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Photo courtesy of Comicpalooza

The galaxies of costumes are coming out to play, the stars are aligning, and the fandoms are colliding.

A magical weekend of anime, comics, gaming, literature, cosplay, and more is on the roster during Comicpalooza, which is descending on Houston’s George R. Brown Convention Center over Memorial Day weekend, May 26-28.

This destination event — and Texas’ largest pop-culture convention — is literally no joke, with endless programming, stellar special attractions, an exhibit floor of cool vendors and must-have merch, geeky entertainment, and more.

Naturally, there will also be a star-studded cast of guests in the mix, including this high-octane lineup from your favorite series.

Rising Marvel-ous stars
Black Panther 2 breakout star Tenoch Huerta — who portrayed Namor, the king of Talokan, in the film — will be joined by fellow Marvel Cinematic Universe actor Alaqua Cox, who plays Maya Lopez (aka Echo) in Disney+'s Hawkeye. Cox will soon be bringing her deaf Native American amputee hero with photographic reflexes to the spinoff series Echo.

See Captain Kirk twice
Two Star Trek captains are landing in Space City, when the legend himself, William Shatner, comes to Comicpalooza and is joined by Paul Wesley — much to the delight of every single Trekkie in the house.

Have a vampy reunion
If you’re not a Trekkie, you might still know Paul Wesley from The Vampire Diaries. He’ll be pulling double-duty for fans of the vampy show when he reunites with co-star Ian Somerhalder over the action-packed weekend.

Step into the Arrowverse
Speaking of TVD, superfans will recognize werewolf Stephen Amell — even if he’s better known now as the Green Arrow from the hit show Arrow — and he’ll be bringing all his vigilante charm to Comicpalooza. Castmates Colton Haynes, Rick Gonzalez, Juliana Harkavy, and Josh Segarra will also be there.

Meet The Boys
It’s one of buzziest shows around right now, so you better believe cast members from Amazon Prime’s original series The Boys will be in town. See your faves, including leader of the Supes Antony Starr along with Hughie himself, Jack Quaid.

This list of renowned names is also joined by award-winning actor Lou Diamond Phillips; voice actor Christopher Judge; anime voice over talents Paul Castro Jr., Luci Christian, Colleen Clinkenbeard, Amber Lee Connors and Jason Douglas; comic book guests Steven McNiven; and literature guests Terry Brooks, Stephen Graham Jones, and Mary Robinette Kowal.

Catch all these celebs on Saturday and Sunday at guest panels along with photo and autograph opportunities.

But the fun really starts on Friday, when you can shop merch and rare collectibles before heading to the Friday Night Bash dance party. That evening, you can also catch the pros from Texas All-Star Wrestling, who will have everyone on the edge of their seats.

Houston Comicpalooza

Photo courtesy of Comicpalooza

Rep your favorite characters during the weekend.

On Saturday, aspiring and pro cosplayers take the stage in the annual Cosplay Contest. Artists will also be highlighting their work during the Live Art Auction. Throughout the weekend, Itasha Showdown: A Car Runway Experience is a must-see, too, with the coolest cars and motorcycles on the block.

For the most epic experience, VIP passes are the way to go. Check out all the ticket options and full schedule at comicpalooza.com.

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Countdown to Beyoncé: Trill Burgers shortens hours to serve massive NRG Stadium crowd

respect the beyhive

Since it opened in June, Trill Burgers has been unstoppable. Bun B’s burger joint has seen lines out the door, fed celebrities ranging from Drake to Mike Tyson, and caused literal traffic jams with its drive-thru.

But even a juggernaut like Trill Burgers knows better than to mess with the Beyhive. For this weekend only (September 23 and 24), the Montrose-area restaurant will only be open from 11 am to 2 pm. Operating with such limited hours will allow Trill Burgers to feed the sold out crowds flocking to NRG Stadium for Beyoncé’s Renaissance Tour.

“We want to make sure that we have our stations fully stocked so that people don't miss this amazing show that she's bringing,” Bun said in a video posted to social media. “We know the Beyhive don't play and Trill Burgers don't play either.”

In order to ensure people get their burgers as quickly as possible, Trill Burgers is slimming down its menu to only serve beef burgers — sorry, vegans. In addition, it will impose a limit of two burgers per person.

Due to the stage setup, Trill Burgers will only operate two of its usual four stands. They are Sections 135 and 548.

