Eleanor Tinsley Park

As long as you're there before dark, Eleanor Tinsley offers a pleasant tour of Buffalo Bayou with plenty of pleasant scenery and shade. The trail follows the bayou below the theater district, through Buffalo Bayou Art Park, past the new public skatepark and through plenty of tree-filled openings, all with the skyline in the background. The twists and turns allow for a choose-your-own-adventure workout to keep you from seeing the same old thing day after day. But if routine is your style, there are plenty of trails perfect for your short- or long-distance trek. And with so many options, you never have to worry about breaking out of the pack or slowing down the people behind you.

The Armand Bayou Nature Center is a good place to be outside. Located in a suburban neighborhood in far south Houston, the center is not "off-the-beaten-path" cool, but it is a big area where you can experience a lot of nature-y things. One of those is a canoe trip down the Armand Bayou. The nature center offers a guided trip on the second and fourth Saturdays of each month. About a three-mile round trip, it costs $25 and reservations are required. We can't guarantee you'll see anything breathtaking — you might — but Armand Bayou has enough of a backwater atmosphere to make you feel Deliverance.

We wouldn't be surprised if Doomsday sent one of its "wrestlers" to our door to fake beat us up for this award. We tested fate last year by naming the athletic-comedy-acting troupe as Best Comedy Show. But we'll take our chances once again in order to tip our hat to antics that would either piss off the wrestlers of WWF or make them laugh so hard they pee their pants. Forget the fights — the competitors alone will have you in stitches before the bell for round one. Doomsday's roster includes Bill "The Thrill" Korczynski, a geriatric has-been who's been defeated in the ring by more heart attacks than opponents. Kosher Killer, Russian Bear and The Stormin' Mormons make up the ever-increasing variety of beefed-up stereotypes and other fighters we're not so sure about, including Precious Jewels, a gender-bending oppressor who dons a head-to-toe, sparkly pink S&M suit and defeats his opponents by dry-humping them. These guys and more are matched up for bouts that result in both headlocks and hilarity. Ding!

Although not an officially recognized dog park, this is one of the most popular spots for people and their pooches. It features tons of open, flat space for walking, running and playing fetch. There are woodsy areas for the more inquisitive canines, and its right on Buffalo Bayou, perfect for swimming or a quick cool-down. Its situated at the bottom of a hill, a good ways away from the road, so you dont have to worry about Fluffy wandering into traffic. And, perhaps most importantly, the folks who use this park are pretty darn good at picking up after their dogs. So remember to bring a bag — or two.

The Tavern On Gray

Yes, there is a $10 cover, but it's worth avoiding the usual unpleasantries — i.e., a lack of seating and uninterested company. Around town, your group's chances of finding a seat at UF viewings are about as good as Chris Lebon's against Rampage Jackson. (And don't even pretend like Lebon would stand a chance, because you know that fool would get beat down!) But all smack talking aside, The Tavern's wealth of bar space and more than 100 televisions ensure you don't have to arrive at the place at 8 a.m. to make sure you have a seat for the 9 p.m. fight. Plus, the cover filters out all those who aren't actually interested. In other words, it's all about the fight. The Tavern has all the necessities for the UF crowd — choice eats, nice beer selection and a quick staff. Plus, in the unlike-most-places department, The Tavern is stocked with pool tables, so you can pass time during the talk-about-nothing breaks between fights, and there's also a patio filled with TVs. So even in the smoking-ban era you can simultaneously satisfy your tobacco and man-on-man-action addictions.

Listening to Bill Brown do the Astros has always been great, but it's gotten better and better the longer he's been working with Jim Deshaies. The famously goofy former pitcher brings out Brown's usually hidden puckish side. Still very much the straight man, he's now managing to land a few jabs in the back-and-forth that can make listening to yet another Astros slump bearable. Not to mention that — as always — he's as hardworking, knowledgeable and easy to listen to as they come.

YMCA

It's official: The current downtown YMCA building, a ten-story Renaissance Revival structure designed by Kenneth Franzheim in 1941, is coming down, and a new (and reportedly smaller) Y will be built near the current location. Some members might be dreaming of the new, shiny, state-of-the-art facilities, but we're going to miss the current Y's pool. Yeah, it's past its prime, but the lovely tiny blue tiles that cover the room and pool's edge (mismatched as some of them are) recall a more gracious time, before Speedos and water aerobics. A home to ex-swim champs and kids in floaties alike, the Y's pool is an egalitarian refuge for the aquatic set. And the Y's subsidized fees make it possible for everyone to enjoy the water.

There's one thing that sets John Granato and Lance Zierlein apart from every other sports-talk show in Houston: They're freaking funny. Hilarious, even. Zierlein is a master at voices (ESPN's Lou Holtz and "SEC Guy" are highlights), and Granato is the loud guy at the bar you don't mind so much because he's actually entertaining you rather than boring you. It helps that both know their stuff, too — especially Zierlein, a coach's son who knows how to break down film and spot flaws instead of just spout clichés.

Okay, so Rafer Alston may be Houston's contribution to the bad boys of the NBA after a pair of run-ins with the cops last August. He was charged with public intoxication and assault in Space City, and then charged with stabbing a man at a Manhattan nightspot. But in an issue dedicated to sin, that just means "Skip" rises to the top of the list. And anyway, there's no doubt that the Rockets' season would have been even more disappointing without the three-point bombing, 6-foot 2-inch guard. Remember, without him during games 1 and 2 in the playoffs against Utah, the team dropped both contests. But with him at the helm, the Rockets tore through the league, firing off a historic 22-game winning streak, all without All-Star center Yao Ming on the floor.

Lee and Joe Jamail Skatepark

Houston, it's about damn time this happened. Though there've been other public skateparks, the Lee and Joe Jamail Skatepark is the very first City of Houston public skatepark, and people couldn't be more excited. And by all accounts they should be. The new concrete beast that locals now get to shred at is a colossal 30,000 square feet of rails, pools and stairs. It also includes a 20-foot cradle that may seem over the top to some, but hey, if you're going to build a skatepark in Texas, you might as well build it like everything else here. Bigger and better than anything else, this place is the Astrodome of skateparks.

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