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Frolics, fundraisers & finds: 40 fabulous things to do in Houston

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News_Catastrophic Theatre Gala_March 2011_Catastrophic Pep Rally
Every year I can’t wait to see what the theme is for Catastrophic Theatre’s annual fundraiser. This year it's “Hee Haw Hootenanny."  Photo by Anthony Rathbun
News_The Inn at Dos Brisas_dining room
Inn at Dos Brisas, located in Brenham, has beautiful grounds and spa. The restaurant, which is supplied from its own garden, is the piece de resistance. Courtesy of The Inn at Dos Brisas/Facebook
Events-Tariq Ali at Rothko-Nov 09
Rothko Chapel is a beautiful place where religion, art, and architecture intermingle. Hickey Robertson
BHLDN
Whether shopping for a unique wedding dress or a dress for another occasion, you will find the whole experience engaging at Bhldn. Heather Staible
News_Buffalo Bayou Regatta_preparing
Buffalo Bayou Kayak Tours are a great way to see downtown Houston from a whole new angle not to mention a great work out.   Photo by ©Katya Horner/Slight Clutter Photography
News_006_Sundance Cinema_November 2011_exterior_night
I love going to movies, especially independent ones and was so excited when the Sundance Cinema brand took over the theater at Bayou Place. Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
News_The Chocolate Bar_cakes_indulge
If you are a chocolate lover, then The Chocolate Bar is the place for you. The Chocolate Bar/Facebook
chris shepherd underbelly
No list would be complete without the addition of chef and restaurateur Chris Shepherd, who recently opened up Hay Merchant and Underbelly. Photo by © Julie Soefer
News_Khloe Madison_portraits
Steve Lee, a stable in the wedding and event photography business, is now offering baby portrait photography! Inspired by the birth of his baby girl, he brings his unique photography style to the world of cherished memories. Courtesy of Khloe Madison Photography + Video
News_Phoenicia_bread_conveyor belt
Phoenicia Specialty Foods mega-grocery store is so full of interesting culinary delights that it could take years to try everything. Phoenicia Specialty Foods/Facebook
Places-Drinks-McGonigel's Mucky Duck bar
The intimate atmosphere and great selections of wine at McGonigel’s Mucky Duck really make for a great time.  Photo by Ray Redding
News_Catastrophic Theatre Gala_March 2011_Catastrophic Pep Rally
News_The Inn at Dos Brisas_dining room
News_taft_painting
Events-Tariq Ali at Rothko-Nov 09
BHLDN
News_Buffalo Bayou Regatta_preparing
News_006_Sundance Cinema_November 2011_exterior_night
News_The Chocolate Bar_cakes_indulge
chris shepherd underbelly
News_Khloe Madison_portraits
News_Phoenicia_bread_conveyor belt
Places-Drinks-McGonigel's Mucky Duck bar
News_Deborah Elias_head shot_column mug

In honor of celebrating my 40th birthday, I thought it would be fun to present this list of 40 Fabulous Frolics, Finds and Fundraisers. Houston always amazes me for its diversity and the fun things to do, see and support, and this list is a perfect reflection of that. 

Stick a Fork in It – This fun program is a hands-on cooking or gardening class designed for kids. It encourages them to grow their food and then learn how to cook it. I can’t think of a better way to get kids involved in healthy eating. 

Inn at Dos Brisas – This amazing bed and breakfast, located in Brenham, has beautiful grounds and spa but the restaurant, which is supplied from its own garden, is the piece de resistance. I highly recommend this for a relaxing weekend.  

 I am inspired that Taft McWhorter has jumped in with both feet after quitting his full time job to pursue a career as an artist. 

 Taft McWhorter  – I can’t say enough good things about this up-and-coming artist, and not just because he is a good friend but because I love his work. I am inspired that he has jumped in with both feet after quitting his full time job to pursue a career as an artist. The Dragon Takes Flight and the Temperament Series are inspiring, colorful and resonate deep in the soul. 

Rothko Chapel – Recently I saw Red, a play about Mark Rothko, and it inspired me to revisit his works at this special chapel, which is part of the Menil Collection. Rothko Chapel is a beautiful place where religion, art, and architecture intermingle. 

Glassell School of Art – This school is a wonderful arm of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and encourages art lovers of all walks of life to immerse themselves in the world. A friend is taking a class on the history of pop art and tells me it is giving her a new love for that period of history.    

Stages Theatre – This innovative theater located just off Allen Parkway and Waugh is inexpensive thought-provoking – well, except when the plays are side-splittingly funny.  

Old Towne Spring - The area has over 150 shops — boutiques, museums (Civil War and Spring Historical), galleries, restaurants and antique shops. One of my favorites is the Amish Barn! 

