This year, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is hoping you'll make it a resolution to visit more state parks. And this weekend, two of the closest state parks to Houston are offering two very different ways to reacquaint yourself with the Gulf Coast's natural side.
Saturday, Jan 7, 1–2 p.m.
Galveston Island State Park
14901 FM 3005, Galveston
In addition to being prime oyster-eating season, winter is also the best time of year for beachcombing, a fact that holds true from the shores of Cornwall to the Oregon Coast to our own Galveston Island. Bonus: This weekend's cool, sunny weather means you won't be sweating into your eyes as you scan the beaches for shells, in a hunt led by park ranger Lisa Reznicek, who'll explain your finds along the way. The one-hour class, which meets at the Nature Center, is free but you'll need to pay the $5 per adult admission fee to Galveston Island State Park itself (children 12 and under are free). Afterwards, admire your new collection of seashells over an ice cream sundae at La King's (if you brought the kids) or a perfect martini on the rooftop patio at the Tremont House.
Saturday, Jan 7, 5–6:30 p.m.
Brazos Bend State Park
21901 FM 762, Needville
This state park just south of Sugar Land is known for offering some of the best bird-watching in the country. Take advantage with this free sunset hike as "gazillions" (we're using the term the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department itself used) of migratory Red-winged Blackbirds head to their winter nesting grounds in one of the park's marshes. The class begins at the Observation Tower overlooking the 40-Acre Lake Trail, a prime spot for sunset shots as the sun goes down at 5:38 p.m. Admission to Brazos Bend State Park is $7 for adults (children 12 and under are free). After the hike, walk over to the George Observatory for some serious stargazing—winter also happens to be the best time of year for that too. Admission to the high-powered telescope array is $7 for adults, $6 for children and seniors, a small sum to pay to be able to see the stars away from the city's notoriously light-polluted skies.