Sanctuary! Tony Hawk wannabes who are tired of getting kicked out of downtown have a 30,000-plus-square-foot refuge they can call their own. Vans Skatepark -- part of a national chain of skateboard facilities -- boasts an impressive indoor/outdoor collection of ramps, pools, rails and ledges where future X Games contestants can polish their tricks. And if you're as old as Hawk, don't worry. Skaters in their late twenties and thirties have been spotted reclaiming their adolescent glory days. Lucky for them, there's plenty of air-conditioning and a row of Mountain Dew machines to help them keep their cool.

Golfing vacations have become all the rage in recent years. Young power players and old gummers alike are paying top dollar for package trips that whisk them over the ocean -- and back in time -- to Saint Andrews or some other hallowed shrine of shankers everywhere. Houston doesn't lay (or even lay up) claim to any legendary links, but that doesn't mean august Augusta or pristine Pebble Beach has to be out of reach. With Tour 18, the mountain has come to Mulligan. As most weekend hackers know by now, Tour 18 replicates famous holes. No, the condition of the course isn't the plushest in the area -- and suburban Humble hasn't come up with the crashing ocean waves over rocky coastline of Pebble Beach. But there's ample accuracy of design, whether it's the Blue Monster of Doral, or the challenges of Shinnecock Hills, Oakmont, Harbour Town (the course lost its signature lighthouse replica in litigation) or even Colonial. Augusta's Amen Corner is the most exquisite offering -- the ghost of Arnie can almost be detected, advising through the hush of the lush pine roughs. Tour 18 has taken criticism for its obvious lack of originality. But it's easy to spot those who have teed it up on this course. When a PGA sportscaster tells of the terror awaiting the pros on the deadly island-green hole of Sawgrass, for example.
Golfing vacations have become all the rage in recent years. Young power players and old gummers alike are paying top dollar for package trips that whisk them over the ocean -- and back in time -- to Saint Andrews or some other hallowed shrine of shankers everywhere. Houston doesn't lay (or even lay up) claim to any legendary links, but that doesn't mean august Augusta or pristine Pebble Beach has to be out of reach. With Tour 18, the mountain has come to Mulligan. As most weekend hackers know by now, Tour 18 replicates famous holes. No, the condition of the course isn't the plushest in the area -- and suburban Humble hasn't come up with the crashing ocean waves over rocky coastline of Pebble Beach. But there's ample accuracy of design, whether it's the Blue Monster of Doral, or the challenges of Shinnecock Hills, Oakmont, Harbour Town (the course lost its signature lighthouse replica in litigation) or even Colonial. Augusta's Amen Corner is the most exquisite offering -- the ghost of Arnie can almost be detected, advising through the hush of the lush pine roughs. Tour 18 has taken criticism for its obvious lack of originality. But it's easy to spot those who have teed it up on this course. When a PGA sportscaster tells of the terror awaiting the pros on the deadly island-green hole of Sawgrass, for example.
When we first disclosed to a friend that we occasionally enjoyed a round of disc golf on the weekends, his reply was "That's so...collegiate." True, we did pick up the sport during our undergrad years, but its appeal hasn't waned a bit. And with great courses in Houston like the one at MacGregor Park, why should it? The setup here is perfect for a mixed group of players: Advanced throwers are challenged by its long and winding greens without those disc-hungry, game-ending water hazards that quickly discourage newbies. You'll make quick work of the first half of the course, but it's the back nine that make it worth the while. A bad throw here will send you sliding down -- or off -- the leaderboard. This is where the Deltas are separated from the Omegas.

Macgregor Park
When we first disclosed to a friend that we occasionally enjoyed a round of disc golf on the weekends, his reply was "That's so...collegiate." True, we did pick up the sport during our undergrad years, but its appeal hasn't waned a bit. And with great courses in Houston like the one at MacGregor Park, why should it? The setup here is perfect for a mixed group of players: Advanced throwers are challenged by its long and winding greens without those disc-hungry, game-ending water hazards that quickly discourage newbies. You'll make quick work of the first half of the course, but it's the back nine that make it worth the while. A bad throw here will send you sliding down -- or off -- the leaderboard. This is where the Deltas are separated from the Omegas.

