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.

Upcoming Events: Houston BestFest Live Music, Art, Awesome Food in Midtown

For the last 22 years, the Houston Press has been sharing with Houstonians all of the deets on places to eat, live music, the arts and more.  If you’re already familiar with Houston Press then you know about their  “Best of Houston” which is a list of what Houston Press readers say are their favorite things in Houston.  “Best of” categories range from best school principle to the best bloody mary and everything in between.  Naturally, there are plenty of “Best of” categories for food and drink as well as shopping and retail services.

The Tontons

The Tontons

So finally, we have an event to celebrate some of the best of Houston in one of the liveliest spots in town.  Join us for the first ever Best Fest, September 24-25 in Midtown.  This is the inaugural event with an expected turn out of 20,000.  Revelers will enjoy live music from 2 stages including Cake, Bun B, and my favorite the Tontons (think Mazzy Star with a more upbeat edge).  New acts are being added daily so be sure to check out the BestFest site for updates.  Be sure to come hungry too, as there will be several of Houston’s favorites at the event.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see some of Houston’s awesome food trucks show up as well, although none have been confirmed as of yet.

Cake

Houston BestFest will take place at the Midtown Superblock, 2800 Main.  The Superblock is between Travis and Main, and McGowen and Anita.  There will be street parking available.  Another great option to get to the event is to ride the MetroRAIL to the McGowen stop and walk across the street to BestFest.

Early bird tickets are on sale now at the BestFest website.  Full weekend passes are currently available for $25 (free for kids 10 and under).  Regular price is $40.  There will also be a VIP option including free appetizer buffet, non-alcoholic drinks, and VIP covered pavilion with lounge seating near the stage.  VIP 2 day passes are on sale now for $95 ($150 regular price).

Important to note:  this is NOT a dog-friendly event, so please leave Fido at home.

Houston Restaurant Weeks is BA-ACCCKK!

Since 2003 Houston Restaurant Week has grown in popularity, thus now becoming Houston Restaurant WeekS (don’t ask why they didn’t just rename it Houston Restaurant Month…it’s a long and snarky story).  In fact, last year it was so popular it got extended for a few extra weeks!

So, what is it exactly?  In short it’s a month-long food fest that benefits the Houston Food Bank and allows Houston diners to take advantage of some great deals. Diners get to enjoy  eating at some of Houston’s favorite restaurants (currently the list is over 125 participating restaurants) while supporting the Houston Food Bank.  Participating venues offer 3 (or sometimes 4) course dinner menus for only $35 (2 course lunch menu for $20 is also an option at some locations).  $5 from each reservation goes to the Houston Food Bank ($3 from the  lunch).  According to Brian Greene, CEO of the Houston Food Bank, each diner at one of the participating restaurants will provide 15 meals for a hungry child or adult in Southeast Texas.  Since the event’s inception, they have raised over $900,000 to help feed Houston’s hungry.

You can check out all of the participating restaurants and preset menus at the Houston Food Weeks website.  It can be a lot to read through so to give you some ideas, here are my top pics based on the menu and/or  the value (some of these restaurants are downright expensive on any normal day).  I’ve even linked each restaurants HRW menu to make it SUPER easy for you…

BTW, reservations are required!

RDG Bar Annie-they are offering for HRW lunch, dinner and brunch menus each with multiple options in each course.  Plus, the dinner menu is four courses AND represents a great value based on what you would normally pay.  Not to mention that they really do have great food.

Restaurant CINQ at La Columbe d’Or-On any other night, $35 wouldn’t get you an entree, let alone 3 courses.  Plus, I am intrigued by the Watermelon Gazpacho in course 1.  Again, they are offering multiple options per course so a little more variety.  Did I mention Strawberry Creme Brulee with aged balsamic???

Churrasco’s  I love Brazilian food because I am addicted to chimichurri sauce.  BUT, the thing I like most about their HRW menus are the add on options which allow you to do a little custom ordering (for a fee, of course) and they offer a trio of their dinner entrees as a course selection.

Haven is offering lunch, dinner and brunch menus with multiple course offerings including several vegetarian options.  I also think they have one of the more eclectic menus both for HRW as well as any other time.

Mark’s is another incredible value compared to what you would normally pay.  AND, the dinner main course has duck, steak, and seafood choices as well as a “Trio” entree that sounds amazing.  They are also offering a lunch menu for HRW.

