It seems that, once people hit a certain age, they often grow nostalgic for the types of activities and places they once frequented when they were younger. I'm still waiting on someone to invent a DeLorean-based time machine, but until that happens those of us looking for a way to step back into the past can still indulge in many of the activities that we enjoyed at an earlier time in our lives. Fortunately for us, the Houston area has lots of old school delights to enjoy.
There's something timeless about roller rinks, and while their heyday is definitely a thing of the past, there are still a few of them scattered around. Dairy Ashford Roller Rink is one that's operating today, and offers private parties, times and areas for toddlers and their parents to skate, as well as later time slots for adults to skate on certain days of the week. If you spent time racing around an indoor oval on skates, then this place will likely bring those memories back to life.
Located downtown, Joystix is one of the few places that can give a person the feeling of walking into an authentic classic arcade. Joystix fixes, sells, and rents classic arcade games and pinball machines, but it also opens up its showroom for folks to have private parties or events. With more than 250 classic games in the huge showroom area, it really does feel like a person just stepped back into the 1980s.
Houstonians are fortunate to have a great zoo to enjoy, and it offers a fun and educational experience to people of all ages. Like a lot of people from the Houston area, I've been visiting our zoo since I was a kid, and my visits now always manage to take me back in time. Walking around the 55 acre park is a relaxing way to spend a day, and offers visitors the chance to see all sorts of animals up close and personal.
6. Numbers Night Club - 300 Westheimer Road One of Houston's longest operating dance clubs and music venues, Numbers has been around since I was a kid, and was one of the places I went to shows and to hang out at as far back as the late '80s. For anyone into the gothic or electronic music scenes, Numbers is probably still hugely important to them. It seems like nearly everyone I know was a regular there at one point or another. And for those creatures of the night that want to reconnect to their roots, or for those folks that want to get a feeling of what an underground dance club was like in 1988 or so, visiting on a Friday "Classic Numbers" night is probably about as close as a person can get. So cue up your Sisters of Mercy albums, throw on something black, and head on down. Darkness, drama, and music await.
5. The Showboat Drive-In Theater - 22422 FM 2920 Rd, Hockley, TX, Located a few miles west of Tomball, the Showboat is fun way to find a little old fashioned fun on a weekend night. Boasting double features, a playground for kids, and a full concession area, stepping back in time to see a movie on a huge outdoor screen is as much fun as it ever was. You can even bring your dog along for the ride. Drive-In theaters were once numerous in Texas, but few remain operational today, so places like the Showboat are a special way to spend an evening watching movies.
Candylicious is a candy lover's dream, and will make anyone who loves sweets as happy as the proverbial kid in a candy store. The shop specializes in a large assortment of artisan, retro, and bulk candies, and is sure to have something almost any lover of sweet things could enjoy. While visiting the shop in person is advised for those that want to bask in candied glory, Candylicious also does Internet orders and will ship anywhere in the country. It's right next door to The Chocolate Bar, so there's a full range of sugary options awaiting the adventurous sweet tooth.
Located off Bellaire, this bowling alley has been around for years, and operates pretty much like it has as far back as I can remember. It's not the fanciest and certainly not the most modernized bowling alley around, but its retro charm is abundant, and the lanes are open until 2 a.m. on weekends. They also offer birthday party services, and plenty of food options and beer, making the Palace Lanes a cozy and fun way to spend an evening hurling a ball at wooden pins.
Open since 1977, Sound Exchange has long been one of Houston's most important independent record and music stores. When I was a goofy punk rock kid in the '80s the store, at one of its previous locations on Westheimer, was reason enough on its own to drive in from the suburbs, to tap into its seemingly endless supply of independent and underground music. It was a lifeline to me and my weirdo friends, along with a handful of other record stores of the time. While most of those stores are long gone, Sound Exchange is among the small handful that has kept going, albeit now operating in a converted house at 1846 Richmond instead of the old Westheimer location a few blocks away.
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Walking into the store today feels like stepping back into a time when seeking out interesting music meant a lot more than simply downloading an album off of iTunes. Vinyl abounds, as does music by local artists, and you can even get your turntable fixed there. If you live in the suburbs, Sound Exchange is still worth the drive.
1. Speedy's Fast Track - 11440 Hempstead Road Speedy's is No. 1 on this list for a reason. It fills the void left when places like Malibu Grand Prix closed down, offering a wide selection of the kind of cheap thrill entertainments that I remember enjoying decades ago. They're open late and feature an arcade, Putt Putt golf, laser tag, and of course, go-kart racing. It's hard to beat a combination like that. There's something about piloting a kart with a loud, two-stroke engine that smells like gasoline and victory around a track while you leave your pursuing friends behind. Speedy's seems to have a certain character that is hard to qualify, but it sure is a lot of fun for a late evening with a few pals. And, like everything on this list, it feels like I took a ride on a time machine, and one that makes my inner child smile.