It’s still hot, but we’ve now cooled down to the low 90s. Woo hoo! It’s finally possible to be outside for more than 20 minutes without sweating away your entire body weight! Here are some ideas to take advantage of the hot, but not roasting, weather and get outdoors with the family. Below are some favorite nature parks in the greater Houston area.
1. Nature Discovery Center–Head to Bellaire and explore different natural habitats including a cypress pond, prairie, deciduous forest and wetlands. Hands-on discovery rooms and outdoor nature play areas encourage children to learn about wildlife and create using natural materials. Kids can see live snakes, explore a tropical forest playroom or inspect a giraffe hoof. Okay, so the giraffe hoof weirded me out, but my son didn’t seem to mind. Bonus–there is a sand pit and playground on site.
2. Edith L. Moore Nature Sanctuary–This nature sanctuary is exactly that–a tranquil piece of nature in the city. Native hardwood and pine forests provide shade for the walking trails, and in the fall, lots of leaves for kids to jump in. Kids will also enjoy seeing the turtles and frogs. Trails pass over the gurgling and winding Rummel Creek. Who knew there was a creek in Memorial!
3. Sheldon Lake State Park–Located in northeast Houston, this former fish hatchery turned park offers birding, fishing and nature activities. A short trail passes along 28 ponds teeming with turtles, alligators and other wildlife. The 82-foot observation tower provides views of the surrounding lake, prairie and wetlands. On a clear day, you can see as far as downtown Houston and the San Jacinto Monument. Kids can also learn about alternative forms of energy at the Pond Center or grab a net and explore pond life with the help of a ranger.
4. Brazos Bend State Park–I cannot say enough good things about this park in Fort Bend County. I love it. My son runs on the trails to his heart’s content. If 5,000 acres of lakes, swamps, marshes, coastal prairie and hardwood forests don’t tire him out, I don’t know what will. Beware though. There are trails with alligators hanging out on the path and trails without alligators. (Just ask the park rangers which is which.) Personally, I don’t trust my son not to poke an alligator, so we stay on the non-reptile paths. Definitely check out the observation platform on either Elm Lake or 40 Acre Lake for beautiful views of the park. The park also houses a Nature Center and the George Observatory.
5. Mercer Arboretum & Botanic Gardens–This arboretum in Humble is a wonderful place to walk, play and enjoy some beautiful gardens. The gardens are on the east side of Aldine Westfield and feature lilies, bamboo, ferns and even ginger! There are also walking trails and ponds on this side. The arboretum is on the west side and has playgrounds, picnic areas, a cypress swamp, wooded trails and a bog. And, in case you’re wondering as I was, a bog is muddy, wet, spongy ground with lots of dead plant matter. Sounds great right? Really, the arboretum is a little gem that deserves a visit. Plus they host weekly Children’s Storytime and Stroller Strolls for the littles.
6. Jesse H. Jones Park & Nature Center–Jesse H. Jones Park, also in Humble, has 8 miles of accessible trails and several miles of unpaved trails. The park also has swamps, forests and sandy beaches along Spring Creek. And, yes, the beaches are actually big enough for kids to play on and for you to sunbathe. You can also fish. The Nature Center houses live snakes native to the area, aquariums and mounted displays of local wildlife. Kids can also work in a little Texas history by touring a recreated 1800s Texas homestead and an Akokisa Village. The Akokisa were Native American peoples indigenous to the area.
If it’s still feels too hot out for your family, check out these off-the-beaten path museums. And remember to subscribe if you’d like to receive articles like this.