Tucked away in the more industrial part of downtown sits the sprawling Meridian. Inside is a mammoth, dark space lit with a deep red hue, complete with corner lounges with drapes, fluffy pillows and cushy benches. It's reminiscent of a mobster flick -- when you enter, you half-expect to witness a slow-motion scene where three guys in black suits walk in, hand a briefcase to some schlub and gun him down. Sounds like the perfect place to throw a Celtic festival, huh?
Robert Fuldauer and Michael Martin, former managers of Garden in the Heights, think so. During their Garden days, the pair hosted the annual Celtic Festival Series, which was known as a jumpin' outdoor romp where the tunes and brew flowed freely. The fest came to an abrupt halt when the Garden was sold nearly two years ago, but they've decided to bring it back to the Meridian, which they both partly own.
Martin remembers the parties fondly. "Everyone loved it, from the Renaissance Festival patrons to the Irish Catholics," he says. "They all came together."
At the upcoming Celtic Harvest Festival, Lughnassadh, which celebrates the first harvest of fall and the last quarter of the Celtic calendar, Martin promises all the Garden fare in the massive new Meridian. There'll be live music (from bagpipes to Celtic rock), food (even haggis, if you can stomach it), traditional Irish dance and the Highland Games, which will take place in a lot adjacent to the club. "You'll have guys in kilts throwing huge stones, bagpipes, food and crafts," adds Martin. "That's what people love, and that's what we're bringing back." 4 p.m. Sunday, August 29. 1503 Chartres. For information, call 713-225-1717 or visit www.meridianhouston.com. $8 to $12. -- Steven Devadanam
Looking for a bit of escapism? Even if you've used up all your vacation days, mountains, seascapes and wildlife are closer than you think. The seven IMAX films of "Around the World in 30 Days" at the Houston Museum of Natural Science take you from the depths of the Grand Canyon to the peaks of Kilimanjaro, with Alaska, Australia and the Amazon in between. Don't worry: Your Expedition will still be there when you get back, though now you might be tempted to drive it off into the sunset. The films screen from Wednesday, September 1, through September 30. One Hermann Circle Drive. For a full schedule, call 713-639-4629 or visit www.hmns.org. $4 to $7. -- Julia Ramey
Open houses are a voyeur's dream. They're the perfect opportunity to check out someone else's dirty laundry without getting arrested. This weekend you can dig through the drawers of our city's performing artists at the Houston Theater District Open House, a daylong peek at what's going on in the downtown arts scene. The Alley Theatre (615 Texas) will be giving folks the opportunity to try on costumes from previous performances. At 2:30 p.m. the Houston Symphony (615 Louisiana) will perform selections from its upcoming season. And Houston Grand Opera and Houston Ballet (500 Texas) are hosting the perfect event for garage-sale junkies: a bazaar. Sound like a great opportunity to pick up that Figaro getup you've always wanted. Noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, August 29. For a complete schedule of events and venues, call 800-446-8786 or visit www.houstontheaterdistrict.org. Free. -- Keith Plocek
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Back in the Former USSR
The Return comes to the MFAH
Nobody does bleak, brooding despair like the Russians. The Return, a film directed by Andrei Zvyagintsev, is a shiningly dank example of the former Soviet Union's prime emotional export. It's a family film, technically, since it's about two teenage boys forging a relationship with their newly re-emerged father during a fishing trip. But Uncle Buck it ain't. In fact, the sinister threat of violence bubbling just under the surface keeps you on your toes, even while the understated humor draws you in and the breathtaking cinematography, um, takes your breath away. Speaking of oxygen deficiency, Vladimir Garin, who plays the older brother, tragically died a few weeks after The Return was completed. Apparently he was trying to impress some women by swimming across the same lake used in the movie. 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, August 28 and 29. Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 1001 Bissonnet. For a full schedule, call 713-639-7593 or visit www.mfah.org/films. $5. -- Scott Faingold
If you're tired of coming home to find your sofa dismantled and turned into a fort by your hyperactive kids, drag the little laborers to the Children's Museum of Houston for the debut of Building Zone. In this interactive area, they can wear themselves out while building structures such as domes and towers -- and, no doubt, tearing them down. This weekend they'll also get to meet Homer, the Home Depot mascot. We assume this Homer is a little better with tools than Mr. Simpson. 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, August 28; and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, August 29. 1500 Binz. For information, call 713-522-1138 or visit www.cmhouston.org. $4 to $5. -- Keith Plocek