5 Must Do Things in Buffalo Bayou Park

The Water Works makes a great place to relax and catch live music | Courtesy of Buffalo Bayou Parternship

In our Must Do Things Around Greater Houston series, we take a look at Houston’s vast array of communities, neighborhoods and destinations to bring you five fun, tasty, surprising and enticing reasons you should give each one a visit.

Stretching from Shepherd to Sabine, Buffalo Bayou Park offers 160 acres of picturesque scenery and skyline views, along with stellar hike and bike trails, performance and outdoor activity spaces like Eleanor Tinsley Park and more.

With its epic renovation, the urban park has become an integral part of this city. While you may have visited to work up a sweat on the trails or catch July 4 fireworks at Freedom Over Texas, there are plenty of other gems in Houston’s coolest park, both hidden and in plain sight.

Here are some of the best:

5 Must Do Things in Buffalo Bayou Park

1. Explore the magnificent underground Cistern

Take to the cavernous Cistern for docent-led tours and art installations | Courtesy of Buffalo Bayou Partnership

Formerly a drinking water reservoir built in 1926, this incredible 87,500-square foot, 25-foot tall cistern was much forgotten about after it was closed due to an irreparable leak. That is, until 2011, when the Buffalo Bayou Partnership re-discovered it during the development of Buffalo Bayou Park. Realizing its architectural splendor and historical significance, they’ve worked with the City of Houston to open the industrial relic to the public, even hosting a series of art and light installations, and guided meditations. You’ll have to make reservations to get a look, and you should.

Docent-led tours are 30 minutes and available every Wednesday to Sunday (reservations required). Tickets are $10 per person (ages 9 and up); $2 discounts available to military, college students, and ages 65+; free on the first Thursday of the month.

2. Go on a DIY art crawl

Take time on your art scavenger hunt to listen to the sounds of the park (Monumental Moments) | Courtesy of Buffalo Bayou Partnership

All along the bayou, you’ll find the park’s trails and spaces dotted with intriguing art installations. So it’s only appropriate to get your phone ready for an ‘Gram-worthy photo session, as you partake in an artsy scavenger hunt of sorts.

There’s British sculptor Henry Moore’s Spindle, a bronze abstract work that was originally part of the artist’s Spindle series in London’s Hyde Park; John Runnels’ It Wasn’t a Dream, It was a Flood, a 20-foot stainless steel canoe sculpture that serves as the entry point at Crosby Outfall; the Dandelion, aka the Gus S. Wortham Memorial Fountain between Montrose and Waugh; Open Channel Flow, a sculpture by New York-based artist Matthew Geller that features a hand-pump shower fittingly near the Lee and Joe Jamail Skatepark; and Jaume Plensa’s Tolerance, the stunning human sculptures that represent the world’s seven continents set at the base of the Rosemont Bridge on Allen and Montrose. And don’t forget to look out for the Monumental Moments, a series of six 4-foot tall sculptures depicting words like “Explore” and “Reflect.” #WeLoveHouston.

3. Dine under chandeliers at Flora Mexican Kitchen

Sit amongst the trees and chandeliers at Flora Mexican Kitchen | Courtesy of Flora

Overlooking the lush bayou and Lost Lake, the striking “glass tree house” that formerly housed The Dunlavy has transformed into the bold and beautiful Flora Mexican Kitchen. You’ll still be able to dine under stunning chandeliers in all shapes and sizes, this time with full service and featuring contemporary Mexican cuisine with a Texas touch. Indulge in things like charred octopus, red snapper ceviche, braised lamb barbacoa, vibrant green mole, fish tacos, and tres leches with flamed meringue, plus killer cocktails and an excellent wine, tequila, and mezcal list, to boot.

The dress code is “snappy casual” and reservations are highly recommended, especially for weekend dining.

4. See bats emerge from the Waugh Bridge Bat Colony

Line up at the Waugh Bridge for an evening bat show thanks to the local bat colony | Courtesy of Texas Parks & Wildlife

Did you know that after dusk, hoards of Mexican free-tailed bats spiral out from the crevices of the Waugh St. Bridge? Well, now you do. It’s truly a sight to be seen (and yes, that is what you’ve been smelling when you run under the bridge). The specific time the bats emerge is not completely predictable, but warmer weather helps. For a unique look at the natural phenomenon, pontoon boat tours are also available.

5. Take your pups to the Johnny Steele Dog Park

Large and small dogs are both welcome (in separate areas) at the Johnny Steele Dog Park | Courtesy of Buffalo Bayou Partnership

Buster will love this 2-acre dog park near Allen Parkway and Montrose, which was closed for almost a year after the flooding from Hurricane Harvey. The space features ponds to jump in, grass to play catch in, and dog washing areas to clean up in after your best bud has partaken in all the fun, plus drinking fountains complete with spigots for dogs. 7am to 8pm.

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Brooke Viggiano is a food and lifestyle writer residing in Houston. When she's not contributing to publications like 365 Things to Do in Houston, Thrillist Houston and the Houston Press, she's on the hunt for the coolest happenings in the city. You can follow her musings on Twitter @BrookeViggiano .