In our Park Spotlight series, we take a closer look at Houston’s vast array of public recreational areas to shine a light on hidden and not so hidden gems. This week we’ll be spotlighting Sesquicentennial Park. Join us as we take a trip through Houston, park by park.

Located near Buffalo Bayou as it flows past Wortham Theater Center in the heart of Houston’s Theater District, the 22-acre Sesquicentennial Park delights Downtown visitors with its waterways, gazebos, inviting commons area, hike-and-bike trails, 24-foot promenade, gardens, 250-foot boat launches, and other nearby amenities.

Spearheaded by the Buffalo Bayou Partnership and Central Houston, the park was established in 1986 to commemorate the 150 year anniversary since the founding of Houston.

The result of a nationwide design competition led by the Rice Design Alliance, it’s easy to get a feel for what all went into this beautiful park when you lay your eyes on the park’s attractive and serene green spaces, cascading waterfalls, and distinctive night lighting.

Seven Wonders by Mel Chin | Photo: 365 Houston

Art in Sesquicentennial Park

While visiting Sesquicentennial Park, be sure to keep your eyes peeled for the park’s many outstanding art pieces and historic photography displays.

  • Seven Wonders | Mel Chin – Flanking the park’s promenade and Preston Street Bridge, the 70-foot tall pillars highlight Houston’s history of agriculture, energy, manufacturing, medicine, philanthropy, technology, and transportation. Each column is made up of 150 individual children’s drawings, etched in stainless steel plate.
  • Big Bubble | Dean Ruck – After reviewing Buffalo Bayou Partnership’s master plan for increasing aeration in the bayou, Dean Ruck conceived the Big Bubble and won a national competition for projects to be included in Sesquicentennial Park. Visitors can see (and hear) the Big Bubble by walking over to Preston Street Bridge and pressing a red, unlabeled button located on a pillar facing southeast.
  • James A. Baker Monument | Chas Fagan – Dedicated in October 2010, the statue stands as an ode to James A. Baker III, who served as our nation’s 61st Secretary of State and led the U.S. in foreign affairs during the end of the Cold War. Baker, a Marine Corps veteran and partner at the law firm Baker Botts, served in three presidential administrations as Secretary of the Treasury, Secretary of State, and twice as White House Chief of Staff.
  • George H. W. Bush Monument | Chas Fagan & Wei-li “Willy” Wang – The George H. W. Bush Monument, a tribute to our 41st American president, was unveiled to the public in 2004. The exhibit features an eight-foot bronze sculpture by Chas Fagan of the former president and a semicircular wall consisting of four bas-reliefs by Houston artist Wei-li “Willy” Wang that depict President Bush in various stages of his life—President Bush as a Navy pilot in World War II, as a Houston oilman and member of Congress, with Mikhail Gorbachev in managing the peaceful end of the Cold War, and with wife Barbara attending the Inaugural of their oldest son as 43rd president.
George H. W. Bush Monument | Photo: 365 Houston

History of Sesquicentennial Park

Created to commemorate Houston’s 150th birthday in 1986, the celebratory park was built in two phases.

The 2.2-acre entrance to the park and the 10.4-acre site that flanks Buffalo Bayou as it flows past Wortham Theater Center and the northern section of the Houston Theater District was completed in August 1989.

The 8.2-acre (33,000 m2) second phase was completed in May 1998, ending the $19 million project that took 14 years to complete.

Buffalo Bayou surges after heavy rains | Photo: 365 Houston

Sesquicentennial Park

  • Location: 400 Texas Ave, Houston, TX 77002
  • Hours: Dawn to dusk daily.
  • Parking: Paid lot and street parking is available in the surrounding area on weekdays. Free street parking is available after 6pm on weekdays and offered all day on the weekends.
George H. W. Bush Monument | Photo: 365 Houston
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Cody Swann is a writer and musician born and raised in Houston. When he isn't recording or touring the country with his band, Wild Moccasins, he can be found covering live music and arts events for 365 Things to Do in Houston.