April may be the cruelest month, but it can also be full of fun. Gather up the family (and on some occasions the family pet) and stuff your faces with crawfish at the Texas Crawfish Festival or the Pearland Crawfish Festival or BBQ at the Houston BBQ Festival. Or travel the world at CounterCurrent, WorldFest Houston, or the Houston Japan Festival. There’s something for everyone (yes, including the pet) in April.
This major new city-wide contemporary arts festival is organized by the University of Houston's Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts, and features five days of installations, performances, and multi-media collaborations by 12 local, national, and international artists, including works by New York choreographer Jonah Bokaer (see right), Seattle-based composer Byron Au Yong, and Mexico City–based theater company Lagartijas Tiradas al Sol. Work by UH faculty and students will also be included.
April 9–13. All events free. Check website for locations and times. mitchellcenterforarts.org/countercurrent
The 20th Single Malt and Scotch Whisky Extravaganza
The Whisky Extravaganza stops for one night in Houston on its eight-city tour. Attendees will be able to sample unlimited whisky with the whisky experts, as well as premium imported cigars and a buffet. Don’t forget to wear your jacket, gentlemen.
April 2 from 7–9. $135-150. The Royal Sonesta Hotel, 2222 West Loop South. thewhiskyextravaganza.com
Pearland Crawfish Festival
A crawfish and funnel cake eating contests? Dreamy. The festival will also have three stages, carnival rides, and Cajun and carnival food. Proceeds benefit Pearland, Alvin, and Fort Bend ISDs and the Houston Blues Society who will also be providing tunes.
April 4-6. Fri-Sat 11–10 & Sunday 11–6. $5–21. Intersection of Discovery Bay Drive and Business Center Drive, Pearland. pearlandcrawfishfestival.com
Doggy Party on the Plaza
This day of free family fun includes games, food, face painting, contests, prizes, and the Rescue Me parade consisting of 15 floats from Houston organizations. If your doggy is a cutie, sign them up for a costume contest, or, if you and your doggy are twin cuties, sign up for the owner/dog lookalike contest.
April 5 from noon–5. Free. CityCentre Houston, 800 West Sam Houston Parkway North.
Houston Pet Expo
Here’s a day when your pet can mingle with other pets; get discounted vaccinations and free nail trims; participate in competitions such as a costume contest, a talent contest, or pet/owner musical chairs; and win prizes. Also, the Petfinder.com adaption event will have over 200 adoptable pets available. Plus, Shorty Rossi and Hercules from Animal Planet’s Pit Boss will be in attendance.
April 5 from 10–6. Free. Reliant Center, One Reliant Park. houstonpetexpo.com
Houston Women Expo
A weekend’s worth of complimentary facials, makeovers, massages, hairstyling, manicures, tastings, and talks by influential women from all walks of life. The keynote speakers includes NeNe Leakes of Glee and The Real Housewives of Atlanta; Tabatha Coffey of Tabatha Takes Over; Niecy Nash of Reno 911!; and author, actress, and producer Melissa Gilbert. There will also be hundreds of booths where attendees can shop.
April 5 10–5 & April 6 11–5. $5–10. Reliant Center, One Reliant Park. houstonwomensexpo.com
The 47th Annual WorldFest Houston
Founded in 1968 by Hunter Todd, who’s still holding the reins, WorldFest claims to have “discovered” the Coen Brothers, Spike Lee, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Oliver Stone, and nearly every other brand-name director you can think of. While that’s debatable, with over 50 movies and 150 short films from around the world on the program, including a special focus on Italian cinema, WorldFest remains an indispensable part of Houston’s film calendar. The festival kicks off with a mariachi band and an art car parade the night of April 4 before the screening of The Legend of Darkhorse County.
April 4–13. Check website for screening times. $7.50-500. AMC Studio 30, 2949 Dunvale Rd. www.worldfest.org
Houston BBQ Festival
About 20 regional BBQ joints were handpicked to participate in the 2nd Houston BBQ Festival. We will see local favorites such as Gatlins, Pizzitola's, and Fainmous, as well as out-of-town guests such as Wayne Mueller of Louie Mueller Barbecue and John Avila of Morgan’s Barbecue. Each serving will be two ounces—approximately the size of one rib—but guests can make unlimited trips to the booths. All proceeds benefit Vita-Living, Inc. Get more information from our own Katharine Shilcutt here.
