10 Best Places to See a Movie in Houston That Aren't a Movie Theater

This past weekend I toddled the family off down to the local AMC multiplex to see Paddington (Side note: AMC Willowbrook has free soda refills now!). We're a big moviegoer family. My wife and I met at a movie theater and named our daughter for a friend we met at another. We love paying $50 to sit in a dark room eating popcorn and candy while having giant people tell us a story.

That said, there are a surprising number of ways that you can indulge a passion for going to the movie that doesn't actually involving, well, going to the movies. Here's how.

10. Alamo Drafthouse Rolling Roadshow
On occasion the Alamo Drafhouse chain brings the movies to you, which is nice because seriously why are they both out in the boonies? Using an inflatable screen they show films in Market Square and the parking lot of the Kirby Whole Foods. Mostly the movies are staples like The Princess Bride and Ghostbusters. They're also free, but you might want to invest in some collapsible chairs if you're going to attend.

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4 Things That Make Houston Weirder Than Austin

Photo by Liz Henry
Good luck with that, Austin...

I have a house in Houston and another in Austin, and spend time between the two cities. I've lived in both places at various times over the last 24 years or so, and the differences between the two have always been interesting to me. I find city rivalries to be pretty dumb for the most part, and like and dislike a few things about Houston and Austin.

However, there's this lingering perception by a lot of people that Austin is somehow "weird," and I have to disagree. It's funny too, because when I pass a car with a "Keep Austin Weird" sticker on it, more often than not, it's on a pretty normal looking vehicle with a really normal looking person driving it. The last time I saw a "Keep Austin Weird" shirt, it was on a guy who looked like he was probably the district manager of some bank, worn along with a pair of khaki shorts and designer shoes.

I would argue that, by my standards anyway, Austin is no longer "weird," but is actually just "cool," and there is a big difference between those two designations. There's nothing wrong with being a cool city, but that doesn't necessarily make a place weird. I personally feel like Houston, which is not usually considered as "hip" as Austin, is actually the weirder of the two cities. How is that possible? Let's take a look.

4. The Lack of Zoning

Let's face it, Houston's famous lack of zoning creates some interesting urban landscapes. It's the largest major city in the U.S. without zoning, and that has long created a crazy quilt of development throughout the area. Austin is a pretty city, with fairly standard zoning regulations, and it looks like it. You don't see icehouses in the middle of residential neighborhoods, or other types of oddly placed businesses right next to homes in older neighborhoods. Whatever one's opinion on Houston's lack of zoning, it's difficult to claim that it doesn't often allow for some pretty weird results, and that's just not something you see in Austin very much.

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10 Best Original Television Shows Set in Houston

I think even the most fervent fan of our city would agree that Houston has something of a problem projecting an identity to the rest of the nation. We're just not seen as a place with a really iconic personality or look so it's rare that we are used as a location in fiction. However it does sometimes happen in films and books. Rarer are non-reality shows set here, but there have been a few over the years. Such as...

10. As For Me and My House
This is a show that tried real, real hard. It was definitely a Houston story, dealing with blended families that move in together after moving to the city in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Jalene Mack was the main star, and she brought out her usual energy as a successful lawyer who doesn't have much time for her family. I'd like to say the show was a success simply because every aspect of the production was derived from Houston, but it aired just briefly on KNWS and then faded into obscurity.

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6 Things to Do Around Houston on a Tight Budget

Photo by Patrick Feller
One of the awesome things about living in or around the great city of Houston is that there are always things going on for people looking for fun stuff to do with their spare time. Of course, a lot of activities can be expensive to indulge in, but fortunately, Houston also has a lot of fun things to do for people on a budget.

6. Try Your Hand at Urban Fishing

A lot of people in Houston forget how close they are to a variety of water sources that contain robust populations of fish. There are ponds and lakes all around the area, and also the bayous that weave their way throughout the city. Yes, the bayous are indeed fishable, as are many other urban water sources that many people might not think of that are easily accessible to many Houstonians.

While I wouldn't advise eating anything caught in a bayou, fishing them can still be fun, and there's a surprising variety of fish swimming in those urban waterways -- perch, bass, gar, sunfish, catfish, pleco catfish, carp and tilapia are all in our bayous, and I've even spotted what I'm pretty sure were cichlids of some sort from time to time. Find a good spot, and fishing can make for a very inexpensive and fun way to spend an afternoon.

Texas Parks and Wildlife also stocks several lakes and ponds around the area with fish, and interested parties can consult the agency's website for a list.

5. Houston Roller Derby

Houston has a lively Roller Derby scene, with events that can be a blast to attend and are surprisingly affordable. Individual tickets to the bouts start at $15, with VIP tickets available for $25, as well as group rates and season ticket packages.

The sport began in the early 1920s as a form of female flat track roller-skate racing, and transformed into a team contact sport by the 1930s. Roller Derby remained popular until fizzling out in the 1970s, but has re-emerged in recent years, with an edgy punk rock sensibility and an emphasis on athletic ability. To put it short, Roller Derby rocks, and the bouts are a lot of fun to watch.

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Best of Houston: Top 10 Houston Scream Queens

Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation
Houston produces plenty of great actors and actresses. We also produce a lot of horror movies and when the two meet, we end up with a gallery of wonderful thespians that can embody silver screen terror. Today we take a look at the scream queens that have graced our fair city with their impressive wails and murders.

