VERTS Spring Opens September 27 w/ Free Food

verts springVERTS Kebap is opening its fifth Houston location this weekend. This fast casual restaurant from Austin built its concept around the döner kepab, Germany’s favorite street food.

VERTS opens in Spring September 27 at its Grand Opening, 11 am – 8 pm. Don’t miss free food all day (one full-size entree per person), live DJ music, and a raffle to win free kebaps for a year. The Spring location is at 1600 Louetta.

Never been to VERTS? You’re in for a treat! The kebap is similar to a panini-pressed sandwich filled with vertically roasted meats, veggies, and yogurt-based sauces.

Giveaway Winner: Blessington Farms

blessington farms pumpkinFolks are excited about fall activities in Houston! We had a great giveaway this week to Blessington Farms.

Out of 1,252 entries, there is one winner:

Heather

Please respond to my email so we can make prize arrangements. Thanks to all who entered! More to come…

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Free Weekend Fun in Houston September 26-28

It’s another weekend in Houston with plenty of free fun! Check out these 14 Free Things to Do in Houston September 26-28:

Houston skyline

FRIDAY

Watch movies under the moonDiscovery Green: Eat some free Chipotle and watch a movie for free outdoors! It’s Chipotle Green Film Series Friday featuring the flick, GMO OMG. There also will be free samples of Saint Arnold, Barefoot Wine and Honest Tea. Located at 1500 McKinney. GreenStreet: Catch Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion downtown Friday, 8 pm. It’s all part of Friday Flicks on the Lawn with the giant 25ft. screen. ZipCar will provide free popcorn and beverages. Located at 1201 Fannin.

Dock DogsCheer for the dogsDockDogs returns to Houston Friday for a three-day competition measuring leaps and bounds. The fun kicks off at 10 am each day with finals on Sunday. Get your pooch ready for the costume contest Saturday at 3 pm. DockDogs is located downtown at Discovery Green, 1500 McKinney.

Enjoy Chinese dancing — The top dancers of China will be performing Friday and Saturday at 8 pm in Splendid China IX at Miller Outdoor Theatre. Tickets for free reserved seats are available at the box office 10:30 am to 1 pm performance day.

SATURDAY

Cheer for the dogsDockDogs returns to Houston Friday for a three-day competition measuring leaps and bounds. The fun kicks off at 10 am each day with finals on Sunday beginning at 4:30 pm. Get your pooch ready for the costume contest Saturday at 3 pm. DockDogs is located at Discovery Green, 1500 McKinney.

Volunteer to help the habitat — Sign up to volunteer at Hermann Park for National Public Lands Day Saturday, 9 am to noon.  You’ll be working on habitat restoration at Hermann Park’s Bayou Parkland. National Public Lands Day is the single, largest day to volunteer on America’s public lands. For more info or to volunteer email volunteer@hermannpark.org.

Browse a museum for free — Visit participating Houston-area museums for free Saturday, September 27, as part of Smithsonian Magazine Museum Day. One pass for two people per household. Check out my previous post here for details and list of Houston participating museums.

Indulge in bugs and brew — What a great combo at this free event in Tomball! Check out the Bugs, Brew & Barbecue Festival Saturday 9 am – 6 pm. The day features 125 classic VW bugs, barbecue, and live music. Several local breweries will sharing more about their Texas beer including Saint Arnold, No Label, Karbach, Buffalo Bayou, Fort Bend Brewing, Lone Pint Brewing, and Southern Star. Free admission and free parking. Located in Tomball at 201 S. Elm.

Texas Renaissance FestivalGet ready for RenFest — Head to Magnolia for Stroll through the Renaissance Saturday, 3 pm – 7 pm. The free event celebrates the 40th anniversary of the Texas Renaissance Festival: meet the king, queen and characters; dress up for a costume contest; play games; indulge in food, and win prizes. Free admission and free parking. Located in Magnolia at Magnolia Town Center.

Visit a national park — The U.S. National Park Service designates Free National Park weekends for all of its 401 national parks throughout the year. The next one is Saturday, September 27, for Public Lands Day. Texas is home to several national parks, preserves, and historic sites that will offer free admission: Big Bend National Park, Fort Davis National Historic Site, Guadalupe Mountains National Park, and Padre Island National Seashore.

Sway to the jazz — Sugar Land Town Square hosts Jazz on the Plaza Saturday, 7:30 pm. The free evening features Theresa Grayson, who started her love for the saxophone at age 8. Her performances include other genres as well such as gospel, pop, Latin and classical. Located at Sugar Land Town Square.

Watch movies under the moon Market Square Park: Catch a free outdoor screening of The Big Chill Saturday, 7:30 pm. Lawn chairs and blankets are recommended! This is dog-friendly event. Central Green Park: It’s a special movie night Saturday featuring a partnership with the Houston Astronomical Society. Check out the skyies with the telescopes they bring for observation. Then stick around to watch Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Located in Katy at 23501 Cinco Ranch Blvd.

