When it comes to adventures in baby-sitting, water parks are a no-brainer. But don't let the big guys drown out Houston's best-kept secret: Adventure Bay. On just 12 acres in far west Houston, it's intimate enough to let older kids roam free (though we suggest the buddy system) through the Master Blaster uphill coaster, four huge tube slides and one achingly steep body slide (watch for wedgies!). They can also run along the man-made river, navigating around moms on tubes taking a slow float through the clean, well-landscaped park. Because crowds haven't discovered it yet, there's hardly a wait for any slide -- at any time -- and Adventure Bay is just a fraction of the price of the bigger parks. And it's the only one in town that lets you bring your own cooler of snacks and drinks (sans alcohol). Grown-ups still can imbibe beer and margaritas, as well as burgers and barbecue, served there. Our only concern is that the freedom it offers from crowds could be its downfall, forcing Houston's newest water park to close before it has a chance to really get going.

When it comes to adventures in baby-sitting, water parks are a no-brainer. But don't let the big guys drown out Houston's best-kept secret: Adventure Bay. On just 12 acres in far west Houston, it's intimate enough to let older kids roam free (though we suggest the buddy system) through the Master Blaster uphill coaster, four huge tube slides and one achingly steep body slide (watch for wedgies!). They can also run along the man-made river, navigating around moms on tubes taking a slow float through the clean, well-landscaped park. Because crowds haven't discovered it yet, there's hardly a wait for any slide -- at any time -- and Adventure Bay is just a fraction of the price of the bigger parks. And it's the only one in town that lets you bring your own cooler of snacks and drinks (sans alcohol). Grown-ups still can imbibe beer and margaritas, as well as burgers and barbecue, served there. Our only concern is that the freedom it offers from crowds could be its downfall, forcing Houston's newest water park to close before it has a chance to really get going.

