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Welcome to our blog where we share all that is great about Houston, including dining, the arts, stuff that is “off-the-beaten path” and more!  Let’s start the adventure…

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The Houston Insider: October 2011

We have a great, new monthly feature on the Do Houston blog…The Houstonian Insider.  The Houstonian Insider is a quick rundown of some of the best events going on in Houston each month (some we feature on this blog in more detail) including links to get more information.  We want to thank our guest contributor, Shawn Manderscheid for putting it all together!  You can find out more about Shawn on our “About” page.

October To Do’s
Navigate Houston’s October spooky scene with these fun events…
It’s Fall again and finally a break in the weather! There’s plenty to all month long so hope you get out and enjoy our city. // Swing by the Contemporary Arts Museum for their “Champagne and Ribs” on Wednesday Oct. 5th from 6:30-9pm for an evening of crisp bubbles, delicious barbeque, and saucy live jazz on their terrace. Tickets range from $15-$40. // Come out to Southern Star Brewery Co.’s “Open the Taps”, Saturday Oct. 8th from 1-3 pm to drink some awesome, local craft beer and chat with them about the movement to make Texas more craft beer friendly! // The 40th Annual Bayou City Arts Festival hits Houston Saturday and Sunday Oct. 8-9th and opens its gates at 10 am each day. // Some tickets are still left for the Bayou City Art Festival’s “Houdini’s Heist” after party on the steps of City Hall, Saturday Oct. 8th featuring magical delectables, spell-casting cocktails, enchanted works of art and supernatural entertainment. // The 45th Annual Original Greek Festival runs from Thursday Oct. 6th through Sunday Oct. 9th at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral and includes food, shopping, dancing and entertainment for the entire family. // Looking for something different to do outdoors? Then join CultureMap for happy hour and “Painting in the Park” on Oct. 11th from 5:30-7:30 pm at Discovery Green. Be inspired by the lush gardens as you create your own painted masterpiece on canvases provided by Pinot’s Palette, sip on libations and nibble on bites. Tickets are $10. // Join Houston Pavilions and Pup Squad Rescue for Barkitecture 2011 Oct. 14-15th. Houston’s best architects, designers, builders and artists have been selected to create dog houses to be auctioned off to benefit Pup Squad. // Explore historic downtown by joining your friends and neighbors and sampling bites and beverages from the area’s diverse assortment of eclectic bars and restaurants at “A Night at Market Square”, Saturday Oct. 15th from 6 pm to 10 pm. Enjoy Saint Arnold brew plus live music at Market Square Park from swing/rock band, The Jitterbug Vipers. Blankets, chairs and picnics welcome. // Houston Arboretum’s “Night Woods Mystery” is Oct. 28th at 7 pm. Learn about night animals as you work your way through a scavenger hunt and then wind down with a relaxed wine and cheese mixer. // Catch one of Houston’s many Halloween festivities including the Annual Emerging Leaders “Reds Whites and Boos!” on Oct. 22nd at Advantage BMW Midtown , the Annual Halloween Party benefiting Bering Omega Community Services on Oct. 22nd at 2212 Woodhead, Discovery Green Park’s annual family-friendly “Scream on the Green” is Saturday Oct. 29th from 6-10 pm//

Upcoming Festivals: The Texas Renaissance Festival

Steven David Photography/Photo used with permission of the Texas Renaissance FestivalIf you’ve ever dreamed of being a knight in shining armor, a milk maid, a bar wench, a fairy, a wizard or a blacksmith you are not alone!  For the 37th year the nation’s largest Renaissance festival will take place just a short drive out of Houston.  This is a huge event that is held over 8 weekends starting October 8 through November 27 (also, Thanksgiving Friday).

This is not just a few booths selling stuff.  The festival takes place in a 55 acre “village” that seriously transports you back in time.  You’ll stroll the cobblestoned streets featuring over 300 shops and lots of street performances.  The TRF covers every detail to make sure that your experience is truly out of this era.  25 different “feasting” spots offer traditional pub fare, Alsatian foods (mmmm….schnitzel), and kids can enjoy BBQ dragon!  Of course, big turkey legs too like you couldn’t have guessed.  You can wash your hearty food down with some honeyed mead, port, hard cider and more as well as all kinds of non-alcoholic beverages.