Perry’s Steakhouse is one of my pics because I believe that their famous pork chop is probably the best form of pig I’ve ever eaten, and considering you would normally pay $30 just for the pork chop on any other day makes this a GREAT time to finally check out the chop for yourself!  And just another note on that chop:  I can eat a LOT, and the Perry’s pork chop can easily cover 2-3 meals for me. Another added plus are the multiple locations.

The Oceanaire from the looks of it has the most selections per course so a lot of variety if you’re dining in a larger group.

Please, please, please….if you visit any of the event restaurants,  share with us your experience!  I wouldn’t be surprised if this year’s event gets extended.

A Houston Heights Tradition: White Linen Night August 6, 2011

The Heights, one of Houston’s oldest neighborhoods, is known for its tree-lined streets and beautiful period homes, awesome shopping and dining, super family friendly parks and esplanades, great schools, rocking trick or treating and their annual events.  One of these great events is just around the corner…White Linen Night 2011 will be on August 6 from 6 to 10 PM.  Of course, all the locals attend as well as Houston residents from all over (lasts year’s attendance reached 40,000).  The festivities occur throughout the Heights area, with the two major locations being 19th Street and White Oak (6th Street).

What is White Linen Night?  Well, it’s one big street festival that takes over the whole “town.”  Many of the businesses, shops, art galleries, and restaurants feature complimentary receptions (yes…free food and drinks).  Touted as a celebration of art, culture and “citified” bohemia, there are also fashion shows, street performers, games, live music, and an just an awesome vibe.  And, as the name implies and the Houston August weather dictates, white linen fashion is in abundance although not a prerequisite to attend.  This year, be sure to also throw in a little pink to your ensemble as the Heights has partnered with The Rose of Houston to raise breast cancer awareness.

We are working on trying to get more information on parking and transportation during the event.  As soon as we have it we will update this post!  For other updates and details, check out the event website at http://whitelinennightheights.com/.

Houston Fourth of July 2011 Fireworks and Festivities UPDATED June 28

****PLEASE NOTE*****Due to the dry weather and recent burn bans, the City is considering cancellation of some of the fireworks events scheduled around the city.  I have included links to each event website, so please check these event websites for any updates/cancellations.

Houston knows how to celebrate the Fourth of July, with fireworks shows and festivities all around the City.  In fact, from some vantage points in the city, you can catch fireworks displays occurring all around town.  We wanted to give you the scoop on some of the biggest shows going on.

Mayor Annise Parker’s Freedom Over Texas Celebration will occur at Eleanor Tinsley Park along Buffalo Bayou near downtown and midtown.  Gates open at 4 and admission is free with a donation of a canned good to benefit the Houston Food Bank.  Attendees will also enjoy some good ol’ country music from Jack Ingram, Chris Young, and Rodney Atkins.  There will also be a Kid’s Zone featuring activities, education, games and more.  Fireworks are set to go off around 9:35.

Or , if you’d rather have your 4th of July soundtrack be a little more traditional, plan on attending the Exxon-Mobile Star-Spangled Salute with the Houston Symphony performing Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture at Miller Outdoor Theater in Hermann Park.  Free tickets (up to four per person over the age of 16) in the seated area of the theater will be available the day of the show from 10:30 AM to 1:00 PM.  But, there is still plenty of room on the hill to spread your blanket and enjoy the show.

Prefer to watch the fireworks on the water?  Tickets for the Kemah Boardwalk Fireworks Cruise and BBQ are selling out fast.  Unlike the other shows, you pay for this one but it’s well worth it!  The 3 hour cruise includes a BBQ dinner and non-alcoholic beverages, plus cash bar and DJ to kick up your heels.  Ticket prices start at $49 for kids, $79 for adults.

Nothing pulls at the patriotic heart strings quite like the singing of the National Anthem followed by a military fly over.  Head out to Pearland to catch their Celebration of Freedom.  Gates open at 6PM at the Pearland High School football stadium and admission is free.

THE WOODLANDS EVENT HAS BEEN CANCELLED  Boasting one of the Houston areas largest fireworks displays, and wrapping up their 3 days of national pride celebrations, The Woodlands celebrates the holiday with their Red, Hot, and Blue Fireworks and Festival Extravaganza (I guess they thought that having the biggest name denotes the biggest celebration).  Events include a free concert from the Buck Yeager Band at Northshore Park, then on to Town Green Park for hot dog and watermelon eating contests and fireworks starting at dusk.  Check out their website for all of the details including best spots to watch the show.