Blue Star Museums in Houston

Blue Star Museums in Houston
by Carolynn Waites
May 25, 2014

Service Members Receive Free Admission at Select Houston Museums This Summer

On May 21, 2014, the National Endowment for the Arts and Blue Star Families announced the launch of the fifth year of Blue Star Museums. This outstanding program offers free admission to American service members and their families at over 2,000 museums across the United States. The free admission is available from Memorial Day through Labor Day 2014. Here are the participating museums around Houston, Texas.

Buffalo Soldiers National Museum
The Buffalo Soldiers National Museum is the only museum dedicated to preserving the legacy and honor of the African-American Soldier. It is open Monday through Saturday. The museum’s address is 3816 Caroline Street, Houston, Texas 77004.

Contemporary Arts Museum Houston
The Contemporary Arts Museum Houston presents innovative international, national, and regional art. It is open Tuesday through Sunday. The museum is located at 5216 Montrose Boulevard, Houston, Texas 77006.

Dunham Bible Museum
The Dunham Bible Museum is dedicated to telling the story of the Bible through its large collection of rare Bibles, scriptures, and manuscripts. It is open Monday through Saturday. The museum is located at Houston Baptist University, 7502 Fondren Road, Houston, Texas 77074.

Holocaust Museum Houston
The Holocaust Museum Houston educates visitors about the Holocaust, remembering the victims and honoring the legacy of the survivors. It is open Sunday through Saturday. The address of the museum is 5401 Caroline Street, Houston, Texas 77004.

The Menil Collection
The Menil Collection houses, exhibits, and preserves the outstanding art collection of Houston philanthropists John and Dominique de Menil. It is open Wednesday through Saturday. The museum is located at 1533 Sul Ross Street, Houston, Texas 77006.

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston includes two main gallery buildings that house the art collections and exhibitions, the Cullen Sculpture Garden, Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens, Rienzi, and the Glassell Scholl of Art. The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday. The museum’s main campus address is 1001 Bissonnet, Houston, Texas 77005.

Alvin Museum Society (Alvin)
The Alvin Museum Society operates the Marguerite Rogers House Museum and the Alvin Historical Museum. Both museums are open Thursdays, Fridays, and the first Saturday of each month. The Marguerite Rogers House Museum is located at 113 East Dumble, Alvin, Texas 77511. The Alvin Historical Museum is located in the former post office at 300 West Sealy, Alvin, Texas 77511.

Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig Museum (Galveston)
The Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig Museum allows visitors to experience the offshore industry first-hand on an actual retired drilling rig. The museum is open Sunday through Saturday. The museum is located at Pier 19, Harborside Drive, Galveston, Texas 77550.

Sam Houston Memorial Museum (Huntsville)
The Sam Houston Memorial Museum is a center for education and information about Sam Houston and the role he played in Texas history. It is open Tuesday through Sunday. The museum’s address is 1402 19th Street, Huntsville, Texas 77340.

San Jacinto Museum of History (La Porte)
The base of the San Jacinto Monument houses the San Jacinto Museum of History. The museum honors those who fought in the Battle of San Jacinto to win Texas’ independence from Mexico and presents the history of Texas and the Spanish Southwest. The museum is open Sunday through Saturday. The museum is located at One Monument Circle, La Porte, Texas 77571.

Lake Jackson Historical Association (Lake Jackson)
The Lake Jackson Historical Society runs the Lake Jackson Historical Museum. The museum focuses on the history of Lake Jackson with interactive exhibits and high-tech displays. It is open Tuesday through Saturday. The museum’s address is 249 Circle Way, Lake Jackson, Texas 77566.

The Woodlands Children’s Museum (The Woodlands)
The Woodlands Children’s Museum provides creative play experiences and interactive activities for children. It is ideal for children seven years old and under. It is open Tuesday through Sunday. The museum is located at 4775 West Panthercreek Drive #280, The Woodlands, Texas 77381.