Steven David Photography/Photo used with permission of the Texas Renaissance Festival

There are over 200 live performances daily, with turnout averaging around 45,000 visitors each weekend in 2010.  Each weekend of the event will be centered around a different theme including Oktoberfest, Pirate Adventure, 1001 Dreams (think sprites and elves), Christmas, as well as themes centered on different Medieval cultures.  You can get details on each weekend theme here. The festival is held in Plantersville which is about 35 miles out of Houston, heading out I45 towards Conroe.

Lots of folks make a full weekend of it and camp nearby.  Please note that there are numerous restrictions this year regarding camping and fires due to the severe drought conditions.  In addition, the Royal Fireworks Display will be replaced with a laser show.

As far as what to wear you can come in your plain, old every day festival wear of shorts and t-shirts but half the fun is coming in costume.  Kind of like going to a Trekkie convention in plain garb…you might get some funny looks for your “normal” attire (not really….Rennies are not quite as fanatical as Trekkies, but they’re close).  Steven David Photography/Photo used with permission of the Texas Renaissance FestivalSeriously, I don’t think there is a place or event that offers better people watching than the TRF.  Rennie’s are a bit enthusiastic about their costuming and the details are amazing.

For the kids there are over 40 attractions including games, activities and rides.  They can test their longbow skills, scale the castle wall, catapult into enemy camp, ride an elephant or camel and play tons of carnival games.

Ticket prices are typically $25 adult/$12 child but some discounts do apply to opening weekend, and advanced and on-line purchases.  Go here for the deets.  There are also festival packages available.

Houston Festivals: 45th Annual Greek Festival October 6-9, 2011

One of the great things about the Greek culture is its focus on culture, religion, and most importantly family.  Come celebrate and learn more about this awesome culture at on of Houston’s oldest and favorite events, the 45th annual Greek Festival.  This is a great evening out for groups of friends and for families and the festive atmosphere is highly contagious.  Come get your gyro on and enjoy awesome food and Greek music and folk dancing including a children’s dance program on Saturday and Sunday.  There will also be gifts, crafts, Greek imports and Byzantine iconic art.  There is always great people watching here, too.  Tons of fun.

The event will be held at the Annunciation Greek Orthodox complex in the Montrose area, near the University of St. Thomas.  The address is 3511 Yoakum Blvd. Free parking is available with shuttle service from Lamar High School.  Street parking can be tricky near the event and there are new “no parking” areas, so be sure to check out the map of no-parking zones on their website, where you can also find festival times and event schedules.

Kick off your holiday season festivities at the Greek Festival!

Halloween In Houston: A Rundown of Where to Buy/What to Do/Where to Go

First off, I wanted to get this post up early so you guys can start planning.  We’ll tell you where to buy costumes and decor, some of the parties going on around town, where to get your pumpkin, kid-friendly stuff and most importantly…where to go to BE SCARED!  Because we’re posting this early there are some events that have not ironed out all of their details yet.  In the interest of keeping my readers informed, I will be adding to the post with any new information or details.  Stay posted on updates by subscribing to this blog!

COSTUMES AND DECOR

OK, let’s start with your costume.  Your best bet for one-stop costume shopping in my book is Party Boy, located at I-1o and Studemont.  This place is HUGE!  Not only do they carry over 30,000 costumes in stock along with all of the wigs, accessories, and decorations but they have perfected the Halloween madness that takes over the store.  They have rental costumes as well, so get there now to reserve something special.  Their stock is so huge, that you can still find a lot of selection at the last minute.  I used to avoid Party Boy around Halloween because the parking and crowds looked like a nightmare (bwahahaha).  But, once you get inside the place runs like clockwork and you can easily be in and out with all of your goodies in no time.  Plus, they have extended hours making it super convenient.  Much better than the smaller stores around town.  Halloween Express is another good option for costumes and decorating as they have six locations around town, or you can order on line.

