Things to do in Houston

Houston's Best Parks & Texas Recreation

Learn about Houston's best parks with our guide, where there are plenty of parks to enjoy.

With lush greenery, shady trees, and playgrounds where your little acrobats can practice their tricks, the best parks in Houston are waiting for you. These parks are just a part of the wide range of things to do in Houston.

Lace up those sneakers, grab your picnic blanket, and let’s get started on our park-hopping tour of Houston!

1. Hermann Park

Location: Inner Loop

As the crown jewel of parks in Houston, Texas, Hermann Park is a sprawling wonderland within the city’s hustle and bustle. It’s home to the Houston Zoo, where you can experience close encounters with hungry giraffes and catch a glimpse of endangered species, such as the golden-headed lion tamarin. But that’s not all — venture into the McGovern Centennial Gardens for a floral spectacle that will make your eyes pop!

Whether you want to relax, roar with the lions, or revel in the botanical extravaganza, there’s something here for everyone. There’s even a picturesque lake, complete with pedal boats, and a Japanese Garden to bring a touch of zen to your busy Houston trip. After the excitement of one of our shows, it’s the ideal place to chill out and let your mind settle back into serenity.

Photographer: Alisa Matthews

2. Discovery Green

Location: Inner Loop

If Houston’s parks were a school class, Discovery Green would be the cool kid. As one of the city’s most popular urban oases, this downtown Houston Park is where green meets groovy. Imagine a place where you can chill by a tranquil pond, groove to live tunes, or join a yoga class, and as if that wasn't enough, the whole urban park is a canvas for outdoor art installations.

From kayaking on the pond to cultural festivals and outdoor movies, Discovery Green has it all. It’s like Houston’s backyard party, always buzzing with energy and surprises.

3. Levy Park

Location: Upper Kirby

Levy Park is the captivating cousin of Houston’s parks — a little funky and a lot of fun. This innovative space is a playground for everyone, from the tiniest tots to the young at heart. The play areas are next-level creative with playground equipment set up for all ages, and there’s always something happening on the event calendar. From Bollywood and bhangra dance to seasonally themed movie nights, new activities to try are abound.

Picture a place where shared gardens lie beside a sprawling lawn for picnics and play dates. Levy Park is a dynamic community space that invites everyone to join in the fun.

4. Memorial Park

Location: Inner Loop

Memorial Park isn’t just big; it’s colossal. If you’re looking to immerse yourself in nature without leaving the city, this is your haven, offering a glimpse into the diverse options for hiking in Houston. Trails weave through the green expanse, leading you to hidden picnic spots and scenic outlooks. It’s like a giant’s backyard, where you can hike, bike, and even have a full-blown BBQ.

No matter what mood you’re in, you’ll find a corner of this park to match it. You can go from a serene bird-watching session to a high-energy game of tennis in a heartbeat. The giant of Houston parks, Memorial Park is where outdoor enthusiasts of all ages come to find their bliss, surrounded by towering trees and the soothing sounds of nature.

Photographer: Joseph Sohm

5. Buffalo Bayou Park

Location: West of Downtown Houston

Buffalo Bayou Park is a scenic stretch along the bayou that’s as diverse as Houston itself. Whether you’re into kayaking, biking, or simply loafing on the grass, this park’s got something to suit you. Art installations dot the landscape, infusing creativity to the greenery. You can rent a kayak or canoe and go paddling on the bayou or hire a bike to explore on two wheels. However you choose to spend your time in Buffalo Bayou Park, the stunning skyline views are an enthralling addition to a wondrous night.

6. Smither Park

Location: Inner Loop

Smither Park isn't your average glade. Its unconventional design draws in visitors from all over the world who are looking to explore a green space that’s just a little bit different. It’s certainly a must-visit for art lovers, as it's filled with vibrant sculptures, each telling its own story.

Smither Park is a tribute by artist and builder, Dan Philips, and Stephanie Smither to Stephanie’s late husband, John H. Smither. More than 300 artists contributed to the mosaics on display here. As artists ourselves, we’re proud to perform in a city that promotes community art projects with as much enthusiasm as is on display in this unique and special park. Be sure to check out the Memory Wall, the Oshman Meditation Wall, and the Johnson Marble Tower. 