 Every year, I am absolutely mesmerized by the zany way people express themselves through their cars.   

 Orange Show - With attractions like the Orange Show, the Beer Can House and the Art Car Parade, this organization really takes the promotion and preservation (their motto) of extraordinary artistic expressions to a whole new level.  Every year, I am absolutely mesmerized by the zany way people express themselves through their cars.

Eastside Farmers Market – Saturday mornings are never complete without a stroll around this market where I find inspiration of all kinds. I love all the organic food stands and always walk away with arms full of groceries. It is fun to see chefs from across the city filling their carts as well (that’s how I know it is the good stuff). 

Bhldn – This beautiful store is a high-end extension of the Anthropologie brand. Whether shopping for a unique wedding gown or a dress for another occasion, you will find the whole experience engaging.  

Buffalo Bayou Kayak Tours – This is a great way to see downtown Houston from a whole new angle, not to mention a great work out.  

Asian Market – Minutes from downtown Houston, this market is only slightly overwhelming but certainly stimulates the senses. With both groceries and authentic Asian cuisine prepared onsite, it is sure to please the palate.  

Little Black Dress Project - This unique fundraiser will be on May 8 at the House of Blues. It allows up-and-coming design students to create their own version of the iconic LBD. Winners are awarded scholarships from the Fashion Group Foundation.

 I love going to movies, especially independent ones and was so excited when the Sundance Cinema (another brainchild of Robert Redford) brand took over the theater at Bayou Place.    

 Sundance Theaters – I love going to movies, especially independent ones and was so excited when the Sundance Cinema  brand (another brainchild of Robert Redford) took over the former Angelika space at Bayou Place. Grab a glass of wine or your favorite beer and enjoy a great evening at the movies. 

Cake Craft Shoppe - With so many popular cake-decorating shows on TV, it is no wonder that someone didn’t think of this sooner.  James Roselle has designed several fun classes to engage the students in the art of cake decoration.  

Bobbindoctrin - These puppet shows aren’t for kids, more so for the kid at heart. The adult-only shows allow Bobbindoctrin to carve a niche for itself while helping Houston audiences re-evaluate the vast artistic possibilities. 

Children’s Assessment Center Spring Luncheon– This fundraiser will take place on April 4 at the Intercontinental Hotel. Event chairs Diane Caplan and Nancy Golden scored a coup landing humanitarian and actress Ashley Judd as the guest speaker. The fashion show will feature styles from Neiman Marcus and the whole event benefits a very worthwhile cause.  

Station Museum - Set in a former auto shop, this museum is a private organization dedicated to thought-provoking contemporary art displays. The shows, which change three to four times a year, feature a variety of sculptures, drawings, videos and photographs that focusing on everything from the fall of Communism to life growing up in the United States.  

Houston Culinary Art  - For this self-proclaimed food lover, the chef-driven program is truly unique. The program gives participants intimate knowledge about the city and its chefs, the unexplored neighborhoods, undiscovered restaurants and markets that contribute to the locally driven menus of each chef. 

 For this self-proclaimed food lover, the chef-driven program at Houston Culinary Art is truly unique.  

 Dewberry Farms –There is something about the ability to pick your own fruit, so anytime I get to do it, I am happy. These farms, located in Brookshire, make for a fun afternoon of picking strawberries. My mouth waters already thinking of all the pies I will be making.    

Rooftop Venue at Minute Maid – I have planned many events at Minute Maid Park over the years and was relatively surprised to learn of their rooftop venue. This great space overlooks the ballpark and has great views of downtown. It definitely will foster a New York feel for your event (don’t worry, there is a great rain space just in case.) 

City Centre Houston – This mixed-use complex at Beltway 8 and I-10 has really come into its own with a host of stores, restaurants, farmers markets and the trendy Hotel Sorella as the anchor. Olive and Wine is probably one of my favorite stores with its vast selection of flavored olive oils. 

Armand Bayou Nature Center – This center boasts one of the largest urban wilderness preserve in the United States, protecting 2,500 acres of natural wetlands, forest, prairie, and marsh habitats. Outdoorsy folks and nature lovers will be in awe of the more than 370 species of birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians, along with thousands of native plants that call this area home. 

Museum of Cultural Arts Houston – Recently, I started working with this group and am inspired by their programs designed to pair established artists with young students. For someone like me who can't paint a stick figure, this program gives me hope. One of my favorite activities is the Face-to-Face workshop, which is a  four-hour studio session that gives the opportunity to learn portrait painting techniques while nurturing your inner artist. 



American Shooting Center – This fun activity center located inside George Bush Park is equipped with three facilities: rifle and pistol, sporting clays, and trap and skeet. Since it also has ample space for a business meeting, the center is a great place to host team-building activities.

