With its endless strip shopping centers, freeways and urban sprawl, Houston may appear to most as just another concrete jungle. What may surprise many is that the nation’s fourth largest city is home to 580 parks, including two of the country’s expansive urban parks, Cullen Park and George Bush Park. In fact, the Space City ranks first among the nation’s most populous cities in total parkland acreage.
And that number is only going to increase, which is great news during these pandemic times when having space to enjoy the great outdoors remains in great demand. New parks and greenspace developments are in the works this year, many being completed by the end of 2020.
But you don’t have to wait until all those improvements happen. Here are a few unique outdoor places to enjoy this fall, along with some special events that allow for social distancing:
Visitors can bike or hike along the 10-mile stretch of Buffalo Bayou, from Shepherd Drive through downtown into the East End and the Port of Houston Turning Basin. The waterfront was developed by the Buffalo Bayou Partnership and includes bike and boat rentals, public art, playgrounds, a dog park and numerous places to picnic and just enjoy the fall weather.
If your speed runs higher, Discovery Green in the heart of downtown Houston offers a variety of fitness classes, from Hatha yoga and Tai Chi to belly dancing. The park contains numerous dining options with outdoor seating, a Flea by Night market selling both collectibles and eclectic items and special holiday events such as ice skating. Be sure to check the website for updates and possible cancellations due to COVID-19.
The 30-acre Rockstar Energy Bike Park offers numerous attractions for the bike lover, such as a world-class BMX track, BMX Super Cross track, and a track for children. It’s also home to the largest free skate park in North America at 78,000 square feet, and the second largest in the world.
To learn more about Houston’s parks and greenspace, Visithoustontexas.com/things-to-do/parks-and-outdoors/.
During the development of the Buffalo Bayou Greenway, the old Houston Cistern, a below-ground drinking water reservoir built in 1926 and decommissioned in 2007, was discovered. Cistern history tours are offered Thursday through Sunday but opt for the Sound Healing Meditation series with the city’s Pralaya Yoga and Youniversoul, where sound bowls and wind chimes help participants relax every Wednesday evening and Saturday morning.
Art lovers may want to tour the city’s innovative street art that ranges from giant murals to window coverings and spontaneous graffiti. The Houston Mural Map shows you where to go with its interactive guide at Houstonmuralmap.com.
In addition to being touted as a green city, Houston has also gone to the dogs, which is great news for outdoor lovers with canines in tow. Dog lovers may check into the JW Marriott and Four Seasons Hotel Houston where pets are greeted with treats and toys and Discovery Green’s dog runs and greenspace is only a short walk away — with leashes, of course. The historic Hotel Icon welcomes dogs and it’s located downtown near Market Square Park with its dog runs and dining options. Downtown’s Hyatt Regency features an indoor “Dog Walk” with dog bowls and beds.
To enjoy the balmy fall weather, in addition to avoiding crowds, try the upstairs balcony at The Grove in Discovery Green. This eco-friendly restaurant serves up local and sustainable dishes and signature cocktails as well as features a rooftop herb garden and a great view of downtown Houston. For more casual dining and a waterfront view, visit the park’s Lake House.