AMC Studio 30

Being bigger isn't enough when it comes to movie theaters. Having 30 screens won't do you much good if those 30 screens are filled with lame films. That's where AMC Studio 30 beats out the competition to take this year's Best Movie Theater award. It's not only big, it has exciting, exceptional programming. The complex is home to the annual WorldFest International Independent Film Festival, a ten-day festival of cutting-edge releases made by the best up-and-coming filmmakers from around the globe, with most of the directors and actors attending the screenings. It also regularly holds previews, such as the recent U. N. Me; premieres, including Joseph Elmore's Because I Love You earlier this summer; and limited-release openings, like Patrick Wang's Independent Spirit Award Nominee In the Family.

IHOP

Sneer if you must, but no über-hip, in-the-know, secret-knock speakeasy is going to be anywhere near as interesting as an IHOP at 3 a.m. Here you're likely to find a much broader cross section of modern society than almost anywhere else, from truckers on an interstate haul and working stiffs fueling up for their 5 a.m. shift to rich kids looking to soak up the booze (and avoid driving) after a long night of clubbing. The Houston IHOPs inside the Loop are conveniently located near two of the city's most hopping nightlife corridors, Upper Kirby and Washington; any of the other locations is probably on your way home. There's also a much tastier menu than you're likely to get at your average afterparty (if a little fattening) and bottomless coffee refills.

There's a double dose of right-wing madman Michael Berry, who, in January, was accused of backing his car into another vehicle in a peculiar hit-and-run incident at gay-bar standby TC's Showbar. On the weekends, local sports-talk vet Lance Zierlein, formerly of KILT 610 AM and KGOW 1560 AM, raps about food. Then, during baseball season, the Astros broadcast goes off, followed by a radio document that's even more wrecked than the Astros — the nationally syndicated Coast to Coast AM, which features a collection of alternative thinkers, tin-foil-hat wearers and 2012 doomsday believers. Try finding a more well-rounded collection of dynamic personalities on the dial; probably ain't going to happen.

Catbirds

Of the six local bars on Buzztime's official national list of top 100 NTN Trivia hot spots, Catbirds is the only non-sports bar and/or brohalla of the bunch and has the most character by far. What's more, the bar's official name is Catbirds Cocktails & Trivia, and it lives up to both ends of that equation, with some of the strongest, cheapest and tastiest libations in town on hand to aid you in remembering that Monrovia is the capital of Liberia, that Brad Mills was Nolan Ryan's most famous strikeout victim and that the two lost Beatles were Stu Sutcliffe and Pete Best. It all takes place in an effortlessly New Orleanian-seeming milieu of classic jazz, dim lights and a lush (in every sense of the word) interior in the heart of darkest Montrose. Why match your wits while wetting your whistle anywhere else? READERS' CHOICE: The Flying Saucer Draught Emporium

Hotel Zaza

The thing about a romantic stay at ZaZa is that you really get to choose how you define "romantic." Its "concept suites" range from Geisha House to An Affair to Remember to SoHo Loft. As if that weren't indulgent enough, you and your significant other could choose from the hotel's "magnificent seven" theme rooms. Like a little hedonism in your romantic getaway? Check out the 2,160-square-foot Rock Star Suite with mirrored walls. Or maybe go old-school with the Fatal Charms room's crystal chandeliers, bronze velvet drapes and "the magnificent bed with the black velvet-tufted headboard," as described on the Web site. There's truly something for everyone.

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.

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