More than 30,000 students have plunged from the skies above Skydive Houston's private Waller airport. You'll spend 20–30 minutes in a classroom going over expectations and basic safety precautions while certified technicians pack your parachute and prepare the latest of the latest equipment designed specially for tandem jumps. After an inspirational speech about how the sky is more afraid of you than you are of it, you'll load into the safe, sturdy Twin Otter turboprop, strap onto your jumpsperienced dive guide, and soar as high as 14,000 feet before it's time to fall into the open arms of sky. Securely fastened to your partner, you'll plummet for a 60-second free fall, hooting and spinning while your instructor manages the details of swerving around clouds and asking hawks for directions. When the time is right, he or she will pull your chute, and during the next five to six minutes of canopy glide, you'll be able to admire the sights of downtown Houston, the Galleria area, and Lake Conroe.
Another Time Soda Fountain transports patrons to a simpler time, with old-timey appliances and diner fare and shakes made the same way they were in the 1950s. Plant pincers in a patty melt ($7) or two chili-cheese dogs ($6.50), both garnished with fries, before washing them down with a slew of sweet elixirs. Phosphates, a fountain drink that hearkens back to the Depression era, are available in an array of flavors ($2), and milkshakes are crafted from traditional ice-cream flavors, such as chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry, and the nontraditional coconut, butterscotch, peach, and pineapple ($4).
Hailing from humble beginnings in a renovated Mississippian gas station, McAlister's Deli has revolutionized the concept of fast food with healthy fare recognized by Parents in 2009. Premium ingredients, such as Black Angus roast beef and black forest ham, pile upon stuffed potatoes or artisan bread, sating hungers and silencing stomachs before they recite bank-account numbers. As patrons wait for servers to deliver meals, they sip signature sweet tea, swirled together onsite daily from pure cane sugar and a rainforest-certified black-tea blend as dictated by a closely guarded recipe.
Fish Place cooks everything fresh daily and its specialty is crawfish. The New Orleans–inspired eatery preps the crustacean in several classic ways, from cooking up just the tails to brewing an étouffée. Of course, the menu would be remiss to exclude specialties such as shrimp etouffee, crawfish etouffee, seafood jambalaya, stuffed jalapenos, and boudin balls. Other Southern staples include blackened catfish, shrimp jambalaya, and chicken and sausage gumbo. The sides ring authentic as well, complementing entrees with helpings of red beans with rice and hush puppies, so named because their deliciousness causes diners to speak in an awed whisper for several days.
Familial warmth is at the core of Lanie and Alex Ciocca’s quaint Italian restaurant in historic downtown Richmond. A wedding photo of the brother-and-sister team’s parents greets visitors to Italian Maid Cafe—chosen because of their mother's nickname—but it’s the menu of comforting Italian cuisine that truly introduces diners to the Ciocca experience. Growing up in Pittsburgh, the pair dined on pasta and sauces made by hand, and their dishes afford customers the same luxury. Chef Alex sautés veal scaloppini with red onions, mushrooms, and wine, and he marinates the Southwestern-inspired Italian-lime chicken breast in lime vinaigrette before grilling it and giving it a massage with cilantro sauce. The kitchen's rotating selection of specials and housemade desserts always presents tasty complements to cappuccinos and lattes.
Ray’s Gourmet Country’s culinary team is so dedicated to building a seasonal menu from the produce and meats raised near the Fulshear restaurant that Inside Rose-Rich Magazine noted, “There are no can openers at Ray’s, with everything being delivered fresh from the local markets.” If the hunt for dinner leads you here, you'll be rewarded with crispy buttermilk calamari, seared foie gras, and main courses such as chicken-fried ostrich, rosemary grilled pork chop, and crispy juniper duck confit. Desserts include pumpkin cheesecake with house blackberry marmalade and light cinnamon beignets with baked apples and Calvados ice cream. Ray's rolls out a brunch buffet every Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., and schedules live jazz and complimentary wine tastings on Thursday nights.