Best Place for a Cheap Date
If you were wowed by the changes to Buffalo Bayou Park before, wait until you see this hidden gem tucked underneath. Built in 1926, the underground reservoir once held 15 million gallons of water. Today its sole purpose is to take your breath away. This adventure costs just $2 (and is free on Thursdays); reservations required.
105 Sabine St., buffalobayou.org/visit/destination/the-cistern
Best Way to Become an Arts Buff in 24 Hours
Theater District Open House
An annual spotlight on the city’s most-loved theaters and arts organizations, this mega-popular event (Aug. 28, noon to 4 p.m.) includes everything from free Houston Ballet, Grand Opera and Symphony performances to backstage tours and boat rides down Buffalo Bayou, for a waterfront view of the venues.
Best Bird Watching
Brazos Bend State Park
Pros flock to this 4,897-acre park just 50 miles from downtown, one of the country’s best bird-watching spots, whose unique coastal-prairie-meets-live-oak-woodlands terrain plays host to an amazing range of species. Beginners will want to take part in free, twice-monthly walks through the trails.
21901 FM 762, Needville, tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/brazos-bend
McGovern Centennial Gardens
Houston critics love to point out how flat the city is. In an effort to discredit our detractors, we built a lovely little 30-foot hill that affords a spectacular view of Hermann Park’s rose gardens and sculptures and fountains and sunsets and…oh… This must be why people like elevation so much.
1500 Hermann Dr., hermannpark.org
Best Bike-in Movie Theater
Market Square Park
Recreate the drive-in experience in modern, urban fashion by coasting up to the downtown park on your cruiser, then catching a flick under the twinkling lights of the towering city skyline. Look for family-favorite E.T. coming up on Aug. 10, plus Tommy Boy on Sep. 22 and Rocky Horror Picture Show on Oct. 29.
301 Milam St., marketsquarepark.com
Best Put-in Spot on the Bayou
You can always rent a kayak or hop a pontoon boat near downtown with the newbies, of course. But hardcore Buffalo Bayou paddlers know the best spot for launching their watercraft is where Woodway meets North Post Oak, right off the West Loop, inside Memorial Park. Set out from here, and enjoy the quiet, tree-lined banks of the bayou as it cuts through Memorial Park and River Oaks, sights only visible from the water, before cruising into downtown.
4700 block of Woodway Dr.
Best Place for a Picnic
Alexander Deussen Park
Pack a picnic and enjoy lunch under the covered pavilions overlooking the sunny southern shores of Lake Houston before exploring Deussen’s 309 acres, complete with boat launch, docks, trails and dog park—located only a half-hour drive from downtown.
12303 Sonnier St., hcp1.net/parks/alexanderdeussen.aspx
Best Nighttime Flea Market
Flea markets can be sweaty affairs, especially during the summer, so it’s no wonder this nighttime event featuring handmade jewelry, mid-century antiques, vintage clothing, home décor, musical instruments, ceramics, soaps and even eyeglasses is so popular. Bonuses include live music, food carts and no need for sunscreen.
1500 McKinney St., discoverygreen.com
Best Outdoor Boot Camp
Two former Rockets Power Dancers, Cari Shoemate and Carrie Barnhart, launched this bootcamp for women only in 2011. These days they also allow guys, so long as they attend with a female guest. Nervous about getting your butt kicked? Don’t be: Workout regimes are customized according to pre-existing injuries and problem areas.
Various locations, bombshellbootcamp.com
Best Reason to Leave the House
Fruit-Picking at Matt Family Orchard
Spend a summertime afternoon the way your grandparents did, harvesting sweet, fresh, Texas goodness. Your reward: the literal, delicious fruits of your labor from this family-owned farm in Tomball, where you can pick your own pears, dates and figs all summer long.
21110 Bauer Hockley Rd., Tomball, mattfamilyorchard.com
Best Place to Pretend You’re a Human Drone
San Jacinto Monument Observation Deck
Sadly, the Sky Lobby at Chase Tower is now closed. But for our money, this 500-foot observation deck affords better views of Houston, offering glimpses of both the city’s history (the San Jacinto battlefield and Battleship Texas below) and its industrial core (the skyline-dwarfing Ship Channel).
1 Monument Circle, La Porte, sanjacinto-museum.org/monument
Best Place to Drop In
North Houston Skatepark
Back in the ’80s, skaters like Tony Hawk had to seek out abandoned pools when they wanted to catch air. Today’s kids have it easy, especially H-Town kids: The North Houston Skatepark is the largest of its kind in North America, featuring over 78,000 square feet of skating surface, bowls, rails and stairs, all for free. Just remember: Helmets are mandatory.
12351 Kuykendahl Rd., springskatepark.com