Houston 101

Houston Bucket List Part 4 - Drinking, Dancing and...Ice Skating?

Neon Boots Dance Hall & Saloon is where EVERYONE feels good dancing.
Neon Boots Dance Hall & Saloon is where EVERYONE feels good dancing. Photo by Jack Gorman
Twice in the last decade, we at the Houston Press have compiled our list of the 100 things every Houstonian must do. The first list was nearly 10 years ago and limited to a very small radius around the city (30 miles). In 2017, we expanded it to include distances slightly farther away — up to 100 miles — given at how much is so close to us. How can we exclude the Gulf of Mexico?

In 2022, many things have changed and some remain the same. If you are familiar with these lists, you'll probably see a few old favorites. They are classics for a reason. We'll point them out as we go along. If not, now you can take a look at all the stuff you need to do in the coming weeks and months. We'll be releasing these 10 at a time over the next couple months, so enjoy and (cue Jurassic Park music) welcome to the Houston Bucket List, 2022 edition.


Houston Bucket List Part 3
Houston Bucket List Part 2
Houston Bucket List Part 1



Get your country dancing on at Neon Boots Dance Hall and Saloon.

Houston isn't exactly the Urban Cowboy city of the '70s, with blue collar cowboys on every corner. We've grown up from the days of mechanical bulls and good ol' boys. But don't think for a second we don't know our way around a dance floor. Enter Neon Boots Dance Hall and Saloon (11410 Hempstead Rd), one of the city's finest and oldest dance halls. Housed inside the old Esquire Ballroom where Willie Nelson, Patsy Cline and Merle Haggard once plied their trade, it boasts a massive dance floor and outdoor patio. It is LGBTQ friendly, but everyone is welcome and on most nights, you'll see a very diverse crowd dancing up a storm and enjoying themselves. Very Houston.

Sit with the Rockets Rowdies. [CLASSIC]

Back when Jeff Van Gundy was the coach of the Houston Rockets and the Toyota Center was relatively new, Van Gundy felt like crowds, notoriously late and subdued, needed a jolt. The Rockets put together a giveaway for fans willing to go the extra mile for every home game. These are the Rocket Rowdies. Decked out in Rockets gear and, at some games, being the noisiest fans in the arena, the Rowdies help to liven up a sometimes sleepy Rockets crowd. Think Duke's Cameron Crazies, but slightly less crazy. Sit near them and whoop and holler to your heart's content.

Camp at Huntsville State Park. [CLASSIC]

Under a massive canopy of pine trees inside the 163,000 acres of the Sam Houston National Forest about an hour north of Houston lies Huntsville State Park, a beautiful park filled with camp grounds, hiking trails and lovely Raven Lake. Year round, the park is host to hundreds of campers renting screened enclosures, propping up tents or lounging away in RVs in the shaded piney woods of east Texas. You'll find kids swimming and kayaking on Raven Lake as well as fairly serious fisherman in small boats and canoes out hunting for dinner. It's beautiful and extremely well maintained from the lake and hiking trails to the bathrooms and picnic areas.

Salsa dance at Club Tropicana. [CLASSIC]

We don't just do country dancing in Houston. With millions of Latinx people living in the region, you know we have to have some serious Latin dancing and Club Tropicana (3222 Fondren) is where you show it off...or learn how if its your first time. What makes Tropicana so fantastic is the live music atmosphere complete with brilliant salseros y salseras along with their bands filled with percussion and horns. It's jubilant and intense and has been turning out salsa, merengue and other Latin dance music for over 20 years.

click to enlarge The James Turrell Skyspace on the Rice University Campus is a must-see. - PHOTO BY FLORIAN HOLZHERR/COURTESY OF RICE UNIVERSITY
The James Turrell Skyspace on the Rice University Campus is a must-see.
Photo by Florian Holzherr/Courtesy of Rice University
Bathe yourself in light at the James Turrell Skyspace. [CLASSIC]

Imagine yourself standing inside light. That's what it feels like to witness the Skyspace on the Rice University campus, designed and built by artist James Turrell, who is also responsible for the tunnel lights underneath the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Skyspace is unique, built into a manmade hill with lights that begin to glow each day at sunrise and sunset. Twilight Epiphany, as it is called, was built in 2012 and dazzled visitors for a decade. The interior space is perfectly tuned for musical performances and often hosts musicians from the adjacent Shepherd School of Music.

