Houston’s Hermann Park: So Many Attractions!
My introduction to this fabulous city park in Houston, Texas, came as a matter of easy proximity. I had just started working at my very first job as an operating room nurse. My living quarters were in the nurse’s dorm in the middle of the Texas Medical Center. That was decades ago. Hermann Park was just across the street on the north side of the Medical Center. It was an easy stroll and a beautiful place to relax after a day of assisting with surgery.
The land for this park was presented to the City of Houston in 1914 by George Hermann. It now bears his name. Consisting of 445 acres, it offers so much in the way of entertainment as well as relaxation. It is no wonder that it is a well-frequented and well-utilized park in the heart of the fourth largest city of the United States.
Other cities have lovely parks, and we have visited a few of them. Let me show you one that is in our backyard, so to speak. Hermann Park has many different venues within its boundaries. Let’s get started viewing some of these family-friendly places!
World War I Veterans Honored
The large spreading branches of mature live oak trees that adorn the promenade area of Hermann Park were planted to honor our World War I veterans in the 1920s. More trees have been added since, and these majestic living honorariums provide beauty as well as shade to visitors of this park.
The oak trees also harbor the nests of our avian friends. Like many trees in the south, they are draped with the lacy foliage of Spanish Moss.
Hermann Park did not initially have all of the things seen there today. Over the years, it has continued to evolve. We can thank the foresight, hard work, and funding of visionaries. They carved out excellent venues located within the park boundaries plus continually improve upon them.
Hermann Park is nestled between the Texas Medical Center, Rice University, and the Museum District of Houston, which is all south of the downtown area. This is a beautiful area of town. As a young woman who had lived all of her early life in small towns, and who did not yet own an automobile, it seemed an ideal setting.
Sam Houston Statue
This stately statue of Sam Houston astride a horse welcomes one into this park when entering from the west.
When Texas was still an independent nation, Sam Houston was the very first President of the Republic of Texas. After Texas had joined the United States, Sam Houston became a Senator for a time. He also served as a Governor of the State of Texas. Thus, he had a long political career as well as being a well-known soldier.
Since our fair city was actually named in honor of him, a statue of Sam Houston is prominent in Hermann Park.
Viewed from the statue of Sam Houston and probably driven around for most people entering Hermann Park, the Mecom Fountains are a landmark in Houston. They have adorned this area for many years. Beautiful both daytime and when illuminated at night, they add a touch of beauty to an already beautiful part of the city.
Reflection Pool in Hermann Park
The Mary Gibbs and Jesse H. Jones's reflection pool are seen from the backside of the Sam Houston Statue as well as other areas within the park.
It is 80 feet wide (24 meters) by 740 feet (230 meters) long. It is a central feature along the promenade where rows of live oak trees were planted honoring World War 1 veterans.
Benches are situated along its length for people who wish to relax. Ducks and other birds find delight in the freshwater that is continually circulated.
It is a magnificent picturesque setting for photos. Many a bridal party has utilized this site to memorialize their special day.
Pioneer Memorial Obelisk
This monument is at the opposite end of the reflection pool from the Sam Houston Statue.
This is an 8-acre lake within Hermann Park. Almost anytime one visits, people can be seen making their way across the aquatic site of rippling waves in rented paddle boats. Smiles and gales of laughter echo across the water and it is fun to see people of all ages enjoying themselves.
For youngsters who bring their own poles, fishing is also allowed, but catch and release are the rules to be followed.
From this location, one can catch some glimpses of a few buildings in the Texas Medical Center. McGovern Lake is also near the Houston Zoo, which is also located within the expansive Hermann Park. Some islands in McGovern Lake offer refuge to migratory birds each year as they go from north to south and then back.
Houston Zoo in Hermann Park
The Houston Zoo has been improved upon over the years. As so many zoos across the country have done, spaces have been enlarged with more natural settings provided for animals. The animals are expertly cared for. There is another reason attracting visitors to this zoo. Landscaped grounds are stunningly beautiful with blooming plants of many different varieties.
Depending upon the season and what may be in bloom, one could consider visiting the Houston Zoo, much like visiting a botanical garden. One can admire the textures, colors, and shapes of plants and learn which ones thrive in this area. I love visiting our zoo as much for the garden-like setting as well as seeing the wild creatures. It is an excellent combination enthralling all of one’s senses.
Miniature Train in Hermann Park
Who doesn’t like riding through a park on a small train? This miniature train has been taking young and old alike through the grounds of Hermann Park since 1957. Its whistle can be heard operating from 10 AM to 5 PM each day. Whoo-Hooo!
One boards it from the parking lot area adjacent to the Houston Zoo. For those who might not be able nor wish to engage in the 2 miles of walking, jogging, or hiking trails within the park, riding this train will give visitors an overview of the area and bring back the days of feeling like a child.
