19 Ways to Explore the Great Outdoors in Houston. If you only think of traffic and tall buildings when you think of Houston, you’re missing out on one of the best aspects of living here. Despite the fact that it’s a heavily populated, urban area, this city offers acres and acres of assorted habitats just waiting to be explored. Take a kayak down the peaceful, 26-mile Buffalo Bayou paddling trail; go horseback riding on a classic Texas trail ride; or get a bird’s eye view of the city from high up in a hot air balloon –we’ve got plenty of ideas for you to consider.
There’s an adventure to fit every budget, and with Houston’s average of 204 sunny days per year, there’s plenty of time to work your way through the list.
Bike Around Buffalo Bayou
• Shepherd Drive to Sabine Street, between Allen Parkway and Memorial Drive
Monday – Sunday, lighted areas: 6:00 am – 11:00 pm; other areas: dawn to dusk
The Buffalo Bayou biking trails will give you access to many of the following Houston adventures. Eventually, the trails will evolve into a continuous system of parks and 150 miles of trails along Houston’s major waterways, but there’s no need to wait. Several of the trails are open and allow for a beautiful bike tour of some of Houston’s most beautiful scenery, historic sites, and public artwork. buffalobayou.org
• Buffalo Bayou Paddling Trail
Enjoy Houston from a unique perspective. Paddle your canoe or kayak down the 26-mile paddling trail that goes right through downtown. You will find a variety of access points.
• Waugh Bridge Bat Colony
One of Houston’s most amazing experiences is watching the thousands of bats that live under the Waugh Bridge emerge at dusk. The perfect place to observe this wonder is the Gus M. Wortham Memorial Fountain along Allen Parkway, east of Waugh Drive. Standing along the sidewalk near the tree line often allows you to watch as the bats fly directly overhead.
• Lost Lake Park
3422 Allen Pkwy, Houston, TX 77019
Near Allen Parkway and Dunlavy Street, Lost Lake features lush wetland gardens surrounding a restored pond that is situated near a visitor center housing restrooms and paddle craft rentals.
• Sam Houston Boat Tour
7300 Clinton Dr., Houston, Texas 77020
This tour offers a relaxing and educational tour of the Sam Houston Ship Channel. Get a look at Houston’s industrial side as you take in the ships from international ports hauling cargo. Although this may not be the prettiest of tours, it’s definitely an interesting one.
• Miller Outdoor Theater
6000 Hermann Park Dr., Houston, TX 77030
Bring a picnic and a blanket and settle in for unique performances from around the world.
• Hermann Park
Hermann Dr at Fannin, Houston, TX 77030
Rent pedal boats and enjoy the scenery as you move languidly around the lake. Or, if you’d rather look at water than move around on it, stroll around the park and enjoy the scenery. Don’t forget to check out the tiny but well landscaped Japanese Garden.
• Family Garden Story Hour in Hermann Park
Hermann Dr at Fannin, Houston, TX 77030
Let your little one’s imagination run free with Family Story Hour in the McGovern Centennial Garden’s Family Garden every Friday at 10 a.m.! Little visitors will listen to a nature-inspired story and participate in a fun, garden-related activity, like planting a seed to take home or exploring the interactive gardens.
• Hermann Park Conservancy Membership
Hermann Dr at Fannin, Houston, TX 77030
Cost: Membership levels begin at $50
There’s no better way to enjoy the great outdoors than in Houston’s beloved Hermann Park. Play your part in supporting Hermann Park by becoming a member today! Hermann Park Conservancy members receive exciting benefits, including free tickets to ride the Hermann Park Railroad, free pedal boat tickets, discounts in the Conservancy Gift Shop and Pinewood Cafe, invitations to special events and more. Visit hermannpark.org and click ‘Join Today’ for more information or to become a member.
• Gerald D. Hines Waterwall Park
2800 Post Oak Blvd, Houston, TX 77056
This nearly three-acre park features a 64-foot semi-circular fountain that recirculates 11,000 gallons of water per minute down the inside and outside walls.
• Terry Hershey Park
15200 Memorial Dr, Houston, TX 77079
Trek down some of Houston’s best bike trails, with so many ups and downs that they’ve been nicknamed The Anthills. The bike trail runs up and down the banks of the bayou with short climbs and downhills. It’s a great place for the whole family to get in some serious cardio while enjoying the great outdoors.
• Houston Arboretum and Nature Center
4501 Woodway Dr, Houston, TX 77024
This center, situated near Memorial Park, comprises 155 acres of nature trails, pond, wetland, forest, and meadow habitats just begging to be explored. Enjoy a stroll along the five miles of trails, see if you can spot a coyote or flying squirrel in the wildlife garden, or take one of the guided tours.
• Texas Air Adventures
14722 N Eldridge Pkwy, Houston, TX 77070
Cost: Begins at $1,000.00
Undoubtedly the most unique way to enjoy Houston’s great outdoors, Texas Air Adventures gives you the tour of a lifetime from a hot air balloon. Your day might start with a hearty country breakfast and end with a champagne reception upon landing. There are various packages available.
• Escape the Pavement
Cost: Starts at $195.00 for adults and $100.00 for children
Get reacquainted with your wild side with the help of Escape the Pavement. This outfit provides a variety of guided camping trips and outdoor adventures for groups and families. They partner with local non-profits and private landowners to create wilderness escapes to areas that wouldn’t normally be accessible. Nature journaling, art workshops, outdoor survival, and wild edibles training are just some of the adventures that await you.
• Armand Bayou Nature Center
500 Bay Area Blvd, Pasadena, Texas 77507
Cost: $4 adults, $2 children and seniors, under 3 free
Sitting 25 miles south of Houston, the Armand Bayou Nature Center offers a chance to view a variety of habitats and observe the wildlife. If you’d like to get a little more “up close and personal,” you can do so on an electric pontoon boat or a guided canoe tour.
• Mercer Botanical Gardens
22306 Aldine Westfield Road, Humble, TX 77338
Divided by Aldine Westfield Road, the Mercer Botanical Gardens contain a variety of beautifully maintained gardens. On the east side you’ll find over 20 acres of bamboo, color displays, daylilies, herbs, tropical, and much more. The west side features playgrounds, a picnic area, a hickory bog, maples, and a cypress swamp.
• Cypress Trails Equestrian Center
21415 Cypresswood Dr. Humble, Texas 77338
Cost: Starts at $50
There’s no more exhilarating way to enjoy nature than with a trail ride. Enjoy woodland nature trails along Cypress Creek, whether you have all day or just an hour. You’ll ride at your level so even beginners can relax and enjoy the scenery from atop an Arabian, Paint, or Appaloosa horse.
• Lake Houston Wilderness Park
25840 FM 1485, New Caney, TX 77357
Lake Houston Wilderness Park is the only park in the Houston Parks and Recreation Department where you can camp overnight, either in rented cabins or in walk-in campsites and is a great option to explore the outdoors in Houston. With over 4,700 acres of wooded parkland, there is plenty to see and do. Activities include 12 miles of hiking and biking trails, tree-lined creeks to explore by kayak, and eight miles of equestrian trails.
• Sailing Angels Foundation
1 Portofino Plaza, Clear Lake Shores, TX 77565
Explore the great outdoors close to Houston with The Sailing Angels provide free recreational therapy and education to children with physical or mental disabilities or chronic illnesses, at-risk children, military veterans and active service military, victims of domestic abuse, and the bereaved. Participants enjoy an awesome sailing adventure on Galveston Bay, departing from Kemah. The experience is offered daily, 360 days/year. Families are encouraged to participate.
Last edit June 29, 2021.