If there's one destination that epitomizes Houston, Buffalo Bayou could be it, both historically and ecologically speaking. Flowing from West Houston through downtown and into the Gulf of Mexico, Buffalo Bayou has served as an essential pipeline for the city's growth: It might arguably be considered the birthplace of the city itself, giving life and sustainability to the first inhabitants and residents that populated the area.
Today, Buffalo Bayou remains an expansive natural oasis filled with wildlife, watersports, art installations and more. Its trails connect walkers, joggers and bikers to public parks, scenic overlooks and gardens that offer both fun and the sun and an escape from Houston's ever-booming downtown. It also plays host to several outdoor activities and community events throughout the year (many of which are free to attend), from the annual Buffalo Bayou Partnership Regatta (Texas' largest kayak and canoe race) to guided nature tours and boat tours by twilight.
A few miles west of Buffalo Bayou Park is the Houston Arboretum and Nature Center, a lush sanctuary and refuge for endangered plants and wildlife. Its nearly five miles of hiking trails, shady trees and serene atmosphere offers another urban escape from the bustling Bayou City.
Gallery: Exploring Buffalo Bayou and Houston's Great Outdoors
(All photos ©Isaac Arjonilla/Where)