5 Must Do Things in Hermann Park

Hermann Park offers an expansive green space with plenty of nooks and crannies to have fun | Photo: Justin Jerkins/365Houston

In our Must Do Things Around Greater Houston series, we take a look at Houston’s vast array of communities, neighborhoods and destinations to bring you five fun, tasty, surprising and enticing reasons you should give each one a visit.

Sitting in the southern end of the Museum District, Hermann Park is one of Houston’s most picturesque and iconic treasures.

In addition to housing landmarks like the dazzling Mecom Fountain and Sam Houston Monument, the 445-acre park offers plenty of fun and relaxing ways to spend the day.

5 Must Do Things in Hermann Park

1. See giraffes, monkeys & lions at the Houston Zoo

Take in all the sights (and smells) from up close at Houston Zoo | Photo: Justin Jerkins/365Houston

One of the crown jewels of Hermann Park is the 55-acre Houston Zoo, where you’ll find more than 6,000 animals in natural habitat-style exhibits, including tigers, cheetahs, elephants, gorillas and orangutans, warthogs, sea lions and more. Animal lovers can visit exhibits like the African Forest, Bird Habitats, and Reptile and Amphibian House, or feed giraffes at daily feedings held at 11am and 2pm.

The Zoo also hosts a lineup of fun programming throughout the year, from meet-the-keeper talks to fun annual events like the annual Zoo Ball and holiday time Zoo Lights; and as the Zoo celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2022, there are many more transformations to come, including the Galápagos Islands experience set to open in 2023.

Tickets are $19 for adults, with discounts for seniors and kids; free for Zoo members. The Zoo offers flex pricing and hours are 9am to 5pm seven days a week.

2. Hit the trails & stroll through the gardens

A trail that winds through the Japanese Garden | Photo: Justin Jerkins/365Houston

Hermann Park is easily one of the most beautiful spots in all of Houston, hosting numerous gardens and trails that provide a perfect escape from the city’s hustle and bustle. Hit the tree-lined McGovern Centennial Gardens and you’ll find 8 acres of serenity, with a spacious central lawn, gorgeous Rose Garden, interactive Family Garden, and cool things to explore like the sculpture promenade (walk around Hermann Park’s entirety and you’ll discover even more art in the park). Those looking to get zen can wander the stone paths of the Japanese Garden, a hideaway complete with cascading waterfalls and bridges, Japanese maples, cherry trees, crepe myrtles and more. Both gardens are free to the public and open daily.

Runners and walkers can check out the Marvin Taylor Trail, a picturesque two-mile path that offers the shade of historic live oaks; and those looking for a longer stroll can explore the scenic Bayou Parkland, an 80-acre oasis for native plants and wildlife nestled along Brays Bayou. Be sure to take a walk around the easy-on-the-eyes Mary Gibbs and Jesse H. Jones Reflection Pool.

3. Catch a show at Miller Outdoor Theatre

Take in a free show from the hillside at the century-old Miller Outdoor | Courtesy of Miller Outdoor Theatre

Spending an evening at this striking outdoor amphitheater is a Houston rite of passage. The cultural treasure’s programming is always free and open to the public during its season, offering a variety of productions ranging from children’s performances and a yearly Shakespeare Festival to appearances from the Houston Ballet and popular concert artists.

Bring a blanket or a chair, grab some snacks from the concession stand, and enjoy the show. Seating on the hill is always free and open to the public; covered seating often requires a free ticket that can be ordered online up to two days in advance, or picked up at the box office before the show, while supplies last.

4. Pack a picnic

In addition to pavilion facilities, the lake side makes a great spot for a picnic | Photo: Justin Jerkins/365Houston

The park boasts many locations perfect for a leisurely picnic. Between Miller Outdoor Theatre and Lake Plaza, you’ll find a dedicated Lake Picnic area, offering picnic tables and grills, a swing set, boardwalk, and new trails.

For large parties and gatherings, the Fannin Pavilion offers a covered space capable of holding about 100 people. And the Bayou Parkland hosts a multi-use pavilion with a comfortable place for picnics.

5. Ride the train or take a pedal boat out on the lake

Hop aboard the Hermann Park Express for a leisurely tour of all the sights | Photo: Justin Jerkins/365Houston

Taking a two-mile, 18-minute journey and with three stops around the park, the Hermann Park Railroad is fun for the entire family. Cost is $3.75 per person or $7.50 for an all-day pass.

Visitors can also take a pedal boat ride among the fish, duck, and waterfowl on the eight-acre McGovern Lake, starting at Hermann Park’s Pedal Boat Lagoon. Cost is $12 per boat for 30 minutes. Train and pedal boat tickets are sold at the Hermann Park Conservancy Gift Shop at Kinder Station in Lake Plaza.

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Brooke Viggiano is a food and lifestyle writer residing in Houston. When she's not contributing to publications like 365 Things to Do in Houston, Thrillist Houston and the Houston Press, she's on the hunt for the coolest happenings in the city. You can follow her musings on Twitter @BrookeViggiano .