10. Renee Zellweger
I understand that I'm stretching my credibility a bit here. Zellweger is an Academy Award-winning actress better known for playing Bridget Jones than running from psycho killers. All true, but her performance in 1994's Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation is an underrated marvel. Not only does she hold her own against Leatherface, Matthew McConaughey with a remote controlled robotic leg and the freakin' Illuminati (I sincerely love this batshit insane mess of a movie), but Zellweger was a good enough sport to allow her actress character in White Oleander to poke fun at the film as an embarrassing early role using actual footage from TCM:TNG. That's class enough to make the list.

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[VIDEO] The Changing Face of Houston - A City That Never Stops Transforming

Over the last several months, as I researched and wrote the "Changing Face of Houston" series of articles featuring Houston neighborhoods, several things became evident - Houston is a dynamic place that has experienced many transformations over its history, and the many communities contained within the city continue to evolve, reflecting the character of the people living here.

Houston is not the type of place where a person can just get used to things indefinitely staying the same, nor is it a city where it's wise to assume that a neighborhood experiencing a period of decline is down for the count. Learning the history's of some of Houston's communities gave me a deeper appreciation for the crazy patchwork of communities that makes up the city's landscape. It also showed me just how quickly and fundamentally many areas of this city is changing.

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10 Best Houston Cosplayers

Photo by Long Thai (Mineralblu Photography)
Titan as Colossus
The rise of the Houston cosplay scene has been fantastic to watch. Every year at the increasing number of geek conventions, you find more and more people pulling out all the stops to bring characters to wonderful life. Today we look at the ten most amazing examples of cosplay brilliance H-Town produces.

As his name suggests, Titan is a mountain of a man. He got into cosplay in 2012 after he left the army. His first costume was Bane from The Dark Knight Rises. He made a splash at the Halloween party he was attending, but putting together so elaborate a setup for just one night didn't feel worth it. In 2013 he started taking his creations to Comicpalooza and has been an avid cosplayer ever since. His other works include Colossus and the armored version of Hulk seen in Planet Hulk. The latter involved an 800-piece handmade chain-mail armor and leather war kilt requiring hours of work.

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The Changing Face of Houston: The City That Welcomes and Transforms

The sun hovering over Houston was quickly giving way to twilight when Laura Levine approached the building off Main Street, nestled near the center of Midtown. Laura hurriedly opened the door as a METRORail train whizzed by on the street behind. As she walked up the stairs to the shop sitting above the Continental Club, Levine talked about the circumstances that led to her co-ownership of a shop of oddities open only at night in the middle of Houston.

"I grew up in Waco but always knew I'd end up in Houston. It's such a crazy, mysterious city. No zoning makes everything so much more interesting. A church next to a dive bar is quirky, yet appealing in a strange way; it keeps you on your toes. With such a colorful landscape, living in Houston is an adventure, and if you pay attention, you can discover some really cool parts of town. That's what I love most about Houston: The cool spots to go to are not obvious."

Levine, who moved here in 1995, and her partner, Mike Hildebrand, opened a vintage resale shop in the Heights named Replay on 19th Street, but it wasn't her first time to visit the city.

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The Changing Face of Houston - East Downtown

Photo by Agsftw
East Downtown is a neighborhood that has seen enormous changes occur over its many year history, and it is quickly emerging as a hip and vibrant community in Houston's central core, attracting new residents from many walks of life.

East Downtown, or "EaDo" as it has recently been named, started out its existence as part of the Third Ward, one of the four original wards established shortly after the founding of Houston in 1836. Throughout the 1800s, what is now present day East Downtown was a posh area of Victorian homes and well heeled residents, but eventually it saw changes that negatively affected it as a residential area. When nearby train lines were installed through downtown, the neighborhood began to transition from its former status into something else - More of a lower income area with commercial properties, warehouses, and other industrial developments.

The area changed again in the early half of the 20th century, when Chinese immigrants began to settle into the neighborhood, lured in by the inexpensive real estate prices, and Houston's first "Chinatown" began to develop. The Cantonese immigrants continued to open a variety of businesses there, and the community was a thriving ethnic neighborhood for years, eventually attracting Asians from many other countries who also set roots in the area.

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10 Best Places to Take a Date for Free in Houston

Photo by Daniel Kramer
Dr. John at Miller Outdoor Theatre. 2013
The Great Recession may be over, but there's a lot of people for whom times are still pretty rough. However, just because you're broke doesn't mean that you don't have the need to take your significant other out on the town for some fun now and then. Luckily, if you're willing to dig around a little, there are actually plenty of great things to do in the city that don't cost anything other than the cost of getting there.

Miller Outdoor Theatre
Shows are expensive...unless you go see them at Miller Outdoor Theatre. With only the rare exceptions (So always check the calendar carefully), Miller offers completely free performances and films. Just this year they had a song-and-dance tribute to Michael Jackson, the SEOP dance company from Korea, a musical about kung fu, an innovative mash-up of radio theater and pulp comic books called The Intergalactic Nemesis, symphonic performances, and more. Parking can be a headache sometimes, but for onstage spectacles on a budget, Miller is unbeatable.

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