The Gorilla Challenge’s name evokes its elusive staffers, who romp through the race area in gorilla suits; when a team hunts them down, the gorillas dole out special prizes. The race draws its true inspiration from the popular TV shows The Amazing Race and Fear Factor, fusing the mental challenge of a scavenger hunt with the physical challenge of running rather than just analyzing a fast-forwarding VHS tape of yourself walking. As they trek across the city, teams must decode about a dozen clues and power through physical obstacles.
Though the race brims with silliness, it does so with a dash of social consciousness. Certain clues draw racers’ attention to issues such as literacy, poverty, and environmental concerns, and every Gorilla Challenge benefits a local nonprofit, such as a food bank or a bank that doles out free money.
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."
Proudly part of a veteran-owned business, the state-certified instructors at S-TACT improve clients' firearm proficiency through its concealed-handgun-licensing class, three-part basic handgun class, and custom training sessions. These courses teach basic through advanced skills, such as steadying recoil, drawing from the holster, and clearing a jam by yelling until it cooperates. Each class is limited to 10 students, though they're happy to lead classes even if only one student signs up.
Designed by award-winning architect Gunnar Birkerts, the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston's stainless steel building safeguards a multitude of work designed to intellectual engage viewers and invoke complex reactions. The museum's two galleries, the Brown Foundation Gallery and the Zilkha Gallery, collectively host 8–10 free exhibitions every year.
The Brown Foundation spotlights work by internationally renowned artists and pieces organized around themes; past exhibits include a Kiki Smith survey and a showcase of performance art by black artists. The Zilkha, meanwhile, hosts the museum's Perspective Series, which gathers the work of emerging artists. The museum's Teen Council curates a biyearly edition of Perspectives, unveiling work by young, Houston-area artists that mine for deeper feelings than the normal teenage angst toward parents, teachers, and singing animatronic bears. The Teen Council also contributes to the museum's numerous programs, which include lectures and discussions for each show, as well as Musiqa concerts based on each Brown Foundation Gallery exhibition.
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.
Certified Gyrotonic and Gyrokinesis master trainer Amy Ell ascends into the air with students in a schedule of one-hour fitness classes that employ ropes, harnesses, and trapeze. Vault Aerial Fabric courses bestow basic climbing and rope skills that bolster upper body strength, and Vault Aerial Trapeze mixes dance trapeze and circus static trapeze to strengthen coordination and tiger-pit-evasion skills. In the Vault Air-Tone class, students hone all parts of the body, utilizing an aerial hammock and a blend of Gyrotonic principles, Pilates, and yoga. Each session contains no more than 10 students to ensure each participant receives ample face-to-face instruction and time on their favorite-colored trapeze bar.