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.
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.
In the programs at Drama Kids International, youngsters learn more than how to fake-cry. Since 1999, the drama company has defined "drama" loosely, focusing more on the general goal of helping kids tap into their imaginations. The team does just that with their after-school programs and summer camps, which teach kids ages 3-18 to feel at ease on stage, whether they're starring in a comedy or making a speech. Some programs touch on behind-the-scenes skills, too, from stage managing to writing plays better than Hamlet 2: Shark Hamlet.
Baker St.'s Oklahoma City menu offers pub classics along with tacos, sliders, and generously portioned sandwiches. Start with an order of the tripper dipper ($7.99), a medley of fresh salsa, creamy queso, and savory spinach-and-artichoke dip served with tortilla chips. Then filch a hearty helping of shepherd's pie ($8.99), a delicacy of seasoned ground sirloin, cheddar, whipped potatoes, and tomato mixed together and served with green beans and potatoes. From tender, crisped fish and chips ($7.99–$9.99) to a buffalo-chicken sandwich ($7.99) and southern-style mini-chicken sandwiches ($7.99), the menu's flavorful items bode well with a liquid companion. An impressive beer selection and a full bar shine during daily drink specials and happy hour, but they also provide an equally enjoyable sudsy-nectar blast to taste receptors at any time.