Houston Arboretum and Nature Center

Set within Memorial Park, not far from downtown, this sanctuary for plants and wildlife offers an opportunity to escape the city.

Five miles (eight kilometers) of walking trails wind their way through 155 acres (63 hectares) of nature at the Houston Arboretum and Nature Center. Meadows, forest and ponds provide sanctuary for hundreds of precious plants and wildlife.

During summer, come early and hit the walking trails before it gets too hot. Early morning and late afternoons are the best times of day to spot wildlife, including birds, turtles, frogs, squirrels and even alligators. They all live within the arboretum grounds, although the alligators are kept in an enclosure.

The trails, including bridges and decks, are well maintained and clearly signposted. Many tracks are wheelchair and stroller friendly. The Palmetto Multi-sensory trail has been designed especially for the visually impaired, with a guide rope, braille signposting and learning stations designed around touch and smell. There are a wide variety of hiking trails, ranging from a tenth-of-a-mile (160 meters) to two miles (three kilometers) long.

Daily activities are scheduled, making it easy to meet friendly locals and find out more about the native flora and fauna. Families will enjoy the Tyke Hike for toddlers and their guardians. Start the day on a positive note with tai chi or yoga, or indulge in an evening Wine and Cheese Walk. Wine and cheese is provided for a fee. Check the Houston Arboretum and Nature Center website for details about activities and a schedule of times.

The Discovery Room is fun for kids and educational for adults. It has displays, puzzles and games relating to everything you might find within the arboretum. Inspect an aquarium, look down microscopes and read through field guides. 

Head out into Memorial Park or make the five-mile (eight-kilometer) trip back into downtown for lunch, as there are no picnic facilities within the protected grounds of the arboretum. 

The Houston Arboretum and Nature Center is located in Memorial Park, a 10-minute drive from downtown Houston. Free parking is available.

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