For golfing enthusiasts, Hermann Park boasts a public course that is open year-round. According to Golf Digest Magazine, it rates 3 1/2 stars. The setting is lush and green, as is much of Houston, but it also sports those majestic old oak trees. For those who enjoy a bit of trivia…it was one of the first desegregated golf courses in the nation.
Miller Outdoor Theater
From 1923 to the present time, people have been congregating in the seats of the Miller Outdoor Theater. They also spread blankets out on the lawn, which rises up behind the seated area to enjoy a variety of shows, festivals and the like free of charge.
Walking from the Texas Medical Center, I saw my very first live performance of ballet and also a symphony concert, among other things. The small towns in which I had previously lived did not provide such opportunities at any price.
Every type of musical rendition takes place on stage as well as other kinds of shows. The season spans 8 months of the year. Most productions start in the early evening. Participants can sit in the seats or on the lawn enjoying rehearsals earlier in the day.
What a great way to introduce children to operas, ballets, symphonies, or more raucous and toe-tapping events if they are too active or noisy to comfortably enjoy this type of entertainment in a more formal setting. This is a very family-friendly place. People of all ages can be found enjoying themselves at the Miller Outdoor Theater.
Hermann Park also sports a most beautiful Japanese Garden and one that is free of charge to visit. The garden offers a peaceful and restful place to spend some time in the heart of a busy city. It is pretty in a different way during each season of the year.
Springtime showcases the gorgeous azaleas in bloom while summer has the crape myrtles putting on their great show. Other times of the year feature natural attractions such as masses of iris in bloom, or colored fall leaves providing a different color palette.
A native stone, that of Texas granite, is appropriately utilized in this well designed Japanese Garden. It has many of the usual elements such as water features, a tea house, and little vignettes familiar to Japanese Gardens everywhere.
Houston Museum of Natural Science
Situated just across the road from Miller Outdoor Theater is one of the busiest Natural Science museums in the country. For numerous years my husband and I purchased family memberships. We utilized our museum memberships, often taking guests of ours to various sites within the museum and seeing many special exhibits.
The permanent exhibits are excellent. My absolute favorite is the Cullen Hall of Gems and Minerals. It is nicely featured in the video below, with over 750 crystallized mineral specimens of amazing colors and size. Traveling exhibits always add interest and make one wish to return over and over again to the museum.
Inside the Museum of Natural Science
- There is an IMAX theater that continually has shows on a screen that is 6 stories high and 80 feet in width. It is a total immersion experience making a person feel as if one is in the middle of the action on the screen. The sound effects are also amazing!
- The Burke Baker Planetarium lets visitors lean back in comfortable chairs, gazing towards the ceiling. At the same time, the shows are broadcast in a darkened room. Shows can have viewers traveling and exploring time and space, assuming they stay awake. I have known people who have taken a short nap after a busy day seeing other sites inside the Museum of Natural History. I promise that no names will be revealed! Haha!
- The Cockrell Butterfly Center is another beautiful addition to the Museum of Natural History. This multi-storied glass-encased tropical venue with a cascading waterfall and plantings have butterflies of various sizes and hues fluttering about drawing visitors from near and far.
By no means is this an exhaustive listing of all the many sites within this natural science museum. One could spend the better part of a day here, just enjoying a couple of the exhibits. Buses of school children are taken there regularly during the school year. What a great way for them to learn things in this interactive environment.
Like many other sites in Hermann Park, the Natural Science Museum has expanded over time and continually offers additional reasons to visit it on a regular basis.
For people on a budget, there is free admission to the permanent exhibit halls every Tuesday after 2 PM.
Houston Garden Center
A short walking distance from the Houston Natural Science Museum and across from the Miller Outdoor Theater is the Houston Garden Center, where many of the garden club members regularly meet.
Beds of magnificent labeled roses entice one to admire the many colors and sniff the fragrance and perhaps try one or more of these beauties in a home garden. There is a fragrance garden where herbs and other fragrant plants are grown. An oasis for the blind not only encourages the use of other senses like touch and smell but identifies each plant in braille. There is also a Chinese pagoda on one stretch of lawn in the Garden Center.
Note: Since I originally wrote about the Houston Garden Center, this area of Hermann Park has been changed. It is now called the McGovern Centennial Gardens. The video below shows it under construction and in the early stages. I have written a separate post all about the McGovern Centennial Gardens if you are interested.
So Much to Enjoy!
This beautiful and family-friendly city park invites visits from those of us living here as well as travelers to our fair city.
People can take a picnic lunch, enjoy the wide-open tree-shaded spaces, and do some people watching. Others might wish to improve their golf swing. Excellent entertainment can be enjoyed at the Miller Outdoor Theater. People who want to learn more about our natural world inside the Natural Science Museum…that and more can be accomplished within Hermann Park.
By now, hopefully, you realize why Hermann Park in Houston, Texas, has something for everyone within its borders. The video below is well worth watching!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
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© 2020 Peggy Woods