Hermann Park, Houston Texas

Article by Ted Gresham
Photography by George Hosek

A premier family playground in the heart of Houston!

George Hermann would be proud of what Houston has done with his namesake park. Since it was established, Hermann Park has been a centerpiece of local life in the city.

Located on nearly five-hundred acres just south of Downtown, the park is home to an excellent zoo, outstanding Science Museum, gardens, family attractions and plenty of wide open spaces.

Hermann Park isn’t just IN the heart of the city, it IS the HEART of the city. For the past couple of decades it has also been the focus of a concentrated effort to make it the finest city park in the nation.

Perhaps one of the best known attractions is the Houston Zoo, a popular sanctuary for wildlife that brings hundreds of thousands of visitors to Houston annually.


The zoo cares for over forty-five hundred animals from all continents in habitats designed to protect and preserve as well as give visitors an opportunity to learn about our amazing planet’s diverse population.

The zoo cares for over forty-five hundred animals from all continents in habitats designed to protect and preserve as well as give visitors an opportunity to learn about our amazing planet’s diverse population.

There’s a children’s zoo, an aquarium filled with exotic aquatics, and all the other usual exhibits. The Natural Encounters facility gives visitors a “nose to nose” experience with animals, as the Zoo’s website puts it. Nothing lights up a child’s eyes like the word, “zoo.” Few facilities can keep them awed more than the Houston Zoo.

The Houston Museum of Natural Science takes up where the zoo leaves off, filling in the gaps, telling the natural history of our planet.

The Museum’s permanent exhibits are themselves extraordinary but the Museum also includes a planetarium, a 3D Imax, and a magnificent butterfly exhibit. Traveling exhibits add to the fun. The Museum is extremely kid-friendly.

The details of each exhibit will give grownups a way to learn about their world while the kids linger and gawk. Adults discover the history of the Permian Period while little ones twist their necks back to take in the big dinosaurs overhead.

Oil Wells to Sea Shells, Egyptian artifacts to Dinosaur Tracks, the center of the Earth to the far reaches of the universe, the Houston Museum of Natural History covers it all. Traveling exhibits give visitors added insights into everything from exotic frogs to ancient civilizations.
Then there’s the Planetarium and Imax. Each offers thrilling shows and allows visitors to give a rest to their weary feet.

The new 3D experience is especially mind-boggling, using modern technology and polarized glasses to pull images right off the screen and into viewers laps. Finally, the delicate nature of our planet is best discovered in the Cockrell Butterfly Center—but be careful, don’t step on a butterfly!

A visitor can stroll around the grounds to take in the lake, reflecting pool, monuments, and gardens. At the north entrance to the park one can’t miss the fountains and impressive Sam Houston Monument. Sam’s been high atop his steed guarding the park since 1929.
Standing watch at the corner of Fannin and MacGregor is a bronze likeness of George Hermann. He greets visitors who come by way of MetroRail.

Houston’s downtown skyscrapers seem many miles away as visitors stroll alongside the Reflection Pool. At the south end of the pool stands a fifty-foot obelisk, Pioneer Monument, erected in the park by the San Jacinto Centennial Association in 1936 and moved to its current location during a revitalization project that ended in 2003.

Further south, beyond the obelisk, sprays of water cool the air in summer at Molly Ann Smith Plaza. Between there and the Zoo lies McGovern Lake, a perennial favorite.

Year ‘round visitors can hear the splash of paddle-boats disrupting the calm waters of McGovern Lake. Across from the boat house kids and seniors have the opportunity to hone their fishing skills at Bob’s Fishing Pier.

Just be sure to release the catch so the fish population can keep growing. A large island in the eight-acre lake is terminus for the Hermann Park Miniature Train, always a fun ride through the park. A family of four can ride the train and make a big splash with a paddle boat for less than twenty bucks!

Of course the children’s playground doesn’t cost a thing. Most facilities are handicap accessible at the Buddy Carruth Playground. If there’s no event scheduled parents might cool in the shade of Fannin Pavilion, the oldest structure in the park, while their kids romp through the play area or soak themselves in the water playground.

An important part of making the park sparkle is the meticulous landscaping and gardens found there. An exquisite Japanese Garden redefines beauty Japanese style. The Daimyo garden, with its gentle waterfalls, lanterns, and teahouse...
...provides a place for quiet contemplation a universe away from the bustle of the City.

