Philanthropist and socialite Lynn Wyatt is a legend in Texas
She's got some ideas for visitors about what to do in her home city of Houston
It would be impossible to settle on just one description of Texas’ legendary Lynn Wyatt: Millionaire philanthropist, world-traveling socialite, octogenarian Tae Kwon Do black belt, fashion icon, confidante of the superfamous, cultural ambassador, proud Texan.
She also plays a familiar starring role: Host and tour guide of the city she loves.
“At the innocent age of 9 years old, I knew that Texas was special. And I might add, I still do,” the Houston native said of her home state.
“Texas has an openness about it, not just physically, but mentally, as well, and a Texas girl thinks that we can do anything. Anything that we set our mind to, we can do,” Wyatt said.
Houston’s image has been on the upswing in recent years, with a massive population boom prompting outsiders to notice and celebrate its cultural range.
Greater Houston is the most ethnically diverse metropolitan area in the country, with communities that hail from dozens of countries around the world, according to a study by Rice University, which is based in the city.
It’s nothing new, Wyatt said. “We’ve been diversified for years. Nobody gets upset. We all are very welcoming to people who come into the city,” she said.
To any naysayers, Wyatt is quick to point out that her native city is far more than steak, sprawl and oil.
“I don’t know what one is expecting, but if you do have a low expectation, once you get here, you’re going to change your mind,” Wyatt promised.
The prominent Texan sat down with CNN Travel to offer the best that her city has to offer in food, art and more.
Arts and entertainment
“The soul of any city is its culture,” Wyatt said. And Houston’s got plenty of soul.
Home to 65,000 artworks, the massive Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, is in the midst of a $450 million expansion that includes two new buildings.
The performing arts are also thriving.
“People come from all over the world just to see the Houston Grand Opera when they do ‘The Ring.’ We have a first class ballet that has won awards and an Alley Theatre that is incredible,” Wyatt said.
“People will have seen the same thing in New York and they say, ‘I think it’s better in Houston.’ I’m very proud of that.”
For live music and dancing, Wyatt likes the new White Oak Music Hall, which opened in 2016.
The “indoor, outdoor, on the bayou” venue is “locally owned, locally designed, locally developed and locally promoted. They have music every night, and they have dancing every night. It is F-U-N, fun,” she said.
Moving in a very different way, the city’s striking Rothko Chapel is an only-in-Houston experience.
Commissioned by John and Dominique de Menil in 1964, the interfaith sanctuary doubles as a work of modern art. Fourteen paintings by Mark Rothko hang in the spare, octagonal room.
“It’s very, very spiritual. The paintings are very, very dark,” Wyatt said.
“There are lots of museums in major cities. There is only one Rothko Chapel.”
From contemporary to classic, Houston’s restaurant scene is as diverse and energized as the city’s population.
Houston was home to about 6,000 restaurants and nightlife spots when the city hosted the Super Bowl in 2004.
The city says that number jumped to 10,000 over the next decade.
“Houston is famous for good restaurants,” Wyatt said. “One of the best restaurants is Cafe Annie.”
Café Annie chef Robert del Grande, who recently marked 35 years of cooking in Houston, was the first in the city to win a James Beard Award when he took the honor of best chef in America-Southwest in 1992.
State of Grace is another Wyatt favorite.
It’s “more of a neighborhood type of restaurant, very cozy, has a great oyster bar, and people come in and stand up at the bar, at the oyster bar, and they sit down and have a delicious meal,” she said.
For steak, she likes Steak 48 in the River Oaks District, an open-air luxury shopping and dining area west of downtown.
For dessert Wyatt loves all-day dessert emporium The Chocolate Bar.
And for overall hospitality, she’ll always choose Houston.
“If I could live anywhere else in the world, I would still come back to Houston because Houston is a city that makes you feel at home,” Wyatt said. “Whether you have been born here or not, it is very accepting.”