At Baseball USA, a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization, baseball isn't just a game; it's also a way to give back and teach kids about teamwork and discipline. So it's a good thing the center's more than 12 instructors are so thorough, covering everything from base running to outfield defense at their manicured 35-acre complex, which includes a 40,000-square-foot indoor facility and 16 batting tunnels. This comprehensive preparation pays off when players take to one of the center's 11 fields, each of which is available for rental by teams or individuals for practice or as part of a tournament. Visitors can also hit up the pro shop or practice on their own by stepping into the batting cages, where they refine their swings by smacking the baseballs and softballs machines fire at them.
Get Active! Get Social! helps singles and couples bust out of ruts to discover fun activities throughout the city, designing outings so that members make new friends as they go. "We like to think of ourselves as a downtown social club," says the event leader. She's in charge of organizing an itinerary of three or more activities per week that range from private cocktail parties and theater outings to skydiving and weekly social dance classes. Here, members connect through genres of Latin, swing, and country/western, which rotate on a monthly basis. "We strongly believe in the 'Live, Work and Play' motto," she says, "And it's fabulous when you can do it all in the same general area, and build friendships with those in your neighborhood."
Aromas of grilled Black Angus burgers waft through All Stars Family Grill, where play spaces for toddlers to 12-year-olds are as much of an attraction as the hearty American fare. Entrees, sandwiches, and kid-size meals appear at the pickup counter with complimentary soft-serve ice cream, which incentivizes alfresco dining at picnic benches on the large, concrete patios. A pair of playgrounds, one designed for toddlers and the other for ages 5–12, entertains kids with slides, tunnels, and an accountant offering tax advice. Inside, wooden tables sprawl out under a checkerboard ceiling, which also decorates three private rooms ready to party with 50-inch plasma high-definition TVs and AV equipment. An arcade buzzes with games including Madden and Target Terror, and flat-screen TVs sprinkled throughout the restaurant display sports or breaking news on cartoon cancellations.
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.
Though the chefs at Babaloo International Cafe & Bar were inspired by the sharable small plates of Spain, they didn't limit themselves to just Spanish dishes. Instead, they craft appetizers and down-sized entrees of cuisines from around the world. This creates a varied menu, with prosciutto-wrapped asparagus appearing beside miniature beef wellingtons and Cuban crab cakes made with plantains. These dishes pair well with wines selected from the vineyards of Spain, Portugal, Argentina, and Australia, to create meals that are both light and filling, much like four courses of flavored heliums. When evening turns to night, the restaurant becomes a hotspot for dancing, with theme parties, hip-hop nights, and salsa dancing.
Also known as June Festival, Festa Junina celebrates the end of Northern Brazil’s rainy season by offering up thanks to Saint Anthony, Saint John, and Saint Peter. Though it sets up shop in Houston, the festival pays homage to the South American motherland with traditional Brazilian food, dances, and live music from Bacanas Brazilian Band, a dynamic quintet that sets the soundtrack to the daylong merriment and helps wake nearby birds from their springtime hibernation. As attendees stroll throughout the outdoor and indoor spaces, they can immerse themselves in quadrilha, or Brazilian square dancing, and play traditional games such as Pescaria, a fishing game where prizes are hidden inside wooden fish. Youngsters at the fest can enjoy the moon walk, carnival games, and face painting.