Houston, the fourth-largest city in the United States, is the most ethnically diverse in the country. Houston hosts many things to see and do, and there is something to appeal to everyone. Something that may come as a surprise to most is that Houston is one of the most ecologically diverse cities in the world. The city rests on ten ecological regions, seven land-based and three water-based.
There is an abundance of natural beauty and biodiversity worth protecting, restoring, and exploring. Here are our favorite parks to immerse yourself in nature while in Houston:
1. Memorial Park
Memorial Park is 1,500 acres large, nearly double the size of Central Park. For those wanting to see what Houston was like before it was settled or escape the bustle of the city without leaving town, this is the park to do so. The 600 acres on the south end of the park are one of the country's most extensive urban forests. Because of its size, you can spend an entire day exploring all that it has to offer. We recommend visiting the newly completed Eastern Glades, walking the forest at the Arboretum and Nature Center, or biking the popular nature trails.
P.s. For golf lovers, you will enjoy playing the Memorial Park Municipal Golf Course, home of the Houston Open.
2. Buffalo Bayou Park
Buffalo Bayou Park stretches the banks of the historic waterway Houston was founded on in 1836. The park is home to many miles of hike-and-bike trails and outdoor activities native Houstonians enjoy daily. The many trails and bridges also provide the most scenic views of Houston's skyline and connect you to many cultural, culinary, and entertainment destinations without needing to hop in a car.
On your visit, we recommend taking a tour of The Cistern, biking the lengths of the park and back, and enjoying a sunset picnic on the soft grass at Eleanor Tinsley Park.
3. Hermann Park
Voted the third best urban park in 2021 by USA Today and rightfully so, Hermann Park is a 445-acre oasis between Downtown and the Texas Medical Center. It is home to the Houston Zoo, Centennial Gardens, Miller Outdoor Theatre, and neighbors Houston's Museum District and Rice University.
Our recommendation is to tour the Museum of Fine Arts or the Museum of Natural Science and then leisurely enjoy Hermann Park's gardens, lake, and nature in all its glory.
4. Discovery Green
Opened in 2008, Discovery Green has been a catalyst behind the resurgence of Downtown Houston. Discovery Green is a 12-acre urban green space surrounded by towering office buildings and condominiums, the convention center, and upscale hotels. It is also blocks away from three stadiums (Rockets, Astros, and Dynamo) and countless bars, nightclubs, and restaurants. The Green is perfect in its central location, and it's a gateway for downtown exploration.
On your visit to Houston, we recommend staying at one of the nearby hotels and exploring the park before catching a game or concert at one of the three surrounding stadiums.
5. Houston Botanic Garden
Houston has been undergoing a green renaissance over the past 20 years. The newest addition is the 132 acres of gardens and natural ecosystems at the Houston Botanic Garden. Situated on Sims Bayou, the park offers plenty of contrast and color between the arid and tropical gardens. If you're a plant and garden lover, this is a must-visit on your list.
Out of all the parks on this list, it's the only one that requires an entrance fee, but we don't mind because it all goes back to supporting the construction of future phases.
If you're staying longer, or have already explored the parks above, here are some beautiful parks native Houstonians enjoy daily: