A Family Guide to Houston

Flora, Fauna, Family

Get out of the house!

By Chris Abshire August 3, 2014 Published in the August 2014 issue of Houstonia Magazine

Terry Hershey Park

Image: John Downs

A good family-friendly first stop is Brazos Bend State Park, an easy 40-minute drive south of downtown offering 5,000 acres of ever-changing terrain, including coastal prairies, forests, and wetlands. Alligators often lounge mere feet from the paths that wind around the park’s several lakes (which you should consider either a recommendation or a warning). Otherwise, the park offers flat, gentle hiking that all ages will enjoy, although a morning arrival is highly recommended, especially during the searing summer months. Adult passes are $7, though children 12 and under get in for free.

Memorial Park’s Houston Arboretum and Nature Center, a sanctuary for native plants and animals, is a consistent delight, its grounds open every day from 7 a.m. to dusk and boasting five miles of scenic trails. The specialty gardens are especially charming, with the Sensory Garden and Hummingbird & Butterfly Island offering insightful looks at insect life and botanical riches. There’s something for everybody here, even the shall-remain-nameless family member who’s always on his iPhone: the Discovery Room features touch-screen exhibits. Oh, and admission is free.

Several miles west of the Arboretum, along a six-mile stretch of Buffalo Bayou, lies Terry Hershey Park. There, cyclists will love the “Anthills”—as the bike trails are called—cutting through dense forests along the bayou. Not a two-wheeling kind of family? There are also paved walking paths, a boat launch, exercise stations, picnic areas, playgrounds, and gardens flush with classic Texas bluebonnets, though only in spring.

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