We can pretend that we like festivals for the culture, but in our heart of hearts it's the food that draws us back, year after year. Get ready for a double-header this weekend, with the Original Greek Festival (spanakopita, souvlaki and gyros) and the Texas Renaissance Festival (they're doing Oktoberfest with bratwurst and sauerkraut). It might be our last chance to hear the best of ABBA in Mamma Mia!, but we've got some firsts too: Burnout Houston is moving its hot rod party to the Old Downtown Post Office, and the Weird Homes Tour™ has cherry-picked some of H-Town's strangest abodes for its inaugural run.
Mamma Mia! — the show that exploded onto the Broadway scene in 2001 — is returning for what producers are calling its final tour, presented in Houston by BBVA Compass Broadway at the Hobby Center. The seven-time Tony Award-nominated musical tells the story of a free-spirited mother with a past, a soon-to-be-wed daughter and her three possible dads as she takes an unforgettable trip down the aisle. The real star, though, is the music of Swedish pop group ABBA, whose tunes are performed exclusively in this jukebox musical. Relive the toe-tapping moments of “Dancing Queen,” “Take A Chance On Me,” “The Winner Takes It All” and all the other great hits during the show’s victory lap. Just as with a Cher farewell tour, we’re left wondering: Is this truly the last time we’ll see Mamma Mia!? Only time will tell. But just in case, we're making this ultimate feel-good show one of our picks for Friday night in the city.
8 p.m. Friday, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Sunday. The Hobby Center, 800 Bagby. For information, call 713-315-2525 or visit thehobbycenter.org. $35 to $150.
Straight from the old country to Houston, The Original Greek Festival is dominating a pocket of Montrose with tasty bites and cultural jubilation. “You’re going to be Greek for a day. The dancing is authentic and the food is authentic,” says chairperson Dana Kantalis. The mouthwatering, handmade food, which requires 500 volunteers, is accompanied by wines, desserts, dance shows and an agora market. Join the crowd for this 50th-anniversary celebration and yell “Opa!” Catch free shuttles from Lamar High School (3325 Westheimer) and Lot H (Memorial Drive and I-45) Friday evening and all day Saturday and Sunday. The organizers hope to feed 50,000 during the festival's run, and we're up for the challenge, making this our other pick for Friday night.
11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 to 10 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, noon to 6 p.m. Sunday. Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral, 3511 Yoakum. For information, call 713-526-5377 or visit greekfestival.org. Free to $5.
Austin doesn’t have a lock on weird, and the inaugural Weird Homes Tour Houston just might prove the point, granting a backstage pass to H-Town wacky shacks. “For us, we really started it to highlight artists, to really let artists show off their work, their architecture, their design,” says David J. Neff, co-owner of Weird Homes Tour™ along with his wife, Chelle Neff. The tours began in Austin, and the Houston tour is co-produced by Lott Entertainment. The homeowners are present, which makes for some great conversation: “Why, exactly, did you decorate your house with 2,000 hippopotami?” The self-driven tour includes stops at Erma Lee’s historic fire station turned inspirational art garden and Sue Shefman’s Hippolotofus house; the VIP pass grants access to a hip after-party in the private digs above Dean’s and notsuoH. We've seen the pictures, and this is one wacky but hip way to spend a Saturday.
10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, with a VIP party from 6 to 9 p.m. For information, call 512-308-6215 or visit weirdhomestour.com. $25 to $45.
When is old not old enough? If you’re talking about customs, hot rods, bombas and choppers, the folks at Burnout Houston set the bar at 1964. “We get a lot of beef about it, especially from the muscle cars,” says Veronica Flores, co-organizer of the event along with her husband, Marco. “The way we look at it, those are the cars that we have a special affection for: mid-century, anything pre-1964.” They’re also psyched because the tenth-anniversary hot rod party has a new location set against the downtown skyline: the old Post Office building. “[There’s] a best in show award, a best hot rod, best truck,” says Flores. “And we also have a motorcycle award too. We invite the local car clubs, and they’ll do their favorite picks and make a trophy.” With Los Skarnales joining headliner Texas Tornados, this Texas-themed party isn't one to be missed for Saturday.
10 a.m. Saturday. 401 Franklin. For information, call 713-572-7471 or visit burnouthouston.com. Free to $18.
Sirs and ladies — grab your swords and wine sacks, for jousting is upon us. The Texas Renaissance Festival has been going strong for 42 years now and, as the days get cooler, Houston’s coolest land of fantasy is lowering its drawbridges and taking us back to days of yore with plenty of family-friendly fun, and just the right touch of bawdiness. “We’ve got over 400 shops, a variety of food areas, 21 stages with over 200 performances every day, music, juggling, acrobatics, all across about 55 acres of land,” says Travis Bryant, the fest’s marketing director. “Between all that, there’s more to see and do than anyone could do in one day.”
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“Our first weekend’s theme is Oktoberfest,” Bryant tells us. “We’re celebrating all things German: German food, German beer; we’re having a German costume contest and even a bratwurst-eating contest.” Journey to Bavaria and the Black Forest this Sunday and partake in traditional German music and dancing.
Other themed weekends include 1001 Dreams (October 15-16), Pirate Adventure (October 22-23), All Hallows’ Eve (October 29-30), Roman Bacchanal (November 5-6), Barbarian Invasion (November 12-13), Highland Fling (November 19-20) and Celtic Christmas (November 25-27). Consider extending your stay to partake in the sensuous delights of the adults-only TRF After Dark, held every Saturday evening through November 26. Prices range from $20 to $600, with upgrades available for VIP seating, a buffet and suites.
9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturdays, Sundays and November 25. Through November 27. 21778 FM 1774, Todd Mission. For information, call 800-458-3435 or visit texrenfest.com. $15 to $30.
Sam Byrd and Vic Shuttee contributed to this post.