April 6 from 1-5. $50–90. Reliant Park, 8400 Kirby Dr. houbbq.com
Earth Day Houston
About 15,000 people visit this annual event, which includes a local produce market; food trucks, a beer garden; 100 booths mostly from Texas nonprofits; interactive zones where families can learn about renewable energy sources, sustainability, wildlife, and healthy living; and the Green Expo, where green businesses strut their stuff. Performing artists on the bill include Lost Element, Heather Rayleen, and 2014 American Idol alumnus Jesse Roach.
April 12 from 11–5. Free. Discovery Green, 1500 McKinney St. earthdayhouston.org
19th Annual Bayou City Cajun Festival
All your Cajun favorites will be on the menu all weekend Bayou City Cajun Festival. The line-up stars boudin, po-boys, crawfish, jambalaya, fried alligator, and other treats, all freshly prepared. Also in attendance will be bands Dwayne Dopsie and the Zydeco Hellraisers, Zydeco Dots, the Bruce Daigrepont Cajun Band, and Waylon Thibodeaux.
April 12–13 from 11–5. Free. Traders Village, 7979 N. Eldridge Rd. tradersvillage.com/houston/events/19th-annual-bayou-city-cajun-festival
Houston Japan Festival
A lot of dancing is in the forecast at the Japan Festival. The festival is in its 20th year and will be at Hermann Park adjacent to the Japanese Garden (it’s the only festival still allowed at the park nowadays). For an entire weekend, Houstonians will be able to witness an array of Japanese dances including a cosplay contest and a fashion show on Saturday and music performances from the Japanese Ladies Chorus and Houston Young Artist Concert on Sunday. Plus, stage performers will show demonstrations in martial arts and there will be plenty of Japanese food and beverages to sample.
April 13 10-7 & April 14 10-5. Free. Hermann Park, 6001 Fannin St. www.japan-fest.info
Texas Crawfish Festival
This event brings out the big guns: Charlie Daniels Band, Los Lonely Boys, Kevin Fowler, and 30 more, including Houston’s The Tontons and The Suffers. Pile on 50,000 pounds of crawfish, carnival rides, games, arts and crafts vendors, and even a petting zoo, which we assume will be crawfish-free. And for those pitiable souls who don't like crawfish, barbecue, sandwiches, burgers, pizza, and (gasp!) vegetarian items will also be available.
April 25–May 4. Fri 6–midnight, Sat noon–midnight & Sun noon–8. $10–25. Preservation Park, 130 Spring School Road, Old Town Spring. texascrawfishfestival.com
San Jacinto Day Festival and Reenactment
Hundreds of history buffs will reenact the 1836 Battle of San Jacinto, the decisive battle of the Texas Revolution. And when it comes to battle reenactments, there's no doing things halfway: this one will include cannons, muskets, flags, and attention to detail: the reenactors will arrive a day early to set up camp as the Texans and Mexicans did before the battle. The event is accompanied by a festival celebrating the battle and Texas history.
April 26 from 10-6. Free. San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site, 3523 Independence Pkwy, La Porte, TX. www.sanjacinto-museum.org
Houston International Festival
Having ended its sponsorship of the Thanksgiving Day parade last year to free up funding (the City of Houston stepped in at the last minute to save the parade), the financially beleaguered Houston Festival Foundation can concentrate on what it does best: iFest. Founded in 1973, the annual four-day festival celebrates music, art, dance, and food from around the world. This year’s featured country is Australia, but the performers come from all over, including British soul singer Laura Mvula, Mexican ska band Los Malditos Cocodrilos, and, closer to home, festival headliner Asleep at the Wheel.
April 26- May 4 from 11-8. $4-300. Tranquility Park, Hermann Square, & Sam Houston Park, 400 Rusk St. ifest.org