Downtown: Discover Urban Green
Even in the city core there are places to play outdoors. Start your downtown adventure at Discovery Green, the 12-acre park that opened in 2008 next to the George R. Brown Convention Center. Here you'll find a multitude of things to do, no matter what the season--from a monthly flea market to weekly film screenings, art exhibits and yoga classes. There are also two restaurants, The Grove and The Lake House, each with a distinctive menu and dining atmosphere. During the holidays, Discovery Green gets into the spirit with a 7,200-square-foot ice skating rink.
Nearby, the recently renovated Market Square Park provides a place for entertainment, dining, public art and just plain green space on the north side of downtown. That park sits on the site of the original Houston City Hall and features Niko Niko's Greek restaurant, enclosed dog run, garden and numerous artistic sculptures.
Allen's Landing, the birthplace of Houston, is located on the banks of Buffalo Bayou just a few blocks from Market Square Park. Sesquicentennial Park is also nearby--built as a commemoration to Houston's 150th birthday--as is the newly developed $15 million Buffalo Bayou Park with breathtaking views of the downtown skyline.
To truly experience Houston's urban green space, take a Buffalo Bayou Boat Tour. The Buffalo Bayou Partnership offers 30-minute pontoon boat cruises the second Saturday of each month, as well as pontoon boat tours of the Waugh Bridge bat colony the second Friday of each month. They also offer a variety of canoe and kayak tours.
On the western edge of downtown, Tranquility Park, named for the lunar Sea of Tranquility, takes up one square block near Houston City Hall. The lush space with its fountains and walkways was built to commemorate the first landing on the moon and was dedicated in 1979 on the tenth anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission. The mounds and depressions present throughout the park emulate the moon's surface. Neil Armstrong's famous words, "Houston, Tranquility base here. The Eagle has Landed," are written in several languages on plaques at the entrance of the park.
Houston's first park, Sam Houston Park, was established in 1899 and landscaped into a Victorian wonderland of historic homes. In the 1950s, the threat to demolish a century-old house in Sam Houston Park brought together a group of Houstonians dedicated to saving tangible connections to the vanishing past--resulting in founding of the Heritage Society in 1954. Their efforts to save the house were successful, and the society turned to other historical preservation projects. Sam Houston Park is now home to eight historic buildings: The Old Place (1823), Pilot House (1868), San Felipe Cottage (1868), Staiti House (1905), Yates House (1870), Kellum Noble House (1847), St. John Church (1891), Nichols-Rice-Cherry House (1850). The park also features a small pond, wetland garden, gazebo, trail/walkways, Houston Armillary Sphere Sculpture and USS Houston Memorial Sculpture.