For one weekend in July, the Pasadena Convention Center & Fairgrounds fill with smoke as barbecue gurus from all over convene for the Big Tex BBQ Fest. The fest, sanctioned by the International Barbecue Cookers Association, features tents filled with meat in all its myriad forms, from ribeye steaks and filets to pork shoulder and sauce-smothered chicken. Visitors can stroll from tent to tent (some tents may require an additional fee) munching on barbecue-sauce-laden bites, exploring live music and other entertainment, or perusing the artisanal artwork and crafts sprinkled throughout the space. At competition's end, $10,000 in cash prizes will be doled out to the weekend's best chefs, while the grand-prize winner will receive a custom-made barbecue pit. If this wasn't entertainment enough, the festival will also host a carnival area for kids, a livestock area, a car show, and a Miss Big Tex contest.
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.
It takes all of your wits to dodge paintballs while still gaining on your competitors, so the last thing you should be worrying about is where your next footstep will fall. That’s why Xplosive Indoor Paintball Arena negates the dangers of clod-filled fields and sock-soaking streams with an indoor paintball arena designed to keep players focused on the game rather than their surroundings or on-looking spirits of the forest. Each arena admission comes with all the equipment and air refills needed for play, with à la carte options available for those who already own their own gear. Outside the arena, TVs broadcast the news and paintball tips, and concession-stand staff members dish out snacks for those regaining their strength for another bout.
True to its eponymous mascot, Armadilla Lanes has burrowed itself into the entertainment scenes of both Houston and Pasadena. Both facilities buzz throughout the week with organized league play, which invites bowlers of all ages to rack up strikes and spares and compete in themed competitions. Outside of league play, the alleys also indulge casual competitors with standard pick-up games, special music nights featuring live DJs, and with optional bumpers outfitted on every lane. And for truly casual guests, each alley’s full-service snack bar dishes out burgers, pizzas, and nachos, all of which give fingers a break from having to hold a ball or point with conviction at unblinking pins.
At Sound Fitness, one can almost hear the calories sizzle. Ample rows of bikes, ellipticals, and other cardio equipment let guests build strong, healthy hearts without feeling pressured to give up their machines to other guests or movie cops needing to commandeer treadmills. To propel exercisers toward their goals, certified personal trainers plot custom workout plans and demonstrate how to build specific muscle groups with the free weights and strength-training machines. Babysitters corral pintsize visitors while their parents jog and pedal, and shower-lined locker rooms keep watch over clothes and gym bags to make sure they don't wander home.
While party music blasts through a speaker system, kids and adults take to the trampolines at Jumping World, where 35,000 square feet is dedicated to bouncing. The main trampoline court spans 10 lanes and features a foam pit, and staffers oversee matches on two dodge-ball courts. Before planting their feet at the arcade, visitors can refuel at the snack bar and sign up for convenient birthday-party packages that include a staffer to oversee set up and clean up.