Lifestyle

The Most Beautiful Running Paths in Houston

Don't get too distracted on these runs with a view.

Photo by Jonnu Singleton/SWA Group/Courtesy of Buffalo Bayou Partnership
Photo by Jonnu Singleton/SWA Group/Courtesy of Buffalo Bayou Partnership
Photo by Jonnu Singleton/SWA Group/Courtesy of Buffalo Bayou Partnership

While Houston doesn’t exactly have a reputation as the nation’s most beautiful city, it is plenty pretty. And it’s plenty joggable, too. Of these 13 scenic running trails, we’ve got bayouside pathways with views of the downtown skyline, treks winding through some of Houston’s most attractive parks, and a three-mile loop that can end in you smashing a juicy burger, if you so please. Here’s where to get some aesthetically pleasing miles under your belt in Houston.

holbox/Shutterstock
holbox/Shutterstock
holbox/Shutterstock

Memorial Park

Whether you’re a marathon runner, a casual jogger, or a power walker who really just wants an excuse to grab a Becks Prime burger afterward, we’re sure you’ve hit Memorial Park’s uber-popular three-mile loop. But we bet you didn’t know its real name is The Seymour Lieberman Exer-Trail, because it’s likely no one really knows that and the Three-Mile Loop is so much easier to say. Lined by big, beautiful Texas oaks, the recently reimagined, 24/7 crushed granite trail makes for a pretty, if not pretty packed run during the park’s peak hours. If you want to escape the crowd and get one with nature (we’re talking bayou streams, a lake, and the Houston Arboretum), veer off to the 30 miles of trails on the south side of the loop. Run fast enough and you’ll still have time for Becks Prime.

MKT Trail

With part of its route stretching along the bed of the abandoned Missouri‚ÄďKansas‚ÄďTexas Railroad, this popular, revamped route is more commonly known as the Heights Hike and Bike Trail, stretching from West 26th in the Heights all the way to the edge of UH Downtown. There’s a lot to pass along the way (including local watering holes like Onion Creek and EZ’s Liquor Lounge, where you can pop in for a drink before getting your second wind).

Photo by Jonnu Singleton/SWA Group/Courtesy of Buffalo Bayou Partnership
Photo by Jonnu Singleton/SWA Group/Courtesy of Buffalo Bayou Partnership
Photo by Jonnu Singleton/SWA Group/Courtesy of Buffalo Bayou Partnership

Buffalo Bayou Park

The downtown skyline beams in the background of this crown jewel 160-acre urban park, providing you both motivation to dig deeper and something pretty to look at. Its running trails wind along the Buffalo Bayou, with lush woodlands and pockets of wildflowers, eye-catching pedestrian bridges, cool art installations, fountains and trickling waterfalls, a lake, a dog park, and an entire restaurant that looks like a glass treehouse set along the way.

Get foot loose on the 10-feet-wide Sandy Reed Memorial trail, which allows cyclists, walkers, and joggers to share the path, or dip down to the Kinder Footpath, a five-feet-wide asphalt walking and jogging trail that runs along the bayou’s banks. At night, an innovative lunar-cycle lighting system designed by artist Stephen Korns illuminates the trail, fluctuating from blue to white along with the phases of the moon.

Silvio Ligutti/Shutterstock
Silvio Ligutti/Shutterstock
Silvio Ligutti/Shutterstock

Yolanda Black Navarro Buffalo Bend Nature Park

Over on the eastern trailhead of the Buffalo Bayou, you’ll find this 10-acre park located near the Port of Houston turning basin. The former industrial area began its metamorphosis into a rad-looking greenspace and wildlife conservation area back in 2009. It officially opened in 2016, and with it came enhancements like 10,000 wetland plants, rock walls, and winding hike and bike trails where you get to hangout with ducks. The serene park is only open for “passive recreation,” so you won’t find any pesky tennis or basketball games getting in the way of your runner’s zen.

Flickr/Ed Schipul
Flickr/Ed Schipul
Flickr/Ed Schipul

Rice University Loop

Right across the street from Hermann Park, this 2.92 mile loop through the scenic Rice University is the way to go for architecture buffs, with public art and gorgeous buildings popped up all around campus and ivy-covered homes dotting the outskirts. Even better? It’s one of the shadiest runs in town, as towering oak trees offer a striking respite from the scorching Houston sun the entire way. Even better than better? The gravel path is flat enough to save your knees from yourself.

