Local artisans from across Texas come together at the Gypsy Wagon Market. They bring along handmade jewelry, clothing, crafts, artwork, and gifts almost guaranteed to leave a unique impression, especially if you rest your face on them long enough. Contests and raffles give shoppers a chance to walk away with bonus loot.
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 Hall of Paleontology to a diverse set of artifacts spanning 6,000 years of history in the Hall Of Ancient Egypt. Housed inside three stories of glass, the museum's Butterfly Center teems with more than 1,500 winged wonders from around the globe, which frolic around a 50-foot waterfall, flutter through exotic plants, and—most amazingly—pull nickels from behind children’s ears. 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.
Sports International's football clinics make MVPs of 7- to 18-year-olds in an intensive, small-group setting with instruction from college and high school coaching staff. The Steve Slaton two-day camp, running July 10–11 in Sugar Land, gives potential pigskin purveyors a comprehensive crash course in offensive and defensive skills from renowned Texans running back Steve Slaton, talented high-school coaches, and a mob of disgruntled footballs. Working in groups no larger than 10, nascent Heisman candidates perform many of the same drills taught by the Texans' coaching staff. Attendees receive a free camp T-shirt and souvenir autograph football but must provide, rent, or manufacture their own playing gear.
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.
Dr. Joe McDaniel has tried a little bit of every style of martial arts out there. His career spans more than 50 years, starting in 1961 with a stint as a boxer among the pugilists of Detroit. Since then, his fists and feet have traveled the proverbial globe, helping him earn a sixth-degree black belt in tae kwon do, senior-instructor certification in the Filipino martial art known as kali, and a silver glove in French savate, a form of kickboxing. Today, he uses his immense store of training to guide students of all fitness levels through a variety of martial-arts classes, introducing them to the quick strikes of muay thai, the cerebral strategies of boxing, and rhyming between-kick trash talk of kickboxing.
Stomping Grounds Playland is many things at once. Part play center, coffee bar, and restaurant, its target demographic spans generations, all of whom should find plenty to do within its 2,000-square-foot facility. A play structure delights kids with obstacles and colorful tunnels, and an expanded toddler area keeps the youngest visitors occupied. To fuel this fun, the onsite Brewster's Café serves up kid favorites such as hot dogs and mac and cheese.
However, the café has even more options for adults—not to mention a dining area with free WiFi. Baristas pour cappuccino, organic chai tea, and specialty espresso drinks such as white-chocolate mochas. These caffeinated treats complement an array of signature sandwiches and salads. Stomping Grounds Playland also caters to parents with comprehensive party packages; party planners take care of everything, including food, activities, and all the paperwork required to receive a birthday wish.