Every time I go to Buffalo Bayou, I find something new to fall in love with. It’s my go-to place to run, watch the sunset, take pics of downtown, check out flood water levels, and even go on dates. The Buffalo Bayou is constantly evolving and growing with the seasons. Below are some favorite spots along the bayou that you might have seen a million times, but not actually truly seen. Add these adventures to your Houston bucket list, arm yourself with these Buffalo Bayou secrets and see one of the most iconic parks in Houston in a new light!
- Picnic at Allen’s Landing. This spot along the bayou, nestled next to Downtown Houston is where our fair city was founded in 1836 by August Chapman and John Kirby Allen. Bring your own food and grab a spot in the shade, or get take out from Velvet Taco or Niko Niko’s at Market Square nearby for an easy lunch.
- Go for a lunar inspired run. Did you know that the lights that line the edges of the park switch from blue to white depending on the moon cycle? If the moon phase is closer to the new moon then the lights are blue and if the moon is closer to the full moon the lights are white! Beauty is in the details right? Also, if you look closely at the giant metal pieces that hold up many of the bridges around the bayou, the cycles of the moon are etched into the metal as well!
- Watch the bats fly out from the Waugh Bridge at dusk. Did you know that there are over 250,000 Mexican tree-tailed bats living under that bridge? It’s the second largest bat colony in Texas after the Austin Congress Street Bridge. Also, the Mexican free-tailed bat is the official flying mammal in the state of Texas. And they eat over 50% of their body weight each day! If you notice there’s not too many mosquitos around that area of the park. Natural pest control at it’s finest! My favorite spot to watch the bats is on the north side of the park, near the giant tree near the “REFLECT” Monumental Moment. If you’re really feeling adventurous, take a Boat Cruise! They leave from Allen’s Landing on the 2nd and 4th Saturday’s of the month. Tickets are $30. Tour lasts 1.5 hours and has a knowledgeable bat docent telling stories about the bayou! Click here for details.
- Find the 6 “Monumental Moments”. You might have seen one or two in passing, but did you know that there are six giant words scattered all over the park? They were created by local artist Anthony Thompson Schumate and can be found along the Kinder Footpath. If you’re ever doing a scavenger hunt, a good challenge would be to find them all! Hint the words to find are: Explore, Pause, Reflect, Listen, Emerge, and Observe.
- Burp the Bayou (currently out of commission). This feature hasn’t been repaired since Hurricane Harvey. However, when/if it comes back, see if you can find the “secret” red button on your next walk or run located on the South side of the Preston Street Bridge to see artist Dean Ruck’s Big Bubble.
- Bike through the East End. Bring your own bike or rent one from one of the B-Cycle stations around the park or Bike Barn shop at the Water Works! While Buffalo Bayou “Park” is technically from Shepherd Drive to Sabine Street, the adventures don’t end there! If you do a loop all the way around the bayou from Shepherd to Downtown it’s about 8 miles. If you’re really adventurous you could also head over to the East End part of the park which has an additional 4 miles of trails (that not too many people know about!). PS here are some tips on biking in Houston!
- Take a visit to the Cistern. A trip inside the Cistern is a must, but did you know there’s more than one way to experience? At the Water Works Lawn near Sabine Street, you can find the Down Periscope housed under a jasmine-covered stainless steel fixture which is accessible day and night. The installation is actually JUST now coming back as of mid July 2019. You can also check out the views from the Down Periscope online here!
The Cistern has also been home to a few art installations too, but there’s not currently one there. However, you can take a history tour Thursday through Sunday.
Plus, did you know that all the sycamore trees planted in the Brown Foundation Lawn above the Cistern are aligned with the columns below in the water reservoir? Not only do they symbolically bring the Cistern above ground, but they play a structurally important role too.
- Kayak the Bayou. You can rent kayaks and paddle boards from Bayou City Adventures at the Lost Lake Visitors Center–which is so cool! Be sure to go there early to ensure you get a kayak / also to beat the summer heat. When they open at 8am, there’s already a line at the door. Don’t worry! The bayou water is clean. It gets its reddish color from the red clay in the Houston ground. PS Click here for some kayaking tips when I kayaked down Armando Bayou with Bayou City Adventures.
- Take a boat tour! See Houston from a whole new angle on Buffalo Bayou Partnership’s pontoon boat, Spirit of the Bayou! Boat tickets start at $7. You can choose from Twilight Rides, Bat Tours, History Tours, Port of Houston tours, and more! The boat can even be rented out for private charter. To learn more about the boat tours click here. Sunset bat tour pictured below!
- Brunch at the Dunlavy. Whether you got the avocado toast for Instagram or were legit starving after biking all over the bayou, the Kitchen at the Dunlavy is always a great place for a picturesque bite to eat (here’s 5 things to know before you go!). The Dunlavy is this fantastic breakfast/lunch space that overlooks Lost Lake, which–fun fact–actually used to be a lake back in the 1970s. A big storm wrecked the dam that was holding it together and it was forever lost. That is until recent park renovations brought it back into existence? Despite the lack of alliteration, maybe a better name would be Found Lake? #dadjokes
Bonus: Yoga in the park!
Watch the sun rise on the first and third Fridays of each month and start your weekend with the skyline! The donation-based Sunrise Yoga classes with Big Power Yoga go through October. Check it out here.