Buffalo Bayou Park
105 Sabine St., Fourth Ward
This urban oasis draws comparison to New York City's Central Park, but when the sun sets behind Rosemont Bridge and the Houston skyline lights up the sky, it's impossible to think of being anywhere else.
Houston Arboretum & Nature Center
4501 Woodway Drive, Washington Ave./Memorial Park
Bikers and joggers are forbidden at this nonprofit park dedicated to the preservation of Houston's flora and fauna, but that's okay—the site's quiet, meandering trails are better enjoyed at the slowest pace possible.
Miller Outdoor Theatre
6000 Hermann Park Dr., Museum District
Bring a picnic basket with the evening's snacks, a bottle of Pinot Noir, and a heavy blanket for the tricky Houston weather—cold on winter nights, damp on summer days.
The James Turrell Skyspace
Suzanne Deal Booth Centennial Pavilion, University Place
Breathtaking and romantic, James Turrell's installation on the campus of Rice University is your own private multiverse of color.
2101 Winter St., Washington Ave./Memorial Park
Across fifty-five acres of once-abandoned industrial concrete, Sawyer Yards has sprouted as Houston's artsy playground.
The State Fair of Texas
3921 Martin Luther King Jr Blvd., Dallas
The Texas State Fair is everything you might expect: country-and-western shows, livestock competitions, roller coasters, and food booths that will fry just about anything. Less expected are the tiny homes exposition, where every dwelling is less than 300 square feet, and the vegan-food pavilion. Open for only three weeks a year, the fairgrounds are filled with ornate Art Deco buildings built in the 1930s, and there’s also a lake you can paddle across in a swan boat.
161 Glass St., Design District
This non-collecting museum has been pushing the boundaries of the Dallas art scene for thirty years. Mary Katrantzou and Richard Phillips are just a few of the artists who have shown work here, and entry to the museum is always free. Members get access to the show-opening parties, which are absolutely worth it.
Ferris Wheelers Backyard & BBQ
1950 Market Center Blvd., Design District
Amazing smoked ribs, jalapeño hot links, queso topped with brisket, tons of local beer on tap, plus the Gentleman’s Handshake (a Lone Star with a shot of whiskey) are absolutely reasons to come here. But the huge backyard is the real draw. Among the picnic tables and twinkling lights, a fifty-foot-tall, fully functioning Ferris wheel runs every evening. It’s the perfect place to go on a warm evening, especially if you have kids.
The Goss-Michael Foundation
1305 Wycliff Ave., Suite 120, Design District
Founded by the late George Michael and curator Kenny Goss, the Goss-Michael Foundation focuses on edgy British contemporary art. The permanent collection is amazing, with more than 500 works by artists like Tracey Emin, Damien Hirst, and Sir Michael Craig-Martin, but it’s the exhibitions that combine the works of up-and-coming British artists with local artists that are unique and particularly interesting.
Austin is one of the more bike-friendly cities, and this is a great way to cover a lot of ground and get your bearings around the various neighborhoods. While you don’t want to attempt riding through Dirty Sixth at happy hour, you should cruise around UT’s campus (kids and sports fans will want to stop and see the football stadium), and definitely head to the generous paths threaded throughout the parks bordering the Colorado River. There are numerous bike rental options in Austin, but the city bike program is actually really well done, easy to use and affordable, with locations all over. You can check out a bike with a credit card at any of the conveniently placed stations for a twenty-four-hour period, or purchase access for a longer time period—three days, a month, one year—online. (Side note on getting around: Uber and Lyft are not currently operating in Austin, but there are a variety of smaller rideshare operations that have sprung up, although the quality isn’t as high—which perhaps increases the appeal of a bike ride if you don’t have a car while in town.)
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