A Guide to Houston's Theater District, Downtown's Hub for the Arts

Performance halls and theaters dot the 17-block swath of Houston’s Downtown neighborhood, comprising what’s known as the Houston Theater District.

The district’s institutions represent all the major performing arts—ballet, opera, the symphony, and theater—and host touring productions and acclaimed local performances alike. During the summer, the district hosts an open house with theater tours and sneak-peeks of shows from the upcoming season, but the area is worth exploring any time of the year.

Here’s a guide to the district, as well as what it offers beyond the stage.

Theater

Hobby Center for Performing Arts photo by Shutterstock

The Hobby Center for Performing Arts hosts touring Broadway productions, including Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hit “Hamilton.” The swanky Sarofim Hall seats over 2,600 guests and features gold columns, private balconies, and an exquisite dome ceiling lit with fiber optic stars meant to evoke the Texas night sky. The Hobby Center also houses a smaller bi-level venue: Zilkha Hall.

Also staged at the The Hobby Center is Theater Under the Stars, a musical theater series featuring Houston’s most promising thespians. Each season, TUTS presents beloved classics and modern masterpieces and often collaborates with other local arts organizations like the Houston Ballet. TUTS oversees the Humphreys School of Musical Theatre, which offers classes, as well as performance and visual art camps for people with disabilities.

Recipient of the Regional Theater Tony Award, the 70-year-old Alley Theatre is a nonprofit performing arts company. The Alley’s interior features elegant red carpets and wood banisters curving up the building’s turrets. Two stages—the 774-seat Hubbard Theatre and the more intimate 310-seat Neuhaus Theatre—present upwards of 400 performances a year, from Broadway productions and classics to Shakespearean plays and world premieres.

Music

The impressive Houston Grand Opera has earned a Tony Award, two Grammys, and three Emmys. The company showcases 6-8 performances annually in the Wortham Theater Center, a two-stage venue with seating for over 3,000.

HGO aims to keep tickets affordable for low-income communities, students, and first-time opera goers. The NEXUS initiative offers a limited number of $15 tickets each year, and those under 25 can “pay their age” for tickets.

The Grammy Award-winning Houston Symphony performs in Jones Hall for the Performing Arts. Jones Hall features stunning eight-story rectangular columns and canvases an entire city block. Founded in 1913, the Houston Symphony is one of the oldest in the country. Nearly 100 full-time musicians form the orchestra’s elite ensemble.

Dance

Wortham Theatre photo by Shutterstock

The Houston Ballet, which also performs in Wortham Theater, includes 59 dancers making it the fifth largest ballet company in the country. The Houston Ballet even offers free classes and performances to area schoolchildren, adapted classes for people with disabilities, and modified autism-friendly performances.

More Entertainment

Houston’s Society for the Performing Arts exhibits a variety of programming including music, dance, and theater. The SPA’s speaker series features bestselling authors, sports legends, and more. SPA also hosts Nat Geo Live, a series of educational presentations on Egypt, space, and other engaging subjects. 

Bayou Place is a gargantuan dining and entertainment complex containing a 15,000-square-foot private ballroom, three restaurants, an AMC Theatre, and Revention Music Center, a live entertainment venue featuring musicians, comedians, and performers—a one-stop-shop for a night on the town.

Beyond the Stage

Market Square Park photo courtesy of Brian Reading

The Theater District is surrounded by all of the amenities and conveniences of Downtown. For a pre-show meal, dine on eye-catching sushi plates at The Blue Fish (conveniently located in Bayou Place), fresh pasta and stonefire pizza at nearby Italian restaurant Birraporetti's, or ride in style to B&B Butchers, an upscale steakhouse providing complimentary Mercedes-Benz shuttle service to and from all Downtown theaters.

The Theater District is bordered by two parks—Tranquility Park, offering serene reflecting pools, and Market Square Park, a historic town square with sculptures, fountains, and a memorial garden—both of which provide a calm spot to relax before a show. When the curtains close, walk a couple blocks to Downtown’s vibrant nightlife cluster along Travis and Main.

Living Near the Theater District

While the Theater District itself has limited residential options, Downtown dwellers have easy access to all the offerings.

The Theater District is accessible by two METROrail lines so those living nearby can skip the hassle of parking and conveniently walk or ride to the many performances. Downtown residential options range from modest condos in the high $100,000s to million-dollar penthouses.

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