UPDATED JUL 14, 2020
Houston might be a huge metropolis, but among the skyscrapers and interstate overpasses, there are some pretty awesome outdoor spaces to explore. Ready to get outside and enjoy some fresh air? Let's do it.
Buffalo Bayou Park is just great. You can sweat it out on the five-mile hike and bike trail, enjoy epic views of the city skyline, start a game of frisbee golf with some friends, or bring your furry friend to the dog park. And, if you haven't already, we recommend checking out the Waugh Bat Bridge Colony at dusk (because bats!) and visiting the Houston Police Officer Memorial — it's an amazing piece of art, and climbing to the top is encouraged.
Hermann Park is one of Houston’s largest and, in our opinion, most beautiful parks. It’s also home to the Houston Zoo, so you can explore the park trails and see some cute animals all in one day. But one of our favorite things to do here is rent a pedal boat and take to the lake or meander around the Japanese Zen Garden. Whatever you do, don’t leave before checking out the iconic Sam Houston Monument.
Tucked on the eastern edge of the larger Buffalo Bayou Park, Eleanor Tinsley is the place to be on a nice day. Set up your picnic headquarters on the grass or walk up the hill to the pavilion overlooking downtown. And if you can, head to the park at sunset to snap an Insta-worthy photo of the skyline (you won’t be alone!). Keep an eye on the events calendar, too — this place also hosts a few big events every year like the Free Press Summer Fest music festival.
Located in the heart of Downtown Houston, Discovery Green is a small green oasis surrounded by concrete jungle. Forget your picnic basket at this park — there are tons of great restaurants and food trucks nearby. It's also our go-to for free community events like outdoor yoga, concerts, and art shows. Planning to run the Houston Marathon? This park is also the site of the Houston RunFest after party!
Spotts Park is just north of Buffalo Bayou, and one of the most interesting parts about this park is it’s shaped kinda like a bowl. Trees scatter around the rim, and at the bottom of the bowl, you’ll find a basketball court, sand volleyball courts, and plenty of open space to hang out. Another awesome amenity? It has bike share rack and connects to the larger Buffalo Bayou Park. So you can rent a bike and hit some of the nearby trails. And if you're not sure where to ride, we gotcha covered with this list of local bike trails.
The old-school park of Houston, Memorial Park is famous for its three-mile, crushed red granite trail, which has been discoloring running shoes since the 1970s. In addition to the main loop, it also has tennis courts, a driving range, a nine-hole golf course, an outdoor swimming pool, and a handful sports fields. Planning a picnic? Head to Picnic Lane (yep, that’s really the name!) where you'll find the best tables in the city situated in the shade of the woods.
Okay, so this isn’t technically a park. But the Heights Blvd. is still an awesome area to hang out with friends. Walk up and down the popular Houston Heights trail and check out the rotating art sculptures. They change them every couple of months, so you’ll likely see something new every time you visit. Oh, and end your outing at Eight Row Flint, it's one block over on Yale St., and take advantage of their killer happy hour (tacos included).
A newly renovated park in Upper Kirby, Levy Park Conservancy boasts a performance pavilion, dog park, and, of course, a sprawling lawn where we like to post up on a lazy Sunday afternoon. And like a lot of other Houston parks, it has tons of free events for the community. Think adult hip-hop classes, outdoor yoga, and movie screenings. Keep tabs on their Facebook for updates.
One of Houston’s most popular tourist sites, the Waterwall Park is known for its 64-foot-tall gushing—you guessed it—waterfall. And although the park itself is pretty small, the fountain is impressive, and is just something you have to see in person. After you've snapped some picks, head down the street to the Galleria shopping mall to cool off in the air conditioning and eat lunch at the (actually really great) food court.
Not just for students, the Rice University campus is a fun place just to walk around. Find a spot on one of the many grassy areas shaded by majestic Oak trees. If you stay until sunset (you should), you'll catch the free light show at the notorious James Turrell Skyspace. If you prefer less of a crowd, catch the sunrise show in the morning!
This park and nature preserve is huge — like 7,800 acres huge. So, as you can imagine there's plenty to see and do. Walk around and explore the area or sweat it out on the hike and bike trail. Though, we highly recommend rallying the squad for a pickup soccer game on one of the park's two fields.
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