We booked rooms at the Westin Downtown. The Westin is directly across the street from the ballpark and the best suites have stadium views. The best way to see a city is from the top, so we booked dinner at Spindletop – Houston’s only revolving restaurant. From the 34th floor of the Hyatt hotel, the fully-glassed rotating enclosure offers sweeping 360-degree views and elegant southwest cuisine.
After a bountiful seafood dinner, we caught the last three innings of Tuesday’s 4-3 come-from-behind Nat’s win from the Crawford Boxes. The boxes create baseball’s shortest left field porch (only 315 feet from home plate) and sit 19 feet above the fence. Traditionally a rowdy section, the Crawford Boxes are extremely popular with the locals. Former Oriole LJ Hoes was a fan favorite and the fans were quite creative with their banter (“Way to take those balls, Hoes” was in vogue that night on 2-0 counts).
The next day, we decided to acclimate to Texas and visited Cavender’s to look at custom Stetson Cowboy Hats. Stetson has been producing the world’s premier western headwear since 1865. After making our selections, the store’s “shaper” uses a steam technique to mold the hat perfectly to your head.
At 2 PM Wednesday afternoon, we took a tour of Minute Paid Park and learned all about this beautiful stadium. Originally Enron Field, the park first opened in 2000 on what was once Union Train Station. After an Enron “mishap,” the Park eventually became Minute Maid. The main entrance is the original train station building and the park honors its roots with a replica train atop the stadium. The train is filled with oranges and runs the length of the track after each Astros Home Run. Other unique features are Tal’s Hill and the Chick Fil-A “Fowl Poles.”
Tal’s Hill is the deepest portion of centerfield and slants upward thirty degrees towards the 436 ft. fence. The flag pole in the center of the Hill is in play and balls hit there always bring the fans to their feet, and opposing centerfielders struggle to navigate the slope. The Chick Filet Poles feature a cow on the top and the slogans: “Chikin iz Fair” and “Burgerz R Foul”. Anytime an Astros player hits the Pole, all the fans in attendance get a free chicken sandwich! Due to the heat, the stadium has a retractable roof and is only open about 18 games each year. The roof takes 15 minutes to close and the AC bill is a whopping $1000/hour.
After that tour, we visited local brewery Saint Arnold to see how Houston’s favorite beer is made. Saint Arnold has several aromatic brews and is rapidly expanding across the south. (Maybe we’ll see it in OC soon!?) My favorite was the Pumpkinator – a 10% powerhouse that is produced annually each October 15th from caramel and black malts.
That night we enjoyed front row seats in the Diamond Club directly behind home plate. The Diamond Club includes an indoor buffet and wait service at your seat. The Nats won easily 7-0 on the strength of hometown hero Anthony Rendon’s (Rice University) 4 hits. Minute Maid is quite family friendly and their mascot Orbit entertained the crowd.
On our last day we had lunch at the amazing Aquarium Restaurant. Each table has an amazing view of the 150,000-gallon aquarium. This was one of the best dining ideas we’d ever seen and the experience was spectacular. You can see the best of Houston in about three days. It’s an affordable winter getaway and we loved the southern hospitality!
– Sean Rox www.roxbeach.com