By John Egan

These days, meeting planners increasingly are craving "authentic" experiences for attendees of corporate and association gatherings. According to BizBash, it's no longer enough to secure a meeting location "purely based on the feasibility and budget appropriateness of its room block and function space."

"Instead," BizBash says, "groups want to experience local culture outside of the hotel, both as a part of the meeting, and separate from it, returning to their desks enriched and inspired."

Jim Schultenover, president of Associated Luxury Hotels International, agrees. The company's portfolio includes two Houston properties: Hotel Sorella and The Houstonian Hotel, Club & Spa. Schultenover said demand has risen for "unique" and "genuine" hotels and resorts to host attendees of conventions and other events.

Meeting planners are seeking "real experiences over just accommodations," Schultenover said, "as well as an environment where the message and experience is well-received, memorable and original ... "

Rather than letting us brag about all of the authentic things to see and do in Houston, we'll turn it over to Chet Garner, host of "The Daytripper," a travel show that airs on PBS stations. Here are three of Garner's favorite destinations on his Houston itinerary.


"This area boasts one of the largest Asian populations in America and is much more diverse than just Chinese residents. I love it because it truly feels like a trip overseas without leaving Texas," Garner says.

In Chinatown, Garner gives high marks to the Hong Kong Food Market, particularly its fresh fish counter, and to Hong Kong Dim Sum, where you essentially can chow down on a "full meal of appetizers."

Museum District

Among the district's 20 institutions, Garner praises the Houston Museum of Natural Science, with its "incredible exhibits," and The Menil Collection, "one of the best art museums in America." The Museum District, he says, "is oozing with culture."

Garner points out that the district's central hub is Hermann Park. "Folks come out here to picnic, ride pedal boats, see the Japanese Gardens, go to the zoo and roll down Miller Hill," he says.


"This is where all the cool kids hang out to eat, shop, drink and be merry," says Garner, citing the neighborhood's clothing shops, antique stores, restaurants and bars.

Among the eating and drinking establishments on Garner's Montrose list are The Hay MerchantAnvil Bar & RefugeEl Real Tex-Mex Café and The Chocolate Bar.

Learn more about planning your next meeting or event in Houston at