Most big cities showcase a centrally located park offering an inviting natural oasis among the harsh urban environs. Houston’s version is Hermann Park (6001 Fannin St., 713/845-1000, www.houstontx.gov). Located in the heart of the Museum District just southwest of downtown, Hermann Park is a 400-acre magnet for joggers, dog walkers, bikers, and families in search of some rare green space in a city known for its rampant development.
Trails and trees are abundant here, as are amenities and services, including a theater, golf course, and garden center. The park is filled with statues, too; look for monuments to Sam Houston, Mahatma Gandhi, and namesake George Hermann.
Armand Bayou Nature Center
Further outside of town but worth the 30-minute drive is Armand Bayou Nature Center (8500 Bay Area Blvd. in Pasadena, 281/474-2551, www.abnc.org, 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Tues.–Sat., noon–5 p.m. Sun., admission fees for some activities). Located near NASA on the west side of Galveston Bay, the nature center offers residents and visitors a chance to learn about native plant and animal species, hike on the discovery trails, or see the live animal displays featuring the likes of bison, hawks, and spiders.
The main area of the park contains a boardwalk traversing the marshes and forests and providing a glimpse of the beautiful bayou region of East Texas. The best way to experience this natural wonder is by boat—consider taking a tour on the Bayou Ranger pontoon boat or signing up for a guided canoe tour.
© Andy Rhodes from Moon Texas, 6th Edition