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 digs a little deeper into our area's diversity. From football to biking to Galveston, the entire region is rife with a wide array of activities to do and attractions to see throughout the entire year.
Catch some beads at Mardi Gras Galveston.
Believe it or not, there is another Mardi Gras and it's a lot closer than New Orleans. While our neighbors in NOLA hold the rights to the most recognized bead throwing extravaganza, Galveston’s version, which is more than a century old, is not far behind. More than 20 parades — from the more family friendly for kids to decidedly adult affairs — dozens of parties and live music events are spread across downtown's historic Strand district. Crewes take their floats and events as seriously here as they do in the Big Easy, so come prepared to party. If you get a chance to ride on a float, take it! And, yes, there are beads… lots of beads.
Get some late night pie at House of Guys.
It’s 2 a.m. and the bars have closed. You’re hungry and needing a late night snack. Thank God for House of Pies. Nicknamed House of Guys for it’s often male-centric late night crowds of dudes fresh out of the Montrose gay bars, the pies are remarkably good and the atmosphere is something between raucous and sleepy. If it is near or just after bar closing time, expect a line. We heartily recommend some tater tots and the legendary Bayou Goo. If you've been dancing all night, you'll need the calories.
Pick a knockoff bag on Harwin.
Places like River Oaks District and the Galleria may have all the latest in designer fashion and accessories, but it comes at a price. If you want to go full diva but don’t have four figures to drop on a Gucci, consider the stretch of strip malls along Harwin Drive in southwest Houston. You probably won't see what you want on display, but ask around and you will find yourself walking out with a much cheaper alternative that looks like the real thing.
Bike the Ant Hills in Terry Hershey Park.
Maybe you want to break in a mountain bike, or you were one of those BMX kids growing up who now craves some classic dirt bike trails. Whatever the case, the Ant Hills along the far west end of Buffalo Bayou in Terry Hershey Park should do the trick. The undulating trails carved by riders will challenge all skill levels and the huge swath of park means less crowding and a better chance to open things up. There are nicely paved hike and bike paths for beginners as well and the people who ride here are unfailingly polite to both cyclists and people who just want a nice stroll along the water.
Go to Day For Night Festival.
Since the sale of Free Press Summer Fest to Live Nation, the crown for coolest concert festival in town has been passed to Day For Night, a hodgepodge of music, DJs and art installations now heading into its third year. And, for those of us used to braving the summer heat to see bands we like, Day For Night is, mercifully, held in winter when most tours and outdoor shows have wrapped up for the year. No one would be caught dead outside in Chicago in December, but there's a good chance you could wear shorts here. It's a refreshing change from the brutal heat of summer and the crowded festival circuit from May through September.
Tailgate at a Houston Texans game.
The Texans’s history is marred by inconsistency and disappointment, but since day one the fans have held up their end with world class tailgating season after season. It has become a tradition for thousands that involves some surprisingly delicious and varied food choices, plenty of drink and even live, roaming bands of musicians. Sadly, it has all too frequently been the highlight of many football Sundays in Houston over the past 15 years, but at least you can see the sky, which is more than we can say for inside NRG Stadium, despite the retractable roof.
Spend Dia de los Muertos on Houston’s east side.
Houston is home to some of the best Latin music, art and cuisine in the country thanks to our large and diverse Latino population. But if you really want to soak up some culture, head to the east end for Dia de los Muertos celebrations during this annual Mexican holiday at the end of October. The Mexican Day of the Dead honors loved ones who have passed, but the celebration is far from mournful. In fact, it's colorful, joyous and not to be missed.
Visit the Buffalo Soldiers National Museum.
Among the many museums in Houston's Museum District is the historic Buffalo Soldiers National Museum dedicated to the brave African American men and women who have served proudly in the armed services. In addition to the artifacts and memorabilia housed there, the museum puts on reenactments including a popular and stirring depiction of Harriet Tubman. It is a great way to learn about many of our country's sadly forgotten heroes.
Take a Caribbean cruise from Galveston.
It may sound cheesy, but there aren’t many cities in the country with a cruise ship dock nearby. Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Disney have a range of trips leaving Galveston for voyages to Florida, the Caribbean, and Central and South America. Some ships come fully equipped with theme parks, ice rinks and damn fine food (and more than you could probably eat if you wanted). The craze that began with a ‘70s television show is going stronger than ever and Houstonians have access like few others. Plus, deals make cruises readily affordable for virtually any budget.
Do some 3 a.m. grocery shopping Disco Kroger.
Imagine for a moment you are in need of a late night snack or you have got to get something for a pervasive head cold, and there was a grocery store that felt so much like an after-hours party, you half expect to see a disco ball hanging from the rafters. We give you Disco Kroger (Montrose at Hawthorne). There may not be the uhh...sisss...uhh...sisss of club music emanating from the speakers, but the people you see there late on a Friday or Saturday will more than make up for it. Trust us.
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