David Rozycki

If you like your sports bars crammed full of as many televisions as can fit on the wall, populated by real sports fans and brimming with good bar food and drink, Nick's is your place. This bar on the west side is typical of sports bars in that it's a frenetic ball of sensory overload. But the people are laid-back, the menu is extensive and reasonably priced, and everyone is there to watch sports, as it should be.

Huntsville State Park is only about 90 miles north of downtown, but a world away in terms of the pace of life. Skyscrapers are replaced by towering pines, and the sound of traffic gives way to birds and the rustling of leaves. This fairly small, heavily wooded state park is heaven in the warmer months, thanks to the swimming area at Lake Raven (named after Sam Houston, whose nearby likeness almost resembles a skyscraper) and the tree cover, which gives plenty of shade. The park offers activities such as horseback riding, paddle boating, canoeing and hiking — the trails often play host to Houston-area footraces. Facilities range from primitive to screened shelters with electricity and are offered on a sliding scale, starting at $15, plus the daily entrance fee of $20. That may seem high, but camping at Huntsville State Park also puts you in close proximity to the 130 miles worth of the Lone Star Hiking Trail, Sam Houston National Forest and several other nearby outdoor delights.

The Big Show pairs two of Houston’s most underrated personalities in Matt Jackson and Adam Wexler. The duo has worked together on and off for many years in Houston radio and finally has a permanent home in morning drive time on KBME. Even though The Big Show recently lost Lance Zierlein to the afternoon slot, it continues to be packed with sports, sprinkled with pop culture and downright funny, without the annoying goofiness of most morning shows.

Most Houstonians don't realize that Memorial Park is one of the largest urban parks in America. And one thing it has on many of those other urban retreats is a world-class golf course. Surrounded by huge pine trees despite the drought last year, the course sits just a couple miles from downtown — hard to believe when you're hitting the links here. Its cheap green fees compared to some of the suburban courses around Houston and its bucolic setting make it an ideal spot close to town to get in a round of 18.

Remember the old downtown YMCA? You know, that dark underground bunker that was awesome if you and your mustachioed friend wanted to toss around the medicine ball in 1935? Yeah, this is the opposite. This bright and shiny, state-of-the-art facility is about to celebrate its second year, and if you haven't seen it yet, you owe it to yourself to stop by and wish it a happy birthday. You'll find all the machines and equipment you could ever use; volleyball, basketball and racquetball courts; a great pool; a delicious deli; indoor track; and super-friendly staff. Not every city is lucky enough to have a Y this huge and decked out, and it's about time you took advantage!

It's hard not to root for second baseman Jose Altuve. At five-foot-five, he's one of the shortest major leaguers around, which ups the cuteness angle, but it doesn't affect his range in the field. Plus the dude can hit, something the Astros sorely need, and he knows — well, let's say he's learning — how to take walks, which he can quickly turn into doubles with his base-stealing ability. He's a bright spot in another dismal Astro season, and he's only 22.

Located across the street from Toyota Center in Downtown Houston, Root Memorial is hopping with activity at most every time of the morning, afternoon or evening. Anytime there is an event at the arena, you can stop and watch a serious pick-up game. There is always someone shooting around at Root, and you never know when you could be witnessing a future NBA all-star honing his skills.

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