Splendid China IXEnjoy Chinese dancing — The top dancers of China will be performing again Saturday at 8 pm in Splendid China IX at Miller Outdoor Theatre. Tickets for free reserved seats are available at the box office from 10:30 am to 1 pm on performance day.

Engage with art — Don’t miss the Bi-Annual Art Opening Saturday at Spring Street, Winter Street, and Silver Street Studios featuring 200 artists in three buildings. The free public event includes complimentary light bites, valet, and beverages. Located in the Washington Avenue Arts District 6 pm – 10 pm.

Dance all nightDancing Under the Stars returns Saturday night to CityCentre, 7 pm – 10 pm. Enjoy live swing music on the dance floor by Bryan Anthony Band. Instructors from Houston Swing Dance Society will be on hand for assistance. Located at 800 Town and Country Blvd.

SUNDAY

Cheer for the dogsDockDogs returns to Houston this weekend measuring leaps and bounds. The fun kicks off at 10 am each day with finals on Sunday. DockDogs is located at Discovery Green, 1500 McKinney.

5 Days Left to Vote Vicki Jo Burger & Support Habitat

Vicki Jo Burger at JerryBuilt BurgersOK friends. Let me be blunt. There are only five days left in the Ambassador contest with JerryBuilt Homegrown Burgers. And I have 62 votes. What? With 33,500 on Facebook!!! My special Vicki Jo Burger could go off the menu if we don’t focus!

This isn’t all about shameless self promotion! The burger campaign benefits five wonderful local organizations. My charity of choice is Houston Habitat for Humanity, so $1 of each sale of my Vicki Jo Burger goes to Habitat. Let’s help them receive a fantastically large donation thanks to these burger sales.

If you feel like voting for my Vicki Jo Burger, follow this link to my burger photo, and LIKE the photo. Comments are awesome but “likes” count as votes. A winner will be selected from five Ambassadors at the end of September based on votes and burger sales. We can do it!

Downtown Aquarium: 2-for-1 September Saturdays

downtown aquarium HoustonIt’s the last weekend for savings with Super Saturday! Take advantage of half-price tickets to Downtown Aquarium with buy-one-get-one free All-Day Adventure Pass coupon available online. The $18.99 pass includes unlimited access to Shark Voyage, Aquarium Adventure Exhibit, Ferris Wheel, Carousel and Lighthouse Dive.

The coupon is valid for Saturdays in September. The Adventure Pass retails for $18.99, so the deal makes it about $9.50 per person. Print the coupon here. Find the Houston Aquarium downtown at 410 Bagby at Memorial.

photo: Vicki Powers

Discovering Houston on the Cheap: Sylvia Casares, Sylvia’s Enchilada Kitchen

Welcome to Discovering Houston on the Cheap, a weekly series highlighting cheap dates, cheap
meals, Houston’s best-kept secret and more — by local chefs, media, athletes, and folks in local business.

Sylvia Casares, owner and chef, Sylvia’s Enchilada Kitchen
{Sylvia Casares’ grandmother served as her culinary hero always cooking with 14 children. Sylvia learned skills at Uncle Ben’s and Sara Lee before purchasing/renaming her first restaurant in 2001 on Westheimer. Today she has three locations and has garnered many “best restaurant” awards. In addition to her restaurants, Sylvia offers cooking classes, has written cookbooks, and appeared on Food Network.}

Sylvia Casares1) Favorite spot for a cheap mealCorelli’s Italian Cafe

This “under the radar” Italian food is always fresh and consistent. It’s cozy, and the service is always spot on. The sugarosa sauce is one of the best I’ve ever had, as well as the cheesecake and dessert pizza. I generally go to the Sugar Land location.

2) Favorite spot for a cheap date Qin Dynasty

The food is fresh and when combined with their attentive service and a very nice ambiance (white table cloths), it’s a great value.

3) Houston’s best-kept secret — Mexico Deli

They serve a very delicious tacos al pastor and real flavorful black beans..

4) Best place to save money in Houston — The Guild Shop

This consignment store offers some very unique finds in their antique furniture and home décor areas. {note: Montrose-based The Guild Shop is a Christian ministry of St. John the Divine for more than 50 years.)

5) Favorite Houston festival or annual event — Freedom Over Texas

I love the fireworks show and the music provided by the Houston Symphony.

6) My perfect day in Houston would be…

My perfect day would involve a fresh brewed cup of latte and go for a brisk walk. Then off to brunch at one of my favorite small chef-owned restaurants and enjoy more great coffee and quiet conversation with a very close friend. Then go back home to relax, read, and listen to my favorite music. Evening activities would include a great movie at a theater with a large bucket of popcorn!

