The Best Parks in Houston For Working Out

Sometimes working out indoors gets boring – especially when it’s a nice day outside and you feel the need for some fresh air. Houston has a ton of parks and green space that are the perfect place to fit in an outdoor workout.

As a former (and hopefully returning) marathoner – I’ve run in and around my share of Houston parks. I’ve done 20+ miles in 3 mile repeats (that’s the distance of 1 loop) at Memorial Park, speed workouts at the hills at Spotts Park and long training runs where in one single morning I ran through Buffalo Bayou Park, Memorial Park AND Hermann Park. So, I appreciate good trails, water fountains and also clean restrooms!

Not a runner? No problem – you can get in a body weight workout (no equipment) with nothing at all, or you can try one of the parks below that have benches and spots you can use for other exercises. Here are a list of my top favorites, along with a list of their workout amenities. I’ve rated each on a scale from 1-5 based on how workout friendly they are, their perks and their overall appeal for working out – with 1 being a good place to workout and 5 being one of the best in Houston.

 

Hermann Park

Cari Shoemate demonstrating a series of yoga poses at Hermann Park. Photo by Jill Hunter.

 

Workout Rating: 5

This is one of my favorites. It has something for everyone. I usually go with my baby and take our jogging stroller. McGovern Centennial Gardens is absolutely beautiful and we usually start there. There isn’t an actual running trail, but you can walk or run down the paths and through the rose garden and other areas. They have great restrooms and water fountains. After that, we run along the trail by the reflection pool and make our way to the playground area. At (and near) the playground there are tons of curbs, benches and other areas that are perfect for workouts. You can also see ducks, geese and turtles in the lake and run around by the zoo or have lunch or a snack at the Pinewood Cafe by the water. They also have a workout station area near the entrance to the Centennial Gardens along the 2-mile Marvin Taylor Trail that goes around the golf course. There are also bicycles available for rent.

Amenities:

  • Restrooms (at Centennial Gardens and also at Miller Outdoor Theater)
  • Drinking/Water Fountains
  • Restaurant (Pinewood Cafe)
  • Jogging Stroller Friendly
  • Shade
  • Workout Stations (actual stations with equipment like pull-up bars, etc)
  • Benches For Exercises (Tricep Dips, Step-Ups, etc)
  • Private areas to workout
  • Running path/trail
  • Biking path/trail
  • Safe at night (lighted)
  • Fitness classes held here
  • Golf
  • Bycle Station

Buffalo Bayou Park

Courtesy of Buffalo Bayou Partnership

Workout Rating: 5

I love Buffalo Bayou Park and have been teaching my bootcamp here for almost 7 years! Over the last few years the park has grown and has so many great amenities! This is probably one of the best places to run and bike since they have designated trails for both. The entire loop from Sabine Street to Shepherd Drive is about 5 miles but you can do more or less depending on the route. There are water fountains along the trails and an amazing fun playground for kids that is one of my favorites in Houston. You can rent kayaks or bikes inside the Bike Barn rental at the Visitor Center or rent a B-Cycle along Sabine Street. They also have an amazing dog park (Johnny Steele Dog Park) that just re-opened after Hurricane Harvey. The paths are lighted at night and correlate with the phases of the moon (they change from blue to white).

Amenities:

  • Restrooms (at the visitor center)
  • Drinking/Water Fountains
  • Jogging Stroller Friendly
  • Shade
  • Workout Stations (actual stations with equipment like pull-up bars, etc)
  • Benches For Exercises (Tricep Dips, Step-Ups, etc)
  • Private areas to workout
  • Running path/trail
  • Biking path/trail
  • Safe at night (lighted)
  • Playground (it’s very nice with a treehouse and outdoor nature play areas)
  • Fitness classes held here (like Bombshell Bootcamp)
  • Restaurant (The Dunlavy) and food trucks at the visitor center
  • Bcycle Station

 

Memorial Park

Workout Rating: 4

Memorial Park is one of the top places to go if you are a runner. The trail is the place to be and on any given day you can see professional athletes, Houston’t top elite runners and your average everyday Joe. There is also a good golf course and a Beck’s Prime restaurant (counter service). Across from the trail they have a huge playground area for kids and then on the south side of the park is the Picnic Loop with picnic areas and a bike trail that makes you feel like you are out in the countryside.

