Best Of :: Sports & Recreation
In the sports world, there are certain high-profile symbiotic relationships, partnerships that feed off one another — coach and player, general manager and owner. But perhaps the most underrated is the relationship between a team, its fans and its public address announcer. John Paul Stevenson, the Houston Rockets' PA guy, has always been good since the day he got here in 2006. Now, belting out the introductions and the in-game happenings for a team that made the Western Conference Finals last season, he's elevated his game. The Toyota Center rocks, and Stevenson's baritone pipes are a huge reason why. Not bad for a guy who stopped twice to think about returning home before his tryout in Memphis for the Grizzlies PA gig (which he got) in 2001. Now he's living his dream, and taking the crowd to the same higher place the team is trying to take them.
Going golfing is not for everyone, but almost anyone can find the joy in using a stick to hit a ball as hard as he or she can. Topgolf, through a combination of technology and alcohol, has found a way to make that joy even better, which is why come Friday and Saturday nights, Topgolf is packed with groups of people who'd never set foot on a golf course. You don't have to walk for miles, you don't have to carry your clubs and the beers come to you. Driving ranges make hitting golf balls a mostly solitary exercise with strangers; Topgolf makes hitting golf balls an acceptable night out with your friends.
READERS' CHOICE: Topgolf
When the kids beg and plead to "take me out to the ballgame," it's nice to know that you can still go see a Major League product at a price where you don't have to donate a kidney. (It's also nice to have a team now that we can call "Major League" and not have to make annoying air quotes with our hands.) If dollars are tight, you can still get seats to see the Houston Astros for as low as $15 on the weekends against quality opponents (dynamic pricing, baby!) and as low as $10 during the week. One silver lining with these seats is that you know you'll be sitting with the most diehard fellow Astros fans; no corporate suits in the cheap seats. That will matter now for years to come, with the Astros on the verge of what looks like several years of good baseball in this town.
Remember Junction Jack? The buck-toothed bunny replaced Orbit, the Astros' beloved alien mascot, after the team moved from the Astrodome to Minute Maid Park. But much like the miserable failure that was the Rockets' pinstripes and cartoon rocket logo in the mid-1990s, the bloom came off the rose. By 2013, Jack was put out to pasture and Orbit was back, much to the delight of fans. In a city that boasts some of the best pro mascots in the business (Clutch is one of the greats of all time in this or any other city), being at the top is no easy feat. Orbit is consistently entertaining and a huge crowd-pleaser, particularly for kids. The only mystery is why he was sent packing in the first place.
READERS' CHOICE: Clutch
Jeff "The Dude" Lebowski would like this venerable bowling alley as much as he likes White Russians and Creedence. It's an old-school joint, with a friendly, laid-back vibe and plenty of specials, like the Rent-A-Lane Fun Packs for up to five people, the Friday night special and the Monday & Thursday deal. Plus, Del-Mar hosts senior, ladies, youth and mixed handicap leagues if you feel like getting your bowl on with some new folks. Plus, it's a great place for company and birthday parties. Del-Mar Lanes abides.
READERS' CHOICE: Lucky Strike
Cypress Trails is located near George Bush Intercontinental Airport, but it's hard to remember this place is anywhere near civilization when you're out on a horse moving through the dense forest along the banks of Cypress Creek. The instructors are patient and helpful with beginners, and they also approve experienced horsewomen and horsemen to take part in trail and endurance rides. It doesn't matter what level you're at, because all the riders get to enjoy the natural beauty of the winding forested trails from the back of a horse while watching egrets, herons and other birds winging along banks that in the spring are lined with wildflowers. Rabbits will sometimes pop up alongside the trail, along with some cool bugs and the occasional snake. Luckily, the horses are so well-trained and so familiar with the path that even snakes don't spook them.