City Guide / Houston

A Local’s Guide to the 14 Best Outdoor Activities in Houston

By Emilia Benton | Nov 10, 2022
A bridge in Hermann Park in Houston, Texas, which offers many outdoor activities.

If you’re new to Houston, Texas, you may be surprised to learn that it’s possible to be incredibly active and devote yourself to exploring the outdoors, even in the largely urban setting the biggest city in Texas has to offer. Whether you’re looking to regularly exercise outside, or keep a heavy rotation of outdoor things to do in Houston to avoid getting bored, rest assured you can find an activity or attraction you love here.

From downtown to the city’s parks, here are just 14 outdoor activities in the Houston area that will also allow you to get outside as you remain active and entertained.

1. Hit a Houston park for a run

Practice sports in the Memorial Park, Houston, Texas.

If you’re training for an event like the Houston Marathon, there’s no shortage of options for where you can get your training runs in, especially if you look toward some of the best parks in Houston. The three-mile crushed gravel loops at Memorial Park and around the perimeter of Rice University are great options for short, easy runs, with the latter being a perfect spot to seek refuge from the hot summer sun.

The 445-acre Hermann Park has a combination of gravel and paved trails that connect to Brays Bayou, which can take you for miles in either direction. Head toward the University of Houston or the Meyerland neighborhood (where there are filtered water fountains at the ready!).

Buffalo Bayou Park, the White Oak Bayou Greenway, and Terry Hershey Park are great picks if you need to get some hills in as well.

2. Take a hike or stroll in some of Houston’s expansive parks

Houston Arboretum nature walking trail

Visiting one of Houston’s parks is one of the best ways to get outdoors without having to pay a bunch of admission fees. Hermann Park has many activities to choose from, such as walking the trails, taking a pedal-boat ride in McGovern Lake, visiting the Houston Zoo, and riding the toy train.

At Memorial Park, visitors can check out the Houston Arboretum, go golfing, stroll the trails, or set up a picnic near the newly added Eastern Glades. Buffalo Bayou offers many of the same types of outdoor activities, as well as dog parks, playgrounds, and the occasional outdoor festival or performance.

Want to explore more of the great outdoors in Houston? Check out our blog post, “Where to Find the Best Hiking in Houston.”

3. Take a long bike ride

Riding Bikes on Paved Trail in Houston Park (view of river and skyline of downtown Houston) - Houston, Texas, USA

Houston unfortunately has a reputation for not being very bike-friendly when it comes to commuter traffic, but that doesn’t mean avid cyclists are unable to enjoy their chosen activity in this Texas town. Brays Bayou, White Oak Bayou, Terry Hershey Park, and the Heights Hike-and-Bike trails are just a few options where cyclists can coast for miles and miles to get a solid workout in.

If your ride will be more laid-back, you can also rent a bike from one of the city’s many B-Cycle stations.

4. Go on a bayou boat tour

Panorama of Downtown Houston from Buffalo Bayou Park

It’s certainly not a riverfront or oceanfront cruise, but a $10 boat tour will allow you to see Buffalo Bayou Park from a different angle, even taking you through the Waugh Bat Colony. If you’re celebrating a special occasion like someone’s birthday or a bachelor/bachelorette party, you can rent a private charter and bring your own snacks and beverages on board.

5. Enjoy a free outdoor performance

people watching movie in open air cinema in city park

One of Houston’s most popular attractions for free outdoor activities is taking in a performance at Hermann Park’s Miller Outdoor Theatre. From Houston Symphony selections to plays and musicals and cultural dance performances, there’s bound to be something for everyone, whether you go to the theater in the summer or during Texas’s mild spring and fall.

Many performances allow you to reserve theater seats ahead of the show, or you can bring chairs and blankets and sprawl out with snacks on the hill. All seating options are free.

