Houston Bucket List 2017: Marathons, Boots and Beer

This may look like heaven or hell, but whether you participate by running or cheering, the Chevron Houston Marathon is a must... at least once.EXPAND

This may look like heaven or hell, but whether you participate by running or cheering, the Chevron Houston Marathon is a must… at least once.
Marco Torres

Back in 2013, we put together Houston’s first Bucket List. We’ve heard from a lot of you who have pinned the list to your refrigerators or tucked it away in a folder so you might take a crack at all 100. We hope you made it through your list because a lot has changed in four years in Houston.

Four years later, it's time for a new, revised edition complete with new attractions (or sadly closed old ones) and expanded to include a wider area. In our first bucket list, we limited ourselves to 30 square miles from City Hall. This time, we’ve expanded that to 100 miles, which covers places like Galveston. It seemed to us that our entire area is ripe for the list making.

For the next few weeks, we’ll be unveiling 90 of the 100 essential things to do in and around the Bayou City. Our top 10 will appear in an upcoming issue along with a full, printable list much like last time, so stay tuned.

Our first batch features some quintessentially Houston events and a couple things that might surprise you. You may not be able to run in boots, but keep your running shoes handy. And don't worry, there will be beer and Jesus in your future… and shopping, always shopping.

Run in, volunteer for or cheer on the Chevron Houston Marathon.
Not all of us are cut out for a marathon, but so many are — the marathon organizers cap the total at 27,000 — that it makes this the largest single-day sporting event in the city. Plenty of participants run for a cause, so even if the thought of running more than 25 miles makes you want to barf, there are plenty of opportunities to volunteer or root on your favorite runners.

Go Christmas shopping in the Galleria.
Some shrink from the idea of crowded Christmas malls like rats fleeing a burning ship. We, however, embrace it, especially when it comes to our most visited shopping centerpiece the Galleria. The mix of people is, like the rest of Houston, radically diverse and that mix of people is on full display, especially during the holidays. So is the gargantuan Christmas tree at center ice of the skating rink, ripe for selfies. Pro tip: take an Uber and avoid the parking nightmare. We also recommend a drink at the Daily Grill to settle the nerves.

Go two stepping at Wild West.
We all know that folks who don’t live here tend to think we all have oil wells in our backyards, ranch cattle and wear ropers and cowboy hats on a daily basis. That caricature may be far from accurate but we do enjoy a good country and western dance now and again. And if you feel the need for a little two stepping, you best mosey on down to Wild West, where cowboys and gals have been kicking it up for three decades. And you don't have to wear boots if you don't want, but you really should.

Tour the St. Arnold’s Brewery.
The craft beer scene around the country has exploded in recent years and Houston is no exception. But, when it comes to H-Town, St. Arnold may as well be the patron saint of the city, never mind picking hops. The crew at St. Arnold’s run a first-class tour complete with tastings and snacks at the end (St. Arnold himself would be proud). With a coming expansion, even more brew fans will be able to enjoy the city's largest independent brewery.

Catastrophic Theatre's Tamarie Cooper is a Houston gem.

Catastrophic Theatre's Tamarie Cooper is a Houston gem.   Photos by George Hixson

See a Catastrophic Theatre production.
The city’s most daring theater group is undoubtedly Catastrophic. The long-running thespian troupe spawned loads of local actors, some of whom, like Big Bang Theory’s Jim Parsons, found fame outside Houston. Artistic director Jason Nodler has been turning out powerful works for decades and associate director Tamarie Cooper is a city treasure. If you see nothing else, be sure to catch the annual Tamarie Cooper Show. A personal favorite, it is always as irreverent as it is hilarious.

Go sailing on Clear Lake.
Yes, we live close to the water, lots of it. Where there is water, there is bound to be some sailing and you’d be hard pressed to find a better place to raise a sail (or drop an anchor) than Clear Lake. A popular spot for launching on weekends, a sunny day finds the lake, which empties into Trinity Bay and, ultimately, the Gulf of Mexico, packed with boats of all varieties. Slip into one of the side coves and inlets for some relaxing or, better yet, pull up to one of the numerous bars and restaurants. Few things are as cool as docking your boat at a bar.

Visit the International Quilt Festival.
This really does exist. And if you think this is just a bunch of old quilts your great-grandmother threw over the back of her rocking chair 100 years ago, think again. Founded in 1974 in Houston, it is the largest of its kind in the world, attracting artisans from every corner of the globe. And many of the works are more than blankets, but true works of art… in the form of comfy blankets. Sure, they have the kind you might toss on a guest bed, but some of the intricacies of the work is astounding.

Take a day off and explore the downtown tunnel system.
Ever wonder why on a hot summer day the streets of downtown often appear relatively empty? That’s because most of them head into the maze of tunnels underneath most skyscrapers. The mostly interconnected labyrinth is loaded with shops and restaurants. But, don't go on a weekend. It's closed like most of the rest of downtown. During the week, however, it gets people from one building to another in air conditioned comfort, as God intended.

See a Joel Osteen sermon at Lakewood Church.
Even if you aren’t religious, the sheer spectacle of ten thousand people gathering in a former basketball arena (where Clutch City was born, we might add) to listen to the preacher/self-help guru Osteen deliver his typically uplifting message is worth at least one visit. There are myriad number of churches around town, but none quite as over the top as Lakewood. You could watch the worship services on TV, but where’s the fun in that?

Have date night at Spindletop Restaurant at the Hyatt Regency downtown.
One of the more breathtaking views of the city’s massive skyscrapers also happens to be inside a terrific restaurant on top of the Hyatt Regency Hotel in downtown. Did we mention it rotates? The slowly spinning restaurant provides a literal 360-degree view of downtown. At sunset, it makes for quite a romantic spot for a date and the food is severely underrated. Don’t worry, it moves really slowly, so you won’t get motion sickness. It’s actually rather relaxing enjoying some wine as the sun dips below the horizon and the massive buildings glide slowly by.