Bendwood Park. Courtesy Houston Parks Board

Free/Public Parks

Some of the city’s best parks are found outside the Loop (and outside the Beltway), but they’re worth the drive. Take, for example, Houston’s very first skate park: Dylan Duncan Skate Park features over 5,000 square feet of half-pipes and grind rails tucked under the stately pines of Kingwood. Double its size is Galena Park’s giant Clinton Skate Park, with multiple half-pipes, quarter-pipes, jump boxes, street spines, and more. Bonus: if it gets too hot, you can cool off at the City of Houston’s public Clinton Swimming Pool right next door.

One of the city’s largest Playground Without Limits parks is at Alief Park, where you’ll find plenty to do for kids of all abilities, though the park is specially designed for children with physical disabilities and mobility issues. Panels in Braille encourage interactive fun for children with limited sight, while a rubberized ground ensures that no tumbles taken will take a toll on your little ones. There’s also plenty of shade from the vibrant blue umbrellas that cover much of the park.

The beautiful Bendwood Park in Memorial was recently renovated with all-new equipment across four different playgrounds and two lighted tennis courts open to the public (plus a practice wall for those days when you’re playing solo). For pick-up games, there’s a softball backstop and a basketball court, as well as a few miles of trails. Everything is well-lit at night, meaning you can visit once the sun sets and everything cools off.

Finally, the five-acre pond at Eldridge Park in Sugar Land is the perfect spot to take your little ones who love water and wildlife. The pond is stocked with dozens of different ducks and geese, although feeding them is discouraged, so leave the loaves of bread at home. Have your fishing license? It’s also stocked with a variety of fish, which you can catch off the pier—no boat needed. —Katharine Shilcutt

Paid Parks

An all-inclusive $10 ticket to Old MacDonald’s Farm grants access to 15 acres of fun, including a petting zoo, choo-choo, swimming pool, and pony rides. 7 Acre Wood offers those same amenities minus the pool, although it boasts a mini-golf course and Western-themed play town, with tickets sold separately for each attraction ($3–$5).

Speaking of the west, Oil Ranch and Dewberry Farm sprawl across the Katy Prairie, each offering plenty of opportunities for rustic, old-fashioned fun. In addition to the autumnal pumpkin patches, fossil mines, and playgrounds common to both, Oil Ranch has a petting zoo, Indian village, and cow-milking barn, while Dewberry Farm proudly offers “corn cannons,” a “Goatel 6” which is, yes, a motel for goats, an eight-acre corn maze, pig races, and singing chickens in something called the Cackle Palace. (Oil Ranch’s admission price is $14.95 and Dewberry $12.75, although some attractions cost extra.) 

But this is the dead of summer, you say. Aren’t there any indoor options? Well, of course. Houston abounds in warehouse-sized, air-conditioned trampoline parks where little ones can literally bounce off the walls. At around $10 per jumping-hour, these rubber rooms are modestly priced, and kids in perpetual motion burn through energy and calories fast (think Crossfit for the elementary set). Westsiders should check out Sky High Sports, while Sky Zone has locations on the southwest side and in Spring. —JNL

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