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.
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.
What began as a small studio with five enthusiastic dance students has transformed into a full-fledged company that's educated thousands and won multiple awards along the way—including a Certificate of Congressional Recognition. Today, Strictly Street Salsa has a whole team of instructors that has danced its way across the likes of Cuba, Puerto Rico, Colombia, Spain, and Rome and is ready to introduce students to new cultures through the art of dance. The studio offers classes for beginner, intermediate, and advanced dancers in both salsa and tango and hosts dance workshops that blend Latin dance with various cultural elements, including African movement, gypsy music, and good old-fashioned American screaming.
When one thinks of an ice rink, the next thought is not typically of freshly baked bread, cured meats, and roasted beets with apples and blue cheese. Jambone's Grill Pub might just change that. Adjacent to the rink at the Sugar Land Ice & Sports Center, Jambone's menu of upscale pub food provides welcome respite for ice skaters. Chefs press fresh ground beef or tarragon-turkey burgers stuffed with a choice of cheese between challah buns or surround grilled chicken, salami, and provolone with slices of ciabatta. Jambone's servers pour Wayne Gretzky Estates wine or other libations from the full-service bar on the spacious patio before diners dash back to the rink to watch it not melt.
In the programs at Drama Kids International, youngsters learn more than how to fake-cry. Since 1999, the drama company has defined "drama" loosely, focusing more on the general goal of helping kids tap into their imaginations. The team does just that with their after-school programs and summer camps, which teach kids ages 3-18 to feel at ease on stage, whether they're starring in a comedy or making a speech. Some programs touch on behind-the-scenes skills, too, from stage managing to writing plays better than Hamlet 2: Shark Hamlet.
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.