White Oak Bayou Greenway

Connecting with the Heights Hike and Bike Trail, the lengthier, mostly scenic White Oak Bayou Trail hits nearly 17 miles of the city. We say mostly scenic because you may see a warehouse or two and some highway along your trek, but you’ll also pass through picturesque greenspaces like the GOOF area’s Watonga Parkway Park and T.C. Jester Park, Heights gems Stude Park and White Oak Park, and Hogg Park, just north of Downtown.

Flickr/Jean RUAUD
Flickr/Jean RUAUD
Flickr/Jean RUAUD

Terry Hershey Park

There’s a damn butterfly garden in this westside park, so it can’t not be beautiful. There’s also lighted walking trails, tree-lined hike and bike trails, and convenient runner’s showers which could be quite hot depending on who’s using them. For a rugged run, hit the heavily wooded Anthills Trail, an off-road trail frequented by bikers thanks to its rollercoasterlike route.

holbox/Shutterstock
holbox/Shutterstock
holbox/Shutterstock

Hermann Park

The 445-acre Hermann Park is a masterpiece in the center of Houston; a prize that plays home to the Houston Zoo, Miller Outdoor Theatre, Japanese and McGovern Centennial Gardens, Jones Reflection Pool, and, most importantly for the purposes of this whole thing we’re doing here, the 2-mile Marvin Taylor Jogging Trail. Run the loop around the golf course or zig and zag your way through the park’s entirety to find hidden lakes, bridges, and gardens. Either way, you’ll be treated to wonderfully-kept, eye-pleasing grounds surrounded by nearly 10,000 Texas trees, some of which are nearly a century old.

Flickr/meltedplastic
Flickr/meltedplastic
Flickr/meltedplastic

George Bush Park

Political affiliations aside, this truly massive, 7,800-acre park on the west side of town is pretty damn attractive. Inside, you’ll find a slithering system of jogging trails, looking all fine alongside forest, bayous, and ponds, and strangely beautiful swamps, reminding you that ugly is in the eye of the beholder. That’s how the saying goes, right?

Flickr/Ed Uthman
Flickr/Ed Uthman
Flickr/Ed Uthman

Paul Carr Jogging Trail

Running from just north of I-10 to 20th Streets, this roughly two-mile strip down the historic Heights Boulevard will make you want to house hunt the second you get home. Lined with stately mansions and quaint Victorian-style homes with wrap-around porches that you wish you had, plus seriously cool, rotating art installations along the way, the only thing not pretty about this run is the ugly cry you do when you remember what’s in your bank account.

Photo by Tom Flaherty/Courtesy of Brays Bayou Greenway
Photo by Tom Flaherty/Courtesy of Brays Bayou Greenway
Photo by Tom Flaherty/Courtesy of Brays Bayou Greenway

Brays Bayou Greenway

There’s a reason we’re called Bayou City, and this 31-mile bayou is one of them. The naturally formed park flows eastward from Fort Bend County, through the Texas Medical Center and to the Houston Ship Channel. Along it, you’ll find a popular bayou-side running trail, which can be easily accessed from both the Hermann Park and the University of Houston campus. It was already pretty sweet, and then the Houston Parks Board’s¬†Bayou Greenways¬†2020 Project amped things up through an uninterrupted ribbon of green space, complete with hike and bike trails along the bayou within the city limits.

George Mitchell Nature Preserve

Up north in The Woodlands, this rustic nature preserve covers nearly 1,700 acres, but you’ll want to hit the picturesque 2-mile trail loop if you want to make it home for dinner, or like, ever. On top of the naturally surfaced, forest and wildflower-lined jogging loop, the Flintridge Dr trailhead has three miles of bike trails at which to get your exercise in.

Flickr/Clintie P
Flickr/Clintie P
Flickr/Clintie P

Galveston Island

For a beautiful beachside run, head straight for the sand, or jog along the island’s famous Seawall Blvd, which offers a 10-mile urban park with beaches, ocean views, and the nation’s longest continuous sidewalk. The people watching may be even more entertaining than the scenery.Sign up here for our daily Houston email and be the first to get all the food/drink/fun in town.

Brooke Viggiano is a Houston-based writer whose work has been published across the internet and in print with Thrillist, Chron, Houstonia, Houston Press and 365 Houston. When not searching every corner of Houston for the unicorn cool-but-not-too-cool patio bar, you can find her sharing her breakfast on Instagram @brookiefafa or on Twitter @brookeviggiano.