7. George Bush Park

Location: West Houston

Want to get active during your trip to Houston? George Bush Park is a great place to do just that. There are facilities for a whole host of sports such as soccer, tennis, volleyball, and rock climbing. In George Bush Park, you can hike, bike (watch out for the speed bikers!), and maybe even catch a fish — all without leaving the city limits. There’s even a shooting range where you can safely practice your aim or get a paid shooting lesson from a pro.

While you’re enjoying the park’s activities, be sure to take the time to pause on the Boardwalk — a large wooden bridge that crosses the Buffalo Bayou. You’ll get great views of the swampy bayou as it meanders its way to the sea.

8. Donovan Park

Location: Heights

Donovan Park is the charming neighborhood park you wish you had growing up. Whimsical play structures and a welcoming atmosphere make it a favorite among families. It’s a storybook setting where kids can let their imaginations run wild while parents enjoy a relaxing afternoon in the shaded areas.

Perhaps the most inspiring part of this park is the story of how it came about. Until 1996, the park was underutilized and run down. Over just a few days, the community came together to transform it into a play space that sparks young imaginations.

As you watch your little ones run and swing on the railroad-themed equipment like our acrobats in training, spare a thought for those hard-working neighbors sawing, drilling, hammering, and painting to give their community a space to be proud of.

9. Rob Fleming Park

Location: The Woodlands

Just outside Houston in the Woodlands, Rob Fleming Park is a serene escape into nature. Complete with a lake, trails, a catch-and-release fishing pond, and a butterfly garden, it’s a breath of fresh air in the suburban landscape. Here’s a great tip — if you’re looking for the perfect family photo to show the folks back home, then the bluebonnet meadow is the ideal place to make your little kids look like angels.

Photographer: Karina Eremina

10. Lake Houston Wilderness Park

Location: New Caney

For those seeking a true wilderness adventure, Lake Houston Wilderness Park is the perfect place to begin your quest. Just a short drive from Houston, this park offers primitive camping, hiking trails, and a serene escape into nature. Fulfill your elven fantasies on the archery range, run or walk the miles of scenic trails, or make camp in a hidden corner of the woods. It’s the only park in the Houston Parks and Recreation Department that allows overnight stays, so make sure every member of your fellowship is bedded down by nightfall.

11. Jesse H. Jones Park & Nature Center

Location: Humble

When you travel, do you love learning about the local flora and fauna? Jesse H. Jones Park & Nature Center is a place where bird-watchers and wildlife enthusiasts can enjoy being in their element. Stroll 8 miles of paved pedestrian trails through swamps where century-old cypress trees tower overhead. You can even learn what life was like hundreds of years ago by visiting the Redbud Hill Homestead and Akokisa Indian Village on the site.

There are some fantastic educational and entertaining events taking place regularly at Jesse H. Jones Park & Nature Center. Wildlife Wednesday events are a chance to learn about the various critters who live here, while the Second Sunday Pickers put on regular concerts with country-and-western, bluegrass, folk, Cajun, and blues music. Bring an instrument along and join in!

Photographer: Trong Nguyen

12. Armand Bayou Nature Center

Location: Pasadena

Armand Bayou Nature Center is a wetland sanctuary teeming with wildlife, making it a paradise for birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts. From bison to bald eagles, you stand a chance of seeing hundreds of different species. To maximize your chance of seeing some of the shyer animals that call the Armand Bayou Nature Center their home, we recommend taking one of the guided night hikes. It’s a special time to listen out for nocturnal critters, such as owls, bats, armadillos, deer, and more!

To see Armand Bayou Nature Center from a different perspective, why not take a guided kayak tour? Open to beginner and experienced kayakers, this is a great chance to see reptiles and birds who like to spend their time on or in the water. You might even see some of the usually shy deer tiptoeing down to the water’s edge to take a drink.

13. Stevenson Park

Location: Friendswood

With open green spaces, sports facilities, and a peaceful setting for picnics, Stevenson Park is a firm local favorite. This is a friendly neighborhood hideaway where kids can run freely and parents can relax. When it's hot outside, little ones can even cool off in the three-section splash pad. You can also reserve a shady gazebo or pavilion for a special occasion. Tennis, sand volleyball, and basketball courts are free for the public to use every day, so you’d better start practicing your game!

