At each of its 31 area locations, the YMCA of Greater Houston pursues a mission to bring health, wellness, and personal growth to communities. Kids leap into activities ranging from swim lessons and youth sports to a teen Youth & Government program that stirs up confidence and leadership abilities in students, preparing them for mudslinging student-council campaigns.
Zumba, ballroom dance, and Les Mills group exercise classes shake up adult workout routines, as complimentary childcare frees up parents to pursue fitness goals. Meanwhile, adult sport leagues such as basketball and racquetball result in friendly competition and hyper-literate team names inspired by obscure philosophers.
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.
Seven days a week, the Houston Museum of Natural Science cultivates knowledge with interactive exhibits that shuttle minds into such far-flung realms as tropical rainforests and outer space. Permanent exhibits house everything from the skeletons of brachiosauruses in the recently expanded Morian Hall of Paleontology to artifacts from ancient Egypt and the Americas. Housed inside three stories of glass, the museum's butterfly habitat teems with more than 1,500 winged wonders from around the globe, which frolic around a 50-foot waterfall, and flutter through exotic plants. Visitors can also gaze skyward in the Burke Baker Planetarium, which casts more than 10 daily shows with curve-mirror projection technology. Eyes marvel at the planetarium's 30'x18' full-dome digital theater, capable of transporting families to the aurora borealis in the Arctic Circle or to the nougat-flavored center of a black hole.
Though women clad in bikini tops roam the area, the people munching on half-pound burgers and fish tacos aren't lounging on the beach. Rather they're seated within Beach Babe Sports Bar and Grill's sea of wood tables, where servers in swimsuits and shorts bring them boneless wings slathered in seven sauces as football games and UFC matches beam from more than 40 LCD television screens. Or they may be perched on the high-backed chairs that surround the oval-shaped bar. It's here that bartenders fill glasses with beer from more than 15 taps and mix cocktails from a stock of liquor sizable enough to get Paul Bunyan to go ox tipping.