I don't know about you, but I treat summer in this city like our ancestors treated winter. I hide in the cave and emerge blinking once the hateful Rage-Sun has finally had a stake driven through its fiery heart. You can actually go outside now without taking a change of shirt to wring your precious moisture from. The question is, where to go?
Hermann Park I recently went to Boo Zoo, and the Houston Zoo was so crowded I ended up parking at the Houston Museum of Natural Science and legging it to the zoo. Later, when my wife and daughter were tired from visiting the animals I hiked back alone to get the car and save them the trip as they perused the gift shop.
I've lived in Houston all my life and never thought of Hermann Park as any place other than the green area near the zoo, but taking stroll through a good chunk of it in the cooler air at leisure gave me a much greater appreciation for just how beautiful it is and how pleasant it can be to just wander. Pack a picnic lunch some day and just explore. It's worth it, and once the new garden project is finished it's going to be even better.
Discovery Green The same can be said for Discovery Green, though it's smaller, more structured, and you'll probably have to pay for the parking. It trumps Hermann in that there are better places to eat within walking distance if you don't feel like lugging a bag of food. There's also ice skating to look forward to as winter approaches.
Congressman Bill Archer Bark Park Most people will tell you the Millie Bush Dog Park is the one you want to go out and run around with your pup in now that it's cool. Bush is nice; don't get me wrong, but the cold air couples badly with the ever present wind that constantly howls through the park. Archer Park is of comparable size, but much more shaded and sheltered. There's also a skate park on the premises if you're into that sort of thing.
Menil Park It's hard to appreciate a good sculpture garden when the very light you use to see with is a foe. On a cool, overcast day the Menil properties are perfect for a wander. In addition to the aforementioned sculptures there are the famous red swing and the reflection pool outside the Rothko Chapel to sit and contemplate at.
The Harp My personal favorite patio bar in Montrose has become a Halloween tradition with my family. It's rarely crowded and on cool nights you can watch the cars go up and down Richmond quietly as you drink and converse with your friends. There are fancier places and more rowdy places, but The Harp sums up the coming fall and its slowed down nature the best.
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Memorial Park Running along the Buffalo Bayou, Memorial Park has trails a-plenty and it's a rare weekend day when some sort of organized activity isn't going on. The quiet walk along the water, over and under bridges, is both pastoral and at times vaguely utopian thanks to some of the more interesting designs. If you've got a good head for local landmarks there are plenty of corner stores and a few restaurants for pit stops. It's also, arguably, the best place to jog no matter what your distance limit is.
Houston Arboretum and Nature Center The arboretum is one of the few outdoor facilities nice even in the worst of the Texas summer thanks to the large, shady trees. When it's fall and the leaves start to change though? It's stunning and wonderful. You can enjoy a romantic stroll, or use it as a chance to explore with the family, or even clear your head at a tiny bit of cordoned off nature in the middle of the city.
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Glenwood Cemetery If you've got slightly more macabre tastes then the Glenwood Cemetery is probably more up your alley. It's a beautiful memorial garden filled with fine statues and a rolling landscape. The creep factor is held off by the bustling streets nearby, but Doctor Who fans beware. It's full of stone angels. That aside, it's ridiculously peaceful to sit in.
Bohemeo's The patio at Bohemeo's is dreamy. Just dreamy. It's a fantastic place to enjoy your coffee, and the live music on the patio isn't half bad most times you run across it. There seem to be so few really great coffee places dedicated to letting you enjoy a drink in the open air beyond a few chairs and an umbrella. Like The Harp, Bohemeo's offers you a chance to stretch under the sky. Speaking of live music...
The Last Concert Cafe It so rarely gets mentioned in the lists, but Last Concert Café is a wonderful place to eat, drink, and see an outdoor show. The sound is not great, I will grant you that, but it's roomy, friendly, and they do tend to shake up their music selection quite well. And hey, if you're not into the music just head inside to the Mexican restaurant and wait for the set change. As both a performer and a concert goer, Last Concert café was always a blast to visit once the weather had finally started to turn.