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A Dog’s-Eye-View of Popular Dog Parks in Houston

A Dog’s-Eye-View of Popular Dog Parks in Houston
by Carolynn Waites
Mar 22, 2014

One Local Dog’s Opinion of the Best Parks to Go Off-Leash

My name is Rocky and as a dog living in the Houston area, I enjoy a new outdoor adventure every now and then. My mom and dad like to take me to different dog parks around the city. New places offer so many smells to discover. These dog parks are popular with our owners and us doggies. They are easy to get to, have ample parking, and have plenty of amenities for both canine and human. I may not always feel like playing with the other dogs, but I can easily spend all day sniffing every shrub and tree at these parks.

Danny Jackson Family Dog Park is a popular dog park located within the heart of Houston. It is located off Westpark Drive just inside Loop 610. The park is 2.76 acres and features ponds, water fountains, benches, dog wash areas, and walking trails. The park splits into a small dog park and a large dog park. Even though I have the heart and soul of a big dog, at 12 pounds I am usually in the small dog park. Park hours are 7:00am to 10:00pm. The park address is 4828 1/2 Loop Central Drive, Houston, TX 77081.

Millie Bush Dog Park is located inside George Bush Park in west Houston. It is named after George and Barbara Bush’s dog Millie. The park is 8.68 acres and features water fountains, double-gated fencing, benches, walking trails, ponds, and dog showers. There is a separate small dog park fenced within the large dog park. I do not like getting wet, but I know many of my furry friends love splashing around and swimming in the ponds. Hours for the dog park are 7:00am to dusk. The address of the park is 16756 Westheimer Parkway, Houston, TX 77082.

Congressman Bill Archer Park includes one of the largest dog parks in the area. That means I have plenty of land to run free off the leash. The 17-acre dog park includes a separate dog park for small dogs as well as the large dog park. Both dog parks feature a double-gated fence, large swimming ponds, agility courses, dog showers, benches, water fountains and walking trails. Park hours are 7:00am to dusk. The park address is 3201 State Highway 6 North, Houston, TX 77084.

Rocky is a 12-pound chi-weenie dog that lives with his human mom and dad and two annoying cats that he likes to escape. One of his favorite pastimes is going for a car ride. It is even better when a dog park is the destination for that car ride. Rocky has been to dog parks all over the United States, but he calls Houston home and likes to check out the local doggie hangouts whenever he can get a ride in the car to visit them. He asked his mom to help him with this article about his favorite dog parks in Houston. Please remember to follow all the dog park rules and be a good canine citizen.

Discover Excellent Wines From Texas

Discover Excellent Wines From Texas
by Carolynn Waites
May 22, 2014

Texas Produces Fine Wine in Every Region of the State

Texas may not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of wine, but the state has become the fifth largest producer of wine in the United States. In fact, the first vineyard established in North America by Franciscan priests was in Texas around 1662. According to the Texas Wine & Grape Growers Association, there were 273 wineries permitted by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission as of January 18, 2013. There are five different wine regions within Texas. Sample wine from each region and chances are you will find a new favorite.

Hill Country
The Texas Hill Country in central Texas is the most celebrated wine region in the state. It is home to over 70 wineries and is a popular tourist destination for winery tours. Becker Vineyards in Stonewall, Texas, is one of the top wineries in Texas. According to Grape.com, George W. Bush served Becker wines on several occasions in the White House. Their wines have won numerous national and international awards. Another popular award-winning brand from the Texas Hill Country region is Grape Creek Vineyards in Fredericksburg, Texas.

Southeast Texas (Gulf Coast)
Southeast Texas includes over 50 wineries in the region. Hybrid grapes such as Blanc du Bois are the most prevalent grapes grown in the area. Haak Winery produces some very popular wines with Blanc du Bois grapes grown at their vineyard in Santa Fe, Texas. Messina Hof in Bryan, Texas, is one of the best-known wineries in the state. Their wines have won numerous international and national awards. According to their website, Messina Hof produces over 50,000 cases of wine each year.

Texas Panhandle (High Plains)
Long, hot, dry summers with cool evenings make this an ideal region for growing grapes. The Texas Panhandle region has over 1,100 acres of vineyard land. Llano Estacado in Lubbock, Texas, is the largest, best selling Premium Winery in Texas. According to Grape.com, the winery produces about 220,000 cases of wine a year.

