For anyone who has lived in Houston more than 20 years, visiting Buffalo Bayou Park for the first time is like entering another city. The innovative and historic project spanning multiple decades has literally transformed a portion of the city from an eyesore to one of the most beautiful city parks in the country. It is impossible not to gawk at the skyline from vantage points along the well-manicured trails. And with amenities like kayaking, dining, a skate park and the incredible cistern, it is a showstopper for the city of Houston.

If you haven't seen a Houston sunset from inside a canoe on Buffalo Bayou, you haven't seen our fair city at its best. Put in near Voss or Woodway and paddle past the stately backyards of Memorial Bend and River Oaks to experience a wild stretch of bayou, where you'll have a chance of sighting a great blue heron. You can also put in at the Sabine Street Lofts near downtown and paddle up to Waugh to watch the bats fly out at dusk. Don't own a canoe or kayak? No worries. This city offers several options for renting crafts or taking guided tours.

If you like your bowling alleys old-school, they don't come much more authentic than Del-Mar Lanes. This isn't some fancy, modern nightclub with a bowling alley attached or an attempt at retro chic. Del-Mar is where real bowlers go to ply their trade. Leagues often fill up multiple lanes on various nights of the week, but the crowd is diverse and friendly. Plus, there's a full bar, a snack bar and a pro shop if you need some gear. After all, this place is first, foremost and always about knocking down pins.

READERS' CHOICE: Lucky Strike Lanes & Lounge

Sometimes the obvious choice is the right one, and that's the case with J.J. Watt as a role model for kids everywhere. Start with his ungodly work ethic, which has been the fuel that's allowed Watt to rise from a two-star recruit in high school to the best defensive football player on the planet. His goal-setting is legendary and exemplary. Follow that up with his random acts of kindness, many of which happen off the grid and untold. Watt spends countless hours visiting with families and kids suffering hardships. Finish it up by discussing his generous giving through his J.J. Watt Foundation, which raises money for afterschool activities for kids all over the country. The crown jewel is Watt's charity softball game, featuring him and his Texans teammates, which in 2016 raised nearly $1.6 million.

This spring's horrific flooding, which forced evacuations of most of Brazoria and Fort Bend counties, was equally unkind to Brazos Bend State Park. One of the largest state parks in Texas and easily the closest to a majority of Houstonians, Brazos Bend was knocked out of commission for several weeks. Happily, all but a very few of Brazos Bend's nearly 5,000 acres and 37 miles of trails are open again for camping, hiking, biking, fishing, and horseback riding. The park is easily one of the most picturesque destinations within an hour's drive of the city, especially for wildlife-watchers — Brazos Bend's famous gators came through the flooding just fine, officials have said — or armchair astronomers headed to a Saturday-night stargazing party at the George Observatory.

If you want the measure of a professional, go back and watch an Astros game from the horrific 2013 season, in which they went 51-111. Listen to the stadium announcer and the enthusiasm and energy he brought to a near-empty stadium. Now watch the Astros as they chase glory in 2016, and that announcer has the same zeal and fire. That's the voice of Bob Ford, who's been belting out lineups and batters' names with that booming voice going all the way back to the days of the Killer Bs. Ford's a true pro's pro, and his welcoming tones are as much a part of the Minute Maid Park experience as Orbit, Altuve and the train in left field.

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