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The Dunlavy at Buffalo Bayou Park

Among the many additions and improvements made to Buffalo Bayou Park over the last few years, The Dunlavy and Lost Lake stand out as two of its most useful—and not just because of the ample public parking out front.

Recovered from the remnants of a lake that was, yes, lost in the 1970s when a dam broke, the lovely Lost Lake serves as an important drainage facility as well as a protected wetlands area, hosting everything from water lilies to tiny turtles. Shimmering above the lake is The Dunlavy, a striking, glass-and-wood modernist creation that overlooks the lake on one side and the bayou on the other. Here, you’ll find one of the park’s two visitor centers, where you can rent kayaks, canoes and stand-up paddleboards from Bayou City Adventures, as well as The Kitchen at The Dunlavy.

Open daily from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., The Kitchen serves grab-and-go breakfasts and lunches for those on the run, but there’s often a line out the door as people wait patiently for a spot in the dining room—especially when weekend brunch rolls around. Inside, floor-to-ceiling glass windows with views onto a heavily wooded section of the bayou give the illusion of eating in a particularly lavish treehouse, while dozens of chandeliers twinkle overhead. The dining room is closed in the evenings for private events, but keep an eye out for occasional evening happy hours that are open to the public.

Not dining in? Order The Dunlavy Picnic Lunch—a tray filled with Houston Dairymaids cheeses, sliced prosciutto, genoa salami, country pâté, chicken liver mousse, hummus, vegetable crudité, a hard-boiled egg and various breads—then abscond to one of our favorite hidden meadows, just around the corner. From the visitor center, head west along the pedestrian path until the trees give way to a wide-open grassy lawn just north of the Beth Yeshurun Cemetery. There’s no battling the crowds here, even on a sunny day, and if you’re in luck, the rocky waterfall at the McGovern Cascade may just throw a few rainbows your way.

Explore on Two Wheels

Watercraft aren't the only vehicles available to rent in the park. At Bike Barn, headquartered at the Water Works, a whole fleet of two-wheelers—kids’ bikes, trailers, tandems, cruisers and hybrids—is available by the hour ($6 and up) or for the day ($39 and up). And the nearby Sandy Reed Memorial Trail, stretching from Shepherd Drive to Sabine Street, was recently realigned and resurfaced for your cruising pleasure.