North Texas (DFW)
More than 75 wineries call the North Texas region home. The well-drained sandy loam soil that is in the area is excellent for growing grapes. Many great wines come from this region. One popular brand to try is Brushy Creek Vineyards in Alvord, Texas. They recently won three medals in the 2014 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition.

West Texas
The dry climate and mild winters in the West Texas region benefit the 1200 acres of vineyards. The West Texas region is home to the oldest bonded winery; the Val Verde Winery has been in operation since 1883. There are six other wineries located in the region. Ste Genevieve in Fort Stockton is one of the largest wineries in Texas. According to Grape.com, their vineyard covers over 8oo acres of land and they produce over 630,000 gallons of wine each year.

Five Texas Writers You Should Discover

Five Texas Writers You Should Discover
by Carolynn Waites
May 21, 2014

Seek Out Books by Authors You May Not Know

Whether you are from Texas or elsewhere, who comes to mind when you think of novelists from Texas? Cormac McCarthy? Larry McMurtry? Both are great writers and very well known. Texas is also home to many writers that may not be on best-seller lists or household names. As an avid reader, I enjoy discovering authors that are new to me. Here are five Texas writers that I recommend you add to your reading list.

Tom Abrahams
Tom Abrahams has written only written two books so far, but I highly recommend both books. Allegiance and Sedition are both political thrillers. They are fast-paced, edge-of-your-seat novels with original stories. It is obvious that a lot of research went into the novels. Tom is a news reporter in Houston, and his knowledge of politics and government registers in his books. His first book Allegiance rates over four stars on Goodreads and Sedition rates close to four stars.

Sarah Bird
Sarah Bird is the author of nine novels, with her latest novel Above the East China Sea having been released in May 2014. According to her bio, the readers of the Austin Chronicle voted Sarah as Best Austin Author for the fourth time in 2012. She was inducted into the Texas Literary Hall of Fame also in 2012. I have loved every book of hers that I have read, but my recommendations are The Flamenco Academy, The Yokota Officers Club, and The Boyfriend School. All three of these books have earned close to four stars on Goodreads.

Bill Crider
Bill Crider has written more than 50 novels. His novels include several genres, including westerns and horror, but his mysteries are the most popular. Bill’s most popular series with readers is the Sheriff Dan Rhodes Series, which includes 20 novels. I recommend that you start at the beginning with the first in the series Too Late to Die. This book won the Anthony Award for Best First Novel. Every book in this series has garnered almost four stars on Goodreads. One of his other mystery series is the Carl Burns Series. I recommend One Dead Dean, which was the first book of his I read and it is still one of my favorites.

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni currently lives in Houston because she teaches in the nationally ranked Creative Writing Program at the University of Houston. That is why I am familiar with her books, and why I am including her in my list of Texas writers. Chitra has written more than 20 books, most of which average just below four stars on Goodreads. I find her books to be thought provoking and informative. Her three novels that I recommend are One Amazing Thing, The Palace of Illusions, and her most recent book Oleander Girl.

Owen Egerton
Owen Egerton has written three novels and a collection of short stories. All four of these books rate just below or above four stars on Goodreads. His writing is funny, clever, and often filled with dark humor. I recommend his latest book from 2013, Everyone Says That at the End of the World. It was selected as a semi-finalist for the 2014 Thurber Prize for American Humor. I also recommend his novel The Book of Harold: The Illegitimate Son of God and his book of short stories How Best to Avoid Dying: Stories.

Favorite Day Spas for Relaxation & Rejuvenation in the Houston Area

Favorite Day Spas for Relaxation & Rejuvenation in the Houston Area
by Carolynn Waites
Apr 9, 2014

Creating an Oasis of Calm in Our Busy World Makes These Day Spas Stand Out

Visiting a day spa for some pampering is an excellent way to reduce stress and rejuvenate your sense of well-being. Stepping out of the world and into the calm and relaxing atmosphere of a day spa does wonders for your psyche. A soothing environment mixed with great customer service will help turn an hour or two of your day into a luxurious break for yourself. Here are four full-service spas dedicated to relaxation in the Houston area that create a wonderful experience that have customers raving.