Find more on Pinterest! If you love this interview, check out the complete Discovering Houston on the Cheap interview series profiles on Pinterest.

Pumpkins and Fall Fun: Blessington Farms Opens September 27 + Giveaway

This is a sponsored post by Blessington Farms.

It’s officially fall according to the calendar — and Houston weather is starting to cool off a bit. So get ready for some fall fun at Blessington Farms

Enjoy a live pumpkin patch and fall festivities at Blessington Farms, just west of Katy in Simonton (about 40 miles west of downtown Houston).

Blessington Farms

What to Do

Blessington Farms is fall fun for the whole family including hay rides, hay maze, pedal cars, giant slides, animal encounters, train rides, sand mountain, and more. The pumpkin patch offers great photo opportunities or you can buy your own! Pumpkins are priced at 50¢/lb and include free kid’s pumpkin decorating. New this year: more lovable animals including camels, miniature goats, zebu, mini donkeys and lots of fish! Fishing also is available for $10 per pole.

Admission: $10 (free 18 months and younger)

Opening day is this Saturday, September 27, 10 am – 5 pm, and every Saturday through November 8. Additional dates include Friday, October 3, and Monday, October 13, which are early dismissal or school holidays for local districts.

Blessington Farms is located at 510 Chisolm Trail, in Simonton.

{Expired} Giveaway

Enter to win a Family-4 Pack plus free large pumpkin ($65 value). What a great way to spend the day outdoors!

Complete this form below to enter to win. One entry/person, age 18 and up. Additional entries will be deleted. Giveaway ends Thursday, September 25, 8 pm. Winner announced Friday by email.

Free Thursday Concert Series Returns September 25 to Discovery Green

The fabulous free fall outdoor concert series returns to Discovery Green September 25. Enjoy live outdoor music each Thursday, 6:30 pm, at Houston’s downtown park, Discovery Green. Sounds Like Houston! Thursday Concert Series showcases the best musicians of Texas and the Gulf Coast.  Here’s the lineup:

September 25 – Paul Thorn + Craig Kinsey
October 2 – Wild Moccasins and Buxton
October 9 – The Jones Family Singers + Milton Hopkins
October 16 - Rodney Crowell + Grand Old Grizzly
October 23 — T-bird and the Breaks + Mikey and the Drags

Blankets, lawn chairs, and picnics are welcome. Food, beer, and wine are available for purchase at The Lakehouse. No glass or outside alcohol. Discovery Green is located downtown at 1500 McKinney.

photo: Christine Tremoulet

7 Free Things to Do in Houston September 22-26

There’s never a dull moment in Houston. Here are 7 options for free fun in Houston September 22-26 before planning your free and cheap weekend!

We Love Houston sign

Tuesday (9/23) — Don’t miss the special presentation of History in Print’s author series on the Astrodome. This special lecture features James Gast, author of The Astrodome: Building an American Spectacle, which is the result of two years of interviews and research. Author meet and greet begins at 6 pm with the presentation at 6:30 pm. Free admission for Preservation Houston and The Heritage Society members. $5 for non-members. Located at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, 5501 Main Street.

Tuesday (9/23) — Engage in the Opening Reception of a special exhibit, Stories of a Workforce: Celebrating the Centennial of the Houston Ship Channel. The reception is 5:30 pm – 7:30 pm at the Julia Ideson Building Tudor Gallery, 550 McKinney. This exhibit will be on display through January 30, 2015.

Wednesday (9/24) — It’s an interactive blast of excitement at Swing, Jive, Pop into Dance as the free program explores fashion, music, history and the arts through the decades. 11 am at Miller Outdoor Theatre, 6000 Hermann Park Drive.

Wednesday (9/24) — City Hall Farmers Market returns downtown every Wednesday this fall from 11 am – 1:30 pm. Enjoy live music, chef demos, local produce, and healthy lunch options. Located at 500 McKinney.

Wednesday (9/25) — Get fit with the free weekly Zumba class outdoors at Discovery Green. No pre-registration is required. Class is from 6:30 pm – 7:30 pm each Wednesday. Located at 1500 McKinney.

Thursday (9/25) — Houston Grand Opera presents a Childrens-to-Go version of Cinderella in Spain Thursday and Friday mornings, 11 am, at Miller Outdoor Theatre. The free performance is a bilingual opera experience that will engage and entertain children. This repeats again Friday morning (9/26) at 11 am.

Thursday (9/25) — The Thursday concert series, Sounds Like Houston, kicks off this week at Discovery Green. This week’s performers include Craig Kinsey and Paul Thorn. Live outdoor music on the green from 6:30 pm – 10 pm. Located at 1500 McKinney.

