Best of Houston®

Best Of 2016

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Best Of :: Sports & Recreation

Best State Park
Brazos Bend State Park

This spring's horrific flooding, which forced evacuations of most of Brazoria and Fort Bend counties, was equally unkind to Brazos Bend State Park. One of the largest state parks in Texas and easily the closest to a majority of Houstonians, Brazos Bend was knocked out of commission for several weeks. Happily, all but a very few of Brazos Bend's nearly 5,000 acres and 37 miles of trails are open again for camping, hiking, biking, fishing, and horseback riding. The park is easily one of the most picturesque destinations within an hour's drive of the city, especially for wildlife-watchers — Brazos Bend's famous gators came through the flooding just fine, officials have said — or armchair astronomers headed to a Saturday-night stargazing party at the George Observatory.

21901 FM 762, Needville, 77461
MAP
979-553-5101
Best Coach

When Tom Herman arrived at the University of Houston in 2015, he came to campus long on credibility and short on head coaching experience. Having just finished a stint as offensive coordinator for the national champion Ohio State Buckeyes, Herman was determined to make the Cougars the top program in the nation outside the Power Five conferences. In his first season at the helm, he did just that, leading the Cougars to a 13-1 record and a convincing Peach Bowl victory over Florida State. Equally important, Herman followed that up with the best recruiting class that Houston has seen in decades. Nobody knows what will happen if the right (or wrong, if you're a fan of the Cougars) Power Five school comes calling for Herman's services, but last season he performed his duties at the highest level of any coach in the city, and it wasn't really that close.

Best Commentator

Versatility is important in any job, but it's a must for sports broadcasters in 2016. Kevin Eschenfelder's varied television skills and adaptability are big reasons why he's been so successful for so long. Since breaking into television in the early '90s, Eschenfelder has been a broadcast fixture in both Houston and Dallas, handling studio duties for the pro baseball and basketball teams in both markets on FOX Sports Southwest. For the two years that Comcast SportsNet Houston was in business, Eschenfelder was the face of the network, hosting the daily SportsTalk Live show. Today, Eschenfelder handles studio duties for the Houston Astros and Houston Rockets on ROOT Sports Network, while mixing in radio play-by-play duties for the University of Houston football team. He even occasionally pinch-hits for the play-by-play duties on Astros television broadcasts. Nobody in Houston does more jobs in broadcasting, and does them well, than Kevin Eschenfelder.

Best Golf Course

With two unique courses, Cypresswood Golf Club offers up the perfect combination of fun and challenge. The Tradition Course is dubbed "a return to the game and its origin, pure and simple," while the Cypress Course has doglegs and rolling fairways that make it the perfect test for a shot maker. Cypresswood's location — just north of Bush Intercontinental Airport — makes it perfect for that business golf outing, and the number of amateur and professional events it's hosted is a testament to the overall quality of the facility, both on the course and in the clubhouse. With reasonable daily fees and a motivated staff, Cypresswood is a golf gem in a city with numerous options.

21602 Cypresswood Dr., Spring, 77373
MAP
281-821-6300
Best Gym
Tellepsen Family Downtown YMCA

Besides a historic neon sign hoisted over the free weights area upstairs, the only vestige of the old downtown Y is a piped-in soundtrack that occasionally plays Roxy Music and the New York Dolls. Otherwise, the Tellepsen Family Downtown YMCA is clean and completely modern, a popular locale for lunching professionals and young families. There are classes for raising your heart rate, classes for lowering your heart rate, various ball courts and an elevated lap track for runners and walkers. What's more, the downtown Y has indoor pools and sauna rooms for your stewing and broiling needs. And it's affordable enough to all who need a steady respite from the sedentary slog and heavy eating that are both part of our civic birthright and duty.

READERS' CHOICE: Tellepsen Family Downtown YMCA

808 Pease St., Houston, 77002
MAP
713-659-8501
Best Mascot

Ironically, Orbit made his return to the Houston Astros during the most downtrodden, depressing season in the history of the franchise, the 51-111 debacle back in 2013. Since then the baseball team has been making a steady climb, while the mascot has been on a meteoric rise. Go to any Astros game and chances are Orbit will find his way over to your section for a photo opportunity — or to shoot some silly string at you. Over the years he's taken on many shapes and forms, but Orbit seems to have settled in comfortably going forward as the portly, furry green fellow committing shenanigans at Minute Maid Park.

READERS' CHOICE: Clutch

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Best State Park: Brazos Bend State Park

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