Lodgeur Guide: Houston’s Best Parks

Visitors at Smither Park in Houston

Fact: Houston is home to some of the biggest and best parks in the country. This is a list of Lodgeur’s favorite Houston parks.

Hermann Park

Hermann Park in Houston's Museum District

Hermann Park is one of the most popular parks in Houston and features a variety of amenities for visitors to enjoy. The park has a golf course, a pond with paddleboats, a kids’ train, several gardens, and a museum. Hermann Park is also home to the Houston Zoo, which is one of the most popular attractions in the city.

The golf course at Hermann Park has been around since 1923 and features an 18-hole championship course with a driving range, practice greens, and a pro shop. The pond in the park offers fishing opportunities as well as boat rentals so visitors can explore the area and spot some of the local wildlife. There are also several gardens throughout the park, including the Chinese Garden of Friendship, McGovern Centennial Gardens, and Miller Outdoor Theater’s garden. (For more information, check out the blog post on Lodgeur’s favorite Houston gardens.) The Houston Museum of Natural Science is located within the park as well.

The Houston Zoo is one of the most popular attractions in Hermann Park. The zoo opened in 1922 and features over 6,000 animals from all over the world including African elephants, orangutans, gorillas, flamingos, giraffes, zebras and many more. New exhibits focus on the Galapagos, the Brazilian Pantanal and Lowland Gorillas. The zoo has a secondary entrance backing up to the Texas Medical Center and is a popular destination for hospital patients looking for some fresh air.

Memorial Park

2 children facing a lake in Memorial Park

At nearly twice the size of New York’s Central Park, Memorial Park is located in the heart of Houston and is one of the most loved parks in Houston with 4 million visitors each year.

The Seymour Lieberman Exer-Trail is a 3-mile running trail that ranks as the most popular running trail in the United States with 10,000 runners daily. The 3-mile trail forms a loop and parking is available much of the way around the trail.

Memorial Park has roughly 30 miles of hiking trails, and 2 lakes. Memorial Park is also home to the Houston Arboretum, which is a nature center that offers classes and programs for visitors of all ages.

Memorial Park also has an 18-hole golf course, soccer fields, baseball diamonds, basketball courts, tennis courts, and volleyball courts. There is also a bicycle trail system with over seven miles of trails winding through different parts of the park. Hines Lake is a popular spot for picnics, photos and walking short boardwalk trails with young children.

Memorial Park is also the site of Houston’s massive Bayou City Art Festival every March.

Discovery Green

Discovery Green is a 12-acre park that opened in 2008 in downtown Houston. The park has a playground, an amphitheater, several gardens, and a dog park. Discovery Green also hosts a variety of events throughout the year, including concerts and festivals.

Discovery Green is an urban oasis located in the heart of Houston, Texas. This vibrant 12-acre urban park features a number of attractions, including a playground, two interactive water fountains, a lake with paddle boats, an amphitheater, several gardens and lawns for picnicking and relaxing, and a one-of-a-kind dog park. The park is also home to numerous permanent public sculptures created by renowned local and international artists as well as rotating public art displays.

Every year the park attracts thousands of visitors who come to experience its beauty and enjoy all it has to offer. One popular attraction is the Brown Promenade—a large walkway that connects the larger downtown area to Discovery Green. The promenade features lush landscaping and lighting displays that create a stunning visual effect at nightfall.

The Kinder Lake at Discovery Green is great fun for both adults and children alike. The lake offers paddle boats available on summer weekends for $5.

At any time of day or night visitors can take advantage of the two interactive water fountains located in Jones Lawn near Hermann Square – perfect for cooling off during hot summer days!

On some evenings during summer months movies are projected onto a huge outdoor screen complete with surround sound speakers so visitors can watch films under the stars with friends or family members – definitely an unforgettable experience!

Buffalo Bayou Park

Fish playground at Buffalo Bayou Park

Buffalo Bayou Park is 160-acre park that runs along the Buffalo Bayou river in Houston. The park has hiking and biking trails, picnic areas, and public art installations.

One of the most popular attractions is the picnic area, which includes plenty of space for families and friends to gather for picnics and barbecues. There are also two playgrounds located near the picnic areas, perfect for entertaining little ones. And there are several public art installations throughout Buffalo Bayou Park that allow visitors to explore and appreciate local artwork.

Another interesting attraction at Buffalo Bayou Park is The Cistern – an underground reservoir built in 1926 that now serves as a public art space and event venue. This unique structure offers visitors the chance to experience art from both national and international artists alike in a special environment like no other in Houston. Check out our other post for more about the Cistern.

If you’d like take part in organized activities, Buffalo Bayou Park offers kayaking tours, bike rides throughout the park, outdoor movie screenings during summer months, birding lessons and more! You can even take a ride on one of their unique group bikes (which holds up to 14 people!) and explore different parts of Buffalo Bayou Park with friends or family members!

Market Square Park

Market Square Park is a small urban park located in downtown Houston known for the nearby Houston is Inspired mural and Niko Niko’s casual greek cuisine with outdoor dining. Market Square Park is a popular spot for residents, visitors and office-goers alike to spend their lunch hours, relax after work or bring the kids on weekends. A winding path runs through the middle of this area, lined with benches perfect for relaxing and people watching. There are also two dog runs where local canines can run around off-leash, as long as they’re accompanied by an adult.