I'm sorry, what did you say? The Fruit Loop offers the best blading in town? Honey, you need to start thinking like a realtor: location, location, location. What a difference a couple of miles makes. With its stratospheric tax bracket, River Oaks offers the smoothest asphalt, the safest environs and the most beautiful scenery in town. Forget the sweaty multitudes, close quarters and repetitive circles of Memorial Park. Houston's most prestigious neighborhood attracts in-line enthusiasts with its graceful curves and hills, expansive manicured lawns and careful (Sunday) drivers. This premier blading mileage, bounded by Kirby, San Felipe, Willowick and the namesake country club, winds past mansion after mansion of the cream of Houston's real estate crop, so you can exercise your Lotto fantasies as well as your legs.
I'm sorry, what did you say? The Fruit Loop offers the best blading in town? Honey, you need to start thinking like a realtor: location, location, location. What a difference a couple of miles makes. With its stratospheric tax bracket, River Oaks offers the smoothest asphalt, the safest environs and the most beautiful scenery in town. Forget the sweaty multitudes, close quarters and repetitive circles of Memorial Park. Houston's most prestigious neighborhood attracts in-line enthusiasts with its graceful curves and hills, expansive manicured lawns and careful (Sunday) drivers. This premier blading mileage, bounded by Kirby, San Felipe, Willowick and the namesake country club, winds past mansion after mansion of the cream of Houston's real estate crop, so you can exercise your Lotto fantasies as well as your legs.
Step out of the city and into the Wild West. Down Cyprus Woods Road out in Humble is Cyprus Trails. You pull into the driveway, and the yard is filled with horses tethered to trees and roaming around. On your left is a pen filled with puppies and a potbellied pig. Kittens crawl through the haystack; there are more than 30 horses surrounding you. Inside the ranch house, battered western saddles hang from the ceiling beams. On the wall are spurs, horseshoes and paintings of horses. Darolyn Butler-Dial and her husband, Mark Dial, run the ranch. You can saddle up an Arabian for $25 trail rides, three times a day. These relaxing rides take you deep into woods surrounded by wildflowers and across cool creeks. There's one trail that leads across sandy white beaches on the way to Old Spring. (We didn't know there was white sand within 500 miles of Houston.)
Step out of the city and into the Wild West. Down Cyprus Woods Road out in Humble is Cyprus Trails. You pull into the driveway, and the yard is filled with horses tethered to trees and roaming around. On your left is a pen filled with puppies and a potbellied pig. Kittens crawl through the haystack; there are more than 30 horses surrounding you. Inside the ranch house, battered western saddles hang from the ceiling beams. On the wall are spurs, horseshoes and paintings of horses. Darolyn Butler-Dial and her husband, Mark Dial, run the ranch. You can saddle up an Arabian for $25 trail rides, three times a day. These relaxing rides take you deep into woods surrounded by wildflowers and across cool creeks. There's one trail that leads across sandy white beaches on the way to Old Spring. (We didn't know there was white sand within 500 miles of Houston.)
Houston has never been known as a hotbed for big-time auto racing. Sure, A.J. Foyt grew up in the Heights, but as far as top-notch racing facilities are concerned, forget it. That was, until 1988, when Houston Raceway Park in Baytown came onto the scene. The sprawling facility has played host to national events sanctioned by the traveling horsepower circus known as the National Hot Rod Association for the past 12 years, and has been the site of numerous speed records. The track is open to amateur racers as well. The NHRA races twice a year on the quarter-mile drag strip, while the facility this year added a three-eighths-mile oval dirt track for your high-speed enjoyment. In addition to holding weekly Saturday-night events for area racers, the dirt track also hosts the World of Outlaws sprint car series twice a year.
Houston has never been known as a hotbed for big-time auto racing. Sure, A.J. Foyt grew up in the Heights, but as far as top-notch racing facilities are concerned, forget it. That was, until 1988, when Houston Raceway Park in Baytown came onto the scene. The sprawling facility has played host to national events sanctioned by the traveling horsepower circus known as the National Hot Rod Association for the past 12 years, and has been the site of numerous speed records. The track is open to amateur racers as well. The NHRA races twice a year on the quarter-mile drag strip, while the facility this year added a three-eighths-mile oval dirt track for your high-speed enjoyment. In addition to holding weekly Saturday-night events for area racers, the dirt track also hosts the World of Outlaws sprint car series twice a year.
Dairy Ashford Roller Rink
Grade school and junior high in the '80s. Days of tube socks, Keds, T-shirt rings and passing crushes. Every Friday night you traded in your sneakers for a pair of brown quads with bright orange wheels and fat rubber toe-stops. If you were really cool, you brought your own skates. In skates, you were taller, another kind of creature who could glide into the stream of moving bodies and circle the floor beneath the disco ball. Maybe you fell sometimes, the pain in your bottom compounded by scores of legs rolling past you, those legs belonging to snickering classmates. Maybe you were one of the kids who could skate backward, who won the races. But none of that mattered as much as this: Who would skate together during the couples skate? These days, till 10:30 p.m. on Friday night, kids still pack the Dairy Ashford Roller Rink, a somewhat stale and rundown but held-together place of elementary school soap operas and birthday parties. Now they whirl on in-line skates to the Backstreet Boys and other Top 40 songs (no rap or hard rock, though). They still do the Hokey Pokey, and you can too. Thursday nights are for you now -- half-price tickets for adult skate, the best of the oldies from the '50s to the '80s -- so go ahead, double-knot those thin, long laces. Relive your childhood.
Grade school and junior high in the '80s. Days of tube socks, Keds, T-shirt rings and passing crushes. Every Friday night you traded in your sneakers for a pair of brown quads with bright orange wheels and fat rubber toe-stops. If you were really cool, you brought your own skates. In skates, you were taller, another kind of creature who could glide into the stream of moving bodies and circle the floor beneath the disco ball. Maybe you fell sometimes, the pain in your bottom compounded by scores of legs rolling past you, those legs belonging to snickering classmates. Maybe you were one of the kids who could skate backward, who won the races. But none of that mattered as much as this: Who would skate together during the couples skate? These days, till 10:30 p.m. on Friday night, kids still pack the Dairy Ashford Roller Rink, a somewhat stale and rundown but held-together place of elementary school soap operas and birthday parties. Now they whirl on in-line skates to the Backstreet Boys and other Top 40 songs (no rap or hard rock, though). They still do the Hokey Pokey, and you can too. Thursday nights are for you now -- half-price tickets for adult skate, the best of the oldies from the '50s to the '80s -- so go ahead, double-knot those thin, long laces. Relive your childhood.

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