6. Relax at a brewery

If you’re a beer aficionado, rest assured: There is no shortage of quality craft beer in this part of Texas. Saint Arnold Brewing Company, Buffalo Bayou Brewing Company, or Karbach Brewing Company offer tasting tours and quality food menus, as well as the ability to hang out on a patio or other inviting outdoor area. These are also popular areas for sports fans to gather to watch a Houston Texans or Astros game.

Recommended Blog

Drone shot of Karbach Brewing Co., one of the best breweries in Houston, Texas.

Check out Emilia Benton’s recommendations for the 15 best breweries in Houston!

7. Have a picnic lunch

When we get those rare weekends where you want to just stay outside all day because you won’t be sweating your tail off, you’ll try to do pretty much just that. If you want to pack an al fresco lunch, there are endless opportunities to do so at some of the aforementioned parks, or various smaller parks scattered throughout the city and suburbs.

8. Take a weekend beach trip to Galveston

A row of colorful beach umbrellas and beach loungers on Galveston Island Texas.

Visiting Galveston, Texas, is a popular summer pastime for many Houstonians. Whether you’re taking a day trip or have a beach rental lined up, there are plenty of attractions and ways to enjoy your stay, from setting up camp at one of the region’s many beaches, walking along the Seawall, visiting the famed Pleasure Pier, or eating fresh seafood at one of the city’s many outstanding restaurants.

9. Make it an outdoor bingo night

If you work downtown and want to settle in for an entertaining Thursday night while also avoiding traffic, hit up Market Square Park for Blanket Bingo, held every Thursday night at 6 p.m. This free event does include prizes, and participants can bring their own food and drinks or purchase them from Niko Niko’s Greek and American Cafe.

10. Find a weekend festival

There’s always something going on in Houston. Do your research on cultural event websites and you’re bound to find international- or holiday-themed events and attractions taking place across the city and suburbs in and around the area’s many parks and other large outdoor spaces.

11. Take the dogs to their own designated parks

If you have dogs that are active and get along well with others, Houston has a plethora of designated dog parks where your furry friends can roam freely and socialize. From Johnny Steele Park in Buffalo Bayou Park to Market Square and Midtown Parks, there’s always variety available when it comes to taking the dogs out on an adventure.

12. Enjoy a meal on an outdoor patio

One of the biggest perks of the nearly-year-round mild climate in Texas is that it’s almost always patio weather when it comes to dining outside. Whether it’s an evening dinner, Sunday brunch, or afternoon watching the latest sporting event, take your pick from the numerous bars and cuisines in the area.

13. Go paddleboarding or kayaking

If you’re into watersports, you can definitely find areas to indulge in your hobby during the summer months. Paddleboarding and stand-up paddleboarding are available up north at Lake Conroe, while short kayak tours are available at Buffalo Bayou and Discovery Green. There are also opportunities for longer kayak adventures at Bay Area Park and Lakes Edge Boat House in Hughes Landing.

14. Do a DIY museum walking tour

When living in this part of Texas, you can’t miss spending time in the city’s museum district. From the Museum of Fine Arts and the Museum of Natural Science to the Holocaust Museum and Museum of African American Culture, visitors can take their time tackling the district’s 19 museums on foot through four walkable zones.

Looking to explore Houston’s outdoor scene?

If you want to spend some time in Houston to enjoy all of the many outdoor activities this city offers, Landing offers fully furnished apartments in Houston with flexible leases that make it easy to stay in town on your terms. Explore everything this part of Texas has to offer, and quickly make the greater Houston area feel like home.

Emilia Benton

Emilia Benton is a freelance writer and editor living in her hometown of Houston. She received her B.A. in journalism with minors in Spanish and women's studies from Hofstra University in Long Island, New York. Emilia primarily covers health and wellness, as well as personal finance, education, culture, and more. Her work has been published by Runner's World, Women's Health, SELF, SHAPE, and the Houston Chronicle, among others. She is also an 11-time marathoner, frequent traveler, and avid amateur baker.