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.

Alamo Drafthouse Cinema - Mason

When it comes to vintage flicks at Alamo Drafthouse, it's all about creating experiences. Vintage screenings have become a thing a lot of places do now, but no one makes them as fun as the folks at the Drafthouse. Whether it's showing vintage previews before the film, building special menus around the movie or providing the audience with props so they can be part of the evening's events, every vintage screening is unique to the individual film. It's not just about seeing the oldies on a real big screen; it's about celebrating why they're awesome to begin with.

Outlaw Dave's Worldwide Headquarters

Outlaw Dave's proves that not all biker bars are created equal. They don't have to be scary places where you might get into a brawl or have to compete with vermin for a barstool. This outpost on the far west arm of Washington Avenue is clean, cool and considerably well-staffed. The location has a history as one of the city's original icehouses and beer shacks, at times serving as both a gambling lounge and a brothel. These days you can enjoy a plate of wings or quesadillas as you watch the namesake's radio show being broadcast from his studio in the bar while you drink a cold beer or Jack & Coke. Stop by on a Saturday night for Kiki Maroon's "Midnight Circus," full of fun and naughtiness.

Blaffer Art Museum

The Blaffer Art Museum's eclectic, adventurous programming has won it plenty of awards; over the past two years, it's been getting lots of notice for its new physical design as well. The museum's $2.25 million renovation brought the total space to almost 14,000 square feet; added an entrance, lounge and studio areas; and replaced the staircase. The result? An airy, light-filled, state-of-the-art facility ready to accommodate the museum's multitude of needs. The new design was overseen by Work Architecture Company with Houston consulting firm Gensler acting as the project's local architect.

Tucked inside an unassuming white and blue warehouse just a block from Old Galveston Road, the Southside Skate Park and Skate Shop is the place for all real and wannabe skaters to buy gear, meet friends, practice and showcase their skills. Opened in 1994, this skate haven is the oldest and longest-running skatepark and pro shop in the Houston area. With a multitude of ramps to drop into, rails to grind, and reasonable membership and skate fees, Southside caters to every skater's needs. Decks, shoes and urban wear are all on sale to help you complete that look we all wish we were cool enough to pull off.

West Alabama Ice House

Now that Shiner has landed nationwide, the icehouse may be the last grand secret the rest of the country hasn't wrested from Texas. And no establishment better encapsulates the icehouse ideal than West Alabama. A staple of the Alabama stretch, West Alabama Ice House provides all you might need: a sprawling patio, an open basketball hoop, bottomless beer and a glut of the sweetest half-mangy dogs to keep you company. Even when a late-spring storm whips apart the tarps-cum-windows, there are few places more preferable to have a Shiner in the one state it's meant to be drunk.

Captain Foxheart's Bad News Bar & Spirit Lodge

Justin Burrow's no-frills cocktail bar isn't even a year old, but it's already our favorite downtown hangout. You don't have to call Bad News Bar by its full name (Captain Foxheart's Bad News Bar & Spirit Lodge) to enjoy it; in fact, it's better if you just relax and let Burrow and his crew mix you any drink you can dream up inside the second-story shotgun bar with its tall, New Orleans-style ceilings, then take it outside to drink in the dazzling view of downtown from the elegant balcony. Cocktails aren't your thing? You can get cheap Lone Stars and chilly daiquiris here, too.

The James Turrell Skyspace, situated just east of Rice University's Shepherd School of Music, stands as a surprising break within Rice's traditional Mediterranean architecture. Based on a quartet of gentle grassy slopes and topped with a square aperture focused on the heavens above, Turrell's creation is a Mesoamerican paean to the naturalistic beauty within the campus. Add the eerie, somnolescent light shows in the evenings — all free! — and you have as welcome an addition to Rice as anything this side of Wayne Graham.

The Ginger Man Pub

If there's a more satisfying spot to have a beer in Houston than The Ginger Man's open-air backyard, I've yet to find it. Never overly packed, never too isolated — those thick-beam tables have a way of bringing even the most disparate groups together — The Ginger Man's pairing of patio and pint remains properly unparalleled. The drink selection's as wide as it is curated. The interior's intimate without feeling cramped. There are other bars in the Village, and there are other watering holes in Houston, but there are few places where a drink and an evening can leave you more content.

Best Of Houston®

Best Of