Lifestyle

The Best New Bookstores in LA are Curated, Specific, and Personal

Discover a new favorite book, join a book club, and maybe even do some karaoke at the new wave of LA bookshops.

Photo by Innis Casey Photography, courtesy of Zibby's Bookshop
Photo by Innis Casey Photography, courtesy of Zibby’s Bookshop
Photo by Innis Casey Photography, courtesy of Zibby’s Bookshop

A couple of years ago, the legendary Powell’s Books in Portland released a perfume designed to evoke the smell of a bookstore. The scent has notes of wood, violet, and the lovely and unusually precise word biblichor, the particular aroma of old books. The reality of the scent is what it is-mostly sweet and floral-but more important is the imagery it conjures. The best bookstores are both cozy and mysterious, familiar and surprising, with endless potential for discovery.

Los Angeles has a wealth of independent book sellers, including beloved legacy shops like The Last Bookstore, The Iliad, and Chevalier’s. But a new wave of bookstores has been growing over the last few years, shops that eschew the traditional one-of-everything mindset to focus on specificity, curation, and point of view. There are bookstores with themes, bookstores that double as event spaces, bookstores that reflect their neighbourhoods, bookstores that take inspiration from a specific person-whether that’s the shop owner, a historical figure, or a little bit of both-and so many more.

Like the niche-ification of the internet and the culture at large, these new and new-ish bookstores provide a space to discover books, ideas, and perspectives led by an expert, the kind of things that you may never have found on your own. They can also be a safe harbour for pure nerdiness, a place to dive deep into your favourite category or cause. To help you on your way, we’ve put together a list of some of the best new bookstores in LA, with a focus on curated shops with their own specific perspectives.

Photo courtesy of Octavia's Bookshelf
Photo courtesy of Octavia’s Bookshelf
Photo courtesy of Octavia’s Bookshelf

Octavia’s Bookshelf

Pasadena
Pasadena is a famously book-friendly city, with bookstore royalty in the form of legendary Vroman’s and its own literary alliance. Now it has one of the most exciting new bookstores too. Octavia’s Bookshelf is owner Nikki High’s tribute to the science fiction master Octavia E. Butler, who was a Pasadena native herself. The name of the shop provides a clue into High’s inspiration, titles she imagines Butler would have had on her shelves, with a focus on BIPOC authors. The storefront is small, but the collection is impeccably curated and the space is cozy and welcoming for readers of all backgrounds.

Photo by Mads Gobbo, courtesy of North Figueroa Bookshop
Photo by Mads Gobbo, courtesy of North Figueroa Bookshop
Photo by Mads Gobbo, courtesy of North Figueroa Bookshop

North Figueroa Bookshop

Highland Park
Vertical integration can be a beautiful thing, especially when it allows independent creators more control over their products. The new North Figueroa Bookshop is a shining example of the concept, a storefront built on a collaboration between two publishers, Rare Bird and Unnamed Press. North Fig features titles from those presses, of course, including lots of striking literary fiction and memoir, but it also features a curated collection of other books. They’ve made it a point of emphasis to serve the needs of the local Highland Park, Glassell Park, Cypress Park, and Eagle Rock community-there’s lots of fiction from fellow independent publishers, other general interest titles with a focus on California history and literature, and plenty of Spanish-language books.

Photo by Karen Cohen Photography, courtesy of Zibby's Bookshop
Photo by Karen Cohen Photography, courtesy of Zibby’s Bookshop
Photo by Karen Cohen Photography, courtesy of Zibby’s Bookshop

Zibby’s Bookshop

Santa Monica
Speaking of vertical integration, there’s another new combined publisher and bookstore on the other side of town. Zibby’s Bookshop is the brainchild of Zibby Owens, Sherri Puzey, and Diana Tramontano, and it’s the physical home of Zibby Books, a literary press that releases one featured book a month. That system is designed so that each book gets the full attention and resources of the press. Owens is an author, podcaster, and book-fluencer, and she has become something of a lit-world mogul with a magazine, podcast network, event business, and an education platform too. The shop has a unique sorting system, built around a feeling for each book-in store many of the shelves are labelled by interest or personality type, like “For the foodie,” or “For the pop culture lover.” On their webshop, you can browse for books that make you cry, escape, laugh, lust, or tremble. There are recommendations from Owens and the staff, sections for local authors, family dramas, and books that have just been optioned. If this all seems a little overwhelming, you should probably avoid the section dedicated to books that make you anxious.

