Many Spanish radio stations are known for their loud and flamboyant disc jockeys, fast and energetic music programming, and over-the-top contests and giveaways. Recuerdo is none of that. Its on-air personalities speak softly and smoothly, and the music consists of boleros and música romántica that will at the same time calm you and put you in an amorous mood. Throughout the day, you might hear anyone from Vicente Fernandez, Ana and Juan Gabriel, Los Temerarios, Los Bukis or Juan Luis Guerra.

The Menil Collection

The Menil Collection main building is lauded almost as much as the artwork it contains. Plans for a museum complex that would house the John and Dominique de Menil family art collection started in the late 1960s. Italian architect Renzo Piano worked with Dominique de Menil to create a museum that looked "small on the outside but [would] be as big as possible inside." They succeeded brilliantly. The Menil's nearly 30,000 square feet of gallery and public space seems intimate but spacious. In addition to art exhibits, the museum often hosts concerts and lectures (we're willing to bet Piano and his client talked about acoustics somewhere along the way).

Big Star Bar

Whether you're looking for a cheap beer or a good stiff drink, Big Star Bar is the place to go. You can grab your drink — they've got a fine selection to choose from, particularly in whiskey — and head on out to the patio; settle in on an ancient-looking, so-beaten-up-it's-actually-comfortable couch or chair; or just sidle up and grab a seat at the bar proper. The clientele is a mix of hipsters and amateur beer snob types thrown in with guys who know how to hold their liquor and how to gauge the true value of a generous pour. Basically, Big Star is everything a good neighborhood bar should be.

On a recent Saturday night (technically Sunday morning), the sun greeted the few club patrons who rode their EDM high well into the dawn hours. "We don't close until the last person is done dancing!" was the response we received when we asked if this was a normal occurrence. In the cavern underneath the historic Magnolia Brewery Building that once housed Club Rehab and Pink Monkey, you can marvel at the laser light show, get lost in the numerous dark corners or chill along the outside patio overlooking the bayou. Cheap drinks and lovely go-go dancers are a big plus. Always open late, always a party.

It's nearly impossible to mistake a Carlos Hernandez concert poster for anyone else's. The Lubbock native and master of serigraphy (or screen printing) draws heavily on his Mexican-American heritage in his bold three-color designs, which are flush with skulls, devils, wolves, guns and luchadores, with the stray pistol-packing cowgirl thrown in for good measure. A founding partner of Heights-based print shop Burning Bones Press, Hernandez has designed posters for most of Houston's top venues — most often the Continental Club, House of Blues and Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion. Hernandez has also featured several iterations of his "Day of the Dead Rock Stars" portrait series at Cactus Music's Record Ranch annex. His work has increasingly brought him out-of-town attention and commissions from farther afield, such as a commemorative poster for the 2012 Austin City Limits Music Festival, but he'll probably be here for a while: In spring 2013, Hernandez became Rice University's brand-new serigraphy instructor.

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.

Best Of Houston®

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