free and cheap outdoor fun houston

Houston is no stranger to green spaces and with many of our new projects in the area, we have an abundance of outdoor activities to enjoy in our city. In recent years, the city has undergone what some have called a “green space renaissance”. While the city was once known as nothing more than a concrete jungle, true Houstonians know how to take advantage of the fun and adventures to be found, whether it’s miles of hiking and biking trails, or sprawling city parks. Check out our round-up of the best free and cheap Houston outdoor activities:

 

Downtown

Discovery Green Enjoy downtown Houston’s premiere park, centrally located across from the George R. Brown Convention Center. The calendar is normally jam-packed with free work outs, story time, farmer’s markets, and concerts, but right now, all of those events have moved online and you can enjoy them on the park’s Facebook page. The park is open but visitors are encouraged to practice social distancing. Playground equipment and benches are not available for use right now, and restrooms are also closed.

Market Square Park– In the heart of the Historic District lies an oasis complete with water features, restaurants, and a dog run. Lined by restaurants and bars, the park normally holds weekly work outs, concerts, bingo nights, and even movie nights, but right now, all events are canceled through at least the end of June due to COVID-19! Don’t forget to try out Houston’s very own bike share program. Rent a bike to explore downtown and beyond with BCycle (check out their Groupon deal) to access even more of the great Houston outdoor activities across the city.

Tranquility Park- The name really does say it all! Known for its tranquil water features including pools and fountains, this city park is both calming and an architectural masterpiece. It was built to commemorate the Apollo 11 moon landing. Located in the Theater District, just yards away from Buffalo Bayou, it’s full of beautiful views for leisurely strolls.

Sam Houston Park- A beautiful park focusing on the history of Houston’s founding. Tours of the oldest structures in Houston are closed for now, but you can still let your dog sniff the ducks near the pond. The Heritage Society keeps up a number of structures within the park and offers guided tours as well as cheap exhibitions, so keep an eye out for when those resume.

 

Inner-Loop

Buffalo Bayou– Multiple parks line Houston’s central waterway. Buffalo Bayou Park, Spotts Park, and Bayou Park line up next to each other and provide miles of hiking and biking, making this a great area for outdoor activities in Houston. You can also kayak through the Bayou and see the skyline from a whole new perspective. Right now, Buffalo Bayou Park is open, but some features remain closed for the time being, including the Lost Lake Visitor Center, Barbara Fish Daniel Nature Play Area, volleyball court, and restrooms. Admission to the Bayou Bend Gardens is just $7.50 for adults and free for kids 9 and younger.

Memorial Park- Memorial Park offers running trails and conditioning stations as well as houses the Houston Arboretum and Nature Center. The park is currently open, but the playground is closed. The tennis courts and golf course have officially reopened.

Rice University Running Trail- Get active and enjoy the oak-lined streets by running the loop at Rice University. The gravel path is nearly 3 miles in length and lets you see various sights around the university.

Hermann Park- Across from the Houston Zoo (get 49% off on admission to the Zoo and 4 other top Houston attractions) you can find the beautiful water features of Hermann Park. The Miller Outdoor Theatre normally offers free performances of music, dance, and plays, but it’s closed for the moment. Entry to the Japanese Gardens is free and open to the public. There, you can find serene Japanese landscaping and architecture. Challenge the kids to a koi-counting competition and make sure you cross every bridge and stream. While you’re there, stroll down to the Museum of Fine Arts Sculpture Garden and take a picture at Houston’s very own Bean- a sculpture located across from the Glassel School of Art.

Mason Park- For views from the Brays Bayou, check out East Houston’s expansive Mason Park. Complete with wetlands, tennis courts, playgrounds (closed temporarily), and a community center, it’s EaDo’s hub for events and activities. Cross the bridge for the best selfies and bring Fido for an evening walk.

The Heights- As one of Houston’s hippest neighborhoods, you would expect plenty of parks and recreation. Despite its retro yet urban appeal, the area does not disappoint. The White Oak Bayou Greenway offers over 15 miles of green space and hike- and- bike trails. Stude Park, Hogg Park, and more line the green way spanning beyond the Loop. Visit the Bat Colony off of Waugh Drive or visit any of the other pocket parks in the neighborhood.

Levy Park Since its grand re-opening in 2017, Levy Park has quickly become one of Houston’s most popular outdoor spots, and for good reason — the park features a number of great features, including a performance pavilion for small concerts, playground (closed temporarily), dog park, community gardens, and an activity lawn with a putting green, table tennis, outdoor reading room, and more. Some features are closed for the time being, so check their website often for updates. The park usually hosts a ton of free events just about every day, ranging from story times for kids to workouts for adults, but for now, those events are being streamed online.

 

Outer Loop

Gerald D. Hines Waterwall Park- Best known for its stunning architecture and prime photography location, the Houston masterpiece has been in existence for over 25 years. Lined by oak trees, the park features a well-lit water wall and green space large enough for picnics or frisbee. Pets are also welcome.

Keith Weiss Park- Near Halls Bayou lies a large park complete with walking trails, soccer fields, playgrounds (closed for now), picnic tables, and more. Bring the dog to sniff out the numerous ponds and streams and keep an eye out for birds and other fauna. With three major ponds, there is plenty of room to explore.

Marian ParkWith three different water features and a shaded seating area, it’s one of the best cheap ways to cool off in the great outdoors. There’s also a volleyball court, lighted sports field, fitness center, and more, but some features may be closed right now.

Willow Waterhole GreenspaceOne of Houston’s best-kept secrets is the new conservancy in South Houston. With ponds, walking trails, and a gazebo, these are some of the most serene views for cheap outdoor recreation. Check out their activities website for monthly events like music festivals and food trucks that will hopefully return later this year.

 

Greater Houston

Mercer Botanic Gardens If you’re on the North Side or are willing to travel, this Houston gem is worth the drive. With free gardens on one side, and hiking trails on the other, this is a prime location of some of the best outdoor activities in Houston. Right now, the parks, trails, playgrounds, and picnic areas are open per their website.

Sugar Land Town Square– Whether you’re looking for some Dancing Under the Stars or to grab some dinner, you can find it all in Sugar Land. The mixed-use green space offers free weekly fitness classes, live music, outdoor movies, and more.

Woodlands Waterway Head over to Waterway Square for dinner and shopping, plus rent a kayak or water bike to cruise the waterway.

Mary Jo Peckham Park- Bring your fishing pole and tackle for free fishing at the pond in Katy. Catch-and-release is recommended but not required. Chase the ducks around, have a picnic, go for a walk, and more. The Aquatic and Fitness Centers are open to the public by reservation only. You can also check out the dog park next door to let Fido run free.

Check Out Local Beaches- From Surfside Beach to numerous great Galveston beaches, there are plenty of vast outdoor spaces to enjoy the sand and the water. Beaches are open right now, but it’s still important to practice social distancing.

 

Houston’s wide array of activities means you’ll never have an excuse to be bored! What free Houston outdoor activities are you looking forward to trying? Let us know where you’ll be headed in the comments below.