Jesse H. Jones Park & Nature Center

Patches of true natural beauty are all too rare in this area, but this is undoubtedly one. Though no further from town than Humble, the five miles of wooded trails in this 225-acre forest park will take you far from Houston in spirit. Even though you are close to town and most of the trails are either paved or decked, the fauna can be wild here: On two of three trips here, we have spotted a copperhead and a coral snake. Still, it's worth braving those deadly venomous perils to get to the payoff: Most of the trails lead down to Spring Creek, which is wide as many a river where it passes through this park. Better still, the creek is shallow (many guests ignore the no-wading rule and cool their heels) and lined with sandy, beach-like shores. You'll sigh and feel like you are in the Hill Country as you watch kingfishers rattle their metallic call and hunt minnows along the creek's high banks.

Palace Bowling Lanes

In a world where bowling alleys are going chic — Houston got its own "boutique bowling alley" last year downtown — it's refreshing to have a place like Palace Lanes that keeps it real. Here, it's not about the music or the food or the beautiful people that show up. It's about the bowling. Wonderful bowling. There's also a full bar at Palace Lanes, and it delivers on every glorious thing you'd expect from a bowling alley bar.

Houston Aeros right wing Jean-Michel Daoust is a scrappy little guy, not much more than five-feet-seven, and he's pretty easy to miss in the jumble of the action on the ice. But it's in that jumble that you want to look for Daoust, because it's from that jumble that he's going to emerge and make something happen. Whether he's finding a way to get his stick on the puck for a game-winning goal — he was the team's leading scorer last season with 55 points — or so getting under the skin of a much bigger opponent that the opponent ends up in the penalty box, Daoust's going to be there. His excellent season earned him a new contract with the Aeros, so when on-ice trouble pops up at Toyota Center this year, look for him to be in the middle of the action.

With the year the Astros are having, this is a tough one, kinda like picking the best excuse from a BP executive. Still, the answer is pretty easy: We're gonna go with Bourn. First off, he's a local, which has been something of a rarity for position players on the Astros since, like, Craig Reynolds or Joe "Shoes" Pittman or something. (Berkman may have gone to Rice, but he's not a Houston native.) Bourn is also a terrific defensive center fielder, and as the all-too-brief Carlos Beltrán moment showed us, it's really awesome to have a guy with serious wheels picking it in the vast rolling acreage that is center in Minute Maid Park. (Otherwise, even more of those line drives our pitching staff is so adept at creating would be dropping in for hits.) What's more, Bourn is that Astros rarity: an athlete who plays baseball, and yeah, we'll go ahead and say it, an American black guy. Did you know he was the Astros' first African-American starting position player to last a full season since the team moved to the new ballpark?

It pains us, as it no doubt pains many people, to name Brett Myers as a "Best" anything. He's gotten into ugly incidents involving allegedly hitting his wife in a drunken argument (she asked for charges to be dropped) and with a reporter who dared question him (teammates broke up the confrontation). But since he's come to the Astros, Myers has kept out of the headlines, except for winning — well, winning at the rate the current Astros do, which is "not all that often." But Myers has regained much of the form from his years when he was mowing batters down with the Phillies, and since the other "new" Astros have mostly been busts, he wins. Hey, they can't all be good guys who win Best of Houston® awards.

For the last three years, Brian Ching has been pretty much the face of Dynamo soccer for most fans. He came oh-so-close to making the U.S. World Cup team, but a hamstring injury held him back. It would have been nice, but Houston will take him any day. Even though he's toned down his tweeting after getting fined for criticizing a ref. He's been active in Habitat for Humanity and in programs to popularize soccer here, and here's hoping he can stay a Dynamo until he hangs up the spikes.

Bam Bam Martial Arts

Around the city and especially the suburbs, there are tons of sports bars, strip clubs and Hooters locations that seem to promote every big UFC fight. But that's likely to be a miserable experience if it's the fighting you're really interested in. So to see some real fighting, and maybe even some real blood, head over to Bam Bam Martial Arts. Fighters are constantly in the gym, and while you won't see Chuck Liddell or Matt Hughes, you will see guys beating the hell out of each other. The place is run by Scott "Bam Bam" Sullivan, who also hosts In the Cage, a mixed martial arts radio show on Houston's 97.5.

Bike paths are bike paths are bike paths, right? There's some greenery, some type of easy-on-the-tires riding surface, a few bridges or water features, and a couple rest stops along the way. All that's pretty much standard. So what makes the bike path in Kingwood's East End Park so special? The San Jacinto River. The eight-mile track loops the river and offers a waterfront view along much of the way. Both crushed granite and natural trails are mixed in with several bridges and lengthy boardwalks that snake through marsh and swamp areas. Gung-ho weekend warriors looking for a challenging ride might find East End Park's bike path too tame. But for bikers who like a river view, shady rest spots and no crowds, this is the spot.

Is there a funnier guy on Houston radio — sports, music or talk — than Lance Zierlein? We don't think so. Whether it's spoofing the Communist-party propaganda coming from rival KILT 610, the Texans' flagship, or the incomparable SEC Guy (can't be explained; you just have to listen) or just general riffing, he's guaranteed to get you laughing. Not to mention he's one of the best NFL Draft analysts out there. He's ably partnered with John Granato, who's liable to steer the conversation where prudence might dictate it shouldn't go. Nothing better for the morning drive.

Hermann Park Golf Course

There's a rumor at Hermann Park Golf Course that the guys from Bon Jovi like to play the course when they come through town. At least, they have one time. Whether it was Richie Sambora, Mr. Jovi himself or just a couple of roadies, it doesn't really matter. After all, how many golf courses can bring together rock stars and the average man? Hermann Park's mix of low prices — you can play for about $10 during the middle of the week — and location — a few miles outside of downtown — brings together quite an eclectic group. And that's a good thing for a golf course.

Best Of Houston®

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