Of course, CultureMap has you covered for everything related to this weekend’s concerts. Don’t miss our guides for what to wear, events celebrating Beyoncé, and the latest traffic and parking info.

Countdown to Beyoncé: Parking, closures, rideshares, and more for NRG Stadium

bey prepared

The countdown is on for Beyoncé's highly anticipated shows in Houston this weekend, and ABC13 has everything you need to know for an easy ride over to NRG Stadium to see Queen Bey.

This weekend's gridlock alert isn't like any other, as more traffic is anticipated than usual in the South Loop area towards the venue on both Saturday and Sunday.

Here's what you need to know:

Parking

Drivers, if you decide to park directly at NRG Stadium, know all lots will have $40 cashless parking.

Parking is available in the orange, red, maroon, blue, yellow, green and purple lots. ADA parking is available in all of the lots.

If you're getting a ride, you can get dropped off and picked up at the Yellow Lot. The entrance will be through Gate 16B off Main Street.

METRORail riders can take the Red Line from the Fannin South Lot, which has $20 parking, and get off at the Stadium Park/Astrodome Station exit.EMBED <>MORE VIDEOS

Ready to Renaissance? Here's what you should know before Queen Bey's Houston concerts.

SEE ALSO: Beyoncé's favorite things: 9 places star has stopped before in Houston

Traffic

But what about getting there on time?

If you're driving in from Fort Bend County or the southwest side, the Southwest Freeway will be closed at the West Loop, so you might want to avoid that.

All mainlanes will be closed starting Friday at 8 p.m. to Monday at 5 a.m. You can use US-90 as your alternate route.

For those coming from the east side, including San Jacinto and all points beyond that along the East Freeway, avoid the East Loop altogether.

You'll see northbound and southbound closures between Market and Clinton Street from 9 p.m. on Friday to 5 a.m. on Sunday.

So, for Saturday night's concert, you can drive toward downtown and south on Highway 288 to catch the West Loop over to NRG Stadium.

If you plan to use METRO to head to NRG, they plan to put more of their trains in service about three hours before the start of Beyoncé's concerts each day.

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Continue reading this story on our news partner ABC13.

Hill Country glamping retreat near Austin goes gourmet with new personal chef experience

In-Tents Flavors

Flights to Africa are not cheap right now. The animals may not be the same, but at least Austinites can make a short drive to a very comfortable safari tent for special-occasion jaunts into the wilderness.

"Why does it look like you're in Africa again?" questioned one of this reporter's friends via Instagram DM. It's true, we'd been in a nearly identical landscape in South Africa last winter. But this new glamping retreat was only an hour's drive away. And make no mistake — it's still expensive, but not more so than a upscale hotel room or Airbnb at $450 a night.

Amani (stylized AMANI), the sole safari tent overlooking a vast expanse at Shaffer Bend Recreation Area, officially opened its reservations in June, according to a publicist. But the park has been putting the final touches on the experience outside of the tent, and was finally ready to share the news once the luxe culinary options were finalized. The park invited CultureMap to stay this September, and we were the first to try the new outdoor bites.

This structure, designed and built by glamping purveyors GLAT USA, may pose a philosophical question about what camping entails. If it's being in a remote area, it certainly fits the bill. The tent is situated at the end of a dirt road, off a dirt road. There's practically no chance of seeing even the odd hiker, unless they've taken the incredibly steep trail up the back way and specifically sought out the tent.

The more challenging question, is does camping include a generator? How about a shower, air conditioning, mini-fridge, plush rug, and king-sized bed? Probably not, but it certainly makes it easy to pack up and hit the woods in any weather. And if it's about enjoying nature, it doesn't really get better than being comfortable while doing so — although the noise from the generator, which powers everything including the running water, is a necessary trade-off. (Visitors can technically switch it off, but because of the interaction with the pump, park staff suggested that it remain on.)

Amani LCRA interiorPhoto courtesy of LCRA

A unique idea for honeymoons, girls trips, seniors, or apartment dwellers without much room for storing camping equipment, this is hotel-style travel with the benefit of having absolutely no other visitors in sight. Or earshot. And although the smart interior design gives a glamper anything they'd need to make, serve, and store their own meals (using ingredients from the Marble Falls H-E-B, about 10 miles away), those who want to lean into the luxury may book some gourmet options.

