By Courtney Drake-McDonough
This fun loving, budget-conscious traveler explored Houston’s urban core via Houston B Cycle. At only $5 a day, in one hour increments, a bargain!
Here’s our one day cycling Houston spree:
Sam Houston Park At the edge of the skyscraper forest, next to the viaducts, this lovely green space has historic structures, gardens, paths and large trees. Worth a look-see on the way to access the biking trails along Buffalo Bayou.
Buffalo Bayou Houston “The Bayou City” was founded on the banks of a meandering chocolate brown river mozying down to Galveston Bay. Once a thriving center of commerce, it fell into neglect and became a trashy mess. Similar to Denver’s Platte River Greenway, Buffalo Bayou has been rediscovered and is being transformed into an urban gem. Flanked by miles of biking and hiking trails and parks, this urban green corridor experience will become even better in years to come. With public art, smooth trails, skyline views, lots of birds...Buffalo Bayou is fantastic for cycling!
Downtown Historic District Leaving the Bayou trails near Sesquicentennial Park, is a smallish district of historic structures. Amazingly, historic buildings have dodged the wrecking ball and dot Houston’s downtown. They provide a welcome touch of human scale and historic depth to an often bland, corporate streetscape. http://www.downtownhouston.org/
Discovery Green Nearby the Historic District, this peaceful oasis offers concert lawns, shady walkways, public art, flowers, cafes and water features. A special place to park the bike and relax. Next we head toward Fannin/Main Street and ride B Cycle alongside the rail line to the Museum District, checking out the urban street art scene along the way (aka graffiti). This stretch is a patchwork of new construction, cute shops, vacant buildings and deserted lots. It can be sketchy, so take the light rail if you are concerned about security.
Museum District: An easy going 30 minutes ride ends at a B-Cycle station near these two major museums...
Museum of Fine Arts (MFAH): Enormous collection. Fantastic treasures. Dramatic spaces. Tour the wondrous Antiquities and European art collections and the Sculpture Garden across the street. The Garden is always free, with gorgeous bronzes from the likes of Matisse and Rodin, set in a lushly landscaped courtyard. Tables available for your picnicking pleasure, and food trucks might be parked out front. Tip: Use the “Lunch & Look” promotion to gain free admission; an amazing bargain! Free days are common, check the MFAH website.
Contemporary Art Museum: Always free, this space has an ever-changing array. Slip around the corner into nearby Broad Acres for a look at Houston’s Old Money. Mansions, lush tropical foliage, archways of oak trees over crisply trimmed hedge rows…it oozes affluence.
Adjacent to the MFAH, Houston’s city park is enormous, full of surprises and perfect for easy going cycling. Grandiose European style design elements are balanced with Japanese gardens, open lawn spaces, lakes, zoo, and paths under dramatic gnarled Live Oaks… Coming soon: new Botanic Gardens with a 30 foot tall ziggurat and an immersive waterfall cascade. Wow!
Three tips to cycle Houston:
#1: Timing Houston in summer is hell on Earth. Hot and humid, even natives admit this is not the ideal place to visit in July –early September. But in Spring (March - May) and Fall (late September - early December), it can be a pleasant semi-tropical escape.
#2: Ride public transit Car is king in Houston, and the tangle of highways jammed with aggressive drivers makes it a stressful place to drive. Surprisingly, Houston’s Metro transit system is cheap and extensive. Light Rail runs between downtown and the Museum District forming the cultural “spine” of central Houston; easy, quick and only $1.25. (Bus line 102 from downtown Houston to Bush airport is only $1.25.
#3: Focus and enjoy Don’t try to “do it all” in one day. Houston’s sprawl is exhausting if you try to see too much! Take the time to focus on and enjoy a geographic section or even just a single attraction.
Give The Bayou City a spin!
Courtney Drake-McDonough is a Denver-based writer and editor. She writes for the In Good Taste Denver blog (www.InGoodTasteDenver) with news and reviews of entertainment and travel.
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