With so many sunny days throughout the year, it only makes sense that Houston has some awesome outdoor spaces to explore. Whether you’re looking for the best park to plan a picturesque picnic or a cool place to just chill out — this list has it all! Plus, a little bit more.
Honestly, Houston has some outdoor hidden gems you don’t want to miss. So next time the sun peeks out, get outside and enjoy some fresh air at one of Houston’s best parks!
Buffalo Bayou Park
Nestled on the west side of Downtown, Buffalo Bayou Park forms around a five-mile hike and bike trail in the Montrose/Washington Corridor area. The park has an urban flare with those dreamy views of the skyline around every turn. What to do? Check out the Waugh Bat Bridge Colony at dusk (because bats!); visit the Houston Police Officer Memorial — an amazing piece of art, and climbing to the top is encouraged; start a game of frisbee golf with some friends; or bring your furry friend to the dog park. Fitt Tip: Hungry after all that? Don’t miss the Kitchen at The Dunlavy, located right off the walking trail!
Hermann Park is one of Houston’s largest and most beautiful parks. It’s also home to the Houston Zoo. So you can explore the park trails and see some exotic creatures all in one place. Best picnic ever? Possibly. You’ll also want to check out the lake for some pedal boat fun or meander around the Japanese Zen Garden. Whatever you do, don’t leave without taking a look at the iconic Sam Houston Monument.
Eleanor Tinsley Park
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 modern pavilion overlooking downtown. Catch the park at sunset and snap an Insta-worthy photo of the skyline (you won’t be alone!). Besides being a popular hangout spot, this place also hosts a few big events every year like the Free Press Summer Fest music festival. Rock on!
Located in the heart of Downtown Houston, Discovery Green is a small green oasis in the concrete jungle. Forget your picnic basket at this park though. There are restaurants and food trucks, so you won’t get hangry here! Discovery Green also has tons of free community events like outdoor yoga, concerts, and art shows. Go here for lunch or bring a friend to one of their events and get cultured. Planning to run the Houston Marathon? This park is also the site of the Houston RunFest after party!
Sitting just north of Buffalo Bayou, Spotts Park is most distinguished because 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 just play! You could say it’s the SPOT to be! The park also has a bike share rack and connects to the larger Buffalo Bayou Park. So you can rent a bike and whiz around some nearby trails. Not sure where to ride? We gotcha covered with this list of local bike trails.
The old-school park of Houston. Memorial Park is most well known for its three-mile, crushed red granite trail, which has been discoloring running shoes since the 1970s. Besides the main loop, this park also has tennis courts, a driving range, a nine-hole golf course, an outdoor swimming pool, and various intramural sports fields. Planning a picnic? Head to Picnic Lane (yep, that’s really the name!) to find the best tables, 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 walk around and relax with friends. Walk up and down the trendy Houston Heights trail and check out the rotating art sculptures. They change them every couple of months, so you’ll likely see something new (and odd) every time! Fitt Tip: Plan your outing and end at Eight Row Flint, one block over on Yale Street for a killer happy hour (tacos included).
Levy Park Conservancy
A newly renovated park in the British-inspired UK area (Upper Kirby, get it?), Levy Park Conservancy boasts a performance pavilion, dog park, playground, and, of course, a plush lawn for all your outdoor needs. The best part? This park has tons of free events for the community. Think adult hip hop classes, outdoor yoga, and movie screenings, just to name a few. Stay updated with what’s coming up on their Facebook page here.
Gerald D. Hines Waterwall Park
One of Houston’s most popular tourist sites, the Waterwall Park is centered around a 64-foot-tall gushing wall…. of water! The park is pretty small, but the impressive size of the fountain is something you have to see in person. Check out the fountain and frolick around the park. When you’re done being outdoorsy, the cool air conditioning (and extensive food court) of the Galleria shopping mall is just down the street too.
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. Go here to hang out, and stay until sunset to catch the free light show at the notorious James Turrell Skyspace. Or if you want less of a crowd (and less sleep), catch the sunrise show in the morning!