George's Country Sports Bar

Ah, George — don't ever change your ways. Don't ever change your laid-back, neighborhood pub atmosphere, with your friendly bartenders, pool, darts and cozy patio. For eight years, you've been a smile at the end of a hard day. Your prices are just right, even when it's not happy hour. You lack pretense and artifice. You're not a place to be seen. You're a place to see friends. And with your HD flat-screens, you're also a place to see the game. You'll be seeing us again soon, we promise.

Best Band to Get Together in the Past Year

BLSHS

New bands show up on the scene just about every week, but not too many make the kind of splash that BLSHS has. In less than 12 months, Chris Gore, Rick Carruth and Michelle Miers have become one of Houston's most popular local acts, winning new fans by the score with each passing gig. Some of that might be because similar acts like Chvrches are suddenly in vogue in the indie world again, but BLSHS is no knockoff. Gore and Carruth put their heads together to swirl elements of trance and trap music into classic synth-pop that fans of Soft Cell or Heaven 17 would easily recognize, while Miers simply has one of the most enchanting voices in town. Their success has been almost instantaneous: Shortly after making their Free Press Summer Fest debut (where they outdrew several more established acts), BLSHS was nominated for several Houston Press Music Awards including Best New Act, Song of the Year ("If I Fall") and Local Recording of the Year for the Abstract Desires EP.

Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion

The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, which recently welcomed brand-new presenting sponsor Huntsman, is celebrating its 25th anniversary in style this year. It's been one of the nation's top-grossing concert venues for many years, but in June the Pavilion was featured in Billboard magazine, which saluted the 16,000-capacity amphitheater as a cornerstone of the burgeoning Montgomery County township. And after drawing more than half a million people through the turnstiles in 2013, this year the Pavilion looks ready to break more records and invite more accolades. Just get a load of its stellar silver-anniversary season: Arcade Fire, Jimmy Buffett, Journey and the Steve Miller Band, John Legend, Nine Inch Nails and Soundgarden, Lionel Richie, Mötley Crüe, Lyle Lovett and Robert Earl Keen, Ringo Starr's All-Starr Band, Drake and Lil Wayne, Arctic Monkeys, and much more including a record-breaking, show-stopping, first-time appearance by Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band.

Sam Houston Race Park

Even if all you know of horse racing is what you saw in Seabiscuit, you can still have a grand time betting on the ponies at Sam Houston Race Park. Admission is cheap, parking is easy, and the food and drink are affordable. They offer live Thoroughbred racing from January through early March and and live Quarter Horse racing from late March through early May with simulcast racing 364 days of the year, and from time to time they even have ostriches and camels, too, if you're looking for something a bit more exotic. Place your bets and root for your new favorite four-legged creature. You don't even have to wear a floppy hat.

There are lots of reading series in town, but the Poison Pen Reading Series is the only one that's set in a low-key neighborhood bar. And the only one that offers such an eclectic lineup of literary types. Locals such as Robert Boswell, Katherine Center, Antonya Nelson and former Houston Press staffer Jennifer Mathieu have all appeared at these monthly readings on Poison Girl's patio. Earlier this year, internationally known writer David MacLean (a former Houstonian and one of the founders of the series) read from his latest release, the memoir The Answer to the Riddle Is Me. Crack a Lone Star and have a listen next month.

Landmark River Oaks Theatre

In recent years, Landmark River Oaks has won six Best of Houston® awards: five for Best Movie Theater and one for Best Film Series. The multiple wins can be credited to its physical structure and programming. The theater was built in 1939, and its art deco interior has understandably been modified over the years, with changes including the conversion of the balcony to house two small screens. But the modifications have been conservative and restrained, and much of the interior stands intact, with the original grandeur still visible. The theater's programming is eclectic, made up mostly of indie and foreign films along with the robust midnight screening series. There are also frequent exclusives, and premieres by Houston filmmakers are becoming more and more regular. It all makes for a stellar moviegoing experience.

Hermann Park

The sad reality is that Houston is not exactly the best city in the world if you're a train enthusiast. The good news is that in the world of park trains, Hermann Park has one of the best anywhere, and it's something that every single person reading this should experience at least once. On your 18-minute trip, you'll see some of the prettiest sights Houston has to offer. Talk about a nice way to get around the park on a hot summer afternoon. You can even take things up a notch and become an engineer for a day, with your own cap and bandanna. Laugh all you want, but you're never too old to experience the joy that comes with a good train ride. Hop on and see.

Discovery Green
Photo by Katya Horner

We call it "Best Performance Space," but what that really means is that Discovery Green is Houston's best place to be an audience member. Now six years old, the 12-acre park has a calendar overflowing with events, from participatory activities like yoga, soccer and salsa lessons to frequent movie screenings and several weekly concert series. An environmentally responsible park that has been recognized numerous times for its various conservation-minded innovations, Discovery Green also now has a 24-7 webcam that makes a wonderful diversion if you can't be there in person. Being stuck at your desk watching kids frolic in the park's fountains, while others take canoes out on the tiny waterways, can make it pretty tempting to walk out of the office and never come back.

Cedar Creek
Photo by Kevin Shalin

"Welcome to the Hill Country" proclaims the sign above as you shuffle along a wood walkway that crosses the expansive restaurant's titular creek. And it really does feel like the Hill Country, and not in a cheesy, prefab way. This is a celebration of being outside while enjoying hot wings and a cold Texas brew with friends, away from any signs of Inner Loop hustle and bustle. It's like a big communal picnic or campout. We're getting homesick just thinking about it, and we're not even from the Hill Country.

Houston Metropolitan Dance Company

Houston's dance community has seen lots of changes lately, with choreographers leaving town or closing studios. There have been plenty of changes at MET Dance, too. Artistic Director Marlana Doyle had her first baby in 2013, which understandably diverted some of her time and attention away from the company, but it ultimately revived her passion and determination. Doyle, along with choreographers Kiki Lucas and jhon r. stronks, spent the 2013-2014 season building the company up to new artistic heights and financial stability. One measure of its success is its second invitation to perform on the esteemed Inside/Out stage at Jacob's Pillow Dance, a Massachusetts space that hosts the world's best contemporary dancers. More changes are coming, with six new dancers joining in August to replace five who departed. We're excited to see what's next.

Best Of Houston®

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