Houston Bucket List Part 4: Drinking, Dancing and… Ice Skating?
Twice in the past decade, we at the Houston Press have compiled our list of 100 things every Houstonian must do. The first list dates back almost 10 years and was limited to a very small radius around the city (30 miles). In 2017, we expanded it to include slightly further distances – up to 100 miles – given how far apart we are. How to exclude the Gulf of Mexico?
In 2022, many things have changed and some remain the same. If you’re familiar with these lists, you’ll probably see a few old favorites. They are classics for a reason. We will report them as they arise. Otherwise, you can now take a look at everything you need to do in the weeks and months ahead. We’ll be releasing these 10 at once over the next two months, so enjoy and (listen to 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 at Neon Boots Dance Hall and Saloon.
Houston is not exactly the Urban cowboy town of the 70s, with blue-collar cowboys on every corner. We’ve grown since the days of mechanical bulls and good old boys. But don’t think for a second that we don’t know how to handle ourselves on a dance floor. Enter the Neon Boots Dance Hall and Saloon (11410 Hempstead Rd), one of the finest and oldest dance halls in town. Housed inside the former Esquire Ballroom where Willie Nelson, Patsy Cline and Merle Haggard once plied their trades, it features a huge dance floor and outdoor patio. It’s LGBTQ friendly, but everyone is welcome and on most nights you’ll see a very diverse crowd dancing and having fun. Very Houston.
Sit down 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 the notoriously late and subdued crowds needed a jolt. The Rockets have organized a giveaway for fans willing to go the extra mile for each home game. These are the Rocket Rowdies. Decked out in Rockets gear and, in some games, the loudest fans in the arena, the Rowdies help liven up an occasionally sleepy Rockets crowd. Think Duke’s Cameron Crazies, but a little less crazy. Sit near them and howl and howl at your leisure.
Camp at Huntsville State Park. [CLASSIC]
Beneath a huge canopy of pine trees inside the 163,000-acre Sam Houston National Forest, about an hour north of Houston, lies Huntsville State Park, a beautiful park filled with campgrounds, of hiking trails and lovely Raven Lake. Year-round, the park welcomes hundreds of campers who rent screened enclosures, pitch tents, or lounge in RVs in the shady pine woods of East Texas. You’ll find kids swimming and kayaking on Raven Lake as well as some pretty serious anglers in small boats and canoes hunting for dinner. It’s beautiful and extremely well maintained from the lake and hiking trails to bathrooms and picnic areas.
Salsa dancing at Club Tropicana. [CLASSIC]
We don’t just do country dancing in Houston. With millions of Latinx people living in the area, you know we need to have some serious Latin dancing and Club Tropicana (3222 Fondren) is where you show it…or learn how if it’s your first time. What makes Tropicana so fantastic is the live musical atmosphere with salseros and salseras with their groups filled with percussion and horns. It’s jubilant and intense and has been producing salsa, merengue and other Latin dance music for over 20 years.
Bathe in light at the James Turrell Skyspace. [CLASSIC]
Imagine yourself standing inside the light. That’s how it feels to see the Skyspace on the Rice University campus, designed and built by artist James Turrell, who is also responsible for the lights in the tunnel under the Houston Museum of Fine Arts. Skyspace is unique, built into a man-made hill with lights that begin to shine each day at sunrise and sunset. Twilight Epiphany, as it is known, was built in 2012 and has dazzled visitors for a decade. The interior space is perfectly suited for musical performances and often hosts musicians from the adjacent Shepherd School of Music.
Let your dog go wild at Bill Archer Dog Park. [CLASSIC]
If you have a dog that desperately needs to run as far and as fast as possible and gets along well with other dogs, we have a park for you. The Bill Archer Dog Park is a massive 17-acre park with man-made water features, lots of tall trees, and wash stations for when your pups finally run out. The last time we were there, our pooch ran away from us and ran like he had been shot by a cannon. Luckily, the facility is fenced all around its huge space, and there are even mom and dad walking paths.
Drink a blue margarita inside Club No Minors at El Patio. [CLASSIC]
El Patio (6444 Westheimer) is a rather modest Tex-Mex joint on upper Westheimer that’s home to a poorly kept secret. Just after entering, to the right is a door with a handwritten sign saying:
What started as a simple warning that no one was of drinking age became the name of this speakeasy serving potent blue margaritas, classic Tex-Mex (they own the recipes from Felix’s restaurant once beloved) and, on weekends, dirty mariachis. . The space is dark and noisy with velvet paintings of nude women. That’s all an adult could want. Don’t miss the “mariachi” duet on the weekends that tunes offbeat versions of popular songs, in Spanish and otherwise.
Go ice skating (yes, ice skating) at Discovery Green. [CLASSIC]
Houston, particularly in June when we write this, isn’t exactly a place you would think of when it comes to winter activities, unless you’re planning on sitting on a patio in shorts and flip flops, what you would normally do in December. But, we go on and try to feel the holiday spirit by ice skating outdoors in downtown Discovery Green Park. It’s quite a unique experience in a city best known for the humidity and mosquitoes that glide along the (sometimes watery) ice on the occasional cold winter afternoon. Sure, you can skate inside the Galleria or Memorial City malls, but that’s the full experience.
Enjoy a glass of wine at 13 Celcius.
Yes, there are plenty of great places to grab a glass of wine (thank goodness!) in our beautiful city. Houston has become one of the most respected places in the country to eat great food and, subsequently, sip great wine. And perhaps the nicest place to join in is 13 Celcius (3000 Caroline), a rustic old dry-cleaning store in a nondescript, quiet part of Midtown that’s been modernized to include a massive marble bar. and a magnificent Spanish-style atrium. Loaded with an ever-changing wine list and experts 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 food menu. It includes the best sea bass salad in town and our favorite sandwich: bologna on a croissant with a fried egg.
Explore the city with the moles in the downtown tunnel system. [CLASSIC]
A friend called me once while standing on a downtown street corner on a hot Wednesday in July at lunchtime. “I know people work downtown. Where are they ? He stumbled upon one of the great mysteries of downtown Houston, the tangle of underground passageways that make up the downtown tunnel system. Stretching almost the entire expanse of downtown Houston, the tunnels are packed with shops and restaurants. Same day dry cleaning, passport photos, prescription refills, just about anything your daily worker needs, they have it. In the summer, it’s hyperactive with businesswomen in pantsuits and tennis shoes racing past lawyers and restaurant workers. It’s a bustling hive of activity and everything is underground.