also be available for private events on Tuesday-Saturday.
During the Great Depression, on October 3, 1934, the doors of the Rainbow Room opened for the first time. It was the first restaurant in the U.S. to be located in a high-rise building and remained that way for decades. With its cosmopolitan elegance, the Rainbow Room overlooks midtown Manhattan and unveils a sparkling skyline at night.
Over the years, the biggest movie stars, entertainers and other notables - from Joan Crawford, Elizabeth Taylor and Michael Jackson, to New York City mayors Fiorello LaGuardia and Michael Bloomberg, to Al Pacino, Barbra Streisand and Muhammad Ali - all dined, danced and celebrated countless occasions at the Rainbow Room.
A downturn in the economy and corresponding decline in business resulted in the 2009 closure. In September 2013, building operators announced the landmark would reopen to its former status as “one of the city’s most notable culinary icons.”
British chef Jonathan Wright was hired to helm the kitchen, which will serve Sunday brunch and Monday night dinners. Wright, who brings over 20 years of international experience to the Rainbow Room, has created a menu of classic and contemporary cuisine, including Oysters Rockefeller, Lobster Pot Pie with Black Truffles and Herb Roasted Pennsylvania Lamb. Known for his globally-inspired and interactive brunch at The Setai on Miami Beach, Wright will “transform the iconic dance floor into an expansive culinary stage.”
Comprised of several stations each run by a chef with a cuisine specialty, the brunch experience will take diners on a bite-by-bite journey around the world. Dedicated chef’s tables will feature a spectacular raw bar, house-made breads, a roasted meat station offering dishes like Herb Roasted Amish Chicken and an array of Asian specialties, including Char Siew Barbeque Pork Steamed Buns and Thai Chicken Green Curry. An assortment of breakfast pastries, cheeses, charcuterie and smoked fish will also be available. A child-friendly, kid-height brunch buffet will delight those under the age of 12.
Next to Rainbow Room sits SixtyFive, a new cocktail lounge that will be serving classic and contemporary cocktails, such as the 1915 Gin & Tonic made with Dorothy Parker Gin, Lemon, Angostura biters and Johnnie Ryan Tonic. A previously vacant outdoor terrace on the 65th floor has been appropriated for outdoor seating.
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