It's hot. Damn hot. Unbearably hot. So put your kids in those swimsuits with the built-in floaties, pile them in the back of the minivan and head out to Splashtown. The 45-acre park is filled with opportunities to get drenched. Kids can get their feet wet in the fountain before flying down one of the swirly, whirly, twirly water slides. If you're not really the upside-down-roller-coaster type, rent an inner tube anyway and pretend you're tubing on their faux river. Sure, one of the key aspects of tubing -- beer -- is missing. But at Splashtown you don't have to worry about catfish or chiggers or other critters creeping into your suit.

Why suffer the crowded, choppy waters of lakes Conroe and Livingston? If you're willing to drive a little farther, you can head to the Hill Country for a far superior skiing experience. The man-made Lake McQueeney is just outside Seguin in Guadalupe County (near New Braunfels) and has its own exit off I-10 West. Because of its calm, glasslike water and serene setting, the lake has been called the waterskiing capital of Texas. Local ski schools (like Lake Breeze Ski Lodge, 830-557-5736) offer classes year-round, and it isn't uncommon to catch trick-skiers practicing their acts and daredevils launching off the ramp and maneuvering through the slalom course.
Why suffer the crowded, choppy waters of lakes Conroe and Livingston? If you're willing to drive a little farther, you can head to the Hill Country for a far superior skiing experience. The man-made Lake McQueeney is just outside Seguin in Guadalupe County (near New Braunfels) and has its own exit off I-10 West. Because of its calm, glasslike water and serene setting, the lake has been called the waterskiing capital of Texas. Local ski schools (like Lake Breeze Ski Lodge, 830-557-5736) offer classes year-round, and it isn't uncommon to catch trick-skiers practicing their acts and daredevils launching off the ramp and maneuvering through the slalom course.
Skaters and bikers coexist mostly happily at Dirtwood Ramp Park. Less than a year ago, Jay Evans, 24, rented two Garden Oaks warehouses that combine into 15,000 square feet of riding space. In an effort to keep patrons challenged, he and his friends regularly change the layout of the ramps and rails, including the only spine ramps and wall ride in town. The one constant: All of the ramps flow together, so bikers and skaters alike can make a continuous loop around the park -- that is, unless they fall on their asses. If your ego gets bruised and you need a break from the action, Dirtwood has sofas on top of the ramps where you can hang out and laugh at your friends as their bodies slam against the floor.

Skaters and bikers coexist mostly happily at Dirtwood Ramp Park. Less than a year ago, Jay Evans, 24, rented two Garden Oaks warehouses that combine into 15,000 square feet of riding space. In an effort to keep patrons challenged, he and his friends regularly change the layout of the ramps and rails, including the only spine ramps and wall ride in town. The one constant: All of the ramps flow together, so bikers and skaters alike can make a continuous loop around the park -- that is, unless they fall on their asses. If your ego gets bruised and you need a break from the action, Dirtwood has sofas on top of the ramps where you can hang out and laugh at your friends as their bodies slam against the floor.

Can you ride a bicycle? Do you have a driver's license? If so, then for about $200, you can learn all the skills you need to safely ride a motorcycle in just five days. First, you'll spend two evenings in the classroom, becoming familiar with the parts and functions of the bike, along with the special considerations of operating a vehicle with only two wheels. Then on the third day, you'll hit the range out back, which is really just a big parking lot painted with curves and lines for different exercises. For the riding work, you provide most of the gear: a long-sleeved shirt or jacket, over-the-ankle boots, full-fingered gloves, sunglasses and a Department of Transportation-approved helmet. (If you don't have a helmet, the dealership may be able to lend you one.) But Mancuso provides the most important materials: two affable instructors certified by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, and a spunky 500-cc Buell Blast sport bike. The instructors lead you through the vital tasks, building one skill upon another: finding the "friction zone," braking quickly, cornering, swerving and stopping in a turn. On the last two days, you'll take both a written and a riding test. When you pass -- and if you've been paying attention, you ought to -- you'll be exempted from the riding test at the Department of Public Safety and will need only to take the computerized exam in order to get your motorcycle license. Then you'll be ready to ride anything -- from a Vespa to a V-Rod.

Can you ride a bicycle? Do you have a driver's license? If so, then for about $200, you can learn all the skills you need to safely ride a motorcycle in just five days. First, you'll spend two evenings in the classroom, becoming familiar with the parts and functions of the bike, along with the special considerations of operating a vehicle with only two wheels. Then on the third day, you'll hit the range out back, which is really just a big parking lot painted with curves and lines for different exercises. For the riding work, you provide most of the gear: a long-sleeved shirt or jacket, over-the-ankle boots, full-fingered gloves, sunglasses and a Department of Transportation-approved helmet. (If you don't have a helmet, the dealership may be able to lend you one.) But Mancuso provides the most important materials: two affable instructors certified by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, and a spunky 500-cc Buell Blast sport bike. The instructors lead you through the vital tasks, building one skill upon another: finding the "friction zone," braking quickly, cornering, swerving and stopping in a turn. On the last two days, you'll take both a written and a riding test. When you pass -- and if you've been paying attention, you ought to -- you'll be exempted from the riding test at the Department of Public Safety and will need only to take the computerized exam in order to get your motorcycle license. Then you'll be ready to ride anything -- from a Vespa to a V-Rod.

Skydive Spaceland
First things first: No one's ever died here. Everything else is just icing on the cake. At Skydive Spaceland, they drop you from 14,000 feet -- that's 1,000 feet higher than the industry minimum. Plus, they're open all week long, with $169 weekly rates and $189 weekend rates for first-time jumpers. After your second tandem jump, you can jump solo, and the price plummets -- just like you! For those who prefer to watch friends and family cheat death, the 130-acre property boasts a deli, pool tables, swimming pond and picnic area. Plus, all of their instructors are certified by the U.S. Parachute Association.

First things first: No one's ever died here. Everything else is just icing on the cake. At Skydive Spaceland, they drop you from 14,000 feet -- that's 1,000 feet higher than the industry minimum. Plus, they're open all week long, with $169 weekly rates and $189 weekend rates for first-time jumpers. After your second tandem jump, you can jump solo, and the price plummets -- just like you! For those who prefer to watch friends and family cheat death, the 130-acre property boasts a deli, pool tables, swimming pond and picnic area. Plus, all of their instructors are certified by the U.S. Parachute Association.

Every city has its "central park" -- the one in the middle of everything where you can hike, bike or just sit in the grass next to a babbling brook and forget that you live in an urban jungle. Well, our babbling brook is Buffalo Bayou, and while it's not the prettiest body of water in the world, it provides an excellent centerpiece for the endless loop that is one of the finest low-stress hike/bike trails in any urban area. Luckily for the fitness-minded, Houston is not really an outdoorsy kind of town: Most people drive their SUVs to the gym, so the trails are generally empty even at peak times. For those who dare to step outside the comfort of climate control, that makes the winding, multi-terrain journey from downtown to Shepherd and back quite a joy. Stop off at any one of the exercise stations for a little extra workout, then hop back on your bike and lose yourself in the trees.

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