Cover Story: The Making of the Houston Bucket List and The Final Nine

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I have a soft spot for Houston, this mutt of a city that I've called home for nearly all of my 44 years on this earth. During those four decades, it has certainly suffered its share of ups and downs. But, even during the most complicated times our city has faced, I've believed in its resilience at it has yet to fail me. So, when Press Editor Margaret Downing recounted the story of a checklist she saw on her sister's refrigerator in Austin -- a personal bucket list for the state capital -- and suggested one should be done for Houston, I leaped at the opportunity.

The first step in this process I surmised was setting ground rules. Anytime a list is made of any kind, the only way to keep it valid, interesting and relatively free from complaint is to set some fairly strict criteria.

First, whatever made the list had to either be unique to Houston or something we do differently. There are some interesting things to do in Houston that also happen to be done in many cities, so I took sky diving out of the mix, even though it sounds terrifying and exhilarating. Still, not terribly uncommon. On the other hand, there are plenty of places around the world that make killer fried chicken, but are there any that do it like Frenchy's in that setting? I doubt it.

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Houston Bucket List - 100 Things To Do in Houston Before You Die: Wine and Dine on the Hill

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Photo by Adam Baker via Flickr
The Houston Press is presenting a series of posts leading up to a feature story in the print edition of the 100 Things to Do in Houston Before You Die. Each blog post contains one of our top 10 bucket list items along with nine others in the top 100. To narrow our list, we chose only items unique to Houston -- or items to which Houston provides a unique twist -- and everything on the list must be in or occur within 30 miles of downtown Houston (so, nothing from Galveston, for example). We welcome your suggestions in the comment section.

For our ninth and final online installment of the Houston Bucket List (our number one selection and the last nine others will appear in the August 8 print edition), I tried to imagine an experience that blended the cultural and the casual because that might be one of the better ways to describe Houstonians. We enjoy good food, beautiful art and all the benefits of the fourth largest city in America. But, we like to do it in shorts, especially in the summertime. We get dressed up from time to time, but our default approach to life is comfort, partly out of necessity and partly because it best reflects who we are as people. In short, we ain't stuffy. This ninth member of our top 10 fits us well in every way.

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Houston Bucket List -- 100 Things To Do in Houston Before You Die: I'm on Top of the World

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Photo by Jeff Balke
Peeking out from behind a building is one of the best date spots in Houston.
The Houston Press is presenting a series of posts leading up to a feature story in the print edition of the 100 Things to Do in Houston Before You Die. Each blog post contains one of our top 10 bucket list items along with nine others in the top 100. To narrow our list, we chose only items unique to Houston -- or items to which Houston provides a unique twist -- and everything on the list must be in or occur within 30 miles of downtown Houston (so, nothing from Galveston, for example). We welcome your suggestions in the comment section.

It's not always easy to find a good place to take a date no matter where you live. In a big city like Houston, there are a million options for a romantic evening, and everyone's tastes are different. In this, our eighth installment of the Houston Bucket List, I try to give you at least one show-stopping suggestion that should impress any date. And, just as importantly, it is utterly Houston in every way.

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Houston Bucket List -- 100 Things to Do in Houston Before You Die: Bring on the Guacamole

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The Houston Press is presenting a series of posts leading up to a feature story in the print edition of the 100 Things to Do in Houston Before You Die. Each blog post contains one of our top 10 bucket list items along with nine others in the top 100. To narrow our list, we chose only items unique to Houston -- or items to which Houston provides a unique twist -- and everything on the list must be in or occur within 30 miles of downtown Houston (so, nothing from Galveston, for example). We welcome your suggestions in the comment section.

There are a million great things to eat in the city of Houston and as many places to eat them. This is probably why we are consistently ranked as one of the fattest cities in America...and one of the happiest. Trying to pick even a handful of restaurants for this list was a challenge. Several different dining experiences will make the 100, but only one signature restaurant will make the top ten and that one is at the top of our seventh installment of the Houston Bucket List.

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Houston Bucket List - 100 Things to Do in Houston Before You Die: The Short Porch

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Photo by ensign_beedrill via Flickr
The Houston Press is presenting a series of posts leading up to a feature story in the print edition of the 100 Things to Do in Houston Before You Die. Each blog post contains one of our top 10 bucket list items along with nine others in the top 100. To narrow our list, we chose only items unique to Houston -- or items to which Houston provides a unique twist -- and everything on the list must be in or occur within 30 miles of downtown Houston (so, nothing from Galveston, for example). We welcome your suggestions in the comment section.

Houston is a tough place to be a sports fan. At any given time, the local teams could be contending for titles or floundering as one of the worst teams in the league. They can bore you to death or cause a near heart attack from excitement. It's a never-ending roller coaster ride of emotions. But, one consistent positive in Houston sports is the quality of our venues, all of which were built in the last 13 years -- let's not discuss the Astrodome at the moment if you please. As such, one particular spectator experience made our top ten.

