Houston Neighborhood Spotlight: River Oaks
River Oaks was established as a master-planned community in 1920 by the Hogg brothers, sons of a former Texas Governor. Deed restrictions in the early days, such as home values greater than $7,000—a large sum in the 1920s—and specific architecture styles, led to its meticulous design, but also contributed to discriminatory policies.
Houston annexed the neighborhood in 1927. Today, River Oaks is as prosperous as ever, and it’s characterized by stately homes, high fashion boutiques, fine dining destinations, and top performing schools.
Buying a Home
According to Neighborhoods.com data, the median home sale price in River Oaks as $1.3 million. The median skews high due to the amount of multi-million dollar mansions in the neighborhood, but that price tag fails to tell the whole story.
Current listings span between the mid $100s and $22 million meaning many residences, especially high-rise condos, can be had for under $350,000—a price comparable to other nearby neighborhoods.
Though among the pricier areas in Houston, River Oaks residents get their money’s worth. Many of the neighborhood’s sprawling estates range from 5,000 to 8,000 square feet, not including courtyards, patios with resort-style pools, or grassy lawns bordered by manicured hedges. Smaller, but still sizable, luxury homes clock in between 3,500 and 5,000 square feet.
While modern homes with glass exteriors and sharp angles are popping up in River Oaks, European inspired architecture dominates. Mediterranean red-tiled roofs, double French doors, Greek columns, Georgian brick facades, and Victorian turrets are common features. Interiors are just as lavish with marble floors, winding staircases, glistening chandeliers, saunas, and wine cellars.
Things to Do
Shopping is a frequent pastime, and the neighborhood contains two major shopping centers: River Oaks District and Highland Village. Both are walkable outdoor malls featuring a mix of retail and dining establishments. River Oaks District is home to designer brand clothing, jewelry, and beauty stores. Highland Village has over 50 stores ranging from clothing and electronics to home goods. There’s even a cupcake ATM.
The historic River Oaks Theatre, constructed in 1939, is a Landmark Theatre that retains its original Art Deco aesthetic. A small venue, River Oaks Theatre shows 1-2 films at a time including foreign language, independent, and art house features. A selection of wide-release critic darlings are shown as well (think “Lady Bird” and “The Favourite”).
The theater hosts midnight “Rocky Horror Picture Show” screenings on the second Saturday of the month. A shadow cast, The Royal Mystic Order of Chaos, performs alongside the film and encourages audience participation. The lively neighborhood tradition is especially popular among area high school students. The theater screens other midnight movies every Friday and Saturday night including seasonal picks like “Elf”, cult favorites like “Mean Girls”, and classics like Hitchcock films.
The River Oaks Country Club is the community’s crown jewel. Founded in 1923, the country club actually predates the neighborhood. Membership is exclusive, but those who are granted access have a golf course, red clay tennis courts, a fitness room, and a pool at their disposal.
Students in the neighborhood are zoned to two of the highest-ranked public schools in Houston: River Oaks Elementary and Lanier Middle School. Both of which have Vanguard (gifted and talented) magnet programs, International Baccalaureate designation, and 10 out 10 ratings on GreatSchools.
The playground at River Oaks Park is the most magical in Houston. Shaded by towering oaks and nicknamed “Pumpkin Park,” River Oaks Park is a fairytale forest in the middle of Houston’s urban landscape. An iconic Cinderella-esque pumpkin carriage play structure and wishing trees which invite visitors to hang wishes from the branches add to the park’s whimsy. There’s also a community center, a Little Free Library, volleyball and tennis courts, and a jogging trail.
What It’s Like to Live Here
Due to the amount of gyms, pilates, and yoga studios, River Oaks is one of the best Houston neighborhoods for fitness-lovers. After a tough workout, locals brunch at one of the many fine dining restaurants like State of Grace, which offers Southern fare served in gold-accented digs, and Bosscat Kitchen, a whiskey aficionado’s paradise with decadent breakfast fare.
You can spend a day shopping in one of the many outdoor malls, catch a small showing at River Oaks Theatre, see a mainstream movie at the premium iPic Theater with gourmet food and lounge seating, or tour the lush Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens—an MFAH facility and historic landmark with 14 acres ensconcing eight gardens. And don’t be surprised if you run into Oprah.