The Five Best Things to Do in Houston This Weekend: Bats, Black Lights and Spiders

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Only in the Bayou City is it possible to celebrate bats, brews and spiders all in one weekend. There's also a rainbow-colored theme going on, from the outrageous dog grooming competition at the Houston World Series of Dog Shows, to a black light run that seems more party than race, to the let's-celebrate-20-years-in-Houston QFest, an event so large that it's taken over nine separate venues, including Ripcord.

“We’re here and we’re queer” is the rallying cry as QFest presents more than two dozen films that highlight the full spectrum of the GLBTQ experience, including highs, lows and everything in between. Movie buffs and film fans can enjoy a bevy of films screened over the course of the weekend in an assortment of venues that make audiences laugh, cry, and maybe even stoke the flames of fury. The film festival also is celebrating its 20th anniversary. “It’s quite amazing that the festival has lasted as long as it has. It’s a testament to its relatability,” said Kristian Salinas, artistic director. “It offers a chance for Houstonians to see current queer cinema and see the historical importance of the GLBTQ culture.” We're proud, too, putting tonight's screenings on our list for Friday night fun.

Friday night screenings include Spa Night at 7:15 p.m. at Asia Society Texas Center, 1370 Southmore, $10; The Skin at 7 p.m. at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 1001 Bissonnet, $10; and Kiki at 7:45 p.m. at Houston Museum of African American Culture, 4807 Caroline, $10. Rice Media Center offers two films: The First Girl I Loved is at 7:30 p.m., followed by Valley of the Dolls at 9:30 p.m., 6100 Main, $10.

Screenings are held at multiple venues throughout the Houston area, through July 25. For information, visit q-fest.com. Free to $50. 

The fact that Houstonians are stoked on the 250,000 Mexican free-tailed bats that kick it under the Waugh Street Bridge might seem weird to non-Texans, but it’s totally norm around here. “There was a time when people saw bats and thought, ‘Yuck, rabies,’” says Kelly Howard of Bayou City Outdoors. “The fact that we now embrace the bats as an important part of Houston’s ecology is huge. It shows just one of the many ways we are growing as a city. Plus, when the hawks get in on the action, it is pretty amazing.” While Buffalo Bayou Partnership’s Waugh Bat Colony Boat Tours are normally booked months in advance, there’s still space to hop along as Bayou City Outdoors leads folks on the Bats, Bikes, B-cycles & Brews tour, making this one our other pick for Friday night. Bring your own bike and helmet — or rent a Houston B-cycle — and witness the bat colony emerge from the bridge’s crevices at sunset. After the six- to eight-mile nature ride, enjoy some brews at a to-be-determined watering hole (bring cash). “I love people discovering how much fun it is to casually ride a bike down the awesome Buffalo Bayou trail system, making new friends along the way. It reminds me of when I was a kid and riding my bike on summer nights,” says Howard.

7:15 to 10:30 p.m. Friday. Fonde Recreation Center, 110 Sabine. For information, call 713-524-3567 or visit bayoucityoutdoors.com. Free. 

Clear the Shelters was so successful that almost 20,000 dogs were adopted nationwide during 2015. The Houston World Series of Dog Shows, which is celebrating man's best friend this weekend at NRG Center, recently announced its sponsorship of the national initiative. Now the Houston Humane Society, BARC, Citizens for Animal Protection and other regional shelters are stepping up their game, offering reduced or waived adoption fees on Saturday, July 23. Animal overpopulation is an important problem, and taking a dog off the streets and into homes is the first step towards combating the issue, making the Dog Show one of our picks for Saturday. The pup-tastic party continues through Sunday with an estimated 40,000 participants and visitors. The reason, according to event chairperson Tom Pincus, is simple: “They like dogs.” Meet your next best friend at rescue group booths, check out the grooming and agility contests, and celebrate all things dog at the McScotty Market. “My barber goes there every year to buy scissors,” says Pincus. “She can get higher-quality scissors there at a lower price than she can at the barber’s supply.” You’ll also see a few attendees in full costume — a tattooed, leather-clad man with his equally stylish pit bull; a perfectly coiffed couple with a tutu-wearing poodle; and a Swiss mountain dog pulling his cart.

8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and July 22 and 24. $15. NRG Center, 8400 Kirby. For information, call 281-536-0528 or visit houstondogshows.com

This just might be the only race where the journey matters more than the destination. In fact, the organizers of the Blacklight Run™ encourage dancing and partying along the three-mile course, which shouldn’t be hard with three different Blacklight Zones™, plus glow-in-the-dark tattoos and race bibs. VIPs snag shutter shades, a pair of LED jelly rings and first crack at the fun. Justin Muir, media manager for U Run LLC (which manages the runs all over the world), says its pre-party is one of the best in the industry. “We get our DJs to get the crowd energized and ready for the run.” Participants get dosed with a non-toxic, UV reactant powder that glows with different colors in every zone. The Neon Sky™ after-party keeps things glowing with tons of swag, even more glow powder, amazing selfies and the every-15-minute “celebration glow throw.” This looks like tons of fun, and being outdoors in Houston is a lot easier after sunset, so we're tagging this one for Saturday night.

Doors open at 6; race starts at 9 p.m. Saturday. Sam Houston Race Park, 7575 North Sam Houston Parkway North. For information, visit blacklightrun.com. $30 to $50. 

Agatha Christie’s Spider’s Web is by far the funniest thing the Alley Theatre has produced all season. What, you say? Agatha Christie funny? Is this some critical tongue in cheek back-handed way of saying that the production ran off the rails in a funny "weird", but not funny "ha-ha" kind of manner? Let us assure you, we mean darn good and funny in all (or most of) the right ways. The Alley, under the direction of Gregory Boyd, has taken this lesser-known comedic thriller, written by the iconic author in 1954, and delivered it with great style, fizzy energy and many genuinely funny moments. The structure of the story is classic Christie. There’s a murder, there are multiple suspects, we think we know who the killer is, as does the detective investigating, but in the end and through some slightly spurious twists and turns, the real killer is exposed. While the suspense part is fairly AWOL and the mystery aspect glimmers only slightly, what makes this show so utterly delightful is Boyd’s ability to tease out the comedy and let it shine. Nowhere is this more evident than in the performances of the three gentlemen guests who unleash a near farcically physical performance that thankfully remains this side of the Three Stooges. We laugh with them, we laugh at them and then we laugh even more so when Daly, the gardener, comes into the picture and shows them all that it takes a woman to do a man’s work in a murder cover up. Christie may have been writing in the 1950s, but here she’s given us a female character far bolder and smarter than most of the men in the play. It's undoubtedly the most enjoyable comic romp of the Alley's season, making it our recommendation for Sunday entertainment.

2:30 and 7:30 p.m. Sunday. Continuing 8 p.m. Fridays; 2:30 and 8 p.m. Saturdays; 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. Sundays; 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Through August 14. 615 Texas. For information, call 713-220-5700 or visit alleytheatre.org. $26 to $69.

Sam Byrd, Jessica Goldman, Steve Jansen and Katricia Lang contributed to this post.

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