When life gets busy, sometimes the most travel you can fit in is a vacation in your own town. With school and work schedules filling up, we recently decided to catch a little adventure, rest and relaxation close to home.

Something really lovely happens when you choose your own city as your destination – adding elements of unique and exceptional to a city that might typically feel humdrum and unremarkable. There is a heightened feeling of discovery and willingness to move out of your comfort zone into places you must seek out, and rely on predictability.

Recently, we opted to stay in Houston for a “city break” after a few long, consecutive weeks of the grind. We needed a short pause, a respite from the stress of our routine. My son started preschool this year after years of being mostly isolated due to the pandemic and before that, living as expats in Canada. For Arthur, adjusting to his new reality has been challenging. We decided to stay in a fancy hotel downtown, attend the theater and then find ourselves a nice bite to eat (provided the restaurant offers macaroni & cheese.)

We started out at the Magnolia Hotel, an Art Deco beauty built in 1926 and surrounded by skyscrapers. Staying in a hotel is always a treat; dirtying up a room you don’t have to clean later, mussing up sheets you don’t have to wash, jumping on a bouncy bed you don’t have to worry about. This last pleasure is of course what my son enjoys the most. We unpacked our bags and ventured outside.

This was not our normal neighborhood, so although Houston is our city, these were not our regular haunts. The coffee shops were new to us, the buildings and high-rises different than what we are used to seeing. To my son, we might as well be in a completely new place, because everything is new and unfamiliar and it is very simple to slip into his excitement at all of this unknown and uncharted.

Saturday afternoon, we were dressed to impress as we headed over to the theater to see “Chicago.” Perhaps this is a little advanced for a preschooler, but Arthur attends a magnet school for the arts and music speaks to him in an unexpected way. He didn’t seem to understand much of what was happening in the show, but enjoyed it nonetheless. After the theater, we Ubered to a popular restaurant we hadn’t yet found the time to check out that just so happens to serve one of the three foods my son will happily eat. The night ended quietly with cartoons in the hotel room, blankets pulled up to our chins.

The next day was more of the same – sleeping in late, going out to breakfast, exploring a place we drive through all the time but never seem to have an extra moment to really see. We opted for a late checkout on Sunday, and ate a leisurely breakfast at a little place I’d never heard of and never would have if we hadn’t taken this little staycation in our own backyard. The drive back to our own home was obviously short, but it felt like we were a million miles from the people who checked into the hotel Friday afternoon, and had a little deeper appreciation for the city we are typically trying to escape from, that instead offered us an escape from the most difficult parts of life – with a reminder of why we call Houston home.


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