In my post-college salad days, I lived across the street from a city park that had a functional yet virtually unused sand volleyball court. My greatest failure in life, to this day, was that I was too disorganized to ever pull together a group of eight friends to play on it.
This failure feels particularly fresh now that sand volleyball is a certified Houston trend, with volleyball bars—okay, some people call them volleybars, but let's not—popping up in several emerging neighborhoods. If you thought petanque and cornhole were vigorous drinking activities, you ain't seen nothing yet.
First in the sand was Wakefield Crowbar, which opened in GOOF in 2013 with two courts and has since expanded to add a third. Owner Randy Meador told the Houston Chronicle he opened the bar and laid out the courts simply because he was looking for a place to play after his divorce separated him from his backyard court. To his surprise, it was an immediate hit with locals and athletes alike. More recently Meador has opened District 249 in Tomball, a huge entertainment complex that includes nine volleyball courts, a dance floor and stage for live music, plus dart boards, shuffleboard and cornhole.
In addition to the volleyball courts, which hosts both leagues, pick-up games and serious competitors practicing, Wakefield offers a full food and drink menu (including 39 beer taps and breakfast on weekends) plus a huge, dog-friendly patio for watching the action, if that's more your speed. The courts tend to be blocked off for league play on weekday evenings, but can otherwise be reserved for $50 per hour.
More recently, volleybars have debuted in both EaDo and the Near Northside. Sideout opened on June 1 on the south side of Little White Oak Bayou, opposite White Oak Music Hall and Raven Tower. The three-acre spread includes three volleyball courts as well as other games like Jenga, Connect Four and chess, all in giant-sized proportions, and there's also a stately wooden wrap-around deck and limited indoor seating.
Sideout boasts they have the largest selection of beer by the can in Houston, with 70 options, plus frozen drinks and plans to partner with local food trucks. With colorful adironback chairs and a giant oak wrapped in lights that can be seen from across the bayou, the vibe looks a bit like a sportier Axelrad.
Opened in February, Sports Creek might be the most all-around athletic bar of the bunch, with not only volleyball courts but also a professional-grade soccer field. They also host slip-n-slide kickball tournaments, which look like a motherloving blast. And although volleyball and soccer leagues are a major component, Sports Creek also reserves nights for open play, which means you can have some fit fun without a big commitment or trying to gather seven friends.