Back Porch Table

Fall Bucket List: What to Do Outdoors in Houston

Savannah Kuchar
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This year is different, thanks to social distancing and cancelled events. However, I’m trying to stay positive during my favorite time of the year. Last year, my roommate and I celebrated the season with a fall bucket list, a checklist of all the things we wanted to do before the holidays.

In honor of the fun our bucket list brought us last year, here is another – Covid-friendly – list of ideas to make the most of Houston’s lovely autumn.

Sawyer Yards

Drive in at Sawyer Yards and catch a showing of your favorite classic movie. (Photo courtesy of Sawyer Yards)

Outdoor movie night
Watching a film at a drive-in theater is a great evening option these days. To get your friends back together while remaining safely distanced, you can invite them to park nearby in their cars. Here are a few drive-ins to check out: 

  • The Showboat Drive-In Theater: Outside of Tomball. Concessions available through a virtual ordering service. Two screens. Cost: $8-10 per person. 22422 FM 2920, Hockley.
  • The Drive-In at Sawyer Yards: Popular throwbacks to recent releases, projected on the “screen” on the side of silos. Bring your own food or buy concessions, including from local food trucks, through a contactless ordering system. Cost: $20-35 per vehicle. 2301 Summer St.
  • Moonstruck Drive-In: Opened in September on the southwest side, with new releases. Concessions through virtual ordering, along with a rotation of local food trucks. Cost: $25 per vehicle. 100 Bringhurst St.

In past years, the Turkey Trot has been a community wide event with a large gathering. This year, the event will be virtual to ensure safe social distancing. Pictured: Tripp and Anna Kimball and sons Si and Phin at a past Turkey Trot event. 

Get active for a cause
The BakerRipley Houston Turkey Trot, traditionally on Thanksgiving Day, will go on in a virtual format to ensure runners’ safety. Participants will choose the time and place they want to run and can submit their times through RaceJoy. There are 10k, 5k and children’s 1k options. Registration is $20-35. Proceeds go to addressing Covid-19-related community needs. Register here

Visit a farmers market
Farmers markets are a great way to get out of the house and away from crowded grocery stores, to support small businesses. Some even feature entertainment, such as live music. Check websites to confirm up-to-date times. Here are a few to consider: 

Memorial Park

Memorial Park’s 100-acre Clay Family Eastern Glades recently opened to the public. (Photo: Memorial Park Conservancy)

Spend time at the park

  • Levy Park: Levy Park, inside the Loop off Richmond near Kirby, has dog parks, playgrounds, an activity lawn and ongoing events. My favorite activity is to lay down and read in the open grass area, then cross the street to a coffee shop for a caffeine refresher in between chapters; 3801 Eastside St.
  • Discovery Green: This 12-acre green space downtown has a jogging trail, picnic lawn, playgrounds, public art, gardens and lots of activities, including fitness classes; 1500 McKinney.
  • Hermann Park: This destination park in the Museum District/Medical Center is a great place to spread out, with gardens, playgrounds, pedal boats, zoo and museums; 1700 Hermann Dr.
  • Memorial Park: The new Clay Family Eastern Glades section features two new miles of running trails, picnic areas and hundreds of trees and native plants to view. Other areas of the conservancy are open as well, and include spaces for a variety of outdoor activities, such as biking (there are two Houston BCycle locations at the park where you can rent bikes) or playing sports with friends (the park features multiple courts and fields for sports like baseball, tennis, golf and volleyball). 7575 North Picnic Ln. 
  • Evelyn's Park: This park is nestled in Bellaire and offers an expanse of green for residents of all ages to run, explore, or just relax. 4400 Bellaire Blvd.

Witness wildlife within the city
Houston may be a bustling urban center, but there are still ample opportunities throughout the city to enjoy nature and see the environment up close and in-person. Here are a few ideas: 

Rainbow garden

The rainbow garden within the Family Discovery Garden displays a colorful array of red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple flowers. (Photo: Jenna Mazzoccoli) 

Houston Botanic Garden
Opened this September, the gardens feature a variety of plants species from the region, and the venue exists as a sanctuary for life and biodiversity within the city. Here, you can learn more about what’s growing in Houston and the surrounding areas, or you can simply wander through the gardens while appreciating the beauty of nature. 
One Botanic Ln. Tickets are $8 for kids and students, and $12.50 for adults

Houston Arboretum & Nature Center
At the Arboretum, there are several trails of varying lengths that you can hike (jogging and other activities are not permitted on the trails) while witnessing an abundance of wildlife. Before going, check out their event calendar online to see if they have anything planned for the day of your visit. 
4501 Woodway Dr.

The Houston Zoo
If you want to see wildlife not just from Houston, but from all over the world, the Houston Zoo is always a great option for a weekend visit. There are plenty of fun exhibits to explore, including the Kipp Aquarium, the Wortham World of Primates and the Explore the Wild! Nature Play Area for children.
Tickets are $17.95 for kids 2-11 and seniors 65+, $22.95 for adults, and free for any infants younger than one.
6200 Hermann Park Dr. 

For more, find a list of trails to hike around Houston

Have a fall photo shoot outdoors
During this time of year, anywhere outside can work as a backdrop, and if you’re already out doing these other fall activities, you can just stage the shoot wherever you are. For instance, the flowers and plants of the botanic gardens would make a beautiful background, or you and your family can pose in costume in your own front yard during your sweet trick-or-treat fun. A few ideas with beautiful backdrops include: 

  • The Bayou Bend Gardens at The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. 6003 Memorial Dr. Open Saturdays 10 a.m-5 p.m. and Sundays 1 p.m.-5 p.m.
  • Graffiti Park. 2102 Leeland St.
  • Biscuit Paint Wall. 1435 Westheimer Rd.

To keep everyone safe, your model and photographer of choice can be physically separated while zooming in with the camera to eliminate that space in the actual photos. This is a great activity to do with friends, family or neighbors, and you don’t need to have a fancy camera or be a trained model – with any standard smartphone camera and some genuinely happy faces, you can still get great shots to capture this fall. 

Editor’s note: See our online event calendar for upcoming events. 

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