When you just have to shoot someone, this little forest hideaway is the safest way to go. Just inside Beltway 8, these woods are still secluded enough that crews have used them to film the wilderness scenes for Blind Fury and Born on the Fourth of July. It also happens to be the oldest field in Houston and second oldest in Texas. This outfit hosts regular open games of Capture the Flag in the "Vietnam field," with wooden huts and an actual train boxcar, and rounds of Storm the Castle through plywood two-story buildings. The 24-hour campaigns and "speedball" field -- designed for point-blank battles -- are not for the faint of heart. Company outings? Bachelor parties? Not a problem at Survival Games, but it'll take some ingenuity to work the strippers into the story line.

When you just have to shoot someone, this little forest hideaway is the safest way to go. Just inside Beltway 8, these woods are still secluded enough that crews have used them to film the wilderness scenes for Blind Fury and Born on the Fourth of July. It also happens to be the oldest field in Houston and second oldest in Texas. This outfit hosts regular open games of Capture the Flag in the "Vietnam field," with wooden huts and an actual train boxcar, and rounds of Storm the Castle through plywood two-story buildings. The 24-hour campaigns and "speedball" field -- designed for point-blank battles -- are not for the faint of heart. Company outings? Bachelor parties? Not a problem at Survival Games, but it'll take some ingenuity to work the strippers into the story line.

It's no easy task to get off the beaten path, when every trail in the Houston area has been beaten senselessly by the throngs. But the Big Thicket is waiting -- and wild. It's an hour or so drive from Houston, and worth every minute of it. Exit I-10 onto U.S. 287 near Beaumont (and leave the Louisiana-bound gamblers behind) and the dense stands aren't far away. Seven miles north of Kountze is the FM 420 cut-off to the Big Thicket National Preserve visitor center, a well-stocked, mandatory stop for first-timers. From there, pick your pleasure from among nine separate sections of the 97,000-acre park. There are short well-marked hiking routes that wind through hearty vegetation, and more daring long-distance trails that would tempt Davy Crockett himself. Options abound -- this is the place where the prime southeast forests flow into the plant life of the coastal plains and Midwest prairies. In other words, majestic cypresses and pines are neighbors with cactus. The real beauty is that the thicket is still relatively undisturbed. See it while it lasts.
It's no easy task to get off the beaten path, when every trail in the Houston area has been beaten senselessly by the throngs. But the Big Thicket is waiting -- and wild. It's an hour or so drive from Houston, and worth every minute of it. Exit I-10 onto U.S. 287 near Beaumont (and leave the Louisiana-bound gamblers behind) and the dense stands aren't far away. Seven miles north of Kountze is the FM 420 cut-off to the Big Thicket National Preserve visitor center, a well-stocked, mandatory stop for first-timers. From there, pick your pleasure from among nine separate sections of the 97,000-acre park. There are short well-marked hiking routes that wind through hearty vegetation, and more daring long-distance trails that would tempt Davy Crockett himself. Options abound -- this is the place where the prime southeast forests flow into the plant life of the coastal plains and Midwest prairies. In other words, majestic cypresses and pines are neighbors with cactus. The real beauty is that the thicket is still relatively undisturbed. See it while it lasts.
In a town as hot and biker-unfriendly as Houston, it seems almost pointless to purchase a two-wheeler. But once you check out this beautiful, highbrow Museum District neighborhood, you'll be apt to change your mind. The wide-open, well-paved streets are practically covered with a roof of oak trees. Plus, if you're riding slowly enough, you'll get your fair share of bird-watching in too. Worried about getting run over by an angry commuter? Don't be. There are more bikers, joggers and walkers than there are vehicles, so you won't have to do too much dodging. The best part of the ride? Gawking at the monstrous houses and getting a taste of how the other half lives. You know, the half that never has to bike anywhere because they've got drivers.

Best Of Houston®

Best Of