Not all the action this weekend will be at NRG Stadium. Sure, we're excited about seeing two 2-seeds (Oklahoma, Villanova), a 1-seed (North Carolina) and a 10-seed that is largely considered a college basketball blue blood (Syracuse) take to the court for Saturday's 2016 Men's Final Four. Along with the basketball-centric activities – which include Final Four Fan Fest and the March Madness Music Festival – it's also a great weekend for cycling (and tacos), golf, some great theater and even kite-flying.
Imagine the hush of the crowd, the bead of sweat on your brow and the intense pressure as you stand before the iconic 18th hole at Shell Houston Open – all eyes on you, one of our recommendations for this Friday afternoon. It might be a replica, but this new feature, built in celebration of what will be the 25th anniversary of Shell Oil Company's title sponsorship of Houston's PGA TOUR event, should bring out the inner golfer in just about anybody. In what's dubbed the Shell Hole-in-One Challenge, any spectator who makes the shot between now and April 3 wins a prize from presenting sponsor Academy Sports + Outdoors. “They'll be able to putt there and win some prizes and get their photos taken,” says Steve Timms, the Houston Golf Association's president. “It will be real fun. And then we have a new element on the 16th hole called the Hendricks Party Deck, open to the public.” He says it's in a covered tent area, and that spectators can enjoy food and beverages there. “[It's a] great vantage point for viewing what we think is one of the most exciting par three holes on the PGA tour.
Second round tee offs are noon to 2 p.m. Friday, with Golf Channel coverage 3 to 5 p.m. Continuing daily through April 3, Golf Club of Houston, 5860 Wilson Road, Humble. For full schedule and parking information, call 281-454-7000 or visit shellhoustonopen.com. $25 to $695, with group options like The Greenskeeper Package (six tickets per day + two parking per day) for $5,000.
They had us at “three different taco trucks,” and it’s all part of Crucial Matter’s monthly cycling extravaganza, the Tour de Taco. We checked in with Ivan Fuentes, the group’s organizer and leader, who founded the event almost three years ago with the goal of building the cycling community and letting people know that Houston streets are safe for cyclists. It's also our other pick for this Friday. Fuentes's insider tip? Bring cash and order tacos (“they’re very easy to make”). The group meets at 6:45 p.m. and, after a few notes (“don’t antagonize cars, be cordial, don’t litter the city, take care of Houston”), everybody rides at 7:30 p.m., ending up at Lucky’s Pub around 10 or 10:30 p.m. (a five-minute ride from the start).
7 p.m. Friday, Market Square Park, 301 Milam. For information, call 713-650-3022 or visit criticalmasshouston.com/event/tour-de-taco. Free.
We’re stoked about hosting this year’s Division 1 Men’s Basketball Championship, but some of the best action takes place off court when downtown Houston turns into ground zero for the four-day basketball bonanza known as Final Four Fan Fest, presented by Capital One®. Cheer clinics and interactive games are standard fare; and Saturday's superstar lineup includes staggered autograph sessions with Earl Campbell, Grant Hill, Clyde Drexler, Scottie Pippen, Hakeem Olajuwon (at 2 and 4 p.m.), Patrick Beverley and Tony Delk. Get an early Saturday morning start and go the extra mile by squeezing in a philanthropic workout at the Final Four 4 Miler, benefiting the Lone Star Veterans Association. Fun times continue with three nights of the March Madness Music Festival; on two stages Saturday are Kendrick Lamar, Twenty One Pilots, Jason Derulo, Conrad Sewell, Buxton and The TonTons. “The coolest thing about Fan Fest is that it spans all generations. From age four to 84, there’s something for all ages,” says Doug Hall, president and CEO of the Houston Local Organizing Committee.
Final Four 4 Miler kicks off at 8:30 a.m. Saturday at Hermann Square at City Hall, 900 Smith.
March Madness Music Festival is 4 to 10 p.m. Friday, noon to 9 p.m. Saturday, and 3 to 10 p.m. Sunday.
Final Four Fan Fest is noon to 8 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, noon to 8 p.m. Sunday, and noon to 7 p.m. Monday. George R. Brown Convention Center, 1001 Avenida de las Americas. For information, visit ncaa.com/final-four. Free to $10.
The pilot (Elizabeth Bunch) in Grounded, George Brant's disquieting, timely “one-man” 85-minute show at the Alley Theatre – and our decidedly non-basketball recommendation for this Saturday night – is an Air Force top gun, the best of the best in sweat, brains and guts. She lives for the sky, alone and all-powerful when commanding Tiger, her beloved F-16, while she delivers death and destruction to the enemy below. Arrogant and full of pride, she struts in her flight suit, cock of the walk among the guys, her boys. With a stratospheric level of testosterone, she's butch and sexy, the most modern of women. Home on leave at a bar in big-sky Wyoming, she meets small-town Eric, who bravely walks the gauntlet through her drunken cohorts to introduce himself. He's not intimidated by her glow, not even threatened – he's turned on. After a three-day sex binge (once with her flight suit on), she falls out of the sky hard. But not hard enough to forget her job. Back in her killing machine over Iraq, something's wrong; she's sick and barely makes a landing before throwing up, pregnant. Now it's a desk job, a pilot's nightmare, in the “chair force” manning a drone. Brant implies, not so subtly, that post-traumatic stress syndrome is no longer limited to the battlefield. Even soldiers halfway around the world, those who push the buttons to launch the missiles, will eventually suffer as much. Psychic damage comes fast and true. Bunch is our conscience, as she talks to us squarely, confesses, preens, seduces, boasts, then crumbles to become frighteningly all-too human. The bad guys, the “guilty,” may be dead in the desert, but their blood is no less red. She's seen the color draining into the sand. And the faces, rendered gray and ghostly in hi-res pixels, aren't they recognizable? Bunch thinks so. She makes us think so, too. She is fiery and terrifying, like a prophet from the Bible, or some honest, noble, unnamed serviceman ripped from today's headlines.
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2:30 and 8 p.m. Saturday. 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 April 17. 615 Texas. For information, call 713-220-5700 or visit alleytheatre.org. $43 to $75.
Go fly a kite this Sunday! That’s not a dismissal; it’s an invitation. This year’s Hermann Park Kite Festival has stilt walkers, mariachi musicians, face-painters, crafting, school dance and music groups and, duh, kites. (If you don’t have one, kite merchants will be present.) “I would describe the atmosphere as joyous and peaceful,” says Morgan Garvey, co-chair of the Hermann Park Conservancy-organized event. “People are thinking, ‘Why don’t we do this more often?’” Members of the Houston Texans, Trees for Houston and the Houston Museum of Natural Science also will be out on Miller Hill with picnickers, canines (because leashed dogs are totally allowed), food trucks and springtime-in-Houston outdoor bliss.
10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Hermann Park, 6001 Fannin. For information, call 713-526-0077 or visit hermannpark.org/kitefestival. Free.
Sam Byrd, D.L. Groover, Steve Jansen and Sean Pendergast contributed to this post.