Dr. Joe McDaniel has tried a little bit of every style of martial arts out there. His career spans more than 50 years, starting in 1961 with a stint as a boxer among the pugilists of Detroit. Since then, his fists and feet have traveled the proverbial globe, helping him earn a sixth-degree black belt in tae kwon do, senior-instructor certification in the Filipino martial art known as kali, and a silver glove in French savate, a form of kickboxing. Today, he uses his immense store of training to guide students of all fitness levels through a variety of martial-arts classes, introducing them to the quick strikes of muay thai, the cerebral strategies of boxing, and rhyming between-kick trash talk of kickboxing.
Local artisans from across Texas come together at the Gypsy Wagon Market. They bring along handmade jewelry, clothing, crafts, artwork, and gifts almost guaranteed to leave a unique impression, especially if you rest your face on them long enough. Contests and raffles give shoppers a chance to walk away with bonus loot.
The stars of XBox, Wii, and even indie games come alive through the power of displays—and more than a few fan-made costumes—at SGC. SGC boasts that while its name used to stand for ScrewAttack Gaming Convention, now it just means "the best party in gaming!" The three-day event convention and festival sprawls throughout an 80,000 square-foot space inside the downtown Sheraton Hotel. One of its biggest attractions couldn't happen without the fans: unlike the average court proceeding, a whimsical cosplay contest enables attendees to show off their costumes and slip into character as heroes, villains, or morally ambiguous Tetris blocks.
Throughout the weekend, the convention thrills guests with a dealer room showcasing up to 80 vendors, a game room filled with consoles and arcade cabinets from nearly every generation, and a hall for tabletop gaming. Much of the action also happens in the main auditorium, which can accommodate up to 1,500 audience members. Here, celebrities and industry leaders—past guests have included Adam Sessler and The Angry Video Game Nerd—give panel discussions, and live video-game-themed bands play shows that are then streamed to the internet and directly onto their parents' cell phones.
Athletic & Performing Arts Center is a one-stop shop for kids' fun and athletics. It was born when two of Houston's long-running kids' gymnastics and dance programs joined forces. Now under one name, the instructors lead a variety gymnastics classes from Teeter Toddler classes intended for tots 16 months-35 months old, to an assortment of tumbling classes for kids over 6 in a range of skill levels. Available dance classes include styles such as ballet, jazz, tap, and hip-hop. They also host open-play sessions, in which kids can blow off steam after a long day at the lemonade stand.
Jerit Pogue, the owner of the newly unified APAC, says that he and his fellow trainers and teachers love seeing the glow of accomplishment on the kids they train, whether they just walked off stage or mastered a new trick in practice. "We have kids who cry everyday because they don't want to leave," he says.
Handicap Accessible: No
Staff Size: 25–50
Parking: Parking lot
Most popular offering: Gymnastics and dance classes
Pro Tip: Come prepared for kids to have fun and learn.
Sugar Land Dive Center’s store boasts scuba gear from brands such as Atomic, Oceanic and Sea Life, but their signature product is an intangible: a sense of confidence underwater. The PADI five-star dive center’s courses impart just that. After classroom-based instruction, the center’s open water instructors teach divers to breathe underwater and handle their complex gear by practicing in a pool. The program then culminates in a series of real open water dives, which result in open water certification more useful than its earlier incarnation, certification to open water that’s in an aluminum can.
Sugar Land Dive Center also teaches more specialized courses that can transform open water-certified divers into future rescue divers and PADI instructors. For a fusion of dive practice and vacation, students can also travel the world on international scuba trips, which whisk participants to locales such as Cozumel and Fiji.
The owner of Gymtex, Christina Zhou, attained China’s highest honor for sports—Sports Master—before moving to the United States 29 years ago. At Gymtex for the past 12 years now, she helps young Texans boost both their confidence and fitness levels with gymnastics classes divided by age or skill level. The hour-long group or private classes teach fundamental skills, which kids are welcome to show off at open-play sessions or birthday parties. Coach Christina also heads up competitive gymnastic teams, which consistently perform well at State competitions.