Even before the construction of Frolic's Castle, Memorial City Mall sported the best indoor playgrounds in the city. Now it's so good it's hard to believe it's free. It features a massive, multi-story castle set among an equally huge fairy-tale forest, and kids can run, jump, climb and play for hours in the cool air of the mall. Plus, the playground is gated and monitored by a security guard so that you don't have to worry about your munchkins running out of your sight as they dart among giants and dragons. The only downside is that Frolic's Castle is open only during mall hours, so be aware if you're trying to get in an early Sunday morning play session that the gate will likely be locked.

David Rozycki

The death of izakaya Goro & Gun was sad, but it made way for new life in the form of an innovative bar. Moving Sidewalk (run by Goro's former bar manager, Alex Gregg) initially received a lot of attention for creating nitro-frozen cocktails, some of which were designed to change character as they melted. Moving Sidewalk is no snooty, pretentious bar, though. The program changed this past summer to a more lighthearted theme inspired by the surfer-crime drama Point Break. Among the most popular drinks are Babes, a carbonated, bottled cocktail of white rum, clarified strawberry and lime, and the MS House Old Fashioned with bourbon, rye, piloncillo syrup and Angostura bitters.


Okay, so you can catch the latest blow-'em-up blockbuster at any of dozens of movie theaters around town. Why pick one over the other? Parking? Prices? Popcorn? All those things are important, sure, but Alamo Drafthouse Cinema — Vintage Park takes our Best Movie Theater award because of its super-special programming. The theater recently screened A League of Their Own and Tank Girl with actor Lori Petty in attendance. Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection "F," and a 3-D version of the monster flick Creature from the Black Lagoon got screen time. Popular series include quote-alongs (Better Off Dead), Kids Camp (The Parent Trap) and Video Vortex (Blood Massacre).

READERS' CHOICE: River Oaks Theatre

Somewhere along the radio dial, amid the bluster of conservative blowhards and guy-centric sports talk, is public radio. And while those words can be code for "liberal, hippie, elites" in a state like Texas, KUHF has managed to deliver the kind of legitimate local discussion so often missing from radio in the form of Houston Matters. And at the center of the show is the soft-spoken Craig Cohen, who deftly moderates discussions on a wide variety of far-ranging topics, all focused on Houston. His shows are not only topical but well researched, and his guests are fascinating. It is, simply put, the best midday listen on the airwaves.

Jennifer Mathieu has the perfect combination of skill and curiosity every good writer needs. On top of that, she considers teens and young adults, who make up both her characters and her readers, "fascinating." Mathieu's first young-adult novel was The Truth About Alice; it examined the results of malicious gossip on a girl in high school. Released in the summer of 2014, it received an energetic reception. Mathieu's newest release, Devoted, out this summer, is about a girl from a restrictive religious movement. It's also finding an eager audience. The Truth About Alice and Devoted are hardly Mathieu's first experience with writing success; when she was in kindergarten, a story she wrote about an ape dancing inside a library won a contest in Cricket magazine.

The exhibit "Luis Jiménez: Prints, Drawings & Sculptures," the first solo show for the artist since his death in 2006, was almost a decade in the making. Moody Gallery owner Betty Moody and her late husband, artist Bill Steffy, were friends with Jiménez, who died in a studio accident during the construction of his 32-foot sculpture Blue Mustang. Moody had to go outside the usual channels to put together "Prints, Drawings & Sculptures." Estate issues tied up Jiménez's work for several years, and few pieces were available for loan from institutions. Moody went to private collectors for the work seen in the exhibit and put together an impressive selection of Jiménez's work. The exhibit included pieces in a variety of mediums and from various stages in the artist's career.

Established in 1965, Griff's claims to be Houston's "oldest surviving sports bar," which sounds right. One thing we know for sure: It's our favorite sports bar. We attribute that in large part to the friendly neighborhood vibe, but there's also the 22 TVs, every NFL game and a happy hour that makes us very happy. For the real die-hard sports fans, there's Griff's Army, whose brave soldiers hop onto the bar's party bus to check out the games. Also, check out trivia night every Thursday. With great drink specials and friendly patrons and staff, it won't be long before you're a regular.


Connor Walsh was just 21 years old when he was promoted to principal dancer with the Houston Ballet making him the youngest person ever to achieve that level with the company. He joined the company in 2004 as a member of the corps de ballet (that was the same year he won a gold award in the National Foundation for the Advancement in the Arts). He became a soloist in 2006 and principal dancer in 2007. In three years, he achieved what most dancers take a decade to do. It's clear why — he's athletic, powerful and graceful onstage. Technically, he's near perfect and artistically, he has the ability to move easily from playing a dashing prince in Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker to performing as the mischievous Puck in A Midsummer Night's Dream.

With the recent Supreme Court ruling making same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states, it's important to recognize and appreciate the history and importance of early Houston gay bars like The Ripcord, which opened back in 1980, when our city was not as tolerant toward the LGBT community as it is now. Ripcord is the oldest leather bar in Texas, and for any club to last this long, whether gay or straight, it has to be doing lots of things right; cheap drinks, a jukebox, a pool table and the large outdoor patio keep the regulars coming back. Ripcord has something of a reputation for being scary and appearing seedy to the uninitiated, but the bartenders and patrons are a welcoming and friendly bunch and the overall atmosphere is one of acceptance and tolerance toward all people; you don't have to be into the leather and Levi scene to drop in for a drink. In fact, the Ripcord can feel more like a neighborhood place than a leather bar much of the time, since it now has show-tune sing-along and trivia nights in addition to the theme nights catering to various fetishes throughout the month.


In the past year, the Houston Museum of Natural Science has featured exhibits about a lost Chinese civilization, incredible nature photography, samurai warriors and one-of-a-kind jeweled creations from one of the most famous design houses in history. That's in addition to all of its permanent exhibits on ancient Egypt, Texas wildlife, weather, chemistry, indigenous peoples of the Americas and more. Oh, and don't forget its planetarium, rain forest, nature films and special events. The mood in the lobby is a delicately balanced cross between a rock concert, a school yard and a science lab. Not only does the museum offer programming for everyone — science geeks, history enthusiasts, bright-eyed kids and visitors from around the world — it manages to offer all that programming at the same time! We've seen kindergarten kids, brainiacs and intergenerational family groups all occupy the same hall at the same time. By employing super-secret time-warping technology and invisible soundproofing, HMNS kept the groups separate, manageable and happy. (Okay, maybe there's no invisible soundproofing, but we are certain about that time-warping technology. How else could all those crowds so happily coexist?)

READERS' CHOICE: Houston Museum of Natural Science

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