Houston Bucket List -- 100 Things to Do in Houston Before You Die: Fly Away Home
The Houston Press is presenting a series of posts leading up to a feature story in the print edition of the 100 Things to Do in Houston Before You Die. Each blog post contains one of our top 10 bucket list items along with nine others in the top 100. To narrow our list, we chose only items unique to Houston -- or items to which Houston provides a unique twist -- and everything on the list must be in or occur within 30 miles of downtown Houston (so, nothing from Galveston, for example). We welcome your suggestions in the comment section.
Photo by sirtrentalot via Flickr
For our third installment of the Houston Bucket List, we turn to nature. Despite the fact that Houston has no mountains or major rivers (bayous don't count), isn't on some pristine coastline, and is brutally hot and humid about four months out of the year, there is a lot to do outside. Once you get used to the heat, you shrug it off and go about your business.
People don't realize how lush of a city it is until you get up above the canopy and look down. Even the 2011 drought couldn't destroy that. But we also have a lot of critters in and around the city, particularly around the bayous. Like the people here, they are residents of Houston too and, in cases like the next in our top ten, quite often more interesting.
Watch the Bats Fly Off Into the Night from the Waugh Street Bridge
There is something both haunting and amazing about watching 250,000 Mexican free tail bats swirl out from under the Waugh Street bridge every night at dusk as they head out to eat their weight in mosquitoes -- bless their hearts. The first time I ever saw the long dotted-black trail across the sky over Allen Parkway, I thought it was a bird migration. Turns out, it's just evening supper for the largest colony of year-round bat bridge residents in the state. (Austin's bat colony is about five times the size, but it migrates south for the winter.)
As Buffalo Bayou has been developed, the city wisely took advantage of this natural attraction, building an observation deck alongside the bridge for visitors to observe as the tiny, mosquito-eating badasses take wing all at once. Standing silently on the bridge -- bats don't like loud noises -- you can hear the rush of wings as they take their leave. I've never been there when they return in the morning, but it must be equally as fascinating. For a closer look, ride or walk under the bridge during the day, but watch out for guano.