West Alabama Ice House

Forget the dimly lit awkwardness of some trendy club; dogs, basketball and beer are where it's at. West Alabama Ice House is pickup-spot perfection; there's a super-relaxed, anything-goes kind of vibe with a wide selection of beers and a crowd that seems to know what an icehouse should be. Everyone's friendly, and the crowd is about as diverse as it gets in this city, which is too awesome for words when you're lookin' for a potential hook-up. It's an easy place to meet people; think giant outdoor barbecue rather than bar, one where everyone's just hangin' out and drinkin' beer. And if you're still too shy to infiltrate the picnic table full of girls behind you, you can bring ol' Rover along and let him do the work for you.

Houston Zoo

Houston has recently come up a lot in the national news for the incredible diversity our city, and rightfully so. However, it's just an abstract number until you venture out someplace universal like the Houston Zoo. There you will hear languages from countries you've never even heard of, see all kinds of different dress styles and just in general realize that wow, it's more rainbow-hued than a bag of Skittles here. The best part is how it seems to bring out the best in everyone as well. Guys in trucker hats stand next to Sikhs in turbans and helpfully point out where the lazy ocelot is hiding from the heat, and all the kids are quick to make friends on the premise that watching a komodo dragon is awesome. The zoo really is a wonderful place for people-watching and, better yet, friend-making.

By now, everyone realizes that Houston's Museum District houses some of the most unheralded offerings in the nation. The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston's Cullen Sculpture Garden plays no small role in that reality. Forgoing sprawl for the placid intimacy of an actual exhibit, the garden spins themes as mixed as some of the pieces themselves, all paced alongside enough grassy areas that you can stretch out on a soft fall afternoon. Highlights include Joan Miró's prickly Ouisea and Dan Graham's mesmerizing Triangular Solid with Circular Inserts, Variation F, as well as the lascivious security guard who chuckles whenever you ask him about Aristide Maillol's Flora, Nude.

Discovery Green
Photo by Katya Horner

Over the past five years, Discovery Green has played host to everything from political rallies to national sporting events to farmers' markets and dozens of free classes. And it's still the best place to go for a first date. The extensive calendar of free and cheap activities — kayaking on Kinder Lake, anyone? How about a free show at the Thursday Night Concert Series? Yoga on the Green? — ensures that you won't lose a mint if the chemistry is not right. And with two different restaurants, you'll have your choice of dinner and drinks. If your date turns out to be a bore, don't worry. The people-watching at Disco Green is top-notch.

Edwards Houston Marq'e Stadium 23 & IMAX

Edwards Houston Marq*E Stadium 23 & IMAX has an unfair advantage over other multiplex movie theaters in that there are lots of before/after screening options for moviegoers. A variety of restaurants and shops crowd the plaza just outside its doors. But the real draw here is film choice. With 23 screens, Marq*E offers a full slate of movies. Family-friendly animation flicks, action-packed adventure sagas, the latest blockbusters and relatively unknown releases, all get screen time here. We suggest you choose the self-ticketing box-office options; they're quicker, and the less time you spend standing in line, the more time you can spend in the theater.

5th Amendment Bar

The 5th Amendment is a part of the Constitution of the United States that protects you from abuse by a government agency in a legal procedure, specifically when you're being asked or forced to incriminate yourself. In the case of this midtown establishment, after a night of drinking and dancing and flirting, just remember that "pleading the fifth" is totally an option. In fact, the diversity of this club is not unlike the diversity of Houston, showcasing a bit of hip-hop, a bit of EDM and a lot of sexiness. Whether you're greeted by Cheesecake the infamous doorman or some of the most beautiful go-go dancers in Houston, stop by, have a drink or five, and dance the night away.

Houston Museum of Natural Science

If you're looking for Ankh Hap, the resident mummy at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, you'll find him in his palatial new digs in the Hall of Ancient Egypt. And he's got company. The 10,000-square-foot addition to the museum complex houses two more mummies and hundreds of artifacts. Opened in May, the hall already has one of the city's most popular attractions. It's filled with what curators call "a permanently changing exhibit" of objects and displays covering Egyptian art, religion, the Pharaohs and, of course, those all-important mummies. The Hall of Ancient Egypt joins the museum's other permanent exhibits that cover everything natural and science-y such as dinosaurs, African wildlife, gems, earth science, malacology (the study of creatures that live in shells) and more. There's also the Cockrell Butterfly Center, Burke Baker Planetarium and Wortham Giant Screen Theatre.

F Bar

F Bar is the epitome of bar perfection, gay or straight, and the fact that it is indeed a gay bar with some of the most fabulous drag shows around makes it all the better. There's a mature vibe to the club that adds to the welcoming atmosphere, making it the perfect spot to mingle early in the evening. Add to the mix the über-friendly bartenders, a spotless decor and a massive dance floor surrounded by plenty of lounging space, and you've got a recipe for the perfect hangout spot. There's always a surprisingly equal male-to-female ratio, too, which presumably stems from the fact that this place has little pretentiousness to it, despite the upscale feel of it all.

The Market Square Park area downtown already had its share of public art (there are mosaic fountains and benches, modernist sculpture by James Surls and photography by Paul Hester, to name a few of the installations). Now a new mural by street artist Gonzo247 adorns the south wall of the Treebeards restaurant building. Sponsored by the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau as part of the city's new promotional campaign, the Houston Is mural reads, "Houston is inspired, hip, tasty, funky, savvy" in loud, bright colors as bold, exuberant images seem to flow from the city's crystal-white skyline.

Downing Street

With the tragic passing of manager Joseph Dufault in May, it would have been easy to select Downing Street as the sympathetic choice for Best of. But between its whiskey wall, the world-class cigar room and a ventilation system that remains an architectural godsend, Downing Street doesn't need anything more to stand out as the finest cigar bar Houston can offer. Toss on a collar, grab a stogie, keep your voice low, and let the Skye Scotch and deep couches do the rest.

Best Of Houston®

Best Of