Throw your plans out the window. We scoured the state in search of the top events and offerings, from the opera in Houston and Friday night lights in Odessa to surfing along the coast and hiking in the mountains. Here’s our super select guide to the things you absolutely can’t afford to miss.
[Apr 29–May 5]



Seven-Alarm Fire
The Grammys are more a celebration of the sort of pop music that’s forced down listeners’ throats than of the sort sweated out by the critics’ deserving darlings. Hence the surprise when Arcade Fire—a band that’s a mere blip on the mainstream radar yet is the Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band of the Pitchfork set—was awarded this year’s Album of the Year for The Suburbs. Fans of heavyweight competitors in that category, like Eminem and Lady Gaga, took to their Twitter pages in disbelief: “But they’re from Canada.” Yeah, but Win Butler, Arcade Fire’s frontman, grew up in the Woodlands, a suburb of Houston. Butler’s seven-piece, anthemic rock group is co-fronted by his wife, Régine Chassagne, a spitfire with a social conscience of gold. Thanks in part to her, every ticket to the band’s shows, including Wednesday’s homecoming, is converted into a charitable donation of one unit of currency (“one dollar, one euro, one pound”). Which means you can get a tax write-off for seeing one of the acts the Grammys actually got right.
The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, May 4, 7:30 p.m



Photograph by G Scott

The Swell Season
Bragging rights among Texas surfers should be sufficient motivation for competitors at the 45th annual Texas State Surfing Championships. But the prize the surfers have their eyes on is a chance to qualify for the National Scholastic Surfing Association’s National Championships, in Huntington Beach, California. The new agreement between the two contests is meant to expose Texas surfers to better competition and better waves in California. Still, respectable five- to seven-foot swells are expected this weekend on Padre, when Cody Canzoneri, the current “It Boy” of Texas surfing, battles Morgan Faulkner, his predecessor. “The finals are insane, with four surfers in the water duking it out, especially the money round,” said Julie Doyle, president of the Texas Gulf Surfing Association, the championships’ organizing body. Say you saw the next generation before the Texas Surf Museum’s June exhibition “Top Guns of Texas: The New Millennium of TGSA” makes them legends.
Isla Blanca Park, April 30–May 1, 7 a.m.


Foote Ball
Texas’s women and men of letters are fortunate to have such a rich population of characters from which to draw. Horton Foote, the deceased Academy award– and Pulitzer prize–winning playwright from Wharton, benefited from it more than most. Unlike other twentieth-century master playwrights, Foote did not create a new stylistic approach, nor did he expand the boundaries of content, according to Kevin Moriarty, the chief architect behind the Horton Foote Festival, a month-and-a-half long, multi-theater staging of Foote’s plays that ends this weekend. But, Moriarty said, “As Chekhov did at the end of the ninteenth century, Foote forever captured a wide spectrum of characters with nearly infinite depth, in a finite surrounding.” Foote enthusiasts will rejoice in the value-added exhibition The Life and Work of Horton Foote, at Southern Methodist University’s DeGolyer Library, while beginners will be satisfied to experience the cycle of life conveyed in Foote’s hallmark work, The Trip to Bountiful.
Various locations, April 29–May 1, various times.


Photograph by Joe Houde

Flight School
With temperatures climbing, luring people outdoors again on the weekend after Earth Day could be asking for it, but the Wings Over the Hills Nature Festival makes the absence of air-conditioning at this festival worth it. Birds, butterflies, and bats are what you’d expect at a show-and-tell of the Hill Country’s airborne residents. But who knew that Texas is home to more species of dragonflies than any other state? Turns out this may be bad news for the makers of OFF! insect repellant. “Odonates—dragonflies and damselflies—are beneficial insects that primarily eat biting flies like mosquitoes,” said John C. Abbott, curator of entomology at the Texas Natural Science Center and a lecturer at the fest. All that extra time left not scratching your arms and legs will allow you to more carefully observe the acrobatic splendor of this primordial insect whose winged lifespan is but a few weeks.
Lady Bird Johnson Municipal Park Golf Course, April 29–May 1, various times.


Photograph by Aaron Jetelina

Wiener’s Circle
The trophy and prize money that come with winning the Wiener Dog Races isn’t much of an incentive for the participants, but the roar of a crowd can inspire even the smallest wiener to rise to the challenge of its fellow dachshunds.
Buda City Park, April 30–May 1, 10 a.m.


Photograph by Red Martian Photography

Hog Wild
If Allen Ginsberg’s poem “First Party at Ken Kesey’s With Hell’s Angels” is an appealing read, then the Texas Rally on the River, a bacchanalia of leather-clad bikers and fringe hangers-on, is probably in your wheelhouse.
Comal County Fairgrounds, May 5–8, various times.

• • • • •

Eight more gotta-see, gotta-do events that you can’t afford to miss.
By Olivia LaVecchia and Jasmin Sun


Willie Nelson’s Birthday
The red headed stranger rings in 78.
The Backyard at Bee Cave, April 30, 7 p.m.


Summer at the Arboretum: Peter Rabbit’s Flower Village
The stories of Beatrix Potter come to life through four topiary flower houses.
The Arboretum, May 1–12, various times.


Blue Man Group
The group performs its signature mix of comedy, music, and multimedia.
Plaza Theatre, April 28, 7:30 p.m.


Craig Ferguson
Because who wouldn’t want to see this Late, Late Show host do some stand-up comedy?
Bass Performance Hall, May 1, 7:30 p.m.


Shirley MacLaine
The Terms of Endearment star talks about her life, career, and spirituality.
Various locations, April 14–17, various times.


2011 Houston Texans Draft Party
Watch this year’s NFL draft on HD screens in the company of Houston Texans cheerleaders.
Reliant Stadium, Apr 28, 6 p.m.


Caroline Kennedy
The author (and JFK’s daughter) reads from her new poetry anthology, followed by a Q&A and signing.
Laurie Auditorium at Trinity University, April 28, 7 p.m.


The Grand Wine and Food Affair
More than one hundred wineries and chefs will be on hand for tastings, seminars, and fabulous feasts.
Various locations, April 28–May 1, various locations.