Rest of the Best: 10 Best Places for Parkour in Houston

If you're unfamiliar with the term, parkour is basically what happens when people play Super Mario Bros in real life. You find yourself a good spot full of interesting terrain, then you jump, climb, spin, and flip off of it until you basically collect all the underwear of anyone who happens to see you. It's not for the meek, and it's amazing to watch in progress.

Outside of various gym and groups that give parkour lessons and help you train, there are at least ten good spots that will allow you to really show off your skills. Get ready to run.

Special thanks to Autumn Smith and Dakao Do of Sword to Sword for their help compiling this article as the author is on NO way qualified to physically do any of it.

10. Lee and Joe Jamail Skatepark
I've ranked the skatepark so low not because it isn't awesome to do parkour there. It clearly is from the above video. The problem is that you're not usually going to find space or permission to really pull off your moves. Catch them in an open mood, though and get ready to really show off.


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Rest of the Best: 10 Best Places to Take a Kid on a Train in Houston

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CC-BY-SA-3.0" target="_blank">Photo by Brian Reading
Our version of the El

Back when Houston decided it no longer really wanted to be the Space City anymore (The reasoning behind which still escapes me to this day), we rechristened ourselves the Bayou City and also got really into trains. When Enron Field opened the old Union Station location they went in for a distinctly train station homage, and the engine along the stadium walls celebrating the frequent home runs has become a beloved fixture.

My daughter loves trains. Most kids do. And the good news is that if you want spend a couple of days chugging along on choo choos with your kids there are some really first rate ways to do it.


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Rest of the Best: Houston's Top 10 Tourist Attractions (For Locals Too)

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Photo by Bill Jacobus
The George Observatory at Brazos Bend Park
Whether it's hauling around out-of-town relatives and friends or because you just want something different to do, Houston has plenty of tourist attractions.

Here's our list of tourist attractions that locals will enjoy.

10.The George Observatory at Brazos Bend Park
2901 FM 762, Needville
281-242-3055, hmns.org

A satellite of the Houston Museum of Natural Science, the family friendly George Observatory comes in at our ten spot. There are three domed telescopes open to the public -- 36, 18 and 14 inches. The observatory attracts newbies, amateurs and serious hobbyists and no matter what your interest in astronomy, there's something at the observatory that you'll find fascinating. Staffers and guides are on hand to walk you through the process, pointing out standout stars and planets.

Expect crowds during special events (such as a comet watch), but attendance is usually manageable and though you might have to stand in line for a few minutes, everybody gets a chance to see the stars. Sleep-overs and group visits are available (be smart and get your reservations in at least three months before you plan to visit).

Open to the public every Saturday year-round, the observatory's hours vary depending on the season, 3 to 10 p.m. or 3 to 11 p.m. Admission to the Observatory is $5. Admission to the planetarium is $3. Admission to the park is $7 per adult.


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Rest of the Best: Houston's Top 10 Music Video Directors

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Everyone knows, or should know, that Houston is a hive of tremendous live musical talent. Seriously, go out sometime. Any time. There are bands for all tastes, from the light-hearted pop rocky to the esoteric beyond all measures of known sound.

However, it seems to be less well-known that many of these bands produce first rate music videos. I mean truly top shelf, ready-for-MTV-if-that-were-still-a-thing productions. Somebody has to direct those productions, and in hopes of widening local knowledge of my favorite art form even more today I show off the ten best.

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Rest of the Best: Top 10 Pro-Wrestling PPVs Ever Held in Houston

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Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. The Rock at Wrestlemania X-Seven
It's the big show. The final grudge match. The one where everything will be settled. Having grown up addicted to professional wrestling my life was a constant series of begging and whining to try and get my parents to shell out an exorbitant amount of money to watch grown men pretend to beat each other up for a few hours. For 11 straight years I never missed a Royal Rumble or a Wrestlemania, surrounded with like-minded grappling enthusiasts.

But every once in a while Houstonians didn't have to be content seeing it on the TV screen. When the stars aligned and everything was just right the big boys came to town and we got to see the whole thing live. Hit the lights because these were the ones you should not have missed.

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Rest of the Best: Houston's Top 10 Museums

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Detail from a work by Robert Pruitt held in the University Museum of Texas Southern University

Among Houston's biggest and most popular destination areas is the Museum District. It's jammed with a variety of world class organizations dedicated to art, culture and history. Of course, not all of the city's museums are inside the district, as our top 10 list shows.

Before we get to the list, here's a note about the museums that aren't on the list. We considered several other organizations including the Funeral Museum, the Houston Museum of African American Culture, the Museum of Printing History, the Buffalo Soldiers National Museum and a previous winner in the Best of Awards, the Weather Museum. We decided to look at those and several other smaller museums that focus on one subject in another list.

