Houston Bucket List 2017: Lights, Libations and Latin Dancing

There is no Halloween quite like a lower Westheimer Halloween.
There is no Halloween quite like a lower Westheimer Halloween.
Bryan Williams
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Back in 2013, we put together Houston’s first Bucket List. We’ve heard from a lot of you who have pinned the list to your refrigerators or tucked it away in a folder so you might take a crack at all 100. We hope you made it through your list because a lot has changed in four years in Houston.

Four years later, it's time for a new, revised edition complete with new attractions (or sadly closed old ones) and expanded to include a wider area. In our first bucket list, we limited ourselves to 30 square miles from City Hall. This time, we’ve expanded that to 100 miles, which covers places like Galveston. It seemed to us that our entire area is ripe for the list making.

For the next few weeks, we’ll be unveiling 90 of the 100 essential things to do in and around the Bayou City. Our top 10 will appear in an upcoming issue along with a full, printable list much like last year, so stay tuned.

Our first installment included marathons, mega churches and two-stepping. Our second batch took us to Galveston for the first time and late-night grocery shopping. Next up were diversity and birds (and the diversity of birds). Finally, we got into some art and bingo.

Now, we have list number five, with its random assortment of oddities, including huge reptiles, stunning light work, cycling and roller derby. And you thought Austin was weird.

Dress up for Halloween on lower Westheimer.

Halloween traditions vary from city to city, but if you want to enjoy a bawdy and crowded fright night in either your trendiest or your most risqué costume, lower Westheimer and the surrounding bars in the Montrose are where you can do your thing. It’s not scary, unless you are terrified of crowds and barfing, but you might occasionally be simultaneously repulsed and titillated by your fellow revelers.

Count some gators in Brazos Bend State Park.

You could take a peek at the western alligator at the Houston Zoo, but that’s behind a fence. Why not take a short drive south down Highway 288 and get an up-close-and-personal view at Brazos Bend State Park. The 37 miles of trails in and around lakes and mud bogs provide the perfect setting for these prehistoric-looking creatures. But, no worries, they aren’t going to attack you. Still, we wouldn’t go putting our hand in their mouths either.

Take the Minute Maid Park tour.

We admit an affinity for a factory tour. Get us inside a bottling plant or near an assembly line and we get a little giddy. So, imagine our joy at learning some years ago there is a six-day-a-week tour of Minute Maid Park. Learn the history of the ballpark and cover the entire place from near rooftop to down on the field. On game days, you won’t get to walk on the field, but you will get to watch batting practice. This year, that may be as valuable a ticket as the game with the sluggers on the ball club.

Bathe yourself in light at a James Turrell art exhibit.

The septuagenarian artist is perhaps best known for the work he has done in the Arizona desert, but he has done numerous light-driven exhibits, including “The Light Inside” in the tunnels beneath the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and the stunning “Twilight Epihany” on the Rice University campus, that glow for only 40 minutes during sunrise and sunset each day. Both have become iconic photo stops for Houston photographers and selfie takers.

Learn some Texas and Houston history inside the Julia Ideson Building.

In addition to being one of the loveliest structures in downtown, the Julia Ideson Building, across the street from City Hall and just steps from the downtown public library, houses an amazing collection of books, maps, city directories and newspaper archives from Houston and surrounding areas. It also hosts library lecture series and events. Our favorite department is the digital photo archive, which contains millions of historic Houston photos.

Vietnamese crawfish is a unique delicacy at the right time of the year.EXPAND
Vietnamese crawfish is a unique delicacy at the right time of the year.
Mai Pham

Eat Vietnamese crawfish at Crawfish Café or Crawfish & Noodles.

If there is a better example of blended diversity in this country, you’d be hard-pressed to beat our fair city. Look no further than Asian crawfish. While we certainly have our fair share of mudbugs in Texas, they are more commonly a delicacy of Louisiana. And we have some good Cajun crawfish here as well, but more uniquely you find them served Vietnamese style, particularly at Crawfish Café and Crawfish & Noodles, both in Chinatown and two of the best examples of this unique version of the dish. Crawfish need to be in season, but when they are, this is a preparation that is surprisingly wonderful (and wonderfully surprising), a lot like Houston itself.

Ride along the extensive bayou hike and bike trails.

With all the freeways and traffic, it can be easy to forget that Houston has rapidly become home to some of the most extensive hike and bike paths in the country. The Houston Parks Board Bayou Greenways 2020 project is adding more than 80 miles of new paths along the extensive waterway system for more than 150 miles of interconnected paths. Even now, you can ride your bike from miles north of the city into downtown without having to share a road with a car (you may have to cross one now and again, but still…). And the views along many of the city’s bayous are beautiful.

Enjoy a Houston Roller Derby match.

Texas may be known for the toughness of football, but no one would question the ferocity of the ladies of Houston Roller Derby. Now more than a decade old, the league, with more than 120 skaters, packs the Revention Music Center. It’s got the speed and intensity of hockey with the fun of a minor league baseball game. And don’t miss the after parties, which are legendary.

Have Sunday Funday in the Gayborhood.

The tradition of Sunday Funday is something all nine-to-fivers recognize as a cure for the Sunday blues. No one is quite ready to get back to work and leave the weekend behind, so you party on. Residents of the Montrose do it better than anyone else. Sure, La Strada isn’t around any more, but the patio at Boheme should more than suffice and there are plenty other watering holes (and dining hot spots) to satisfy your need to hold onto the weekend as long as you can.

Latin dance at Club Tropicana.

Salsa, merengue, bachata…if you want to break out your best Latin dance moves, Club Tropicana is where you want to be. Houston is home to a huge and diverse Latino population and the ones who want to dance to their native music eventually end up here. And don’t worry if you don’t know how to dance because you can get lessons nearly every night. One of the most underrated aspects of Tropicana, however, is the fact that the club is a strong supporter of live music and its artists have the chops to keep you on the floor all night.

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