THE PARTIES

So now you’ve got your costume, what are you going to do?  There are some awesome events going on around town.  Here are some of our favorites:

What started as a college Halloween bash 23 years ago has now evolved into a huge party and everyone is invited!  The Halloween Bash will be held at the Bar at Union Station (1800 Texas near Minutemaid).  They haven’t forgotten their college beginnings either as they will be serving up 25 kegs of beer (Bud/Bud Light), 40 gallons of witches brew (sounds really college-scary to me), and over 2000 jello shots (including a XXX version that comes with a warning), all included in the ticket cost ($30, with discounts for purchases of 10 or more).  They will also have a cash bar with mixed drinks and bottled beer for those whose tastes have “matured.”  This is also one of those parties where you will be extremely out of place if you show up NOT in costume.  www.halloweenbash.org

Looking for more refined festivities, then you should go to “The Bash” which is a benefit (read: for a good cause, pricier admission, but much better food and drinks!) supporting Easter Seals.  Any event catered by Houston societies well loved Jackson Hicks is sure to draw a very pretty crowd.  Advanced tickets are $150 ($200 at the door) and price of admission includes free valet, heavy hors d’ouerves (check out their website for the full menu) and open bar.  The event will be held at The Corinthian, 202 Fannin.  www.houstonbash.com

Of course, many clubs and bars will be holding their own Halloween festivities.  You can check out who’s doing what and when at www.beforelastcall.com.

HOUSTON HAUNTED HOUSES:  PREPARED TO BE SCARED!!!

OK…confession to make here.  I am too much of a scaredy cat to go to one of these haunted houses so I cannot speak from personal experience.  I would send my husband, but he’s more scared than I am.  There are a few well known haunts around and I thought I’d share them with you here.  If you’ve been to any or all of these events, please post a comment and let everyone know what you thought!

Nightmare on The BayouPhoto used with the permission of Nightmare on the Bayou

This event is not recommended for small children, those who are pregnant, have a heart condition, or people with asthma due to fog machines in use.

Located next to Houston’s oldest graveyard and boasting a truly haunted house, this scary attraction of over 15,000 square feet was ranked the nations 13th best haunted adventure by Hauntworld Magazine.  Nightmare on the Bayou is located at 1515 Studemont near I-10 (The Heights) making it a great, central location.  This is the event’s 12th year and they take their hauntings seriously with professionally trained actors, state of the art animatronics, and Hollywood quality sets their only goal is to scare the beetles out of you.  Tickets are $30 ($40 VIP gets you to the front of the line) and can be purchased on their website.

Houston Haunted Houses

This attraction claims to be more kid-friendly for even the little ones.

Not just a haunted house, but a haunted theme park, they have concessions including food, drinks and “adult beverages” as well as  things to do while you wait to get in to the event of your choice. Everything is enclosed and parking is paved so rain is not an issue. Admission is charged “per attraction” although they offer a free one: the Texas Chainsaw Maze.  They also offer a ticket for the “Observation Room” which is perfect for folks like me, too scared to go in myself but happy to observe others getting the crud scared out of them.

The Houston Haunted Houses is located out I 45, south of Loop 610 South at 1500 Elton Street.

Screamworld

This one also discourages those who are pregnant, or with a heart condition and small children.  Children under 12 must be accompanied by an adult.

OK, so their website claims that if they can’t scare you, you are already dead.  Sounds scary enough to me.  This is a five-in-one event has been named Houston’s best Haunted House by the Houston Press and the Houston Chronicle and has been in existence for 23 years, so I would say they probably know what they are doing (they were the same group that used to have downtown the Haunted Hotel and the Fear Factory).   The new location is near the north beltway and I 45 (2225 N. Sam Houston Parkway).  Their website is super cool including a blog so folks can comment on their experience, and videos of some of the attractions.  You can also get discounts on tickets purchased on line.  http://www.screamworld.com

PUMPKINS AND KID FRIENDLY STUFF

Pumpkin carving is a long held tradition in preparation for the Halloween season.  Check out the Pure Pumpkin Patch at St. Luke’s Methodist Church in River Oaks.  The patch officially opens on October 2 and runs through November 2.  All shapes and sizes available, and makes a great photo op spot for kid pictures, too.  If you’re more adventurous in your pumpkin hunting, or just looking for a fun fall treat for kids, check out Dewberry Farms pick your own pumpkin patch.  They have tons of other activities and farm fun like their huge corn maze, ziplines, cattle roping, pig races and lots more, so plan on making it a day!

