Lodgeur Guide: Houston’s Public Gardens

Houston is a vibrant and bustling city with plenty of green spaces to explore. There is so much green space in Houston that we have a post on gardens and another just for parks. Here is a list of Lodgeur’s favorite public gardens in Houston:

McGovern Centennial Gardens

Centennial Gardens
The spiral path at Houston’s McGovern Centennial Gardens.

McGovern Centennial Gardens is a Houston landmark that offers visitors an escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. Located in Houston’s Hermann Park, Houston Centennial Gardens provides visitors with a tranquil and peaceful environment to explore nature and relax. The garden features lush landscaping, beautiful sculptures, meandering pathways, fountains, ponds and plenty of seating areas for picnicking or simply enjoying the view.

Houston Centennial Gardens features a large hill that rises at the heart of the garden, giving visitors a beautiful spot to admire Houston’s skyline and bask in the beauty of nature. The hill is covered with lush green grass and is dotted with trees, providing a scenic backdrop for picnics and family outings. From the top of the hill, visitors can take in Houston’s skyline and also catch a glimpse of Houston Zoo, Miller Outdoor Theatre and Houston Museum of Natural Science.

Additionally, Houston Centennial Gardens also houses several native plant species including Texas live oaks, magnolias and wildflowers – making it an ideal spot for bird watching too! With its picturesque landscape full of vibrant colors year round – Houston Centennial Garden is sure to be one of Lodgeur’s favorite spots in Houston!

Houston Botanic Garden

The Houston Botanic Garden is a relatively new addition to the city’s offerings, having opened in 2020. Located just 10 minutes from downtown, this expansive 132-acre garden features global plant collections arranged in theme gardens representing woodlands, wetlands, gardens across Asia, an island garden, culinary garden, and more. Sign up for one of their specialized tours if you want to dig deeper into the botany, horticulture and conservation efforts driving the gardens. Family favorites include the kid-friendly Character Gardens following themes from beloved books and movies. When planning your visit, keep an eye out for the Garden’s events calendar which includes concerts, classes, holiday happenings and seasonal exhibits like the magical winter Radiant Nature light display. With both native and exotic plant varieties, the Houston Botanic Garden promises discoveries for nature lovers of all ages even on repeat trips.

Nature Discovery Center

Located in Houston’s Bellaire neighborhood, the Nature Discovery Center is a great place to explore Houston’s natural beauty. The center features over four acres of lush gardens and trails, providing visitors with plenty of opportunities to observe native plants and wildlife. With its interactive exhibits, educational programs and events for all ages, the Nature Discovery Center is an ideal spot for families looking for a fun day outdoors. Visitors can also take advantage of bird watching areas or stroll through various butterfly gardens onsite.

Houston’s Nature Discovery Center is an ideal spot for families looking to explore Houston’s natural beauty. The center features over four acres of lush gardens and trails, providing visitors with plenty of opportunities to observe native plants and wildlife. With interactive exhibits, educational programs, bird watching areas and butterfly gardens, the Nature Discovery Center offers something for all ages.

Open Tuesday through Saturday from 9am-4pm and Sunday from 1pm-4pm; admission is only $5 per person or $15 for a family up to six people. So come out and enjoy Houston’s hidden gems!

Houston Arboretum

The Houston Arboretum & Nature Center is located on a 155-acre site along Buffalo Bayou. Its mission is to provide education about the natural world and promote environmental stewardship through its unique blend of nature programs, recreational activities, and conservation initiatives. Visitors can explore Houston’s native plants in the five miles of trails winding through woodlands, wetlands, meadows and ponds or take part in educational classes like birdwatching or gardening workshops. The meadows trail in particular offers great backdrops for photos.

For kids, the Arboretum offers weekly classes, camps during school breaks, and weekend activities. The new playground is often reserved for birthday parties on Saturday morning, but a nature scape playground is available near the older activities building. Parking is $8, paid with the Park Houston app.

MFAH – Bayou Bend

The Bayou Bend Gardens at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston are an oasis of natural beauty and historical charm. Located on 14 acres along Buffalo Bayou, these gardens offer visitors a richly landscaped outdoor experience with a wealth of stunning flora, winding pathways, tranquil seating areas and outdoor art installations. Originally built as a private residence in the 1920s by oil heiress Ima Hogg, the mansion and gardens were donated to MFAH in 1957 and are both open to the public.

Visitors will find lush displays of native plants, trees and flowers including azaleas that burst into vibrant color during the spring months. The Andrews Pinetum is filled with towering pines and ancient oaks while the Flower Garden offers colorful bursts of blooms throughout the year. The Asian Garden features intricately placed stones that create a peaceful atmosphere while providing highlights to colorful koi fish swimming in the pond below. In addition to its exquisite plant life, Bayou Bend features unique sculptures from renowned local artists as well as other iconic objects like two 19th century European fountains.

During special events such as holiday celebrations or summer concerts, guests can explore hidden corners of the garden or relax on one of several gazebos located within its boundaries. One highlight is a restored 1790 house known as “The Pavilion” which was once owned by Stephen F Austin’s brother James Austin. The Christmas celebration requires purchasing a ticket but MFAH hosts regular family-friendly events which are free to the public.

Mercer Botanic Gardens

Mercer Botanic Gardens is a 40-acre oasis situated in Humble just north of Houston. Here visitors can explore gardens filled with an array of colorful flowers and plants as well as enjoy stunning views from overlooks along its trails. Mercer Botanical Gardens also feature interactive learning areas for kids such as a butterfly garden and an herb garden where they can learn about different plants from experts at the gardens’ staff.

The gardens are divided into different sections each featuring its own unique landscape and ecosystem. Highlights include a Japanese Garden which includes a traditional teahouse and koi pond, a Rose Garden with over 200 varieties of roses, a Sculpture Garden where visitors can find sculptures created by local artists, and an Herb Garden with hundreds of herbs for visitors to learn about.

In addition to its gardens, Mercer Botanic Gardens also offers educational programs for kids such as guided tours, workshops and classes on gardening topics such as pruning techniques, seed propagation and composting. Visitors can also take part in family activities such as fishing in one of the six ponds found within the park’s grounds or bird watching at one of three bird sanctuaries located onsite.

The Japanese Garden

The Japanese Garden is located in Hermann Park near Downtown Houston. The 8 ½ acre gardens offer tranquil oases amidst beautiful landscapes inspired by traditional Japanese design elements – ponds with koi fish paddling around them included! Visitors can take strolls along winding paths lined with cherry blossom trees or observe art installations while admiring large koi fish swimming in one of four large pools onsite before stopping off at one of two tea houses serving Japanese green teas overlooking tranquil settings perfect for meditation or reflection.

Houston’s Japanese Gardens are a stunningly beautiful place to explore and discover the many elements of traditional Japanese design. The gardens are filled with winding paths and trails that meander through landscapes inspired by the beauty of Japan. There are four large pools full of koi fish, which visitors can watch as they make their way along the paths and trails. Along the way, there are cherry blossom trees and art installations for people to admire. People can also take a stop at one of two tea houses located on the grounds, where they can enjoy a cup of Japanese green tea while admiring the tranquil surroundings. The park is also home to many other attractions, such as sculptures, fountains, waterfalls, traditional Japanese bridges, and a bell tower that chimes every hour.

For more on Houston’s green spaces, check out the post on Lodgeur’s favorite Houston parks. If you’d like to eat somewhere beautiful, check out our favorite aesthetic restaurants and Museum District restaurants!

Learn more about other exciting options in Houston

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