A veteran who's been down in the trenches of the music scene for years now, Ceeplus (aka Eric Castillo) has a love for music of all genres that shines through his DJ sets. Any given night, the man behind the black-framed glasses will take you from Baltimore club sounds to Italo disco to punk rock to Houston hip-hop and then back again. With his motley crew, known as Reprogram Music, he rocks the airwaves weekly on KPFT and is also the one to thank for curating the sounds at the Starbucks Mixed Media Music Series at the Museum of Fine Arts.

Previous Readers' Choice Best Drag Queen winner Kofi is originally from Louisiana, but she's been in Houston for so long, she calls herself a local girl. Regulars at JR's Bar and Grill and South Beach know her well — she hosts the Tuesday- and Sunday-night shows (a mix of drag queens and male strippers). Kofi's own act regularly includes Patti LaBelle's "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," Nell Carter's "Gimme a Break" and Tina Turner's "Proud Mary" (an audience favorite). And then there's the "Request It" challenge, in which audience members shout out the names of obscure tunes and Kofi does her best to sing them (sometimes she knows the songs, sometimes she's completely faking). Patterned after the Patti LaBelle "down-to-earth diva" model, Kofi is a former Miss USA-at-Large (a plus-size title). She just celebrated her silver anniversary as a female impersonator last month.

Artful, surprising and truly fine in so many ways, the Alley Theatre's Spring production of Sarah Ruhl's Pulitzer Prize-nominated The Clean House was thrilling. Houston's inventive cast turned each and every character into a creative joy. Josie de Guzman's Matilde, the Brazilian maid who didn't like to clean, was a gift of sweet sadness who found a perfect foil in Elizabeth Heflin's obsessively tidy Lane, the boss from hell for any maid. Add Annalee Jeffries's amazing performance as Lane's goofy sister, Virginia, and Paul Hope and Karmín Murcelo's supporting roles as two different couples in love, and the chemistry onstage all but caught the place on fire. If only all plays could be blessed with an ensemble of performers as perfectly right as these five were.

Houston Museum of Natural Science

Houston was once home to AstroWorld, amusement park extraordinaire. Sadly, AstroWorld is gone, but we still have a world-class family entertainment facility – the Houston Museum of Natural Science. Wait, wait, yes, it's a museum, but it's not the kind where you have to whisper and the exhibits are safely tucked behind velvet ropes. Here, kids are encouraged to talk and touch, even to squeal with delight, if they are so moved. Blending education with entertainment, the museum presents a variety of permanent shows and a year-round schedule of touring exhibitions. Previous shows have included "Imperial Rome," "Frogs! A Chorus of Colors" and the internationally touted (and controversial) "Body Works 3."

The Houston 48 Hour Film Project is for both your viewing and participating pleasure. Houstonians get the chance not only to watch films created in the titular time frame, but also create one themselves. Teams are given a list of guidelines, including a genre and a prop, a line and a character that must be used to create their own seven-minute masterpiece. Winners selected by the judges go on to the national competition in Phoenix. This year's contest attracted so much attention that the number of entries was capped, and the screening of the locally made films nearly sold out the River Oaks Theatre in March. Sure, most of the entries wouldn't stand up to the offerings at other local festivals, but how many others feature a drug cartel that actually runs meat, a fridge that opens up to the Hobby Center stage or a radio show featuring a sexy chef, who was actually a Houston Press staff writer? (Hey, how do you think we knew it was so fun?)

South Beach

Set in the golden gay triangle next to JR's Bar and Grill and the Mining Company, South Beach is the pretty boy of the bunch. And here, it's all about the dancing. Regularly importing DJs from Miami, San Francisco and New York, South Beach offers some of the best and newest dance music anywhere in Houston. The club boasts a custom made "EAW Avalon series sound system" (whatever that is), a "full color water cooled matrix laser light show (translation: a light show), and, wait for it, "liquid ice jets" (cold water misters) that cool the dance floor down. There are also floor shows and celebrity appearances, so the action is never the same two nights in a row.

Sherlock's Baker St. Pub River Oaks

This paragraph should really just begin and end with "$6 pitchers." But if that's not enough to convince you, keep in mind that this gigantic West Gray pub has an obscenely cheap, and extended, happy hour six days out of the week, and all day on Sunday. Add to this a free buffet, and you're a fat, happy, drunk man or woman.

Absinthe
Photo by HP Staff

Nestled in a nondescript little office strip on the lower end of Richmond, Absinthe is a terrific bar, but one that doesn't exactly spread the word about itself. There's no sign, no indication that the low-slung little building houses anything at all, but open the impressive wooden doors and you've entered a wonderfully cozy little enclave. It has couches and comfortable chairs, music that's high-quality but not overpowering in volume, and some of the best bar munchies around — freshly made mini-pizzas, quesadillas and carpaccio are all standouts. It's a great place to start an evening, and you get to feel like you've been let in on a fantastic secret. Let's just hope they don't put up a sign.

The ARE is no newcomer to the hip-hop game. He started searching for the perfect beat in 1991 and hasn't stopped moving since. First getting his feet wet as a member of the legendary Houston rap group K-Otix, nowadays the ARE bares the production skills behind the boards to more than prove himself. From winning the Houston Red Bull Big Tune competition to working with a veritable who's who in the rap game, he has shown that he makes some of the best hip-hop in Houston. And this year, the ARE decided to do the world a favor and released his most recent works online to download for free.

Magnolia Hotel

You may not be able to afford to stay at the Magnolia, but that shouldn't keep you from nabbing a drink in the hotel's posh second-floor bar. There's something almost ethereal about the place, which is decked out with plasma TVs and dozens of leather couches and chairs. There's live jazz every evening, and a billiards room. A setting this luxurious doesn't merely have a pool table. It has a billiards room.

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