The numbers give you an idea of the scope of FotoFest 2014. The citywide exhibit, with its focus on contemporary Arab video, photography and multimedia art, lasted more than six weeks, featured work by about 1,200 artists who came from 37 different U.S. states and 40 countries, and exhibited in 200 different galleries and spaces. Some 275,000 people from 43 countries experienced the festival, and another 123 million worldwide read reviews and watched news reports. Those are the official numbers. Impressive as they are, they don't convey the number of participating artists who considered exhibiting at FotoFest a milestone in their careers, a stepping stone to international recognition. Or the number of curators and collectors who reached a new level of understanding of contemporary Arab visual art. No other Houston visual arts event had the worldwide impact of FotoFest 2014.

The Boom Boom Room

Sometimes you just want to go where nobody has anything to prove, and that's when it's time to head to The Boom Boom Room. Most nights the Heights bar is quiet and calm, with a scattering of locals enjoying glasses of good wine. Formerly a cantina, the place was transformed in 2006, reopening as a dimly lit den with plush bar stools that offer plenty of places to sit and enjoy good drinks, eat grilled cheese and listen to the occasional band. The bartenders know their regulars and keep the drinks coming, and the whole joint is a relief to the senses. The Boom Boom Room is simply a place where people from the neighborhood can drink in peace.

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston usually has a strict no-touch policy. But for "Soto: The Houston Penetrable," a kinetic installation by the late Venezuelan artist Jesús Rafael Soto, touching was not only encouraged, it was required. Made up of 24,000 plastic tubes that had been hand-painted and hung from the ceiling, the installation was not considered complete until viewers entered and moved through the tubes. "The Houston Penetrable" was commissioned by MFAH some ten years ago, and after Soto's death in 2005, work on the project continued under the supervision of Paolo Carrozzino and Walter Pellevoisin. Workers in France and Houston hand-painted the tubes and hand-tied the knots to construct the installation, while thousands of Houstonians spent five months wading through those tubes to help complete the artist's vision.

When you want to people-watch, you must go to where the people are, and everyone goes to RodeoHouston. You'll see folks from every background, of every age, of every type roaming the grounds. From real cowboys to fake cowboys, from music fans to people who just love deep-fried foods, from thrill seekers to people content to visit the petting zoo, you'll find them all inside the gates. When an event is so big that it has a little bit of everything, it brings in a crowd that's a little bit of everything. The end result is that no matter where you choose to watch — on the ground, in the stands or on a ride above the carnival — there will be someone doing something fascinating.

SPJST Lodge 88

Every Thursday afternoon before 5, a line forms outside the doors of this Heights hall of the Slavonic Benevolent Order of the State of Texas. And the line grows. And grows. For bingo. If you don't get there before 7 p.m., chances are the place will have reached its 700-person maximum, and the doors will close in your sad face. That's how popular this event is. It's not fancy — just a huge room with rows of long tables and folding chairs — and that's the way we like it. Plus, pitchers are only $7, and the burgers and dogs will help you keep your energy up for the fast-paced daubin'. (Bingo pads are $5 each, doors open at 5:15 p.m.)

Under The Volcano

Finding a jukebox that's not one of those Internet abominations is hard enough these days, but finding one as carefully curated and downright hip as Under the Volcano's is simply impossible. Owner Pete Mitchell, a major music fan, keeps his West U joint's box stocked with classic barroom fare like Exile on Main Street or The Last Waltz, but he updates it constantly with cutting-edge acts like St. Vincent and the Black Lips. And if you're looking for a place to punch up some local artists such as Little Joe Washington or the Kashmere Stage Band, look no further. Mitchell also smartly reserves a few spots for the artists who appear at the bar's Wednesday live-music nights.

Walter's Downtown
David Rozycki

Trends come and go, but every city has at least one music venue that makes its living by taking chances. Walters has filled that niche in Houston since the days it was known as Walter's On Washington, the post-Mary Jane's extension of owner Pam Robinson's "Pamland" domain. The assumption that Walters has more lives than a cat may well be true, but Walters is now thriving after relocating to its quarters near UH-Downtown. It's become the staging grounds for the annual Girls Rock Camp Houston, a regular stop on the circuit for indie princes like Titus Andronicus and Kurt Vile and, with shows by MDC, Negative Approach, local heavyweights Die Young and '80s pranksters the Dead Milkmen in the past year alone, Houston's No. 1 punk/hardcore destination bar none.

La Carafe

Great wine bars are as much about atmosphere as good wine. Luckily, La Carafe has lots of both. Despite the popular misconception, La Carafe is not actually the oldest bar in Houston (that distinction belongs to Leon's), but it is housed in the oldest commercial building in town — supposedly it even has a ghost. Every time we walk in and slide up to the bar, we take a moment to enjoy the whole thing: the candlelight and the stalagmite-wax formations, the photos on the wall and that excellent jukebox. The place has a good wine list, and if you're unsure, the bartender will point you in the right direction. There's also beer for those not vino-inclined. This is not a wine bar for the sniff-swish-and-spit crowd, and that's why we love it.

Nick's Place Italian Sports Bar & Pizzeria
David Rozycki

Sports are the ultimate communal experience, and these days every establishment with a TV has the game on. Like many spots, Nick's offers a multitude of televisions and some serious eats. Unlike a lot of places, however, Nick's has character, and not that manufactured type that comes in the form of posters and crap on the walls that masquerades as personality in your average chain sports bar. Nick's feels lived in, the kind of place where you can tell innumerable fans have had countless moments of triumph and tragedy within its walls. No matter your choice of sport, you'll find it at Nick's, where you can down a few beers and add your own moments to its history.

Joystix Classic Games-Pinball

Death to Giant Jenga. When you're out drinking with your friends, forget the world of physical games and embrace the joy that is the arcade. By day, Joystix might just be a cool store that sells classic arcade games and pinball machines, but once Pacman Fever Fridays roll around, it's the best place in Houston to relive your glory days while having a drink at the same time. If you spent your youth shoving quarters into those weird Neo-Geo machines and dreamed of a day with affordable unlimited play and the chance to drink like a real-live grown-up, that dream is a reality at Joystix.

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