Club Onyx

As noted on its Web site, this upscale gentlemen's club caters to "some of Houston's top businessmen, lawyers, doctors, and professional athletes," meaning you'll get to enjoy beautiful dancers and delicious meals in some very refined company. The club boasts 12,800 square feet of fun, with two full-service bars, bottle service, VIP rooms and the signature "Onyx wings." Be sure to subscribe to Onyx's newsletter so you can stay apprised of featured performers and other special events. You deserve a little luxury now and then, and this is one place that knows how to treat you right.

Box 13 ArtSpace

Houston has quite a few tiny art galleries, from the minuscule Kenmore (a small refrigerator) to Redbud Gallery (a Heights-area shop the size of most gallery entrance halls). But it isn't just size that determined this year's winner, The Closet Box: Micro Gallery / Wonder Emporium inside East End's Box 13 Artspace. It was also programming that pushed Closet Box out as the frontrunner. Rather than attempt to change what was essentially a hallway closet into something more exhibit-friendly, organizers embraced the gallery's physical limitations, inviting artists to develop exhibits that would take advantage of the small space and bad lighting.

Mongoose Versus Cobra

The perfect bar in Houston can be hard to find. As much as you may love that dive or sports bar, sometimes you want a joint that's a bit classier but still friendly and welcoming. Oh, and a large selection of draft beer and cocktails is so, so necessary. Enter the interestingly named Mongoose versus Cobra. As you sit at the bar, you're fascinated by the futuristic KeyKeg system that houses the more than 40 beers on offer. Bring a friend and enjoy the utterly delicious pretzel that's the size of a small life preserver, served with a side of homemade mustard. Above all, the atmosphere of the place is nice but not uppity, comfortable without sacrificing service. Cheers!

Jones Hall For the Performing Arts

Houston certainly has newer and arguably nicer music venues than Jones Hall, but the building at 615 Louisiana has been offering one of the most satisfying concert experiences in town for nearly 50 years, for far more than just classical crowds. Of course, Jones is best known and most often employed as the home of the Houston Symphony, but it has recently hosted concerts by R&B sexmonger R. Kelly, Pearl Jam front man Eddie Vedder and even "The Power of Love" players Huey Lewis & the News. Award-winning for both its architecture and its acoustics, and with several significant pieces of civic art on the premises (such as the sculptures "The Dancer" and "Two Horses"), Jones Hall is everything a world-class, big-city concert hall should be.

Lucky's Pub

Multiple screens tuned to all the games you don't want to miss? Check. Pool tables for if you want to "exercise" while watching said games? Check. Killer beer selection at great prices? Affirmative. Friendly staff? That'd be a yes. Wings, fried pickles, burgers and quesadillas? You bet your bippy. Really, there's no shortage of sports bars in Houston, but we've got a special place in our heart for Lucky's. We've also made plenty of room in our stomach for them as well. Now, excuse us while we get back to the game — halftime's almost over!

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

A few times a year — not often enough, in our opinion — the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, becomes one of the city's top music venues, pairing gorgeous architecture and one of the nation's finest permanent collections of art with cutting-edge music. Officially named MFAH Mixed Media Designed by IKEA, the event decks out MFAH's luxe interior with the Swedish design trendsetter's finest gear (so you know it's hip) as partygoers roam freely throughout the galleries, and bands and DJs — often local — perform in the spacious, live-oak-shaded backyard. In just a couple of all-too-short seasons, Mixed Media has quickly become one of the top can't-miss events on Houston's under-35 social calendar.

Discovery Green
Photo by Katya Horner

One of the best parts of living in the fourth-largest city in the country is that it's a people-watching paradise, and no spot better represents that than Discovery Green. No two trips to Discovery Green are ever exactly the same, and that's a good thing. It's a location that brings in all sorts of folks, including but not limited to families looking to spend a day in the sun; people killing time before a concert; and couples in all stages of relationships, from first date to engagement photos. Add a dog park, a seasonal skating rink, the Gateway Fountain, special events and more, and you get a space where there's always something going on and always someone to watch.

Swishahouse was a local institution even long before many of its priceless mementos were cataloged into the Special Collections at Rice University's Fondren Library in October 2012. By helping commercialize the late DJ Screw's slow and low rap style, the label helped the careers of artists like Chamillionaire, Paul Wall, Slim Thug and Mike Jones bloom and became one of the most successful independent record labels in music business history. Steered to this day by cofounders G Dash and Michael "5000" Watts — who showcases the latest Swisha wares on his long-running Sunday night 97.9 The Box show — the label keeps right on cranking out a steady supply of albums from artists such as Southside stalwart Lil Keke da Don and often updated mixtape series like The Day Hell Broke Loose, which gather top rap names both local and national into the fold. For a record label that became both a brand name and an enduring culture unto itself, calling Swishahouse the Motown of the South doesn't seem like much of a stretch. As its motto says, "You don't grind, you don't shine."

Rudyard's

How could a bar with a Flickr Hive Mind page devoted to photos of the awesome potty-wall scribbles not be the recipient of a "Best of" award? No matter what kind of bathroom graffiti you're into, Rudyard's bathroom walls have it covered. Be it your old-school "For a good time, call 555-5555" type of scrawling, a multi-person debate on feminism or some deep thoughts with Jack Handey kind of stuff, there are plenty of Sharpie musings to gaze at while you wait in line or, of course, hover above the seat.

Directing out-of-towners to the area's two major airports might be seen as a hostile gesture, but we're not hating at all. For months, Houston has been all over this national magazine or that Web site as one of the country's best places to visit, eat, do business, buy a house or find a job. As many as 100 people a day are already moving to Houston, according to some estimates, so the only reason we recommend visitors visit Bush or Hobby is so they can fly back home and rent a U-Haul. Honest.

Best Of Houston®

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