Best Of :: Sports & Recreation
Houston isn't generally known for its natural beauty and places to hike, but it boasts some close-in hidden gems that you can quickly escape to when the urban lifestyle starts to degrade your mojo. When it's time for a recharge, take a trip to Brazos Bend State Park in Needville. Named one of America's Top Ten State Parks by...the people who name such things, BBSP is filled with 5,000 acres of trees, creeks, lakes and alligators, plus miles and miles of hiking trails. By the end of your hike, you'll be ready to return to the urban jungle and show off your newfound sense of primitive survival skills. Either that, or you'll be dead.
This man-made Brays Bayou feeder teems with wildlife both native and exotic. From the levee that protects the western edge of the Ayrshire subdivision you can gaze down on a usually sluggish (and, truth be told, smelly and trash-strewn) stream full of minnows, frogs, snakes and three kinds of turtle -- black-and-yellow sliders, prehistoric-looking (and surprisingly speedy) softshells and vicious snappers. Herons and egrets wade the muddy waters in search of aquatic snacks, while glossy brown nutria loll about in the ponds. Night brings owls, opossums and raccoons, and just across the ditch lies a 500-foot-wide CenterPoint Energy/Union Pacific easement, an oddly pastoral strip in which horses graze and green and gray Argentine monk parakeets nest, all under the watchful eyes of wheeling hawks. Sure, the arboretum is cleaner and shadier, and Brazos Bend has gators, but Kilmarnock Ditch makes up for that by being more unknown and infinitely more surreal.
There are few places left in Houston where one can drink, smoke and bowl, all at the same time. There's just one, in fact, and that place is Palace Lanes. The joint is technically located in Southside, rather than in Houston metro, even though it fits within the borders of Bellaire. Thanks to this little loophole, you can smoke and drink to your heart's delight while throwing some mean strikes down the lanes. Here's to true athleticism!
Near the busy intersection of Richmond and Shepherd rests the modern oasis of Dawn Mountain. From its spacious, airy new home, the Tibetan temple, community center and research institute welcomes all seekers to its meditation sessions every Sunday at 11 a.m. Enter quietly, place your shoes in the snug cubbyhole and take a seat in the temple (pillows and chairs are provided). Amid beautiful Buddhist imagery and artifacts, your leader will briefly explain the proper posture and the morning's plan of (in)action. Sessions usually consist of two calming parts and last about an hour, with a brief break in between. Often the instructor will lead you and your contemplative cohorts through a visualization and a chant or two. The meditation is free, though donations are appreciated. You are asked only to dedicate your practice to the welfare of all sentient beings. And we can think of nothing more serene.
If you're looking for a good way to break some bones, Memorial Park's bike paths can do the trick. Known as the "Ho Chi Minh" mountain bike trail amongst regulars, you can find yourself smack in the middle of a Mountain Dew commercial before you even realize what hit you. Once you get over the fact that there's a gigantic, beautiful preserve of this magnitude within the bounds of metropolitan Houston, get ready for some of the highest jumps and sperm-killing drops you can imagine. The VC would be proud.
If there's one thing Houston isn't short on, it's golf courses. Our fair city has enough rich white men to fill several GOP fund-raisers, so it's only fitting that we have an abundance of excellent places to swing some clubs. The best place by far to get your drive on is Hermann Park. Centrally located, affordable, within minutes of hot Rice University coeds and open to the public, Hermann Park Golf Course is the quintessential American driving range. The people's driving range. But don't tell the Man, or he just might have to shut it down.