Memorial Park is more than two times the size of New York City’s Central Park, but most of us know it by the running loop and not much else. We may see the golf course through the trees or the ball fields across Memorial Parkway, but it’s always seemed a little more for adults than kids. As of this month, that’s completely changed with the opening of the first phase of Memorial Park’s master plan, the Eastern Glades. We highly recommend packing a picnic (make it a donut picnic, because after about 9am it’s way too hot these days) and a frisbee and heading there as soon as you can!
About the Park’s Master Plan
There are so many good things to say about Memorial Park Conservancy’s thoughtful approach to master planning. They used the awful drought in 2011 as an opportunity to rethink the park’s ecology, history, and use, and their master plan is an exceptional result of this process. They are focused on making the park accessible to all Houstonians through different kinds of transit and to different kinds of people by providing places for families to gather and play.
Here are a few amazing additions coming to the park in the next few years:
- Clay Family Eastern Glades: Just opened! This is what we’re talking about in our post today, and if it’s any indication of the quality and beauty of the rest of the plan, we’re sold.
- Land Bridge and Prairie: Memorial Park is bisected by the giant that is Memorial Parkway, and this project creates a wide, green bridge to connect the two. Stroll over the bridge and you’ll get to explore a restored Gulf Coast prairie in all its glory.
- Sports Complex: Opening this year, the sports complex brings all the sports fields in Memorial Park together in one area, freeing up space for things like the prairie restoration.
Getting there and Parking
If you want to check out the Eastern Glades, here are a few key things to know about where to go and where to park:
- Drive to the east side of the park: It would make sense that the Eastern Glades is on the eastern side of the park, but stating the obvious because it would be a long walk from anywhere else. Crestwood is the street you want to look for – you can get to Crestwood from Memorial Parkway or via Washington and driving through the neighborhood towards Memorial Park.
- There are parking meters: It’s annoying sometimes to see these parking meters pop up in previously free spots, but just like the ones at the Arboretum, they serve an important purpose here. These meters pay for the operating costs of these incredible new park enhancements. 75% of parking in the park is still free and will be for a long time to come, and there is plenty of neighborhood parking close by.
- Park on or around Crestwood St: We were able to park right on Crestwood at Blossom, which is the entrance to the Eastern Glades, and it was free on the street. We noticed that the neighborhood has a ton of free street parking, so that’s a great option. Let’s cross our fingers that everyone’s respectful when doing this so it doesn’t become a bunch of no parking zones!
Checking Out the Eastern Glades
Before going further, let us reemphasize the need to go early – like 7:30am – because it is beastly hot right now. You’ll have the space mostly to yourself: bonus!
Here are the highlights of this incredible, 100-acre area:
- Picnic lawn: There is a huge, circular lawn as you walk into this area of the park with super soft, bouncy grass that is so awesome you don’t even need a picnic blanket! The grass continues around groves of trees and provides shaded, green pathways for kids to explore.
- Lake: The water in this lake is spectacularly clear, and there are new plantings right along the edge. We saw tons of tadpoles and baby frogs already getting settled! Walking around the lake is easy on the pathways and boardwalks, and it’s a nice way to get the lay of the land. There are also long, curved, stone benches that provide ample seating and a good climbing spot for kids.
- Woodland boardwalks: As you walk around the lake, you’ll see some boardwalks leading straight into the woods – definitely check them out! You’ll end up right back at the lake, but it’s a chance to see the forest in all its glory. It’s neat that it’s not just a straight path – there are “ends” that encourage you to stop and enjoy.
- Covered pavilions and picnic areas: There are no tables yet because of COVID, but there are three brand new pavilion structures with giant, built-in grills that will be fantastic to reserve, along with some private picnic areas. We also noticed some spots that would be perfect for future food trucks and farmer’s markets, so we’re crossing our fingers those will happen soon!
- Audio Tour: Right now there are temporary signs encouraging you to do the audio tour – do it! You’ll learn some of the history and ecology of the Eastern Glades. We all enjoyed it as a family. It’s not long and it makes you really understand how magical this transformation is.
We hope you will enjoy this area of the park as much as we did. We feel like Memorial Park is now finally a great spot for families, and we’re pretty excited about heading there more than once a month to play and relax.