The Japanese Garden at Hermann Park
Houston has its share of parks, but it's hard to find a picnic spot free of weeds, wailing kids and nasty views of parking lots. If you're the kind of alfresco diner who leans toward quaint gravel paths, tall shady trees and patches of soft grass, look no further than Hermann Park's Japanese Garden. Follow the reflecting pool south, and the entrance to the fenced garden is on your right. A winding trail splits in multiple directions and takes you past goldfish ponds and over wooden footbridges. Stop at one of the many soft islands of saint augustine grass and unfurl your blanket, and you'll be surrounded by old pine trees without a sliver of pavement in sight. You'll see giant tadpoles in the summer and bright Japanese maples in fall, and you'll have a view of the pagoda (also a good eating spot). But keep your eye on your watch. The gates close at 6 p.m., so for the time being, this is purely a lunch spot.