 This fun activity center located inside George Bush Park is equipped with three facilities: rifle and pistol, sporting clays, and trap and skeet. 

 The Chocolate Bar   - Seriously, if you are a chocolate lover then this is the place for you. On Tuesday nights the West Alabama location has live music and if you want to have a party it is BYOB or BYOW. The only bad thing about it is the lack of parking but then again the walking will help fend off the calories you undoubtedly just consumed.   

Fox Hollow – This great bar located just off Washington strip is the place to be on Friday nights as they offer free Salsa Dance lessons courtesy of SSQQ Dance studio from 9 to 10 p.m. Then you can practice your moves when Salmerum, the number one salsa band in the city takes the stage at 11 p.m. 

Chris Shepherd – No list would be complete without the addition of chef and restaurateur Chris Shepherd, who recently opened up Underbelly. Located at Montrose and Westheimer, it proudly displays the creations of the famed chef. The Bone Marrow Butter is one of the most delectable dishes I have ever tasted. On any given Saturday you will find him at No. 11 on this list gathering herbs, vegetables and meats for wildly imaginative culinary endeavors. 

Buffalo Exchange  - If you are looking for a place to take your slightly used clothes, and especially ones that have been sitting on racks for years waiting for those few pounds to finally come off, then this is the place for you. It is also a great place to find inexpensive trendy clothes to replace the ones you just sold for a commission.    

Khloe Madison Studios – Steve Lee, a staple in the wedding and event photography business, is now offering baby portrait photography! Inspired by the birth of his baby girl, he brings his unique photography style to the world of cherished memories.

Hubbell & Hudson - Hubbell & Hudson was born out of a desire to bring a world-class culinary destination to The Woodlands. Yes there is a market, catering and restaurant in the venue but the Viking Cooking School offers the food-obsessed, like me, the ultimate opportunity to dine, experience, learn and be inspired. 

Gallery M Squared – This is another example of a space that I am not sure how it escaped my radar but definitely will not any longer. After attending a recent event for the Bayou City Arts Festival kick-off and finding the space very cool, I am hunting for the perfect client to use this space. It used to be the Heights Theater and the current layout lends itself well as an event space and the art is pretty darn cool as well.  

 Brilliant Lecture Series – OK, so I am not just including this because George Clooney (swoon) is coming to town. This series of lectures is the brainchild of Scott Brogan, who presents many thought-provoking lecturers. Not just entertainers, this series also brings world-leaders, politicians and philanthropists to speak. 

 I am not sure if one is actually capable of walking into Penzy's Spices and leaving empty-handed.

 Penzy’s Spices – I am not sure if one is actually capable of walking into this store and leaving empty-handed. I have tried on several occasions but once I get inside and the aroma of fresh spices envelopes me, I am going to buy something for sure. The dried jalapenos are crazy good. 

The Do Bar – This salon styles hair plain and simple (well unless you want a complicated up do and they can do that, too). It is the perfect and most economical way to get ready for a night on the town. Once you are done getting your hair styled, make an appointment with Sarah Tucker to have your makeup done as well.  

Phoenicia Specialty Foods – This mega-grocery store is so full of interesting culinary delights that it could take years to try everything. The pita bread is made fresh every day and comes down in circus wheel fashion from the bakery on second floor. The food is fresh and the meat selection is pretty phenomenal. 

McGonigel’s Mucky Duck – Not only is the name incredibly fun to say but the constant array of talent will keep any music lover coming back time and time again. The intimate atmosphere and great selections of wine (you thought I was going to say beer and that is great, too) really make for a great time. You must make reservations!  

 Every year I can’t wait to see what the theme for the Catastrophic Theatre event will be and this year it is “Hee Haw Hootenanny."

 Catastrophic Theatre’s Annual Fundraiser – Every year I can’t wait to see what the theme for the event will be and this year it is “Hee Haw Hootenanny." How fun is that, real rough n’rowdy fun!  But in all seriousness, the fundraiser, which will be on April 20, benefits the off-the-wall theater, which has been known to hone the talent of many a star such as Jim Parsons from The Big Bang Theory.

Custom Wristbands – This innovative company sells wristbands with custom messages. They have the ability to turn around wristbands with custom messages for events in 24 hours and since there is a minimum quantity of one wristband you can make them for any size occasion.   

Winnie Couture Flagship Bridal Salon – Winnie has been designing custom-made bridal gowns in the Houston area for years. Her bridal salon provides preeminent service and a luxurious atmosphere complete with giant chandeliers and private fitting rooms.

So there you have it, my selection of some of the city's best.  Of course, I know I haven’t even touched the surface of things to do and see in this city but I hope this list will keep you busy until at least the summer!

CultureMap contributor Deborah Elias is the founder and president of Elias Events

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