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Houston Bucket List - 100 Things to Do in Houston Before You Die: The Death Train

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Photo by Jeff Balke
The Houston Press is presenting a series of posts leading up to a feature story in the print edition of the 100 Things to Do in Houston Before You Die. Each blog post contains one of our top 10 bucket list items along with nine others in the top 100. To narrow our list, we chose only items unique to Houston -- or items to which Houston provides a unique twist -- and everything on the list must be in or occur within 30 miles of downtown Houston (so, nothing from Galveston, for example). We welcome your suggestions in the comment section.

Moving millions of people around a city big enough to fit several cities inside its boundaries isn't easy. Houston has some of the worst commute times in the country and the time we spend in our car contributes to our regular ranking as one of the fattest cities in America. Despite the clogged freeways and angry drivers, we still don't have very many options. You can't build a subway under a swamp. Buses offer as much confusion as they do transportation. And scientists have yet to invent a teleportation device to beam us from our bedrooms to our cubicles. In this fifth installment of the Houston Bucket List, we suggest a polarizing option for escaping the gridlock...even if it is just for a few miles.

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Houston Bucket List -- 100 Things to Do in Houston Before You Die: Saddle Up, Cowboy

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Photos by Jeff Balke
The Houston Press is presenting a series of posts leading up to a feature story in the print edition of the 100 Things to Do in Houston Before You Die. Each blog post contains one of our top 10 bucket list items along with nine others in the top 100. To narrow our list, we chose only items unique to Houston -- or items to which Houston provides a unique twist -- and everything on the list must be in or occur within 30 miles of downtown Houston (so, nothing from Galveston, for example). We welcome your suggestions in the comment section.

Some Houstonians embrace their cowboy heritage -- perhaps a little more than they should -- while others shun it like the plague. It can be both a blessing and a curse in a town that is often synonymous with such things even if you almost never see a guy walking around downtown on a Wednesday in a 10-gallon hat. In our fourth installment of the Houston Bucket List, we tip our hats of the non-cowboy variety to our uneasy acceptance of the days when Main Street was a dirt road and instead of slanted car parking, there were hitches for your horse.

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Houston Bucket List -- 100 Things to Do in Houston Before You Die: Fly Away Home

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Photo by sirtrentalot via Flickr
The Houston Press is presenting a series of posts leading up to a feature story in the print edition of the 100 Things to Do in Houston Before You Die. Each blog post contains one of our top 10 bucket list items along with nine others in the top 100. To narrow our list, we chose only items unique to Houston -- or items to which Houston provides a unique twist -- and everything on the list must be in or occur within 30 miles of downtown Houston (so, nothing from Galveston, for example). We welcome your suggestions in the comment section.

For our third installment of the Houston Bucket List, we turn to nature. Despite the fact that Houston has no mountains or major rivers (bayous don't count), isn't on some pristine coastline, and is brutally hot and humid about four months out of the year, there is a lot to do outside. Once you get used to the heat, you shrug it off and go about your business.

People don't realize how lush of a city it is until you get up above the canopy and look down. Even the 2011 drought couldn't destroy that. But we also have a lot of critters in and around the city, particularly around the bayous. Like the people here, they are residents of Houston too and, in cases like the next in our top ten, quite often more interesting.

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Houston Bucket List - 100 Things To Do in Houston Before You Die: Christmas in July

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Photo by Bill Jacobus via Flickr
The Houston Press is presenting a series of posts leading up to a feature story in the print edition of the 100 Things to Do in Houston Before You Die. Each blog post contains one of our top 10 bucket list items along with nine others in the top 100. To narrow our list, we only chose items unique to Houston -- or items to which Houston provides a unique twist -- and everything on the list must be in or occur within 30 miles of downtown Houston (so, nothing from Galveston, for example). We welcome your suggestions in the comment section.

In installment two of our bucket list series, it is time to inject a bit of holiday cheer into our lives. Sure, it's the middle of July and hot as hell outside, but what better time to dream of cooler weather and imagine sugar plums dancing in our heads? There are plenty of wonderful things to do in Houston around the holidays and quite a few will make our 100, but there is one that nearly trumps them all.

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Houston Bucket List - 100 Things to Do in Houston Before You Die: The Introduction

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Photo by Jeff Balke
Houston has been getting a lot of attention in recent months and from some rather unlikely places. Whether it is The New York Times or Forbes, Houston is, dare we say it, hip. For a town that has a serious case of poor-widdle-me-itis way too often, it is encouraging to see outsiders -- Yankees even! -- embracing the city we love. With that in mind, it seemed like a good time to put together our own little bucket list of things to do in Houston before we die. Now, we don't plan on dying anytime soon, but it never hurts to get started early.

The list is going to be broken down into nine posts here on Hair Balls. Each will contain one of our top 10 bucket list items and nine others in our top 100. The number one item on our list will be in an upcoming issue of the Houston Press along with all 100 items for you to check off from now until you kick it. To narrow our list, we only chose items unique to Houston -- or items to which Houston provides a unique twist -- and everything on the list must be in or occur within 30 miles of downtown Houston (so, nothing from Galveston, for example).

We certainly don't have all the answers and we welcome your suggestions in the comment section. Today, we get started with a classic that you will have to wait for a month or so to accomplish if you haven't already, but it will be worth it.


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