The Houston Press is presenting a series of posts leading up to a feature story in the print edition of the 100 Things to Do in Houston Before You Die. Each blog post contains one of our top 10 bucket list items along with nine others in the top 100. To narrow our list, we chose only items unique to Houston -- or items to which Houston provides a unique twist -- and everything on the list must be in or occur within 30 miles of downtown Houston (so, nothing from Galveston, for example). We welcome your suggestions in the comment section.
Moving millions of people around a city big enough to fit several cities inside its boundaries isn't easy. Houston has some of the worst commute times in the country and the time we spend in our car contributes to our regular ranking as one of the fattest cities in America. Despite the clogged freeways and angry drivers, we still don't have very many options. You can't build a subway under a swamp. Buses offer as much confusion as they do transportation. And scientists have yet to invent a teleportation device to beam us from our bedrooms to our cubicles. In this fifth installment of the Houston Bucket List, we suggest a polarizing option for escaping the gridlock...even if it is just for a few miles.
From it's very beginnings, it was a controversial topic. So many failed fits and starts just to get a single, six-mile track laid between downtown and the medical center. And when light rail finally came to a city with some of the least helpful mass transit in the country, the complaints continued: the construction killed business, cars were running into it with regularity. Yet, it is still one of the most patronized sections of light rail in the country and after even more gnashing of teeth, it is expanding north, east and south into underserved areas that will no doubt use it like crazy.
It's fascinating that a city the size of Houston has shunned usable mass transit for so long. We all love our cars, but does anyone actually love the traffic? At every turn we shoot down referendums, sue the city and demand that our U.S. representatives pull funding from this boondoggle. Still, people keep on riding and more will follow suit when the new lines open next year. Look, if Dallas can build and maintain a light rail system, Houston sure as hell can.
Nine More (in no particular order)
Order a dozen glazed at the oldest Shipley's Donuts in Houston on Ella Blvd. When you see the old school, neon donut outside the oldest Shipley's in Oak Forest, you should have a warm feeling, just like the glazed deliciousness you are about to put in your mouth. And if glazed don't do it for you, try a boudin kolache at the store on North Main.
Drive Airline Drive from the farmer's markets to the flea markets on a Saturday afternoon. If you have never taken this ride, do yourself a favor. From the original Houston farmer's markets in the Heights all the way north to the plethora of flea markets, you can find just about anything from fresh Gulf shrimp to piñatas to carnival rides.
Go on the Heights Home Tour and stay for Lights in the Heights. Everyone likes to get a peek inside the homes of their neighbors and a great way to do it is on the Heights Holiday Home Tour. If you go on the right night, you can stick around for Lights in the Heights and enjoy the merriment in Houston's oldest hood.
Visit the amazing Sri Meenakshi temple Pearland. This massive and incredibly intricate Hindu temple seems to rise out of nowhere in, of all places, Pearland. The original tract was built in the late 1970s and they've been adding to it ever since. It's amazing to think we have this fabulous structure in our back yards and so few know about it.
Attend Free Press Summer Fest. In just four years, this has become perhaps the biggest Houston-based music festival in our city's history. God only knows why they chose summer in Houston to hold it, but if you can take the heat and the endless parade of hipsters, it is one of the best music fests in the country.
Take a walk in the Houston or Mercer Arboretum. Many Houstonians don't realize that two of the most lovely nature parks in the city are in relatively urban areas. Mercer Arboretum is near George Bush Intercontinental Airport and the Houston Arboretum is just a couple miles west of downtown. Both are lush and beautiful and remarkably quiet despite their proximity to civilization.
Get your skateboard on at the EZ-7 on White Oak Bayou and the skate park on Buffalo Bayou. If you had no idea that one of the most well known manmade skateboard parks in Texas is North of 610 along White Oak Bayou, you would not be alone. The EZ-7 was constructed by skater in the late 1960s and has been visited by many pro skaters over the years. If you want something a little more tame, try the Lee and Joe Jamail Skate Park along Buffalo Bayou.
Visit Space Center Houston. The truth is that Johnson Space Center, despite its lack of a shuttle, is still one of the coolest things a kid will see. Yes, it's grown a bit cheesy over the years, but when you set your eyes on a lunar module, it's pretty hard not to be in awe.
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