Grab a bicycle and explore the city. Want to really see Houston? Grab a bike, because a pair of wheels is one of the best ways to experience H-Town these days. With its mild year-round temps, recently-expanded bike trails (more than 300 miles of interconnected bikeway network cover the metro) and the 2012 introduction of the Houston B-Cycle bike share program, locals and visitors are hitting the road now more than ever.
Even if you don’t have a bike, the Houston B-Cycle service makes getting around a breeze. With more than two-dozen stations located in Downtown, Montrose, Midtown, The Heights and the Museum District, riders can easily and inexpensively cruise around some of the city’s most-loved sites.
Customers can purchase bike access online or at any of the stations by inserting a credit card at the B-Cycle kiosk and selecting a bike from one of the numbered bays. Pay by the hour or purchase a 24-hour pass for $5. Bikes can be returned to any B-Station by rolling it back into an available dock. Also worth noting: Each B-Cycle is equipped with a built-in lock, which makes it easy to safely secure your bike, should you opt to explore on foot. B-Cycle Station hours are 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Though it would be easy to spend an entire day biking the city, we’re breaking down excursions by neighborhood. Expect each to take a few hours, depending on your pace and number of stops.
Kick off a ride through the Central Business District at Discovery Green park. Look for the closest B-Cycle station, which is located across the street, outside the George R. Brown Convention Center. From the north side of Discovery Green, follow Crawford Street northeast, past Minute Maid Park and take a left on Congress Avenue to get to historic Market Square Park, which is home to several restaurants and bars like OKRA Charity Saloon, La Carafe and Batanga. It’s a great place to wrap up your Downtown exploration later on.
Continue past Market Square, through the Theater District, making sure to stop at Sam Houston Park before hopping on the Buffalo Bayou Hike and Bike Trails. (There’s an entrance to the trail on the south side of the park.) From there, the path winds along Buffalo Bayou and offers great views of the Downtown skyline and, if you time it right, a view of the Waugh Bridge Bat Colony making their nightly exodus. When you’re ready to head back Downtown, cross any of the bridges and connect back with the trail on the other side of the water, heading back east.
Even if you don’t start the day at the Houston Zoo, the lush area, located on the south side of Hermann Park, is a great place to nab a cruiser and hit the trail. Find the B-Cycle station tucked on the south side of the Boat House. Follow the path around the 445-acre park and check out McGovern Lake and the Jesse H Jones Reflection Pool, along with the tranquil Japanese Garden and the park’s art installations. Patrick Dougherty’s wood-wrapped Boogie Woogie sculpture is a must-see, as is Sharon Engelstein’s bubbly Dillidiidae forms.
Beyond the park, guests will find plenty to do in the Museum District, which is home to 20 art-and-culture filled institutions. Hop off your bike for some time spent perusing the Museum of Fine Arts Houston or Contemporary Arts Museum. Wrap up your outing with a bite to eat at one of the area restaurants—Lucille’s,Bodega’s Taco Shop and Pinewood Café are all solid selections—and a show at Miller Outdoor Theatre. (Note: Miller’s performances are free and run April through November.)
The corner of Fairview and Taft is a great place to start your Montrose exploration. Not only is the intersection home to Boheme Cafe & Wine Bar, Reeves Antiques, and Cuchara Restaurant, but it also makes room for a B-station. Grab a bike and don’t be afraid to explore what the American Planning Association dubbed one of the country’s 10 great neighborhoods. The area’s street grid, historic districts, and eclectic architecture make it a fun (and easy) place to peruse by bike.
Don’t miss the Funnel Tunnel sculpture on Montrose before stopping for coffee at Inversion. Later, head south toward the Westheimer Curve where consignment and antique shops dot the walkable strip. Finally, head down West Alabama to Mid Main in Midtown and have dinner at Natachee's, shop at My Flaming Heart or The Tinderbox and catch a show at the Continental Club. Note: There’s a B-station conveniently located a stone's throw away at 3512 Main Street if you don't want to ride back to Fairview and Taft.
Residents once flocked to The Heights area to escape the big city and today it’s a great place to find character-filled architecture, mom and pop-type shops and funky restaurants. Start your jaunt in front of the Stude Park Community Center (1031 Stude St.) where you will find plenty of parking and a B-station. Zig zag your way northwest through the area, taking in all of the Victorian, Craftsman and Colonial revival-style architecture, until you get to the 19th Street Shopping District.
There is a bike rack located at 548 19th Street, which is a perfect place to lock up your rental while you indulge in a little retail therapy at Jubilee, Replay on 19th Street, Gallery M Squared or even grab a bite to eat at Down House or Shade. After, head south along Heights Boulevard, hopping on the bike trail, which runs in front of Donovan Park. (You can’t miss the kids playing on the park’s 40-foot wooden train.) Follow the tree-lined trail to White Oak, where you will find restaurants, bars and one of Houston’s oldest live music venues, Fitzgerald’s. Ride White Oak east to return to Stude Park or hop back on the trail, heading south, and continue your adventure towards Downtown.
By Natalie Bogan Morgan
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