Best of Houston®

Best Of 2012

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Best Of :: Sports & Recreation

Best Tourist Attraction
Battleship Texas / San Jacinto Battleground

Despite the fact that it derives its name from a Native American word meaning "friends," Texas is a pugnacious state, one far more in line with its unofficial "Don't Mess With Texas" motto than any other. And there's nowhere better in the area to revel in that orneriness than at the San Jacinto Battleground, where you can not only see the place where Sam Houston routed Santa Anna's much larger army and changed the fate of North American history in 17 minutes, but also the world's last "Dreadnought" battleship. Commissioned 100 years ago this year, the USS Texas shelled the Nazis at Normandy during the D-Day landings and is one of only six remaining ships to have seen action in the Great War. If you want to board the great craft while it's still afloat, you'd better hurry: The Texas is slated to move to a new dry berth within five years. The history museum at the base of the San Jacinto monument is worth the trip alone, as is the satanically awesome view of the petrochemical refineries from the great cenotaph's top.

3523 Highway 134, La Porte, 77571
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281-479-2431
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3523 Battleground Rd., La Porte, 77571
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281-479-2431
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1601 Nasa Parkway, Houston, 77058
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281-244-5312
Best Aero

Houston is really going to miss Aero Jon DiSalvatore, who was team captain and a top offensive player who did tons of charity work and loved interacting with fans. He's left to play with a team closer to his home in Connecticut. We'll remember him as a coach's dream who sacrificed the best parts of his game — including his scoring ability — to help set up the younger players so they'd fit into the team.

Best Weekend Getaway
Neal's Lodges

A lot has changed at the 86-year-old resort village on the rim of one of the Frio River's most scenic canyons. Sure, the boulder-strewn, aquamarine-watered old swimming hole is still one of the finest in Texas, the dining hall's still offering up chicken-frieds to die for (or kill over), and all ten million of those Mexican free-tailed bats are still boiling nightly from that guano-reeking Hades of a hole in the ground a few miles down the road. The Frio's still a pleasant float through some of the most breathtaking of wild western Hill Country terrain, if a little shallow and light on rapids most of the time. Skunks, 'coons and white-tailed deer will raid your campsite for scraps once the moon rises, and mama mockingbirds will still harass nest-plundering roadrunners from scraggly ancient hillside oaks. Those are the eternal verities of this angel-kissed Eden on the Edwards Plateau. What's new? More amenities. There's a family-friendly icehouse now on the premises in Joe Jimmy's, where bands play country and classic rock hits under Milky Way skies to two-steppers and tricyclists alike on the large outdoor dance slab. There's a catch-and-release fishing pond, and a return to the Neal's Lodges of old in guided horseback rides in and around the Frio. It's Texas distilled, and it's only about five hours away: a little more if you take the gorgeous route over the roof of the Hill Country through either Tarpley or Vanderpool.

20970 TX-127, Concan, 78838
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Best Sports Talk Host

In an industry becoming increasingly cluttered with boisterous blowhards who want to be Jim Rome, stat geeks who worship at the Moneyball altar, and seriously unfunny wannabe comedians, Lance Zierlein is a rare triple threat. He is equally comfortable asserting his opinion, dissecting complex statistical analysis or creating funny characters. His ability to be both informative and entertaining is the radio equivalent of a five-tool player in baseball. Now that he has a partner in Charlie Pallilo, who is his equal in terms of experience and sports intellect, the two could dominate sports talk radio in Houston.

Best Swimming Hole
Quintana Beach County Park

When Galveston Island gets overrun with tourists, one of the best and easiest things to do is hop on over the San Luis Pass to the tiny hamlet of Quintana, a wonderful summertime Gulf haunt. Just south of Freeport and its factories, Quintana Beach Park has picnic facilities, hook-ups for RVs, cabins, camping facilities and other amenities, but it's the swimming you're here for. The beach is "unmaintained," meaning the park officials don't comb the sand other than to remove trash, so you'll often find small shells, driftwood and more along the water. Speaking of the water, for some reason it always seems bluer here than in Galveston. That's not to say it's clear — but it is more private, more quiet and more convenient than nearly any place else along the "Houston coast."

330 5th St., Quintana, 77541
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Best Athlete Tweeter

No, he doesn't get this award for tweeting a picture of his MRI when he suffered a hamstring injury. Although that's certainly an indication of the freewheeling content on Texan running back Arian Foster's Twitter account, which can range from philosophical observations ("There is life outside of your beliefs") to random WTFs ("Even though it isn't an accurate rumor, I may go Einstein on y'all and wear one suit this whole year") to talkin' smack with fans about other sports ("Lol, I'm done. I'm arguing with highlight watchers"). Hands-down the best tweeter among Houston athletes.

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Best Tourist Attraction: Battleship Texas / San Jacinto Battleground

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