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Have you seen this side of Houston?

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I already know where I'll be this weekend: cheering on the Houston Marathon runners from the corner of Houston Ave. and Washington Ave. It's within easy walking distance from my house, but as a bonus, the 25-bell carillon at Trinity Lutheran Church at the one-mile marker will be ringing like it's a royal wedding in celebration of the marathoners below; I can't resist a good carillon concert. But if you haven't chosen a spot for yourself, here's a suggestion: kill two birds with one stone and use the Marathon as an opportunity to explore Buffalo Bayou Park.

Mile-markers for both the full- and half-marathons (full course map here) line the southern edge of Buffalo Bayou Park. When you're finished screaming what you hope is helpful encouragement to strangers, head down into the park itself to explore the beautified bayou and dozens of newly-installed points of interest across the 160-acre greenway.

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The Dunlavy at Lost Lake offers breakfast and lunch in Buffalo Bayou Park.

Starting at the western end of the park, grab some fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice and an egg sandwich at The Kitchen at The Dunlavy. The new restaurant from the folks who also run Punk's, Brasserie 19 and SaltAir offers breakfast and lunch overlooking the skyline from Lost Lake, a recovered lake from the 1970s that now features water gardens, waterfalls and meandering paths that eventually meet up with the main Buffalo Bayou Park trails.

If you brought your bike, remember to stay on the bike trails while cruising through the park. Pedestrians, on the other hand, have the option of walking their own, asphalt paths that come far closer to the bayou. Pay close attention to the banks, where you'll see everything from colonies of baby ducklings peeking out of muddy warrens to elegant egrets and herons preening by the water. Of particular note is the Green Tree Nature Trail, so heavily forested with native trees and vegetation you can easily forget you're in the heart of Houston.

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Be sure to stop for a photo op on Rosemont Bridge.

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Traveling east, stop for a photo op on Rosemont Bridge; it's the new hotspot for Instagram photos and Facebook profile pictures thanks to a dramatic skyline backdrop. From there, cross over the bayou and hoof it past the dignified ziggurat of the Houston Police Officers' Memorial until you reach The Water Works at Sabine Street, one of the most recent additions to the park. Here, the grassy Brown Foundation Lawn sprawls atop the partially-buried cistern built in 1927 as the city's first reservoir for drinking water. 

In addition to the skyline itself, The Water Works overlooks a neat disc golf course and the heavily-populated Jamail Skate Park, making it a fun spot to relax and take in the acrobatics in the concrete bowls and mini ramps below. When you're rested up, head across the scenic Sabine St. bridge (yes, go ahead and take another selfie) to your final destination: Eleanor Tinsley Park, where sand volleyball courts and picnic-friendly lawns await. Steps away, dozens of turtles lounge on boulders in the shallow waters of a cove tucked away just east of the Sabine St. bridge—yet another quiet corner of the city to pretend you've escaped into the wild, if only for an afternoon.

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