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Friday, December 01, 2023 — Houston, TX

Explore culture and coffee in Houston’s Third Ward

Photo courtesy Perkins + Will

By Sara Davidson     9/20/22 11:51pm

Across State Highway 288 from Rice, the Third Ward neighborhood of Houston is an area teeming with rich history, great restaurants and fun activities. Our recommendations below are great starting points to get a better feel of Third Ward’s thriving culture and history. 

Emancipation Park 

This park is not only the oldest park in Houston, but also in the entire state of Texas. It was purchased in 1872 by four former slaves for the purpose of celebrating Juneteenth. The purchase not only symbolized their freedom, but it also stood for the community’s union. In 1909 the first De-ro-loc No-tsu-oh (“colored Houston” spelled backwards) was hosted here, which included a Wild West show and football game between local colleges. Until the 1950s, this park was the only public park and swimming pool open to Houston’s Black community. Today, this park is home to an aquatics center, tennis court, baseball field, playground, outdoor pavilion, fitness center, theater and cultural center. Additionally, classes and gatherings are often hosted among the outdoor park spaces. 

Address: 3018 Emancipation Ave., Houston, TX 77004

The Nook Cafe and Bar 

Located practically on the University of Houston campus, this small coffee shop and bar is perfect for studying or relaxing off campus. Offering both coffee and cocktails in the same cafe, they have a beverage for any of your cravings. Outdoor seating is also available, with many board games that are perfect for a study break. Plenty of seating is also available inside, with cute window seats as well as big comfy couches perfect for getting some work done while staying cozy. 

Address: 4701 Calhoun St., Houston, TX 77004 

The Original Frenchy’s 

This fast food chain serves Louisiana-style fried chicken throughout the greater Houston area, but the original location lives in Third Ward. Founded in 1969 to serve New Orleans inspired Creole comfort food, this chain expanded from a sandwich shop to 11 locations across Houston. Their website describes their food as rich in flavors, combining French, Spanish, Caribbean and African influences. The original restaurant is the closest to campus with plenty of po-boys, dirty rice, sweet potato pies and more available for purchase. 

Address: 4646 Scott St, Houston, TX 77004

Project Row Houses 

Project Row House is an art installation located in northern Third Ward with the goal of transforming the community through celebrating both art and African American history. The project was started in 1993 and has so far renovated 39 shotgun homes into art studios that are available to tour on the weekends. The art is not only kept in the studio but also used for neighborhood revitalization, local youth education, programs by local activists and more. The Project Row Houses serve as gathering spots for the greater Third Ward community. Project Row Houses is open from noon to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday.

Address: 2521 Holman St., Houston, TX, 77004 

Third Ward Bike Tours 

A more unique way to explore the neighborhood of Third Ward includes themed bike tours that take you around the area, explaining some of Third Ward’s history along the way. The project started out with the goal of community engagement, and it now has various themed bike events including “Bike & Brunch” and night rides with lit-up bicycles. They accept bikers of all levels and include stops at local neighborhood hotspots. Taking you through Emancipation Park, Project Row Houses and many more spots, these bike tours are an option for anyone at Rice — from the Beer Bikers to the casual cyclers — looking for a fun way to explore Third Ward. 

Address: 3409 Emancipation Ave., Houston, TX 77004

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