Amenities:

  • Restrooms
  • Drinking/Water Fountains
  • Jogging Stroller Friendly
  • Shade (only about half of the running trail is shaded – so it gets hot in the summer)
  • Workout Stations (actual stations with equipment like pull-up bars, etc)
  • Benches For Exercises (Tricep Dips, Step-Ups, etc)
  • Private areas to workout
  • Running path/trail
  • Biking path/trail
  • Safe at night (lighted)
  • Fitness classes held here
  • Tennis Courts
  • Golf
  • Playground
  • Restaurant (at golf course)

Discovery Green

Courtesy of Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau

Workout Rating: 4

Discovery green is a nice oasis of greenery located right in the middle of downtown Houston. It’s very relaxing and peaceful and they often have special art exhibits and lots of great programs. They have Toddler Tuesdays for kids (and other kids activities) and weekly yoga and other fitness classes. There is no specific trail – but you can run or bike many of the various routes downtown or even use one of the other City trail systems (White Oak, Heights, etc) that end up close to Discovery Green.

Amenities:

  • Restrooms
  • Restaurant
  • Drinking/Water Fountains
  • Jogging Stroller Friendly
  • Shade
  • Benches For Exercises (Tricep Dips, Step-Ups, etc)
  • Private areas to workout
  • Safe at night (lighted)
  • Playground
  • Fitness classes held here
  • Bcycle Station (nearby)

 

Spotts Park

Photo courtesy of Buffalo Bayou Partnership

Workout Rating: 3

There is a short trail here for jogging and most of it is shaded. The big draw here is the covered basketball court and also the tennis courts at the top of the park (on the hill). There is also a great steep staircase and hills for running/walking on an incline! The playgrounds are in need of an update (the area floods a lot) and there are no restrooms onsite – so I felt a “3” was adequate.

Amenities:

  • Drinking/Water Fountains
  • Jogging Stroller Friendly
  • Shade
  • Workout Stations (actual stations with equipment like pull-up bars, etc)
  • Benches For Exercises (Tricep Dips, Step-Ups, etc)
  • Private areas to workout
  • Running path/trail
  • Safe at night (lighted)
  • Fitness classes held here
  • Basketball
  • Tennis Courts
  • Playground
  • Bcycle Station

Levy Park

Workout Rating: 3

Levy park is one of Houston’s newest parks. It’s a really great space that feels like a zen oasis in the middle of Houston. The big draw here is the play area for kids. It’s amazing with a splash pad area, playground (with cushioned floor), slide, rock climbing, huge treehouse and more. Grownups enjoy the large lawn area (great to meet for a workout), the scheduled workout classes and the food trucks and new restaurant onsite (soon to be open). They also have a great dog park. The restrooms are immaculate and there is lots of shade, table seating for picnics and fun things to explore. They also have things you (and your kids) can borrow including games, books, golf clubs (for putting green) and much more.

Amenities:

  • Restrooms
  • Drinking/Water Fountains
  • Jogging Stroller Friendly (although there isn’t a trail onsite)
  • Fun activities for kids
  • Shade
  • Benches For Exercises (Tricep Dips, Step-Ups, etc)
  • Private areas to workout
  • Safe at night (lighted)
  • Fitness classes held here
  • Onsite restaurant (soon) and food trucks

 

Woodland Park

 

Courtesy of HoustonWalks.Blogspot.com

Workout Rating: 2

Most parks in the Heights area are geared towards kids. However, with kids or not…you can still get in your workout using playground equipment, benches, etc. It’s also nice to have a walking/jogging trail onsite as an option (even for warming up) and Woodland park is one of the few that has one in the Heights. The trail loops around the tennis courts and playground which is nice and there is also a Bcycle station here. I have never visited at night – so didn’t rate it for safety. I would use caution on the trail that goes behind the tennis courts if you are alone at night (as with any of the above trails).

Amenities:

  • Restrooms (if the community center is open)
  • Drinking/Water Fountains
  • Jogging Stroller Friendly
  • Shade
  • Benches For Exercises (Tricep Dips, Step-Ups, etc)
  • Private areas to workout
  • Running path/trail
  • Biking path/trail
  • Basketball
  • Tennis Courts
  • Bcycle station

 

 

Safety Reminder

Just a reminder to use caution when exercising at any park or trail when you are alone – especially at night. Choose areas that are lit with other people around. Make sure you can hear someone approaching you, so don’t listen to music full-blast (or just keep one headphone out of your ear). I also sometimes run with a small mace like this one and tuck it in my bra or shorts since it’s tiny and not bulky. I also wear an ID tag on my shoe from Road ID.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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