Brazos Bend is only a 30-mile drive from downtown, but once you get there you'll feel hundreds of miles away. This peaceful, 4,900-acre state park is located where the Big Creek and Brazos River meet, and it offers up to 20 miles of easy walking trails. (There are no changes in elevation, so don't come expecting a tough workout.) You'll loop throughout marshlands and enormous oak trees draped in Spanish moss, and without much trying you'll spot alligators sunning themselves, as well as a variety of birds. The park also offers the Creekfield Lake Nature Trail, a half-mile loop developed specifically for the disabled; it includes tactile exhibits and an audio tour for the blind, as well as a boardwalk accessible for those in wheelchairs.

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.

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.

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