Summer is here, round up the kids and enjoy some of Houston’s best nature spots! Here are our top nature parks for kids. ** Please check individual websites for possible current COVID restrictions
Houston Botanic Garden – Newly opened, the garden is located in S.E. Houston approximately 20 min drive from Downtown on I-45. It features 132 acres of horticultural displays, natural ecosystems, walking trails and hundreds of plant species from around the world. Houston Botanic Garden is a nonprofit organization whose vision was to bring this space to life and broke ground in 2019 on a former golf course. They offer tours, camps and events so make sure to check out their calendar!
Nature Discovery Center–This wonderful spot is located in Bellaire and has several mini natural habitats including a cypress pond, prairie, deciduous forest and wetlands. When the kiddos get too hot, head inside to the hands-on discovery rooms. Kids can learn about wildlife, 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. Once you’ve cooled off, head back outside for the on-site sand pit and playground.
Edith L. Moore Nature Sanctuary–We love this tucked away nature sanctuary in Memorial. It’s never crowded and oh so peaceful. Native hardwood and pine forests provide lots of shade for the walking trails. Kids will enjoy seeing the turtles and frogs and walking along the gurgling Rummel Creek. Come back in the fall, too, when falling leaves create irresistible piles for kids to jump in.
Sheldon Lake State Park–Located in northeast Houston, this is one of three state parks in the area. This former fish hatchery offers birding, fishing and nature activities. A short trail passes along 28 ponds teeming with turtles, alligators and other wildlife. Budding ecologists can also grab a net and explore pond life with the help of a ranger. Don’t miss the 82-foot observation tower with views of the surrounding lake, prairie and wetlands. On a clear day, you can see as far as the San Jacinto Monument. What’s even more special about this park is that kids can learn about alternative forms of energy at the Pond Center!
Houston Arboretum & Nature Center–Right in the heart of Houston, the Arboretum is a wonderful respite from the chaos of the city. There are several looping trails to explore—some more shaded than others, but all very nice. The Arboretum is in the middle of a massive redesign that will restore native and sustainable ecosystems to the park. So you’ll see early growths of many plants along some trails. Definitely visit the Nature Center, which has fun nature activities and a wonderful nature-centered reading nook. The Arboretum hosts many events for kids, so be sure to check their calendar.
Brazos Bend State Park–I cannot say enough good things about this state park in Fort Bend County. You feel a world away and there are miles of trails for kids to enjoy. Trails take you through lakes, swamps, marshes, coastal prairie and hardwood forests. Visitors beware. There are trails with alligators hanging out on the path and trails without alligators. (Just ask the park rangers which is which.) Personally, since I’m not sure my son won’t poke an alligator, we stay on the non-reptile paths. Climb up the observation platforms for beautiful views of the park. And stop by the small Nature Center to see the baby alligators. The George Observatory is open Saturdays for some very cool galaxy and nebula gazing.
Jesse H. Jones Park & Nature Center–Jesse H. Jones Park, in Humble, has miles and miles of both accessible and unpaved trails. The park features swamps, forests and sandy beaches along Spring Creek. Kids can play on the beaches while you sunbathe, and fishing is allowed. The Nature Center houses live snakes, 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.
About our Guest Contributor: Sandy Polu is a native Houstonian, avid reader and enjoys a big glass of red after a long day. She’s also the founder of Plum Spark, a creative learning subscription box for kids.