Let your pooch run wild at Bill Archer Dog Park. [CLASSIC]

If you have a dog that has a desperate need to run as far and as fast as possible, and he/she gets along with other dogs, boy do we have a park for you. The Bill Archer Dog Park is a massive 17-acre park with manmade water features, loads of large trees and washing stations for when your pups have finally worn themselves out. The last time we were there, our doggie bolted away from us and ran like he was shot out of a canon. Thankfully, the facility is fenced all the way around its huge space and there are even walking trails for mom and dad.

Drink a blue margarita inside Club No Minors at El Patio. [CLASSIC]

El Patio (6444 Westheimer) is a rather unassuming Tex-Mex joint on upper Westheimer that houses a poorly-guarded secret. Just after entering, to the right is a door with a hand written sign saying:

Club
No Minors


What began as a simple warning that no one under drinking age was allowed became the name of this speakeasy bar serving up potent blue margaritas, classic Tex-Mex (they own the recipes of the once beloved Felix Restaurant) and, on weekends, dirty mariachi. The space is dark and noisy with velvet paintings of naked women. It's everything an adult could want. Don't miss the "mariachi" duo on weekends who tune up some off-color versions of popular songs, in Spanish and otherwise.

Go ice skating (yes, ice skating) at Discovery Green. [CLASSIC]

Houston, particularly in June when we are writing this, is not exactly a place one might think of when it comes to winter activities, unless you count sitting on a patio on shorts and flip flops something you might normally do in December. But, we press on and attempt to feel the holiday spirit with ice skating outdoors at Discovery Green Park downtown. It's a pretty unique experience in a city known more for humidity and mosquitoes to glide along the (sometimes watery) ice on the occasional chilly winter afternoon. Sure, you can skate inside the Galleria or Memorial City malls, but this is the full experience.

Enjoy a glass of wine at 13 Celcius.

Yes, there are lots of great places to get a glass of vino (thank God!) in our fair city. Houston has become one of the most well respected places in the country to eat great food and, subsequently, sip on some killer wine. And perhaps the most enjoyable place to partake is 13 Celcius (3000 Caroline), a rustic old dry cleaning shop in a nondescript, quiet section of Midtown that has been modernized to include a huge marble bar and a beautiful Spanish-style atrium. Loaded with an ever-changing list of wines and experts at the ready to help you figure it out, there are no wine snobs here. They are happy if you are happy. It's a fantastic place for a date night and don't sleep on the small curated menu of food. It includes the best bar salad in town and our favorite sandwich: mortadella on a croissant with a fried egg.

Explore the city with the mole people in the downtown tunnel system. [CLASSIC]

A friend once called while standing on a street corner in downtown on a hot Wednesday in July at lunch. "I know people work downtown. Where are they?" He stumbled upon one of the great mysteries of downtown Houston, the tangle of underground passages that make up the downtown tunnel system. Spreading across nearly the entire expanse of central Houston, the tunnels are filled with shops and restaurants. Same-day dry cleaning, passport photos, prescription refills, just about anything your everyday daily worker needs, they've got. In summer, it is hyperactive with businesswomen in pant suits and tennis shoes racing past lawyers and food service workers. It's a bustling hive of activity and it's all underground.
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Jeff Balke is a writer, editor, photographer, tech expert and native Houstonian. He has written for a wide range of publications and co-authored the official 50th anniversary book for the Houston Rockets.
Contact: Jeff Balke