On Saturdays from March to December, Market Square Park hosts a farmers market featuring vendors selling farm-fresh produce, flowers, handmade goods and more. Local vendors also set up food stands offering delicious treats like tacos and ice cream all day long.

Other features of Market Square Park include public art installations such as sculptures made by local artists that add color and character to the space. The park also features a stage area used for live music performances throughout the year.

Miller Outdoor Theatre

Miller Outdoor Theater
Miller Outdoor Theater

Located in Hermann Park, the Miller Outdoor Theatre is a beloved destination for Houstonians and visitors alike. The theatre is home to free concerts, plays, lectures, and more throughout the year. With a seating capacity of 3,500 and a large stage, the theatre provides plenty of space for performers and audiences to enjoy their favorite shows. Tickets to see the performances from the seated section of the theater should be booked in advance, but the hill next to the theater is open seating. Visitors often bring chairs, blankets and coolers to picnic during performances.

George Bush Park

Located in west Houston, George Bush Park is a 7,800-acre park and the largest city park in the country. The park has seven lakes, over 50 miles of trails, two 18-hole golf courses, 8-acre bark park, and several playgrounds. George Bush Park also hosts a variety of events throughout the year, including festivals and outdoor concerts. For those looking to explore nature further, the park has two nature centers offering educational programs and guided hikes.

George Bush Park is known for its extensive sports facilities, including basketball courts pickleball courts, soccer fields, launching pads for drones, shooting ranges and baseball fields. Especially popular is the 8-acre Millie Bush Bark Park with two pools and a dog-washing area. Additionally there is an 18-hole disc golf course located within the perimeter of George Bush Park where guests can play a round or two while enjoying the sights of nature surrounding them.

Brazos Bend State Park

Brazos Bend State Park
Brazos Bend State Park

Brazos Bend State Park is located about 40 miles south of downtown Houston in Angleton, Texas. The 4,897-acre park features five lakes and 40 miles of hiking trails, and is popular with trail runners. Wildlife sightings are common here as the park is home to many species of birds, reptiles, amphibians and mammals. The park also features an observatory operated by the Houston Museum of Natural History where visitors can learn about astronomy or catch a glimpse of the night sky on Saturday nights.

Brazos Bend State Park is a great place to visit for nature lovers, hikers, and stargazers. It features five lakes and 40 miles of trails, making it perfect for exploring the diverse wildlife and scenery that the park has to offer. The park is home to many species of birds, reptiles, amphibians, mammals, and even alligators that can be seen along the banks of the lakes. There are also several observation decks where visitors can watch the sun set over the lake or catch a glimpse of passing birds and other wildlife.

Brazos Bend State Park is also home to beautiful landscapes and unique ecosystems that are open for exploration with hiking trails ranging from easy to challenging difficulty levels. Visitors will have an opportunity to experience the beauty of nature while trekking through forests full of trees such as oaks, cedars, pines, maples and bald cypresses; swamps full of lily pads; fields filled with wildflowers; marshes full of wading birds; meadows filled with deer; ponds full of frogs; and rivers full of fish.

For an easy hike where you are sure to spot alligators, check out the 1.2 mile 40 Acre Lake Trail. There is a viewing platform overlooking two lakes, and the trail will bring you into close contact with alligators and wading birds. In the spring, masses of water lillies are in bloom.

Sheldon Lake State Park

Sheldon Lake State Park
Sheldon Lake State Park

Sheldon Lake State Park is located east of Houston near Sheldon Lake. This 640-acre park offers plenty for visitors to enjoy including fishing spots along the lake’s shoreline, over 15 miles of hiking trails and bird watching opportunities at one of three bird sanctuaries onsite. Visitors can also take advantage of the Nature Center here which provides educational programs and interactive exhibits about ecosystems found in Southeast Texas.

A variety of wildlife can also be found around the lake, including herons, cormorants, egrets, and even bald eagles during certain times of the year. The park offers catch-and-release fishing. Hikers can admire spectacular views of native vegetation like live oaks, loblolly pines and American elms while exploring a vast array of wildlife habitats ranging from marshes to grasslands. Prepare for mosquitos and check out the observation tower.

Levy Park

Levy Park is an urban park located near the upscale Upper Kirby neighborhood. The park was opened in November 2017 and features six acres of green space with native trees, plants, and flower beds. There are two playgrounds, a dog park, two performance stages, an interactive water feature, dining areas with food trucks and a bar, an amphitheater for live music performances, a community garden and nature trails for hiking and biking. Levy Park is easily one of the most popular Houston parks for kids with its playscape of tunnels, slides and water splash features.

The Levy Park Conservancy is responsible for maintaining the park’s beauty and integrity by offering educational programs such as STEM classes, story times for kids and exercise classes. The conservancy also hosts events throughout the year including movie screenings on Frisbee Golf Fridays and family nights with live music every Saturday night. There are also free yoga and dance classes offered under a covered pavilion.

Smither Park

Smither Park pavilion

For a unique art experience, visit Smither Park in Houston’s East End. This quirky public park is centered around large concrete pipes that artist Dan Havel transformed into whimsical sculptural forms. Wander through the monumental curved pipe structures over two acres of land. Kids can explore the pipe maze while adults admire the creativity of the industrial art materials used. Smither Park shows how public spaces can be reinvented as unexpected art destinations.

More things to experience in Houston

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