Best of Houston®

Best Of 2012

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Best Of :: Shopping & Services

Best Dive Shop

Believe it or not, one of the best diving sites in the world is located just a few hundred miles south of the Texas/Louisiana border. The Flower Gardens, as they're known, are an oasis of coral only 60 feet below the surface of the water, surrounded by oil rigs and the much deeper waters of the Gulf. Plenty of dive shops in town can arrange trips out there, but Gigglin' Marlin is one of the few that will certify you, rent you gear and make sure you have the most out-of-this world experience in the process. The staff is extremely helpful and accommodating, whether you're trying to learn to dive, want to rent or buy dive gear, or need your tanks or regulator serviced. They've also got a full-blown travel service booking trips to the Flower Gardens, wreck dives, the Tortugas and more, and an indoor heated saltwater pool for dive instruction and beginners' swim lessons.

4502 Almeda Rd., Houston, 77004
MAP
281-445-3483
Best CD Shop
Half Price Books

Do people even buy CDs anymore? They must, because Half Price Books keeps stocking them. The budget-media retailer may not have a Cactus-like variety, but it usually has a few titles by most major artists, especially if they weren't big blockbuster albums. It also seems to specialize in CDs by artists you had almost completely forgotten about but who had one or two songs you'd pay two or three bucks for — hell, you'd do it with iTunes, except here you get a whole album. While you're there, don't forget to browse Half Price's vinyl selection, which is likewise better than you'd think. Or hell, pick up a book or two while you're at it.

1011 Westheimer, Houston, 77006
MAP
713-520-1084
Best Art Supplies
Texas Art Supply

Sure, you may have seen this one coming a mile away, but it's not without reason: Simply put, this place meets the needs of anyone from casual doodlers to professional painters. Brushes, pens, ink, clay, paper, stencils, mosaics, fabric — there's no way you can spend five minutes at Texas Art Supply and not feel your creative side getting goosed. And even if you're just looking for a gift for an artistically inclined friend and you don't know canvas from ­papier-­mâché, you don't have to worry about feeling intimidated or overwhelmed; the crack staff is eager to help, and they know their stuff. Texas Art Supply is an institution in Houston, and if you haven't been yet, then it's time to find out why.

2001 Montrose Blvd., Houston, 77006
MAP
713-526-5221
Best Perfumery

We like smelling good — and our significant others smelling good — without spending a fortune. And we learned the hard way that this isn't reasonably accomplished by buying knockoff brands at gas-station convenience stores. (We also learned that Drakkar Noir actually isn't the best man-scent out there, regardless of what that dude selling it out of the back of his van told us, but that's a story for another time.) So that's why Perfumania is our number one choice when it comes to cologne and perfume. You get a huge selection without putting a huge dent in your pocketbook — and we're talking top-shelf stuff, too, not just the same-old, same-old you can get with a free gym bag at any department store. If you want to expand your olfactory horizons, there's no better place to start than Perfumania.

5000 Katy Mills Circle, Katy, 77494
MAP
281-644-4030
Best Novelty Store

Because you just never know when you might want to buy a Pink Panther clock at 1:30 in the morning. Fantasy Gifts and Toys resembles an overstuffed, naughty museum, and has been outfitting Houstonians who are up to no good for more than 30 years. Conveniently located near most Lower West­heimer bars including neighboring Catbird's, Fantasy offers hundreds of glass pipes (many made by local craftsmen), vaporizers, hookahs, papers and any other smoking accessory you can think of down to the skull ashtrays. Then there's the T-shirts, rock posters, candles, costumes, other miscellaneous gifts — antidepressant refrigerator magnets or Reservoir Dogs figurines? Tough call — and an entire wall of, well, adult toys. Sometimes that Pink Panther clock just isn't enough, and only something called a "Naughty Judge" or "Wabbit Tickler" will get the job done.

1340 Westheimer Rd., Houston, 77006
MAP
713-526-9522
Best Vintage Store
Replay on 19th

Laura Levine and "Crazy" Mike Hildebrand curate their Heights-area store so carefully, they almost have an encyclopedic knowledge of every item and its location. Looking for embroidered cowboy boots, Polynesian mod or an old concert T-shirt? Just ask at the desk, and if they have it (they likely do), they'll take you right to it. Prices are super-reasonable considering you're saving yourself the hassle of digging through bargain bins at thrift stores, plus they take trades and get new items at least once a week. One of our favorite things to shop for at Replay is vintage swimsuits. Follow them on Facebook for advance notice of new hauls.

373 W. 19th St., Houston, 77008
MAP
713-863-9344
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321 W. 19th St., Houston, 77008
MAP
713-861-1950
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Best Dive Shop: Gigglin' Marlin

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