14. Meyer Park

Location: Spring

Meyer Park is the perfect outdoor haven to put a spring back into your step — and we’re always keen to help everyone keep that youthful joie de vivre! Get active on the exercise stations dotted along the walking trail, visit the feathery friends at the duck pond, or enjoy a game of softball or soccer on the sports fields. For the kids, there are two age-specific playgrounds to enjoy. If you’d rather get away from it all for a while, pick a spot at the 3-acre fishing lake and see if you can get a bite.

15. Bear Creek Pioneers Park

Location: West Houston

For many families, the wildlife habitat is the key reason to visit Bear Creek Pioneers Park. That’s right — there are animal exhibits here, including bison, emus, birds of prey, white-tailed deer, and pot-bellied pigs, as well as standard farmyard fare, such as sheep and goats. There’s also a pond where you’ll find ducks and geese enjoying the attention of visitors.

As evening draws in, why not enjoy a game of tennis on one of the park’s four lighted courts, or grab one of the eight picnic pavilions to refuel? Quick tip — there are no food outlets within the park, so you’ll need to bring your own stash of sandwiches and snacks.

Photographer: Si Vo

16. River Oaks Park (Pumpkin Park)

Location: River Oaks

It’s listed on the map as River Oaks Park, but the locals know it as Pumpkin Park. Could that have something to do with the pumpkin carriage that forms a key part of the children’s playground? Could be! One thing is for sure — your little ones will love playing the part of Cinderella and her white horses (or were they mice?) on this innovative playground. Just be sure not to leave any slippers behind when it’s finally time to drag them away.

Exploring Houston's Verdant Gems: A Park Paradise Awaits

While the parks are a delight, Houston's wonders are manifold. Continue your city exploration with a visit to the renowned museums in Houston. From mind-blowing museums to unforgettable shows, there’s plenty to keep you entertained, even if the weather isn’t good enough for park-hopping. Be sure to include one of our Houston shows in your itinerary to fill your trip with awe and wonder. We’re excited to take this heart-pounding journey with you!

Eleanor Tinsley Park

Sit back, relax, and soak in your surroundings at this beautiful park. Renowned for its lush greenery, this is the spot where Houston comes to let it all go, which sounds perfect after one of our shows, right? Picnic tables are sunken into the hills, so you can savor a bird’s-eye view of the city as you chow down. Even better is its convenient location right next to ArtPark, so you can experience some creative fun after your meal. Sculptures and art installations aren’t exactly commonplace at most parks, but in Houston, artistic fervor is welcome just about anywhere.

Gerald D. Hines Waterwall Park

A multistory sculptural fountain is the centerpiece of this adventure-filled enclave. Located in the heart of Houston, Gerald D. Hines Waterwall Park is more than a public park – it’s a community center brimming with possibilities. Explore the city on one of its scenic biking trails, or get your heart pumping as you speed down its jogging trails on foot. Want something less adrenaline fueled? Check out the interactive water features and, if weather permits, embrace your inner child and dash through the mist.

Emancipation Park

Live the high life at this one-of-a-kind public park. More than just green space, Emancipation Park delivers endless fun for all ages. Step right up to the aquatics center with a swimming pool – perfect for a quick dip, dive, or an entire afternoon of splashing with those you love most. Bring the kids because state-of-the-art playground equipment awaits, and if they have energy left, head over to the baseball fields for some hot dogs and a good game. Not tired yet? There’s a theater showcasing top local acts, a recreation center, fitness center, tennis courts, and even a dog park so Fido can feel included too. It’s never too early (or too late) to start making some memories.

Terry Hershey Park

Walk, run, or bike your way through this majestic wonder of a park. Tucked away into a peaceful section of Buffalo Bayou, Terry Hershey Park is where Houston goes to let off some steam. Its numerous bike trails and walking paths will give you an insider’s glimpse into the city, and there are picnic tables waiting when you’re ready to wind down, relax, or enjoy some outdoor reading with a view.

Sesquicentennial Park

This urban park is nestled into the always buzzing theater district, which makes it the city’s go-to oasis before nights on the town. The energy here is electric, and there are trails for every type of exploration. Biking? They’ve got it. Walking? You’ll find plenty of paths. Not to mention the art, such as the awe-inspiring Seven Wonders and sculptures such as The Big Bubble. This is a spot not to miss.

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