The Salt Eaters Bookshop

Inglewood
Inglewood native Asha Grant opened The Salt Eaters Bookshop in 2021 with a mission in mind-to centre stories with protagonists who are Black girls, women, femme, and/or gender-nonconforming people. Over the last year and change that it’s been open, it has also become a community hub, a place for Inglewood locals and people from across town to drop in, to see what’s new and to discover incredible works in the Black feminist tradition. They also host regular events like readings, discussions, and parties.

Lost Books

Montrose
Thankfully, legendary downtown bookshop The Last Bookstore’s name is hyperbole, and owners Josh and Jenna Spencer have even gone so far as to open a second shop, Lost Books in Montrose. Instead of the technicolour whimsy of the book tunnel at The Last Bookstore, Lost Books has a tunnel of plants that welcomes you into the shop, which opened in the summer of 2021. They sell those plants in addition to books, and coffee and vinyl too, which makes Lost Books a lovely destination and a fun little surprise in the quaint foothill town just off the 2 freeway.

Photo by Claudia Colodro, courtesy of Stories Books & Cafe
Photo by Claudia Colodro, courtesy of Stories Books & Cafe
Photo by Claudia Colodro, courtesy of Stories Books & Cafe

Stories Books & Cafe

Echo Park
Ok, this one is fudging the criteria a little-Stories has been open for almost 15 years. But over those years the shop has become a pillar of Echo Park community life, hosting readings, discussions, and events, and their cafe tables function as a de facto office for about half of the neighbourhood on any given afternoon. After the tragic recent passing of co-owner and Echo Park fixture Alex Maslansky it seemed like the shop’s future was in doubt, but thankfully after a brief hiatus co-owner and co-founder Claudia Colodro and the staff were able to band together to reopen and keep the beloved cafe and bookstore going strong.

Page Against the Machine

Long Beach
The name alone makes it clear what you’re getting at Page Against the Machine-revolutionary progressive books, with a collection centred on activist literature, socially conscious writing, and a whole lot of political history. The shop itself is small but the ideas are grand, with fiction by writers like Richard Wright, Colson Whitehead, and Albert Camus next to zines about gentrification and compendia of mushroom varieties. They also host regular readings and discussions.

Photo by Viva Padilla, courtesy of Re/Arte
Photo by Viva Padilla, courtesy of Re/Arte
Photo by Viva Padilla, courtesy of Re/Arte

Re/Arte Centro Literario

Boyle Heights
Boyle Heights has its own small but mighty combined bookstore, art gallery, gathering space, and small press in Viva Padilla’s Re/Arte. Padilla is a poet, translator, editor, and curator, and as a South Central LA native and the child of Mexican immigrants, she’s focused on Chicanx and Latinx art, literature, and social criticism. Re/Arte’s collection has a wide range of books, from classic Latin American literature to modern essays and everything in between. Re/Arte is also now the headquarters for sin cesar, a literary journal that publishes poetry, fiction, and essays from Black and Brown writers. There are always community-focused events happening too, from regular open mics and zine workshops to film screenings and more.

The Book Jewel

Westchester
Most bookshops host events, but few host them with the regularity of The Book Jewel, the two- year-old independent bookstore in Westchester. Their calendar is so full with readings, several different book clubs, signings, and meet and greets that there are sometimes multiple events on the same day. The shop also hosts a ton of family-focused readings, with regular storytime on Sunday mornings often followed by a talk with the author. It’s a great fit for the relatively low-key (but not exactly quiet) suburban neighbourhood, and it’s no coincidence that storytime lines up with the Westchester Farmers Market, which takes place right out front.

Reparations Club

West Adams
Most bookstores lean into coziness, aiming to be a hideaway for some quiet contemplation or maybe a quick sotto voce chat-not so at Reparations Club, the exuberant and stylish concept bookshop and art space on Jefferson. Owner and founder Jazzi McGilbert and her staff have built a beautiful and vibrant shop full of art from Black artists, including books but also records, candles, incense, clothing, and all sorts of fun things to discover. There’s a perfect seating area to sit and hang out for a while, and they host a range of wild and fun events from readings to happy hours, panel discussions to karaoke nights and more.

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Ben Mesirow is a Staff Writer at Thrillist.

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