Despite the luxury of attending a lively university in a major city, the time will come when you’ve grown bored and feel a strong desire to go outside to see something beyond campus. When the feeling strikes, Houston parks offer free ways you can let loose and feel united with nature. Grab a friend, a ball, a bike or a book to accompany you in any number of green spaces across the city to enjoy some free time.
6201 Hermann Park Drive, 77030
This bustling park nestled between the Museum District and Houston Zoo is great for a scenic stroll or charming photoshoot with its picturesque design and historic monuments. Although their jogging and cycling trail is a city favorite, it has much more to offer than just exercise space. Visitors can ride a train, play in a public art structure shaped like a birds nest, rent a pedal boat or see a concert at Miller Outdoor Theatre in a single visit. Don’t forget to take a detour into the tranquil Japanese Garden, a “peaceful hideaway” within the park.
1500 McKinney St., 77010
This bright epicenter of activity is easy to stumble upon if you’re walking through downtown Houston, and luckily there’s always something happening. In addition to its lawns, gardens, restaurants, and play areas the “urban green space” frequently hosts a variety of events from festivals to kayaking lessons and even transforms into an ice rink during the winter months. Be sure to check their website for details on daily events, or just go play any day from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Buffalo Bayou Park
18-3600 Allen Parkway and Memorial Drive, 77019
Featuring a stunning view of the Houston skyline, Buffalo Bayou Park has one of the city’s most popular jogging and biking trails for gradual elevation changes and consistently beautiful scenery. Alongside the trails, the park includes Lee and Joe Jamail Skatepark, which encourages skaters of all ages and mastery, as well as the friendly Johnny Steele Dog Park and new water and nature attractions. Watch the bat colony that lives under Waugh Bridge, which takes flight from their crevice around sunset every evening.
Houston Arboretum & Nature Center
4501 Woodway Drive, 77024
Escape into what feels like deep wilderness on a series of wooded nature trails, but don’t forget bug repellent. Each trail is specifically designed for a unique sensory experience in mind, so it’s easy to wander lost in the wildlife.
All trails eventually lead back to the air-conditioned Nature Center, which houses an interactive Discovery Room dedicated to helping curious folks understand nature through a series of exhibits and activities.