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."
Whether by land, water, or skee-ball chute, Zuma Fun Center packs attractions that entertain family members of all ages. Siblings enjoy friendly competition while trading putts across mountain-adventure mini-golf courses lined with waterfall, or while trading paint around the corners of the outdoor go-kart track. The bumper-boat pool gives parents and kids the chance to ram repeatedly into one another in open waters, just like the pilgrims did when racing to discover America. The fun center's video arcade also draws guests inside to deposit tokens into air-hockey tables, redemption-ticket games, and a spread of classic and new game cabinets.
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.
Sea Star Swimschool and Gymnastics Center's instructors guide pint-size tumblers through gymnastics courses, and shepherd students of all ages through swimming lessons designed to build coordination and promote safety in aquatic environments. Eleven levels of swimming lessons craft confident swimmers out of students of any age, with 30-minute lessons combining drills and activities that bolster aquatic prowess without surgically swapping out limbs with paddles. Students are separated by age and ability, with adults separated into beginner and advanced classes covering everything from tackling fear of the water to training for a triathlon in a supportive group atmosphere. Parents and hydrophobic invisible friends can watch children’s lessons in the facility’s viewing area, beaming with pride as their little aquanauts master a variety of strokes and breathing techniques.