Looking for some fun Halloween events for the kiddos? Check these out:

Houston Zoo Boo at the Houston Zoo-October 20-21 and October 27-28 (regular admission rates)

“Trunk-or-treat” stations throughout the zoo and Halloween themed games and activities make this an even more fun way to check out the awesome Houston Zoo including the brand new African Forest.

Happy Halloween Mansion at the Houston Children’s Museum-October 18-31 (see website for times/admission)

Wear your own costume, or pick out one to wear there!  Lots of activities including a mad scientist and trick or treating every day!

Houston ArBOOretum at the Houston Arboretum October 22 11-5 $15 entry for 3 and up

Forest trail trick or treating, carnival games, train rides, petting zoo, and more!

Scream on the Green at Discovery Green-October 29 from 6-10-free

They will have trick-or-treating, magicians, face painting and lots more for family fun.

Houston Party on the Patio: Come to the GHRA Burgers and Beer Cookout

Come out for all the burgers and beer you can stand at the Greater Houston Restaurant Association’s annual Burgers and Beer Cookout.  The event will be this Thursday, September 16 from 5-8PM at The Lot on Washington, 4212 Washington Avenue.  And don’t be afraid of the heat…after the string of 100° days we’ve had, temperatures are expected to drop a tad by Thursday and be in the mid-90’s which is nothing if you’ve lived in Houston for a while.  Besides, with your $30 admission you can have endless pints of Samuel Adams, Michelob Ultra, Budweiser/Bud Lite and Corona.  There will also be an array of wine selections available.

Step back in time in Old Town Spring

Several cities have an “Old Town” where tourists and locals can go to enjoy art galleries, shopping, and dining while wandering through quaint streets based on some historic reference.  Houston is no different.  If you’re looking to get away from the craziness of this big city, or need a great place to take out of town visitors, a short car trip will transport you back in time to Old Town Spring.  Old Town Spring is a historic railroad town that is one of Houston’s favorite spots to get out of town.  Visitors can walk around this quaint Victorian village, stroll through the numerous shops and galleries, check out some Civil War and area history at the local museums, and eat some great down-home food. The town is also a popular setting for special events such as weddings.

The Spring area was originally settled in the early 1800’s and established itself as a trading post with the indigenous Orcoquisac Indians.  As the railroads were constructed in Texas, “Camp Spring” was established as a homestead for the railroad workers.  Now, it’s just a great way to “get away” for the day…especially with cooler weather in our near future (if I say it, it will come true).

With the holiday season just around the corner, we thought now would be a good time to introduce our readers to Old Town Spring.  You can find something for everyone on your list while having a much more enjoyable shopping experience than what you could expect at the mall.  Antiques, clothing, jewelry ,chachkis, and more can be found along with some great places to eat or enjoy a drink.  They also have an awesome candy shop that features lots of old time favorites, homemade fudge, and everything else (think stocking stuffers!).

For you festival goers, be sure to mark your calendars for some of the great annual events hosted in Old Town Spring including the Springfest Art and Wine Festival (springtime), the Texas Crawfish Festival (May) and their Home for the Holidays Celebration which runs from November 12-Christmas featuring horse and carriage rides, strolling musicians, and of course…shopping!

Check out the Old Town Spring website for all of the details on driving directions, shops, restaurants, and event dates.

Pet Lovers: Support our canine troops at The Boneyard Pints for Pups event!

Let’s not forget a very special group of US Military veterans:  our K-9 troops!  Please join us for the Pints for Pups event at The Boneyard (yes…it’s a pet friendly spot) on September 16 from 6pm to 9pm.  We’ll be serving up some great beer, and the only cost is your donation to benefit the Military Working Dog Adoptions which seeks to find loving homes for our retired heros and the K-9 Military Fund who uses funds raised to purchase care packages for military K-9s overseas and their soldiers/handlers.

There will be free food provided by Firehouse Subs and you will get to meet Bino, a retired service dog who is one of eight finalists for the American Hero Dog Award through the American Humane Association.  There will also be prizes and give aways!  You must be 21 or older to attend this event.

This event was created by Pasha Cook, owner of All Natural Pet Delivery.  Pasha has a passion for dogs and works tirelessly to raise awareness on pet related issues as well as providing her customers with valuable knowledge on keeping their pets healthy and happy.  Other sponsors for the event include The Pet’s Play Palace, Bark Buster’s, and Houston Mobile Vet.