Stereo Live Houston

While some of us weren't looking, guitars became obsolete. Everybody else was over at Stereo Live. The spacious discotheque at 6400 Richmond — once home to the legendary Club 6400, whose alumni still hold reunion nights — has actually been booking some of the world's top DJs for a few years now. Remixer-turned-superstar David Guetta played in November 2009 when it was still called Planeta Bar-Rio, and trance overlord Paul Oakenfold split an October 2010 bill with Scottish wunderkind Calvin Harris. Then everything exploded, EDM (electronic dance music) and its grimier cousin dubstep came crashing into the mainstream with the strength of Guetta or Oakenfold's brain-busting beats, and Stereo Live found itself in the catbird seat, upgrading the sound and light systems to world-class status and effectively becoming a self-contained operation. After several months of simply producing shows at the venue, Houston EDM promoters Nightculture bought Stereo Live this past May, a move that has already paid off in a revolving-door succession of top talent (Rusko, Porter Robinson, Flux Pavilion) and all but ensures the venue will keep ruling Houston's EDM roost for the foreseeable future.

Eleanor Tinsley Park

Since it seems like all you can see of Houston from the air is sprawl, the ideal view of the city should come at ground level and include something besides our justifiably famous downtown skyline — like the fact that Houston is a city of trees. Since we're so damn flat, it's hard to beat the banks of Buffalo Bayou off I-45 to get some perspective. Get down close enough to the water and the city around you disappears in a canopy of greenery. Turn around and walk back, and those skyscrapers re-emerge with a suddenness that's almost alarming, still surrounded by a girdle of greenery. It's one of the few times you might call Houston "breathtaking."

Mr. Gino's

They don't make 'em like Mr. Gino's anymore. They probably didn't make 'em like Mr. Gino's in 1973, when the ramshackle but well-kept bar near 610 south and Cullen Boulevard opened. With Christmas lights on the walls, plywood partitioning and a small stage in the corner, Gino's feels more like a juke joint in rural Mississippi or East Texas than a bar in the fourth-largest city in America. (Its lack of a Web site should give you a small hint about its authenticity.) Gino's is a neighborhood bar all the time, but its real draw is the Sunday-night open jams — full of blues, R&B and soul that sticks to your ribs — that have been welcoming loyal regulars and curious onlookers alike since it opened. Although local legend I.J. Gosey had to step down from hosting duties a couple of years ago, others, like Rockin' Douglas, The Lady D and Pee Wee & Pops, have kept the tradition going strong, and Geno himself (Chevis) is still serving setups and sodas behind the bar. Provided you can find the place — look for the used-furniture store next door with the handwritten signs in the windows — it's probably the best $5 you'll spend all week.

The Menil Collection

Consider yourself really lucky, Houston. The only other nationwide museums to score this treat of an exhibit, which showcased the first retrospective of the artist's drawings, were New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art and San Francisco's Museum of Modern Art. The Menil's Michelle White and Bernice Rose co-curated the show, which featured more than 80 works by the artist normally associated with minimalist sculptures. Divided into seven groups — including early films, installation drawings, diptychs and "The Solids" — the show also featured a site-specific drawing that stayed up for the duration of the three-month exhibition.

A sort of agricultural AstroWorld, Dewberry Farm offers far more than just pumpkin pleasures, though you can pick your own here every fall. There are also pig races, huge slides, the singing chickens of the Cackle Palace, a multicolored sunflower patch, and a corn maze that will remind you of Malachi and Isaac and those other freaky, murderous quasi-Amish teens from the Stephen King maize-themed classic. Minerally minded kids can pan for semi-precious stones, fossils and arrowheads at Zeke's Lost Treasure claim-stake, and kids and adults alike can chuckle at the antics of hungry goats pursuing treats up and over a 20-foot bridge. Farmtastic fun for everyone. Closed in the summer, Dewberry Farm opens for business this year on September 29.

