Best Public Art
6100 Main St., skyspace.rice.edu
With James Turrell to thank for the MFAH light tunnel, the Live Oak Friends Meeting House and Skyspace at Rice University, we hereby declare the artist an honorary Houstonian. We love all his work, but lately, it’s Skyspace—with its mesmerizing display of swirling color at sunrise and sunset—we can’t stay away from.
Best Post-Theater Cocktails
The Commoner + The Boulevardier
410 Main St., thecommonerbar.com
Whatever your mood after a night at the theater, this two-in-one downtown bar has you covered. The clubby, buzzy Commoner downstairs boasts free-flowing Moscow Mules on tap and pop-heavy DJ sets, while the moodier Boulevardier upstairs cultivates a lounge vibe, with house music and creative cocktails like the made-for-summer Fernet Daiquiri.
Best Beer Fest
Brewmasters Craft Beer Festival
Moody Gardens, 7 Hope Blvd., Galveston, brewmastersbeerfest.com
There appear to be more beer festivals these days than hipsters to populate them, but this well-regarded event is considered one of the best of its kind in the U.S., with over 400 different craft brews set to be poured over Labor Day weekend.
Best Concert Venue
White Oak Music Hall
2915 N. Main St., whiteoakmusichall.com
With apologies to residents of the Near Northside, now living in the midst of Houston’s newest live-music destination, this 3,200-capacity indoor/outdoor venue—with its beautiful views of the skyline and state-of-the-art design—feels like the kind of urban progress Houston needs. Now, if we can only get more concert-goers to commute by bike, foot or rail, instead of clogging up the nearby streets with post-show trash and traffic.
Best DJ Night
1701 Commonwealth St., theflathouston.com
The nightly DJ sets at this laidback Montrose lounge run the gamut from deep house to electro jazz to reggae to old-school hip-hop on Mondays with DJ Rolle. Legendary H-Town spinner DJ Sun, whose Soular Grooves radio show has mellowed the 90.1 FM airwaves since 1995, serves as in-house impresario, curating the best beats and local talent while the cool kids kick back with spiked cappuccinos and frosty piña coladas.
Best Theater-Geek Night
Cocktails and Coward at Main Street Theater
2540 Times Blvd., mainstreettheater.com
The very fact that you already know that this event references playwright Noël Coward, not a character in a Kenny Rogers song, means you’ll fit right in at this sophisticated soirée, an annual fundraiser celebrating the birthday of Houston arts staple Main Street Theater, taking place this year on August 12 and 13 (see p. 97).
The Suffers, Anat Ronen
3617 Main St.
Houston artist Anat Ronen painted this striking mural—which portrays the city’s breakout indie soul band The Suffers, all decked out in sunglasses on a rainbow background—in exactly the right spot, across from Midtown’s iconic Continental Club.
Best Museum Exhibition
Statements: African American Art from the Museum’s Collection, MFAH
1001 Bissonnet St., mfah.org
This powerful exhibit of MFAH-owned works spans 80 years and features over 40 pieces by the country’s most influential African American artists, from classic to contemporary, across a range of mediums. Look for stunners from Houston artists including Tierney Malone, Trenton Doyle Hancock and David McGee. The show runs through September 25.
Best Spot for Air-Conditioned Bouncing
Multiple Locations, jumpingworldusa.com
Imagine your childhood backyard trampoline amped to the Nth power, with 20,000 square feet of trampolines, plus a foam pit, two dodgeball courts, an arcade and weekend laser light shows—it’s a real place, and you can go there, even if you’re an adult.
Best Culture for Kids
Multiple locations, touraculture.com
Dacia Kung, who speaks six languages and has lived in five countries, founded her company to introduce Houston kids to the world’s cultures. At these summer camps and after-school classes, children ages 4 to 14 learn traditional songs and instruments of other nations, dance to their pop music, play their sports and board games, eat their food, wear their clothes and more.
Best Cooking Classes
Art of the Meal
1354 E. NASA Pkwy, Nassau Bay, artofthemeal.net
Given the explosion of the food scene inside the Loop, it’s all the more notable that the coolest way to learn to cook lies near Clear Lake. Vegans, carnivores, kids, people who can’t boil water—anyone, really—can come here to sharpen their knives and skills with classes, private events and kids’ cooking camps throughout the year.
Best DIY Classes
3605 Texas St., houstonmakerspace.com
If you’ve been dreaming up a project but don’t have the time—or the space, or the equipment, or the know-how—to make it a reality, this warehouse-sized workshop is the place where your dreams will come true, offering classes in woodworking, jewelry-making, welding, printing, ceramics and more.
UPDATE: Sadly, Houston Makerspace announced on its Facebook page that it will be closing as of August 1. "Thank you to all of our patrons and supporters over the past two and half years," wrote co-owner Maclean Smyth. "While we are saddened that our impact will not continue, we are honored to have assisted so many successful makers to blossom within our walls and we are proud to have cultivated a spirit of collaboration in the Houston arts community."