What Are the Best Parks Around Houston?

Home to a diversity of ecosystems, Texas overflows with national, state and privately owned parks available for us to explore. With the Go Outside series from First Choice Power, we’ll take you all across this great state to visit both well-known public parks and lesser-known spots that are privately owned, but open to the public.

We turn our attention to exploring parks in the surrounding areas of Space City, Houston. As the largest metropolitan area in Texas, Houston and it’s expanded highway system can often get a bad wrap for not being a place offering green refuge.

But if you’ve been in the city in the past few years, you’ve noticed how the city is pouring millions of dollars into beautifying the bayous, building bike trails to connect neighborhoods across the city, and preserving our native wildlife, or what’s left of it after decades of development.

What Are the Best Parks Around Houston? | The Light Lab

For those of us that live in Houston, we often seek an escape on the weekends into places where we are taken away from the concrete plains and metropolitan rhythms.  Let us take you to some of our favorite escapes, both inside and outside the city.

Armand Bayou Nature Center, Pasadena

Located southeast of Houston, this 2,500 acre Armand Bayou nature preserve is a haven for animals and natural environments that provide educational opportunities for both adults and children.

As one of the largest urban wildlife refuges in the United States, it is home to forests and marshes, live animal displays, educational signage, bison and prairies platforms, butterfly gardens, and an 1800’s farm site.

Once a year they host a pioneer farm weekend on the second weekend in November called the Martyn Farm Harvest Festival. Come out to learn how to make soap, butter, hoe cakes, cane syrup, candles, yarn dolls, and so much more. This is a family event where children and grown ups alike can learn how school was taught way back in the day, and take a wagon ride around the property to get a true sense of what it must have felt like to live 100 years ago.

They also offer evenings where visitors use only flashlights to search for owls at night, Prairie Wildflower tours, guided canoe tours, and so much more. Check their calendar to see what’s happening this week.

Blackwood Educational Land Institute, Hempstead

Located on 33 acres in Waller County, Blackwood is a teaching farm where nearly four of these acres are cultivated. The remainder are preserved in three distinct ecosystems: coastal prairie, post-oak savannah and pine barrens.

Their focus is to practice sustainable agriculture techniques, teach youth how to work the land and where their food comes from, and demonstrate how to balance food production alongside land preservation. They do all of this via summer camps, team building weekends, and through special events and land tours to build awareness.

A weekend spent at Blackwood might include harvesting your own veggies for your salad that evening, petting alpacas, gathering eggs from their hens, strolling the woodlands, sitting around a campfire and most importantly, relaxing. This is a special place within reach of the city, and to escape is to truly feel restored by the end of your visit.

What Are the Best Parks Around Houston? | The Light Lab

Hermann Park, Houston

An escape within the city, Hermann Park is the heartbeat of Houston’s park life. Located on 445 acres, the park is near the Texas Medical Center, across the streets from the Museum of Fine Arts Houston and Houston Museum of Natural Science, and located conveniently on the light rail, across from Rice  University.

The Miller Outdoor Theatre is located within Hermann Park, an outdoor concert venue where visitors can sit on the hill top and listen to free live music, or take in a play. The Houston Zoo is also a part of Hermann Park.

For those with children, a train ride will take you along the parameters of the park, and the most recent addition to the park is the McGovern Centennial Gardens. From arid gardens to a manicured rose garden, this newly designed space is a main attraction with it’s centerpiece fountain and community edible gardens within it’s design.

A Japanese Zen Garden, miles of running trails, and a golf course are just a few more reasons to head to this emerald in the city.

Gerald D. Hines Waterwall Park, Houston

Known to locals as simply “The Waterwall,” the fountain and park are located in Houston’s popular Galleria shopping district. The Waterwall has a history in Houston and was built in 1985 by famed architects Philip Johnson and John Burgee.

This 3 acre area that includes over 180 live oak trees attracts tourists and locals for its mesmerizing vision of water cascading down a massive wall on both sides. When you stand in front of the wall and fill your field of vision with falling water, it gives a sensation like no other. For this reason, it holds a bit of local folklore, and has been seen in a multitude of films and televisions series.

There are no concessions at the Waterwall so bring a picnic basket with a blanket, and enjoy the manicured setting of one of Houston’s favorite escapes in the city.

There are plenty of places in the Houston area to take a break from big-city life and reconnect with the outdoors. Make sure to follow the rest of our  Go Outside series to find more beautiful places to visit in Texas. 

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Born in Australia, Ebony has been in Texas long enough to consider herself a Texan-Aussie. Ebony has been writing for magazines, newspapers, and blogs, for more than 10 years. When she's not writing she's building quilts, growing her own food, or camping with her family somewhere far from the sounds of the city.