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.

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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.

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.

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/.

Events: Houston Ifest spotlighting The Silk Road

Of all the great festivals and events our city has to offer, one of the most popular is the Ifest (previously known as the International Festival).  No where else is cultural diversity and cultural education more celebrated than the Ifest.  Originally established as the non-profit Houston Festival Foundation, Inc. in 1971, Ifest provides art and education programs that reach nearly a million students in the Houston area.  

Each year the festival focuses on a particular culture or region, this year being the cultures of The Silk Road.  As part of providing cultural education to Houston students, a curriculum is established for area teachers that help our children explore the spotlighted country or region during the school year leading up to the festival.  The Ifest has it all rolled into one great time:  art, live music, awesome food and more ensure that everyone has a fab time.

The festival takes place at City Hall, Tranquility Park, and Sam Houston Park in downtown.  Dates for this year’s festival are:  April 30-May 1 and May 7-8 from 12 to 10 Saturday and 12 to 8 Sunday.  Go to their site to learn more and find out the skinny on parking, tickets, etc.

Dragon Boats race downtown!

Want a good reason to check out Buffalo Bayou?  How about coming to the 10th Annual Dragon Boat Festival, scheduled for May 7 from 8:30 to 4:30.  Plus, if you really want to get in on the action you may be able to get a spot on one of the 30+ competing boats!  A great celebration of Asian culture, the festival will include great food and activities for everyone.  Click here for sponsorship and participation opportunities.