Free Weekend Fun in Houston September 19-21

It’s another weekend in Houston with plenty of free fun! Check out these 16 Free Things to Do in Houston September 19-21:

Houston skyline

FRIDAY

Watch movies under the moonCancelled due to weather. Watch Caddyshack on the outdoor screen at downtown’s Market Square Park. Market Square Park is located at 301 Milam.

Salsa on your feet — It’s dubbed Houston’s largest outdoor salsa event! Get ready for a Latin party at La Fiesta del Barrio beginning at 7:30 pm at Miller Outdoor Theatre. The free event features amazing dance and musical talent. This event is RAIN or SHINE! Free reserved seats are available on performance day at the Miller Box Office, 10:30 am – 1 pm.

Watch the batsFamily Bat Chat returns Friday at the platform at Waugh Drive and Allen Parkway. Arrive 30 minutes before sunset to hear a brief presentation on Waugh Bridge Bat Colony. Free public parking at Spotts Park, 401 S. Heights Blvd. at Memorial. This is held the 1st and 3rd Fridays.

Enjoy family fun — Don’t miss Third Friday Family Fun Night in Kingwood Friday, 7 pm – 10 pm at Kings Harbor. Enjoy live music from Extraordinary Entertainment DJs and family fun. Located at 1660 West Lake Houston Parkway in Kingwood.

Learn to salsa dance — Enjoy free salsa dance lessons at Latin Beats every Friday night at the Downtown Aquarium. From 7 pm – 11 pm you can learn salsa dancing from professional dance instructors. The Aquarium is located at 410 Bagby at Memorial.

SATURDAY 

Take a pontoon boat tour — It’s a special day of Pontoon Boat Tours Saturday, at Jesse H. Jones Park and Nature Center. These will be throughout the day, but reservations are required. Located in Humble at 20634 Kenswick.

Play outdoorsNFL Play 360 returns to Central Green Park Saturday, 8:30 am – 10:30 am. The event encourages outdoor play. Coaches will run the kids through football drills and teach about healthy lifestyles. Located at 23501 Cinco Ranch Blvd in Katy.

Engage in writing — Saturday mornings features the Young Writers Workshop each week at Discovery Green. This is a free event, thanks to partners Writers in the Schools, HPL Express, and Discovery Green. It’s from 10:30 am – 11:30 am each week.

Watch chefs and learn about disaster preparedness — Imagine Houston’s celebrity chefs cooking on camp stoves outdoors at Market Square Park! It’s all part of the Ready Houston Preparedness Kit Chef’s Challenge Saturday, September 20, 11 am – 12:30 pm, to raise awareness for disaster preparedness. The first 50 people will receive a free Ready Houston picnic blanket! Located at 301 Milam.

Get outside for fun — It’s Nickelodeon’s World Wide Day of Play Saturday in Deer Park. The free family event features geocaching, inflatables, water balloon toss, face painting, music, pool races and more! The fun starts at noon. Located at Dow Park.

Learn about acting — Free Youth Acting Workshops are available Saturdays in partnership with Black Box Theatre and Houston Public Library. Registration is required. This is geared for kids ages 7-17. More dates October 11 and November 8. Located at 500 McKinney.

Learn about safety -- Get educated at the Community Safety Expo in The Woodlands Saturday, noon – 3 pm. Kids will love trying on safety gear, face painting, bounce houses, live K9 demonstrations, crafts, and McGruff the Crime Dog. Located at The Woodlands Township.

Watch an outdoor musical – Don’t miss this Broadway-style musical, Kung Fu Hero, with amazing songs, colorful costumes, martial arts, and challenging choreography. The show is performed in Mandarin and English. Located at Miller Outdoor Theatre, 8 pm.

Enjoy live music at Waterway Square — The Live at Night Waterway Music Series picks up again Saturdays this fall through October 11 in The Woodlands, 6 pm – 8 pm. The September 20 performance features Legacy.

Watch free outdoor movies — Kids will love watching Monsters University on the jumbo movie screen at Pearland Town Square. Movie begins at 8 pm.

SUNDAY

Enjoy new Woodlands Symphony — Sunday marks the return of the Woodlands Symphony Orchestra in a free performance 6 pm. It’s scheduled during Arts in the Park, 3 pm – 7 pm, which features other performers including Let Them Drum, and Bob Price and Jazz Connection. The evening ends with an encore performance of Hey Jude where audience members can play their own instruments with the orchestra! Located at Rob Fleming Park in The Woodlands.

Enjoy live music — Enjoy a new fall Concert in the Park series in The Woodlands each weekend through October, 5:30 pm – 7:30 pm. Sunday, September 21, features Black Dog, a Led Zeppelin tribute band. Don’t miss this week’s Family Chalk Competition, with free chalk provided! The masterpieces will be judged during intermission at 6:30 pm. Located at Northshore Park in Panther Creek in The Woodlands.