La Carafe

Said to be the oldest commercial building in Houston, La Carafe is encrusted with history, its walls brimming with old photographs, newspaper clippings and other artifacts. The same is true of its jukebox, whose leaves preserve near-forgotten corners of 20th-century pop music like doo-wop (the Platters, the Ink Spots) and European chanteuses (Edith Piaf) all the way up until the Cowboy Junkies' 1988 album The Trinity Session. Within its leaves, Bob Seger's Beautiful Loser sits next to Ella Fitzgerald singing the Cole Porter songbook, and crooners Nat King Cole, Tony Bennett and Bobby Darin jockey for position with rowdier neighbors such as the Stooges and the Jam. Weighted with local anchors like Lightnin' Hopkins, Townes Van Zandt and Archie Bell & the Drells, it really is a jukebox for any mood, where Carole King's Tapestry or Peggy Lee's Greatest Hits might be easy-listening appetizer for a blues-funk meal of Johnny "Guitar" Watson and Albert Collins. Or just play Springsteen, Creedence and Hank Williams all night long.

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston - Brown Auditorium Theater

Some 3,000 years after his death at the age of 19, King Tutankhamun still fascinates people around the world, including thousands of fans who visited the "Tutankhamun: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs" exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. (The museum had to open seven days a week to accommodate the crowds.) Priceless riches, including more than 100 impressive relics from the 30 Egyptian royal dynasties, were on display. But the most anticipated treasures were the relics from Tutankhamun's tomb, most of which had never been seen by the public. Among the highlights was the impressive statue of Tut, which stood over nine feet tall and showed the young king as he might have appeared just before his death. His solid-gold sandals also got a lot of attention, as did the block statue of Hetep, an Egyptian version of abstract art that revolutionized statuary, and the breathtakingly beautiful colossal statue of Tut's father Amenhotep IV/Akhenaten.

Colorado Bar & Grill
Photos courtesy of The Colorado

Do you like a good Philly cheesesteak or pollo poblano with your boobs? What we're saying here is that, besides the lovely ladies gracing the club's three main stages, there's a bountiful menu. And if for some reason you need a break from looking at half-naked gyrating young females, the Colorado offers billiards, tabletop video games and Golden Tee. From its old-school-Vegas-style sign to its super-friendly staff, the Colorado has a look and feel quite unlike that at other places where ladies twirl on poles in clear high heels for strangers. Some gentlemen's clubs tend to go overboard on creating an illusion of exclusivity; the Colorado is laid-back and lacks pretense. Who knows? You might even become a regular.

Big Top Lounge

The Big Top's circus-themed decor always makes it seem a little like a Fellini movie. First of all, it's dark enough that you almost need to strike a match to see your drink, like every great lounge should be. There's also something a little surreal about nursing a cold one or cocktail surrounded by multiple Elvis portraits, Christmas lights, tabletop video games, an ancient beer-can collection, an old shoeshine stand (once used by the late Shoeshine Charley himself) and all kinds of other kitschy memorabilia. But besides the decor — yes, and the drinks — the Big Top is also home to some of the coolest recurring musical events in town, from the Reverberation and Fistful of Soul DJ nights to Gulf Coast soul quartet Umbrella Man's Thursday-night residency.

Houston Grand Opera

Under the deft direction of Sandra Bernhard and program director Evan Wilderstein, the community outreach arm of Houston Grand Opera takes opera far beyond the confines of the Wortham Theater Center — to the streets, to schools and to the diverse ethnic communities that make up Houston. It is an effort apparently unparalleled in the opera world. As part of its Song of Houston: East + West project, HGOCo has commissioned several operettas involving the lives of immigrants to the Houston community, from Mexico to Azerbaijan to Cambodia, combining not only the different cultures' stories but their musical instruments and methods of singing as well. For its Home + Place program, HGOco and its partners go to schools and community centers in each of three areas — the Gulfton/Sharpstown area, Hobby and Northside/Second Ward — and work with students and adults. Kids are introduced to opera through Opera to Go! and Story Book Opera. The risk is enormous — opera for the masses, opera blended with other forms of music — but somehow with great goodwill and carefully crafted programs, HGOCo has soared along with its arias while persuading hundreds to drop the notion that opera is stodgy and something only consumed by the tuxedo and ballroom set.

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