Parks & Attractions

Does just the term "tourist attraction". cause feelings of anxiety? While there certainly are some attractions that you are better off driving on by, there are plenty of good ones too. Our Houston 10Best list can help you sort the worthwhile from the worthless, ensuring only good memories are created this trip.

10 Hermann Park
Centrally located, Hermann Park boasts lots of attractions, including the zoo, an outdoor theater, a Japanese garden and a golf course. Visitors can enjoy a picnic under the pines, ride the miniature train, rent paddle boats, or simply stroll about and enjoy the scenery. Plus, Houston Museum of Natural Science is within walking distance, as is the Medical Center. Hermann Park is also home to a children's playground, a lovely reflection pool, and a jogging and exercise trail. (713-526-0077)

9 Houston Arboretum & Nature Center
Adjacent to Memorial Park, the arboretum encompasses 155 acres of natural forest inside Loop 610 and showcases more than 450 native plants. It's a source of recreation for residents and a preserve for local wildlife, wisely protected by the city. Trails wind five miles through the parcel of land, inviting folks to immerse themselves in the natural beauty. Guided tours and educational programs are available, and the Nature Center holds classes and features regular exhibits. (713-681-8433, 866-510-7219)

8 Jesse H. Jones Park & Nature Center
This 275-acre park wraps around portions of Cypress and Spring Creeks and seeks to preserve the terrain as it existed in the days of Native Americans and early settlers. The park includes forest, beach, bog, and meadow ecosystems, and specimens of Gulf coast cypress and scrub brush represent southeast Texas in the wild. The park offers guided tours and holds special educational events every week. In addition, Redbud Hill Homestead and Akokisa Indian Village are set up as an ongoing historical display. A playground is available as well. (281-446-8588)

7 Minute Maid Park
Helping to revitalize the eastern part of downtown Houston, this engaging ballfield premiered in 2000 and has proven to be a fan favorite. The home of Astros baseball was constructed on parking lots near the old train station and even incorporates part of Union Station in its design. The intimate venue boasts a spectacular, retractable roof that opens when the weather's mild and closes when rain appears or when air-conditioning is needed. The natural grass field has old-school appeal, as do manual scoreboxes and upclose seating. One-hour tours are available, and restaurants and bars are located in the vicinity. (713-259-8000, 713-259-8077)

6 Tranquility Park
Created to commemorate the first moon landing, this downtown park takes its name from the Sea of Tranquility, where Neil Armstrong landed on July 20, 1969. Aspects of the mission are reflected in the park, whose sculpted terrain was designed to mimic the lunar terrain and whose dazzling fountain features stainless steel cylinders intended to resemble rocket boosters. Tranquility Park is a terrific place to bring a picnic or to enjoy the coolness of water and greenery in the midst of a hot summer day. (713-845-1000)

5 Port of Houston and Ship Channel
One of the nation's busiest commercial ports, this area sees tons of traffic each day. Within its turning basin, tankers and other large ships shift position before heading back to the Gulf. For folks who want to check out the maritime activity, the Loop 610 bridge over the Ship Channel provides spectacular nighttime viewing of the oil refineries and their lights. Plus, the "Sam Houston" ship offers free 90-minute tours of the Ship Channel — reservations required. (713-670-2400, 713-670-2576)

4 San Jacinto Battleground
This state historical park commemorates the place where Texas gained independence from Mexico in 1836 when Gen. Sam Houston defeated Gen. Santa Ana. The memorial column that distinguishes the site stands 15 feet taller than the Washington Monument and is crowned by an enormous star; a museum can also be found in the monument's base. At the top of the monument (elevator accessible), visitors can take in expansive views of the Houston Shipping Channel and the surrounding area. The Battleship Texas Memorial is also located on the grounds. (281-479-2421)

3 Cullen Park
Not to be confused with Cullen Sculpture Gardens at the Museum of Fine Arts, Cullen Park — at 10,500 acres — is one of the nation's largest municipal parks. It's a prime destination for folks interested in outdoor pursuits, and at any given time, you'll find bikers, runners, and skaters getting in some physical activity alongside recreational soccer players and picnicking families. One of the park's prominent features is the Alkek Velodrome, a paved cycling track that's a favorite of serious cyclists. (281-578-0693)

2 Burke Baker Planetarium
There's something mesmerizing about sitting in a darkened planetarium, gazing at the domed ceiling, and watching the spectacle unfold above you. Burke Baker grants just such an experience, courtesy of feature presentations that riff on space travel and exploration, the history of the moon, the evolution of our own planet, constellations, and the possibilities of extraterrestrial life. Other shows let visitors take a microscopic journey through the body or groove to Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon" through lights and music. (713-639-4629)

1 Buffalo Bayou Park
A 124-acre greenway that stretches from Downtown to the River Oaks neighborhood, Buffalo Bayou offers great views of the city skyline. Within the park, paved trails welcome runners and bikers, and a disc golf course, boat launch, and children's playground draw visitors as well. Eleanor Tinsley Park rests within Buffalo Bayou Park (in the section from Taft Street to Sabine Street) and is the site of many city festivals, most notably the Fourth of July celebration. (713-845-1000, 800-365-7575)


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Maps and Directions

1
Hermann Park 10Best List Arrow
Type: Family Friendly, Outdoor Activities, Parks
Neighborhood: Museum District
2
Houston Arboretum & Nature Center 10Best List Arrow
Type: Free Attractions, Outdoor Activities, Parks
Neighborhood: MIDTOWN
3
4
Minute Maid Park 10Best List Arrow
Type: Family Friendly, Spectator Sports, Tours and Excursions
Neighborhood: DOWNTOWN
5
Tranquility Park 10Best List Arrow
Type: Parks
Neighborhood: DOWNTOWN
6
Port of Houston and Ship Channel 10Best List Arrow
Type: Sightseeing, Tours and Excursions
Neighborhood: HOUSTON
7
San Jacinto Battleground 10Best List Arrow
Type: Great Views, Historic Sites, Military
Neighborhood: LA PORTE
8
Cullen Park 10Best List Arrow
Type: Parks
Neighborhood: HOUSTON
9
Burke Baker Planetarium 10Best List Arrow
Type: Planetarium / Observatory
Neighborhood: MUSEUM DISTRICT
10
Buffalo Bayou Park 10Best List Arrow
Type: Outdoor Activities, Parks
Neighborhood: DOWNTOWN