Dolce Vita Day Spa
Dolce Vita Day Spa uses a holistic approach with its spa treatments, using natural products and essential oils. The luxury begins the moment you walk into the spa with soothing music, falling water, aromatherapy, and beautiful decor. This spa in the River Oaks area is open Tuesday through Sunday and they recommend booking your appointment at least one week in advance. Dolce Vita Day Spa is located at 2503-B S. Shepherd Drive, Houston, TX 77019.

Trellis Spa
Trellis Spa is located in The Houstonian Hotel in the Galleria/Uptown area of Houston. The Mediterranean-style spa surrounds a beautiful garden courtyard in a tranquil setting. They are open seven days a week and recommend making appointments at least two weeks in advance. Trellis Spa is located at 111 North Post Oak Lane, Houston, TX 77024.

Bergamos Spa Retreat
Bergamos Spa Resort is located in Friendswood, just south of Houston. It is a destination spa for many in the Houston area. Soothing music and a tranquil setting help you unwind before your treatment begins. They are open seven days a week and recommend booking your visit at least three or four days in advance. Bergamos Spa Retreat is located at 313 E. Edgewood Drive, Friendswood, TX 77546.

The Spa at Cinco Ranch
The Spa at Cinco Ranch is located just west of Houston in Katy. This destination spa is located on one and a half acres and offers beautiful tranquil courtyard views. Their goal is to reduce stress, relax the body, and rejuvenate the soul. The spa is by appointment only and is open Monday through Saturday. The Spa at Cinco Ranch is located at 23050 Westheimer Parkway, Katy, TX 77494.

Escape Into Nature Without Leaving the Metro Area: Houston’s Best Hiking Trails

Escape Into Nature Without Leaving the Metro Area: Houston’s Best Hiking Trails
by Carolynn Waites
Mar 17, 2014

Do you want to escape from the city without leaving the city? Houston has several hiking trails that can take you back to nature without having to leave the metropolitan area. These three popular hiking trails are good for all levels, so anyone can get out on them and lose themselves in nature for an hour or two.

Houston Arboretum & Nature Center
Houston Arboretum & Nature Center is an oasis within an oasis in the city of Houston. Located within Memorial Park, the nature center has many different trails. The most popular trail with hikers is the Outer Loop trail. This smooth, unpaved two-mile loop encircles the arboretum and gets you away from the more crowded trails in Memorial Park. The southern portion of the trail has a remote feel to it and you can forget that the big city surrounds you. Entrance to the Houston Arboretum is free and the trails are open seven days a week from 7:00am to dusk. Dogs are allowed on the trails as long as they are kept on a leash at all times. Parking is free, but fills up quickly on weekends. There is additional free parking one-quarter mile away in the Running Lot in Memorial Park.

Armand Bayou Nature Center
Armand Bayou Nature Center is in the Clear Lake Area. The Armand Bayou/Holly Bay trail is a crushed-limestone five-mile long point-to-point trail located within the 2,500-acre nature preserve. Following the trail will take you through this region’s different original ecosystems including wetlands, tall grass prairies, and bottomland forest. Armand Bayou Nature Center is open Wednesday through Saturday from 9:00am to 5:00pm and Sunday from 12:00pm to 5:00pm. Dogs are not allowed anywhere in the Nature Center. Entrance fees are $4.00 for ages 13 to 59 years old. There are discounts for younger children and seniors age 60 and up. Three years old and under get free admission. There is plenty of parking inside the gates.

Mercer Arboretum & Botanic Gardens
Mercer Arboretum & Botanic Gardens is located on the north side of Houston in Humble. Aldine Westfield Road divides the 325-acre park into a west side and east side. Both sides feature crushed gravel loop trails that consist of smaller loops. The trails run alongside Cypress Creek. The trail on the west side of the park is two and a quarter miles if you hike the entire loop. Dogs on a leash are allowed on the trails on the west side of the park. The trail on the east side of the park takes you through the Botanic Gardens. The entire east side loop is one and a half miles long. Dogs are not allowed on the east side of the park. Mercer Arboretum & Botanic Gardens is open seven days a week from 8:00am to dusk during March through October and 8:00am to 5:00pm during November through February. Entrance is free and there is parking available in the park.

Additional Information on these trails and others: AllTrails