The Rest of the Best 2014: Houston's Top 10 Parks (Inside the Loop)
There have been a few changes to our choices of top ten centrally located parks since 2013's list. The top three spots are filled by the same parks, but not in the same order as last year. A couple of things affected our choices. One, better weather. The recent drought certainly left its mark on Houston's green spaces, but signs of recovery are abundant. Two, programing. Some spots are lovely but offer very little in the way of education or entertainment while others have several organized events a day.
Courtesy of the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau/Photo by Shannon O'Hara Market Square Park
10. Market Square Park
301 Milam Street, 713-223-2003
One of several parks in the shadow of downtown's skyscrapers, Market Square Park is smack in the middle of the oldest part of the city's central business district. A dog park is sectioned off on one side, Niko Niko's has a standing cafe and there's still lots of room for watching Alamo Drafthouse on the Road film screenings, listening to concerts from diverse music groups such as Cello Fury, Bingo games and lots of bike-related events (Critical Mass and Bayou Bikers meet here regularly). There are also frequent festivals, such as the Annual Mardi Gras Jamboree and Gumbo Showdown sponsored by Saint Arnold Brewing Company and the Downtown District.
9. Houston Arboretum & Nature Center
Courtesy of GHCVB
4501 Woodway Drive, 713-681-8433
The Houston Arboretum & Nature Center is an oasis within shouting distance of both downtown and the Galleria area. Less congested than its neighbor Memorial Park, the Arboretum has three specialty gardens (wildlife, hummingbird and butterfly and the Carol Tatkon Sensory Garden), lots of woodsy trails and best of all, lots and lots of events. Yes, technically, most the Arboretum's offerings are "educational" (which, we would like to remind you, is not a bad word), like the children's day camp programs (Tyke Hikes for kids 18-months-old to three years old with a parent, Tadpole Troopers for three to five year old kids and Naturalist Explorers for kids five to eight years old). Adults can learn about Texas based horticulture (and become a Texas Master Naturalist). Our favorite events at the Arboretum are Tapas on the Trails (an adult, outdoor happy hour with gourmet food and wine throughout the woods), Arboretum at Night tours, bat walks and the upcoming Naturally Wild Family programs (you, your kids and a naturalist, outdoors). Of course, it's always nice just to walk the trails or sit by a pond.
8. Mason Park
541 South 75th Street, 713-928-7055
Braes Bayou winds its way through Mason Park making for great scenery. At more than 100 acres, the park is plenty big but the intersection of the bayou keeps things feeling more intimate. There's a swimming pool, several tennis courts, basketball courts, soccer fields, a baseball field, a great park center and much more. It's hard to find a more beautiful view of the bayou east side of downtown. (One word of warning, the soccer players here are fierce. Bring your A-game or stay on the sidelines. Wannabe's and "just average" players will seriously get their asses whipped.)
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