10. The University Museum at Texas Southern University
3100 Cleburne, 713-313-7145

This is the first time on our list for this university-based museum. With collections such as those of famed painter John Biggers (who started the art department at the Texas State University for Negroes - now Texas Southern University - in 1949), well-known sculptor Carroll Harris Simms, and an impressive African art collection and ongoing touring shows, the museum is much less well known than its University of Houston counterpart but no less an important resource to the community. Recent exhibits include "Traces of Confucius," an extensive look at the life of Chinese philosopher.

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Rest of the Best: Top 10 Movies Set in Houston

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Our city seems like it's had to fight for its identity on a national scale sometimes. How many movies have you seen set in New York, Los Angeles, or Chicago? Happens all the time, yet despite ranking right up there in terms of population, diversity, culture, and history it seems rare that movie characters actually come specifically here.

Oh they shoot movies here all the time, of course. I have a friend who threw popcorn at Robocop in Robocop 2 and I myself was an extra in a VH1 film that put me almost within touching distance of Maureen Flannigan. Still, just because they turn the cameras on here doesn't mean that they admit they did so on screen.

Today we celebrate the ones that did. Just a note, films that were shot at the Johnson Space Center were excluded since pretty much any movie that deals with space travel history sort of has to shoot there.

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The Rest of the Best 2014: Houston's Top 10 Film Festivals

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We love film festivals. Thankfully, Houston has loads to choose from. Here's our list of the top 10 film festivals in Houston. Most of these will seem familiar to movie fans; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston's Latin Wave, the Houston Indian Film Festival and the ever impressive Houston Cinema Arts Society all made the cut.

Also on our radar, but missing from this list is the Reel Teen Film Festival at the Houston Public Library. A collection of new works by young filmmakers, Teen Fest has an impressive track record for presenting a mix of films that range from studiously serious to happily silly with awards in eight categories. The next Reel Teen fest is scheduled for May 2014.

In the also ran category is the now defunct Mexican Film Festival organized by Viva Cinema, which ran a multi-plex in the Sharpstown shopping center. While it boasted some great films, the festival was a victim of a poor publicity campaign. The trouble didn't stop there. Viva Cinema closed the theater down last fall due to what it said were unfair industry practices.

10. Houston Iranian Film Festival
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and Rice Cinema

One of two festivals on our list hosted by the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston's outstanding film department, led by long-time curator Marian Luntz, the Houston Iranian Film Festival does a great job of finding gems such as My Name Is Negahdar Jamali and I Make Westerns, (seen above) a 2012 documentary by director Kamran Heydari. My Name chronicled the unexpected story of Negahdar Jamali, a pleasant who has spent the last 35 years making amateur westerns which feature sometimes reluctant friends and family in front of the camera.

Another recent film featured at the festival is Negar Azarbeyjani's 2011 Facing Mirrors, an impressive narrative debut that follows Eddie, a female-to-male transgendered person, as he tries to make his way to Germany for reassignment surgery and Jafar Panahi's 2011 This Is Not a Film, made by the Panahi who was under house arrest in Iran and banned from filmmaking at the time for reportedly creating "propaganda against the regime."


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Rest of the Best 2014: Houston's Top 10 Carousels

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Carousels are magic. They truly are. An adult can look at a merry-go-round in a play yard and safely think it's just for kids. You make that same merry-go-round two stories tall and full of expertly carved animals, lights, and calliope music and suddenly grown people will elbow each other in solar plexus to get on an ostrich.

The greater Houston area has some really keen carousels, and having a four-year-old daughter I have been on every damned one of them. In case you feel the need to go on a carousel quest yourself, here's the order it is best to proceed in.

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The Rest of the Best 2014: Houston's Top 10 Parks (Inside the Loop)

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Courtesy of the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau/Photo by Shannon O'Hara
Market Square Park
There have been a few changes to our choices of top ten centrally located parks since 2013's list. The top three spots are filled by the same parks, but not in the same order as last year. A couple of things affected our choices. One, better weather. The recent drought certainly left its mark on Houston's green spaces, but signs of recovery are abundant. Two, programing. Some spots are lovely but offer very little in the way of education or entertainment while others have several organized events a day.

10. Market Square Park
301 Milam Street, 713-223-2003

One of several parks in the shadow of downtown's skyscrapers, Market Square Park is smack in the middle of the oldest part of the city's central business district. A dog park is sectioned off on one side, Niko Niko's has a standing cafe and there's still lots of room for watching Alamo Drafthouse on the Road film screenings, listening to concerts from diverse music groups such as Cello Fury, Bingo games and lots of bike-related events (Critical Mass and Bayou Bikers meet here regularly). There are also frequent festivals, such as the Annual Mardi Gras Jamboree and Gumbo Showdown sponsored by Saint Arnold Brewing Company and the Downtown District.


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