The teahouse, built in Japan and carefully reconstructed on site by Japanese craftsmen, is a uniquely Japanese structure. Japan’s former Prime Minister Kaifu is responsible for bringing the Teahouse to Houston.

Across the reflecting pond from the Tea House, past Miller Theater to the east, lies the Houston Garden Center. Not only are there always beautiful flora on display, but there’s also a garden in stone and sculpture called the International Sculpture Garden where international figures are paid tribute for their contributions to humanity.

Near the entrance to the Rose Garden stands a life-size statue of Mahatma Ghandi, one of the latest editions. Ghandi’s statue was erected in 2004 and is an enduring gift of friendship and goodwill presented to Houston by the nation of India.

One can find a few kids rolling through the grass or trying to launch a kite most summer weekends on the hill adjacent to the Garden Center. The hill provides an excellent vantage point to watch productions on Miller Theater’s stage. For a closer view, Miller Outdoor Theater has over fifteen hundred seats beneath its roof.

It is fully equipped to allow professional productions from classic ballet to modern Jazz, Don Quixote to Motown, Symphony to Hip Hop.

Miller Theater presents a complete billing of world-class performances. Every performance is open to the public free of charge.

Hermann Park brings the world to Houston and takes visitors around the world.

Hermann Park was presented to the city of Houston in 1914 by George Hermann, Houston native and oilman whose generosity not only provided the city with the park but also endowed Hermann Hospital, an award-wining medical center.

The locals know what they have in Hermann Park and the Museum District. Through meticulous effort the city of Houston continues working with local organizations and businesses to make the park and surrounding area better and better.

Herman Park Conservancy plans to break ground in 2007 on a project called Lake Plaza to include a café, a new train station and more places for families to have fun and relax. The city continues to improve the Museum District. Street repairs and the Metro Rail have made the area more accessible.

The Park and District may not be paradise but it certainly is the answer to the question of where to spend an enjoyable week in Houston without breaking the bank. There’s enough fun stuff to keep coming back again and again. Many museums and attractions are completely free.

To visit the rest costs far less than a weekend at a theme park. Since the District is adjacent to the Medical Center it also provides a place for families and friends of patients to pass some time.

Educational opportunities abound. An entire school curriculum for all grades can be found in the exhibits, displays and materials at the Zoo and the many museums, making the Park and District not only a stupendous attraction but also an exemplary facility for education.

Whatever one believes the best things in life are, they’ll likely find it at Hermann Park. Take in a play from the grassy hill. Spend a few hours learning about the earth. Play winkie with zoo animals.

Discover art, beauty, and tranquility. Or, just have fun. Take your time! Just remember to stop a minute, block out the traffic noise, and listen. If you’re standing near the center of Hermann Park you’re sure to hear the heartbeat of the city.

Houston Museum of Natural Science One Herman Circle,  713-639-4600

Burke Baker Planetarium

The Children's Museum, 1500 Binz, 713-522-1138

The Houston Zoo, 1513 N. McGregor, 713-533-6500

Holocaust Museum Houston
, 5401 Caroline Street, 713-942-8000

Buffalo Soldiers National Museum, 1834 Southmore

Houston Center for Contemporary Craft, 4848 Main Street, 713-529-4848

John P. McGovern Museum of Health & Medical Science,  713-521-1515

The Jung Center of Houston, 713-524-8253

Rice University Art Gallery
, 6100 Main Street, 713-348-6069

Lawndale Art Center, 4912 Main Street, 713-528-5858

Menil, 1515 Sul Ross, 713-525-9400

Hermann Park Holiday Lights

Houston Metro
Metropolitan Transit Authority Of Harris County Texas

Route and Schedule Information

Houston Metro-Rail Map and Information

Houston Rodeo

Houston is known as the cowboy capital of the world with cowboys and cowgirls coming to compete at the world’s largest and richest rodeo.


Video of Texas

Hermann Park, Houston Texas

Texas Explorer Productions
Photography by George Hosek

Take a tour of one of Houston's most popular travel destinations.



Video of Texas

Hermann Park, Houston Texas

Texas Explorer Productions
Photography by George Hosek

Dog enjoys the Hermann Park water fountains.

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