Get Out

12 Activities to Do Outside While Still Social Distancing

There is so much you can do in the great outdoors.

By Houstonia Staff Published in the May 2020 issue of Houstonia Magazine

Maintain your sanity with one of the below ideas for getting out of the house. Just remember, with rules and regulations changing daily, it's important to make sure activities are kosher beforehand, per direction from city and county government officials. And where appropriate, check location websites before venturing forth. 

Observation Dock at Brazos Bend's Creekfield Lake

Visit a state park. 

With 37 miles of trail to explore and the promise of gator sightings, Brazos Bend State Park is the perfect antidote to all that time you’ve spent cooped up in your living room. Bring the binoculars (for wildlife) and some boots (it can get muddy), and walk the River View trail, set along the Brazos. Though you won’t always see the river because of the dense vegetation— wear your bug spray—there are several lookouts where you can stop and behold the splendor of an egret fishing in the water as wind rustles through the trees. Make sure to get your permit online prior to heading to the park, and keep in mind that, as of press time, the facilities and George Observatory are closed. —Gwendolyn Knapp

Explore your own neighborhood.

Is your favorite park jammed when you want to get out? Maintain that social D by stepping out your front door and walking the streets of your own ’hood. You’ll likely notice residents you’ve never laid eyes on before, doing things they always meant to do pre-pandemic, like cleaning their garages, having a drink on the porch, gardening, or, like you, taking a stroll, babies and dogs and spouses in tow. They might be the only other people you see all day, so don’t be shy! Say hello. It’s a wonderful way to get to know the neighbors—even if you’re just yelling at them from across the street. —Catherine Matusow

Practice frisbee golf. 

Yes, we know: This is usually a group thing, often involving shirtless dudes and blaring music. But you can practice your frisbee throws over nine holes during a solo trip to T.C. Jester Park to get your steps in. And when it’s safe to travel in a pack again, you can impress your friends by making that incredibly difficult shot across the bayou. 4201 T.C. Jester Blvd. —Catherine Matusow

Pick a neighborhood to walk.

If you’ve never tried this, we highly recommend it. Pick a neighbor- hood different from your own, drive over, park, and then wander the streets. Having chosen to explore Timbergrove Manor one recent Saturday morning, we were fascinated to discover that it’s a world all its own, crisscrossed by streams full after a recent rain, flowing past houses elevated on stilts. Walking a neighborhood gives you a unique feel for it: the architecture styles, the gardens, all the little ways residents make a home their own. It’s fun and, of course, another way to avoid peak times at your favorite park. —Catherine Matusow

Go bird watching

Situated along the route of the Great Texas Birding Trail, the Shadow Creek Ranch Nature Trail in Pearland offers paved trails and plenty of wildlife. This time of year, species including sandhill cranes and pectoral sandpipers pass through, and herons, egrets, hawks, and other birds frequent the area year-round. Even if you’re a total amateur, you’re going to see some avian action. 1801 Kingsley Dr. in Pearland. —Gwendolyn Knapp

Go fishing. 

Purchase a one-day all-water fishing license (txfg-, $11), then head up to Lake Houston, a mere 35-minute drive from downtown. It’ll be you, a fishing pole, and the catfish, white bass, large- mouth bass, crappie, and sunfish. A tip, per Texas Parks and Wildlife: To snare a catfish, use stink bait (exactly what it sounds like; look online for recipes or order from Amazon). But don’t worry about whether you catch anything, because what matters most is the peace that comes with dipping a line in the lake. —Timothy Malcolm

Walk a labyrinth. 

Seeking a calming place for spiritual contemplation and thoughtful introspection? Houston is home to a number of prayer labyrinths, including at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in the Museum District and the Villa de Matel Convent in Lawndale/Wayside. An ancient spiritual exercise, walking a labyrinth is meant to lead you on a pilgrimage to your own center as you traverse a meandering path that slowly takes you inward and then back out into the world. Unlike a maze, a labyrinth holds no trick paths, alternate routes, or dead ends. It’s not a puzzle, but a meditation. —Emma Schkloven

Take a photography walk. 

Grab your cell phone or fancy camera and walk the Paul Carr Jogging Trail on Heights Boulevard. There’s plenty to see, from public art installations to Victorian mansions—from the proper distance, of course. Tap into color at the “Greetings from Houston” mural (at Heights and White Oak) and the “Love” wall (at the old post office where 11th Street crosses the boulevard), or capture that consummate skyline shot from the Heights Hike & Bike Trail. Heights Blvd. between I-10 and 20th St. —Emma Schkloven

Buffalo Bayou Paddling Trail

Go kayaking. 

If you want to get on the water without leaving town, try the 26-mile Buffalo Bayou Paddling Trail, which runs from Highway 6 to Allen’s Landing and features ten different access points for putting in your kayak. You’ll be surprised at the wildlife you spy, from all manner of birds, to turtles and fish galore. —Catherine Matusow

Fly a kite. 

Here’s an awesome craft project: make a kite. Don’t know how? Google is your friend here. Then bring it to Sugar Land’s 111-acre Oyster Creek Park on a breezy day and send it into the sky. Or simply head here to enjoy the three-mile hiking trail, the cool bridge overlooking Oyster Creek, and the public art sprinkled about, including a lifelike alligator. 4033 Hwy 6., Sugar Land. —Timothy Malcolm


Walls closing in on you? Take refuge in your own yard or patio and kick off that gardening project you’ve been meaning to tackle for the past, ahem, few years. You’ll get fresh air and Vitamin D, and in the process a lovely place to escape to and some homegrown veggies. Per the Buchanan’s website, May is the time to plant “okra, cucumbers, pumpkins, basil, garlic chives, peppers, and sunflowers.” Bonus: Gardening burns several hundred calories per hour. —Catherine Matusow

Have a picnic. 

That expansive feeling that comes when you gaze at the water, where it meets the horizon line? It’s particularly helpful lately. Pack a picnic or support a local eatery by grabbing some takeout, and head to Lake Conroe Park for an afternoon. And when you do, make a promise not to utter the word “coronavirus” until you get back home. —Timothy Malcolm 

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