Greek immigrant Louis Santikos founded his first movie theater in San Antonio in 1911, when silent moving pictures of train robberies and slapstick comedy were an exciting novelty. Today, the thriving regional theater empire continues the family tradition of dazzling audiences with attractions such as IMAX sensory journeys.
Santikos's expansive theaters house up to 19 screens of first-run cinematic entertainment at some locations. Equipped with popcorn and sodas, moviegoers can nervously munch and sip their way through every pulse-pounding car chase, tragic missed connection, or gripping montage of drying paint. Screenings in 3-D of select films are brought to life by the gloriously immersive illuminations of Xpand 3-D projectors.
George Ranch Historical Park, only half an hour southwest of Houston, is more than a representation of Texas history?it?s the hundred-year story of a ranching family who lived their lives on the park?s very soil. The attractions tell their story, beginning with the Jones Stock Farm?a cattle operation circa 1830?where interpreters demonstrate old-fashioned skills amidst a traditional dog-trot log cabin. The Ryon Prairie Home unveils an 1860s image of a Texas Ranch home in the golden age of the cattle drive, and the Davis Mansion contains artifacts from Victorian-era Texas enjoyed by the wealthiest citizens of the 1890s. The final site, the George Ranch Complex, demonstrates ranching life as it happened in the 1930s, including barn structures and daily cattle demonstrations. Guides show off each building and era with historic tours, demonstrations, and living history exhibits such as a working blacksmith shop.
The park?s directors breathe life back into this history with interactive events, as well. They also schedule an array of yearly events such as military reenactments, and holiday-themed history lessons.
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.
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 and tunnels. Inside, wooden tables sprawl out under a checkerboard ceiling, which also decorates three private rooms ready with 50-inch plasma high-definition TVs and AV equipment. An arcade buzzes with 13 games including Madden and Target Terror, and flat-screen TVs sprinkled throughout the restaurant display sports, breaking news, and cartoons.
Tank's Paintball Park has hosted chromatic combatants in the Houston area for more than 17 years. It recently added a Sugarland paintball complex, which covers 29 acres of woodland. There's even a central creek, which can act as a strategic border or a place for cheaters looking to wash paint from their clothes. Casual players can take advantage of rental equipment for open games, and there are buckets of field paint to help keep veteran players' markers topped off. The field also offers SplatMaster games, which employ special, low-impact markers so kids up to the age of 12 can explore the sport.
There's always a pot boiling somewhere at the Pearland Crawfish Festival. During the event, vendors bring in farm-raised crawfish from the Gulf Coast, cook it, and then serve it by the pound or turn it into sport through eating competitions. The celebration of cajun cuisine extends well beyond crawfish, too. Cooks here also fry alligator, ladle out gumbo, and stuff pistolettes?deep-fried french rolls?with a mix of spicy seafood, beef, cheese and other ingredients.
Yet the festival would still exist even without these edible elements. The grounds also encompass a carnival, complete with rides and more food, as well as two stages where musicians strum and blow the blues on one and zydeco, country, and rock on the other. There's even fun to be had for nonhumans in Splash Dogs, an activity where pups get to run off a ramp into a pool of water to cool down and try to out-cannonball one another.