The Best of Houston 2015: The 10 Best Dog Parks in Houston

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Photo by Olivia Flores Alvarez
Elizabeth Glover Park

Dogs come in all shapes and sizes; so do dog parks. Houston has tiny, barebones parks, huge, well-equipped parks, parks with shade, parks with no shade, parks in the middle of the city and parks in the middle of other parks. Where you take your dog for its daily exercise and recreation depends on location, sure, but with as many parks as Houston has, owners usually have a choice of two or three nearby parks. Here are our top ten. Did your favorite make the list?

10. Elizabeth Glover Park
1400 Elgin

Elizabeth Glover Park is officially the smallest park on our list (taking the honor away from T.C. Jester). It's tiny and relatively unadorned. Bark chips are used as ground cover (based on the holes and piles we saw on our last visit there, bark chips are fun for dogs who like to dig). There are two double-gated entries...and that's it. No benches. No shade (unless you count the shadows of the office buildings directly west of the park).

Outside the fenced area, there's a small lawn of lush grass with an "exercise platform" at one end (we thought it was an outdoor stage). A line of robust native grasses and bushes create a bit of a barrier between park and the always-busy Elgin Street; there's a small noise factor.

So how did this tiny, barebones park make our list? Location, location, location. It's perfectly situated to serve the growing number of Midtown residents. Another big plus is the fact that the park is right across from a busy fire station (the wailing sirens are big fun for the dogs every time the fire trucks race out).

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Best of Houston: 10 Best Nicknames for Houston

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htown4ever.com
As you can probably guess, working at the Houston Press, a writer can get a little tired of typing "Houston" over and over again. It's a fine city name, but it becomes repetitive. Well, recently I learned that our city actually has way more nicknames than I'd ever known. Let's look at a few.

10. H-Town
Probably the most used nickname is H-Town...which only shortens your typing by one character so it's not all that much of a time saver. The nickname apparently came into national play in the 1990s. That's when Kevin and Solomon Conner and their friend Darryl Jackson formed an R&B group of the same name and the Arena Theatre was referred to as the H'Town Arena. It had been an established nickname in the city for years before then, used mainly by the rising rap movement.

9. Magnolia City
Houston was known nationally as the Magnolia City all the way back to the turn of the last century. Usage of the term dates back to the 1870s and referenced the natural magnolia groves that flourished in east Houston. These were all plowed under by the 1930s in the name of urban development, though the term remained in use sometimes to refer to the prominent Magnolia Brewery. Interestingly enough, while we were known as the Magnolia City, Galveston was called the Oleander City for the same reason.

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Best of Houston: 9 Best Houston Horror Shorts Online

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"In Extremis"
A combination of increasingly cheaper film making supplies and the magic of the Internet has given the short film a wider audience than it ever has had before. When you throw in our annual Splatterfest horror short film festival every year Houston ends up producing a startling amount of excellent and terrifying short films. The best part is ten of the best ones are available for free online, so if you've been wanting to dive into the Houston film scene but were unsure where to start today we've made it as easy as possible.

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The 10 Best Pet Cemeteries and Crematoriums in Houston

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Pet Sematary
Don't worry, none of them offer demonic resurrection services
George Carlin once said that buying a pet essentially meant you were purchasing a small tragedy. The fact is that in most cases we out live our beloved animal companions, and for some people the bond is strong enough to want a proper ceremony or burial to honor them. Luckily in a city the size of Houston that desire can be accommodated. Here are the ten best places to guide your furry babies over the rainbow bridge.

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Best of Houston: The 10 Best Houston Documentaries

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Houston Ship Channel: Deep Water Centennial
Houston is one of the most unique cities in the country, certainly the most diverse. This naturally leads to having a bunch of people and places with stories waiting to be told in documentary film. In order to celebrate the folks that just made their Kickstarter goal in order to fund a film about Numbers, today we give thanks to some of the other great docs that have preceded it.

10. Houston Ship Channel: Deep Water Centennial
I'm a public works nerd. Did you ever wonder who is up watching the history of concrete on the History Channel? That's me, and if it's you too you'll love this. The Texas Foundation for the Arts put together an hour-long documentary on the Houston Ship Channel to celebrate the 100th anniversary of its opening. It's a fairly basic account, but the importance of the Ship Channel is often overlooked on a national scale and it's nice to see someone making its story more accessible. Plus, it's completely free online as well.


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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

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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

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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

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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

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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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