Azalea Trail Tour and
Houston Livestock and Rodeo

This is a two-day tour that is usually on a Friday and Saturday.  You can select from three options.

  • Both days for eight hours.  Day 1 is from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM.  Day 2 is from 12:00 to 8:00 PM.
  • 1.5 days for Friday from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM and Saturday from 12:00 to 4:00 PM.
  • 1 day only from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM for 5 or 6 houses on the Azalea Trail Tour.

We can also customize the tour if you want to tour on Saturday and or Sunday and skip the ribbon cutting ceremony and/or tour of River Oaks.

This is an excellent tour for anyone who is visiting Houston and wants to attend one or two of the events that attract people from around the world. 

Regarding the Azalea Trail Tour, people come not just to see the azaleas, but also to walk through and see the mansion homes of River Oaks.

Regarding the Houston Livestock and Rodeo, the largest rodeo in the United States, people come not just to see cattle, but for the barbecue and musical performers.

The Azalea Trail with its beautiful homes open to the public generally is held on the second long weekend in March, from Friday through Sunday.  Normally six mansion homes and gardens are open to tour as well as the Forum of Civics (FoC) where members of the River Oaks Garden Club (ROGC) give advise on gardening.  The FoC is over 100 years old and on the National Register of Historic Places.

River Oaks
River Oaks is bigger than Beverly Hills.  It covers over 2 square miles.  River Oaks was originally developed in the mid-1920s in an unincorporated area west of Houston.  Houston annexed the area in the 1930s.  It is famous as the wealthiest area of Houston and one of the most elite areas of Houston, Texas, and the United States.  The area has approximately 8,169 housing units and over 12,000 people living in it.

History of the Azalea Trail
Twenty-seven denizens formed the River Oaks Garden Club (ROGC) in 1927.  They held their first Garden Pilgrimage in 1935.  Initially twelve homes were on the tour.  The name Azalea Trail was first used in 1936.  For several years, six homes plus the River Oaks Forum of Civics make up the sites on the Trail.

Day 1 from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM:
This will start with a roughly 1.25 hour driving tour of River Oaks (RO).  We do not go into private mansions during this introduction to RO.  This is a great overview into one of the greatest millionaire neighborhoods in the United States (US).  The normal places, along with narratives, showcased include:

  • The home of the most powerful restaurant man in the United States (US).
  • The home of the most famous televangelist in the US who leads the largest church in the US.
  • The home used in the 1973 movie The Thief Who Came to Dinner where Jacqueline Bisset’s character lived.
  • The two homes used in the 1983 movie Terms of Endearment and its 1996 sequel The Evening Star where Shirley MacLaine and Jack Nicholson’s characters lived.
  • The home where trophy wife Candy Mossler (1914 or 1920 – 1976), Mel Powers (1942 – 2010), her nephew who was half of her age with whom she was having an incestuous relationship, and her husband Jacques Mossler (1895 – 1964) lived.
  • The house in which Joanne King Herring lived as depicted by Julia Roberts in the 2007 Charlie Wilson’s War.
  • The condominium in which Ken Lay (1942 – 2006), the former CEO of Enron lived.
  • The house where Dr. John Hill (1931 – 1972) allegedly poisoned his wife in 1969 and was shot and killed in 1972.
  • The house where Ash Robinson (1898 – 1985), father of Joan Robinson Hill (1931 – 1969) lived.  Robinson may have arranged for his ex-son-in-law Dr. John Hill to see that Texas justice was served. 
  • The house of the first four-time winner of the Indianapolis 500 and one of the greatest racecar drivers of all time.
  • The house of the owner of the Houston Texans football team.
  • The house of former governor (1963 – 1969) John Connally, Jr (1917 – 1993).
  • The house of the greatest patrons of the arts in Houston Dominique (1908 – 1997) and John De Menil (1904 – 1973).  The arguably greatest architect in the last half of the 20th Century designed it, Philip Johnson (1906 – 2005).
  • Different sections of River Oaks where one can see the difference between the haves, have mores, and have most homes.
  • Sites of other infamous murders and suicides, time permitting.

The ribbon cutting to start the festivities and touring five or six of the houses follows.  These houses include the first and third most famous homes in Houston.  John Staub (1892 – 1981) was the original architect for each one.

  • Bayou Bend, established in 1928.  It is famous for its American art and furnishings dating to the 1600s.  It has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1979.  Ima Hogg (1882 – 1975) owned this.
  • Rienzi, established in 1952.  It is famous for its European art and furnishings dating to the 1500s.  Harris Masterson, III (1914 – 1997) and Carroll Sterling Masterson (1913 – 1994) owned Rienzi.

The Museum of Fine Arts Houston (MFAH) owns both of these houses and regularly exhibits new purchases in them.

The other four houses are private residences that vary each year.

Allow approximately:

  • 1.25 hours to tour the River Oaks Collection and Gardens.  It is on 14 acres.
  • 45 minutes to 1 hour to tour Rienzi.  It is on 4.4 acres.
  • 15 to 45 minutes to tour each of the other four houses.

Lunch will be at one of the many restaurants of your choice that can be found surrounding River Oaks:

  • Highland Village to the southwest from River Oaks.
  • River Oaks Shopping Center to the east of River Oaks.
  • River Oaks Village to the south of River Oaks.

A variety of many good and superb restaurants are in close proximity to River Oaks.  Everyone pays for his/her meals.

Day 2 from 12:00 to 8:00 PM:
12:00 to 4:00 PM
This includes:

  • Visiting any homes that we did not see on Day 1.
  • Visiting The Forum of Civics to see the pretty gardens and be able to ask experts about gardening advice.
  • Touring the Lora Jean Kilroy Visitor and Education Center at Bayou Bend for about 30 to 45 minutes.  This opened in 2010.  Highlights include:
  • Three 5-minute films about the Hogg family, gardens, and collections.
  • Small museum called the Hogg Family Legacy Room.
  • Gift shop.  This has several books, ceramic pieces, fragrances, soaps, crafts, and more within a boutique ambiance.
  • Seeing the second most famous house in Houston:  The Beer Can House.  It is lined in over 50,000 beer cans.  Thousands of beer can lids form massive wind chimes.  This is within 3 minutes of River Oaks and located in The Rice Military District.
  • Seeing a home surrounded by eight 3-story spears.  This, also, is in the Rice Military District.
  • Lunch.  Again, a variety of many good and superb restaurants are in close proximity to River Oaks.  More good and superb restaurants are located on Memorial Drive by the Lora Jean Kilroy Visitor and Education Center, Beer Can House, and Spear House.  Several restaurants are along Kirby Drive and Westheimer Road, close to The Forum of Civics.  Everyone pays for his/her meals. 

You may eat lunch before this tour and skip it to choose to eat dinner at the rodeo.

If we finish the Azalea Trail and other home tours portion earlier, we can depart for the rodeo earlier to have more time there.

4:00 – 8:00 PM
History of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo
It was found in 1931 as the Houston Fat Stock Show and Livestock Exposition.  For decades it was held in the former Sam Houston Coliseum, later the Astrodome, and since 2003 in Reliant Stadium, now called NRG Stadium (since 2014).  It lasts for approximately 3 weeks.  Musical performers entertain every day.  Your ticket includes the concert.  The rodeo is famous for the competitions, raising scholarship money for youngsters to go to college, the carnival-like atmosphere, rides, western artwork and quilts, boots, leather apparel, funnel cakes, and barbecue.