Home chefs who like the idea of remaining separate from the rest of civilization can order a meal prep kit ($55-75 per person, vegan options available) to be delivered to the tent, where they can cook on the grill. The kitchenette, designed with input from a local chef who loved visiting the park before Amani existed, has plenty of grilling tools and dish ware — enough for four people to use even though the space only sleeps two.

More extravagant travelers may consider the most luxurious option: welcoming in a private chef ($300). Chef Cindy Crowe grilled up Amani's first-ever private dining experience on September 16, representing the start of a new partnership between Crowe's company, Bay Kitchens Catering, and the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA), the government agency that managers the park and rents out Amani.

In fact, it was Bay Kitchens corporate chef, Jay Hunter, who made recommendations on the kitchenette design. And the park is no stranger to luxury dining outdoors; At one fundraising dinner, part of its "Savor the Outdoors" series, park supporters gathered at long picnic tables along the river at Pedernales River Nature Park to enjoy local foods prepared on cool live-fire rigs. The food was delicious, but the friendly breaking of bread between outdoorsy foodies was the highlight of the evening.

The spirit was similar at Amani, although, of course, much smaller in scale. Chef Crowe set up at the outdoor grill and peacefully, efficiently got to work preparing a meal that looked like it came out of an elite, bustling kitchen. Yet, despite all its sophistication, this meal retained the soul of any campsite meal: a simple grilled trout, a summery salad, and a no-bake dessert.

LCRA Amani private chef dinner troutPhoto by Brianna Caleri

Amani LCRA aerial

Photo courtesy of the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA)

Amani is the Lower Colorado River Authority's experiment in ultra-secluded glamping.

More specifically, the three-course meal — called the "Serengeti Menu" — included a very tender baby greens salad with toasted pecans and feta, sweet strawberries, perfectly soft orange supreme (essentially naked orange segments), and a refreshing peach-pecan vinaigrette. The very lemony trout was served with crispy skin, a healthy sprinkling of chives, and an almost-rustic side of roasted Yukon gold potatoes and Chardonnay and honey-spiked baby carrots. Chef Crowe rounded out the menu with her Key lime cheesecake, which she dressed with a berry compote and torched Italian meringue, for a low-maintenance, high-payoff finish.

Other menus include bourbon and honey-glazed Atlantic Salmon with marble potatoes and broccolini, or a choice of steak cuts with asparagus and a twice-baked potato. Crowe points out that although the menu isn't very limited, she did have to think about what could be cooked without an open flame. (It'd be hard to cook on something other than propane during a burn ban.) Things like twice-baked potatoes and mini cheesecakes are easy to prepare ahead and hit with a finishing touch at the campground.

"It's simple food, still done well," says Crowe. "Even though I'm out here with these beautiful views cooking on a grill you could buy at Lowe's, I still want to put my stamp on the dishes."

This particular tent design is new for the LCRA, according to Crowe and Cheyrice Brumfield, the park host and Cherokee grandmother who appeared at my tent in full glam makeup at 10:20 am to get the water turned back on after a repair before I arrived. If Amani is as successful as the glamping trend of the past few years would suggest, the LCRA plans to bring similar tents to other parks.

Crowe, during her first run-through of this particular catering experience, was not sure how many people would be able to join in, but she guesses she could accommodate four. Bay Kitchen Catering also does bridal brunches and even bulk prep for other restaurants, so the scope depends more on what LCRA is willing to host than the volume the catering company is capable of achieving.

Amani LCRAPhoto by Brianna Caleri

A private chef experience is obviously not required to enjoy a stay at Amani, but it certainly elevates the occasion, and could be a nice way to mark a special occasion beyond just staying in a nice room. Amani also offers a cold cowboy pool (basically a large trough for seated dip) that a glamper can choose to heat as a hot tub, an electric bike rental for conquering the very hilly roads and exploring Shaffer Bend's 508 acres, and of course, spectacular views all around the park.

It's as easy to scoff at the extreme luxury as it is to fantasize about it (if you, like most of us, contain multitudes), but what is really special about Amani is that people like Crowe and Brumfield are making it happen. It's not one of a dozen new purchases by an international hotel chain; It directly benefits Texas parks, and it's taken care of by warm, relatable Texans.

Amani and the park's other campgrounds can be reserved at reserveamerica.com. The safari tent has a two-night minimum, bringing the minimum rental cost to $900 before tax and fees. Culinary reservations must be made at least 72 hours before the stay. More information about Shaffer Bend Recreation Area is available at lcra.org.