Take a daycation at Hermann Park, Houston's cultural and recreational hub

We've got the scoop on all the best things to see and do during your visit.

Photo of Vicki Salemi
A young girl waves from the train at Hermann Park.

A young girl waves from the train at Hermann Park.

Alan Warren, Staff Photographer / Houston Community Newspapers

Locals and tourists alike will tell you that quality time in Houston isn't complete without devoting at least one day to Hermann Park. Located in the southern end of the Museum District, this 445-acre park has a gorgeous reflecting pool and is full of activities for everyone in your family to enjoy.

Prior to arriving, time spent planning an ideal day in Hermann Park will be well spent so you don't miss any of its many attractions. But even with meticulous planning, you won't have enough time to squeeze all of the splendor of the park into one day, so choose your priorities.

The really good news? Your memorable stroll in the park doesn't have to break the bank. And free Hermann Park parking is available at the large central parking lots in front of the Houston Zoo, across the street at the Sam Houston Monument and near the Miller Outdoor Theatre.

Before you park, cruise around Hermann Park Drive to get a sense of where the attractions you plan on visiting are located. From there, begin your adventure using the following guide.

Thomas Barakat (left) and his father, Chris, putt on the putting green at the Hermann Park golf course.

Thomas Barakat (left) and his father, Chris, putt on the putting green at the Hermann Park golf course.

Brett Coomer, Houston Chronicle / Staff photographer

1. Tee up at the golf course

Ready to spend some time with Mother Nature? This oak-lined fairway is 100 years old and open to the public. Lessons and tee times are available at the Hermann Park Golf Course and you can rent golf clubs if you don't bring your own. A large clubhouse serves breakfast and lunch, so swing by when you work up an appetite. Tee times starting as early as 7 a.m. on weekdays can be reserved up to seven days in advance online; so if you're an early bird, consider golf your first stop within the park. 

Find it: 2155 S. MacGregor Way, Houston, TX 77030; 713-526-0077

Two rhinoceroses at the Houston Zoo.

Two rhinoceroses at the Houston Zoo.

cheng8/Getty Images/iStockphoto

2. Come face to face with the animals at the Houston Zoo

After hitting the links, head over to the Houston Zoo. The 55-acre zoo is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., so you may want to make this your second stop of the day. From an African forest exhibit and cool bird habitats to a sea lion show and exciting encounters that get you up close and personal with sloths, Galapagos tortoises and elephants, prepare to be in awe. Online reservations are required for all non-members of the zoo, so be sure to reserve tickets ahead of time.

Find it: 6200 Hermann Park Drive, Houston, TX 77030; 713-533-6500

The Japanese Gardens at Houston's Hermann Park. 

The Japanese Gardens at Houston's Hermann Park. 

irabassi / Getty

3. Marvel at the Japanese Garden

Another highlight of your daycation entails a visit to Hermann Park's Japanese Garden. Considering it's open daily and has free admission, it's an absolute must. You'll find the entrance to the Japanese Garden near the Pioneer Memorial obelisk (it's near Molly Ann Smith Plaza, which is close to the center of the park).

To get your zen on, meander through stone paths and lush gardens, marveling at waterfalls and bridges near cascading cherry trees, Japanese maples and dogwoods. This peaceful oasis could be precisely what you need to gather your thoughts and restore your energy for the rest of the day.

Find it: 6000 Fannin St., Houston, TX 77030; 713-524-5876

4. Grab a bite to eat at Ginger Kale

As a quick intermission, remember to factor in time to eat. Located conveniently in Hermann Park, Ginger Kale serves up a variety of fare, including healthy sandwiches, salads, burgers, sweets, cold-press juices, coffee and tea. They have a kid's menu, too.

If you choose to brown bag it with a picnic lunch, you may want to enjoy your meal at a multi-use pavilion within Bayou Parkland, a serene and beautiful 80-acre area along Brays Bayou.

Find it: 6104 Hermann Park Drive, Houston, TX 77030; 832-539-8988

McGovern Centennial Gardens in Hermann Park.

McGovern Centennial Gardens in Hermann Park.

Alice W. via Yelp

5. Stroll McGovern Centennial Gardens

If time permits and you can squeeze an additional 20 or 30 minutes of garden strolling into your day, McGovern Centennial Gardens are definitely worth a visit for some Instagram-worthy shots. Although hours fluctuate seasonally, the gardens have a variety of 490 new trees spanning over 50 species, 760 shrubs, 55,000 perennial bulbs, 650 azaleas and 4-and-a-half acres of grass.

The educational Family Garden boasts seasonal vegetables, herbs and fruit trees, and other highlights include the Rose Garden, Hawkins Sculpture Walk, Pergola Walk and the Tudor Family Pine Hill Walk. You can find the main entry to the gardens through the Cherie Flores Garden Pavilion. Fun fact: Peter Bohlin, the architect for this pavilion, is the same architect who designed Apple stores.

Find it: 1500 Hermann Drive, Houston, TX 77004; 713-524-5876

An aerial view of the pedal boat lagoon at Hermann Park in Houston.

An aerial view of the pedal boat lagoon at Hermann Park in Houston.

TrongNguyen/Getty Images/iStockphoto

6. Cruise around in a pedal boat

For a 30-minute scenic experience along with some exercise, go to the Hermann Park Conservancy Gift Shop at Kinder Station in Lake Plaza to buy pedal boat tickets. Weather permitting, pedal boats are available daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For a $12 boat fee, up to four riders are permitted per boat (pets are not allowed). One rider needs to be at least 18 years old, children must be able to sit on their own and life vests are required for all on board.

Find it: 6102 Hermann Park Dr., Houston, TX 77030; 713-526-2183

Take a scenic train ride through Hermann Park on the choo-choo train.

Take a scenic train ride through Hermann Park on the choo-choo train.

Stephanie N. via Yelp

7. Take a scenic train ride

For a perfect day in Hermann Park, you most likely won't have time for both a pedal boat ride and a train ride, so you may want to select one and commit to it. As for train rides, the excursion lasts 14 minutes and departs from Kinder Station approximately every 20 to 25 minutes. An additional stop is located across from the Houston Museum of Natural Science, so you may want to hop aboard as your transportation to the museum and then ride back to the park when your museum visit is complete.

If you're interested in taking just one ride on the railroad, consider buying a one-time ticket; but if you're hopping on and off multiple times, it's more cost-effective to buy a day pass.

Find it: 6102 Hermann Park Drive, Houston, TX 77030; 713-524-5876

8. Visit the Houston Museum of Natural Science

It's no wonder why the Houston Museum of Natural Science is often considered a favorite thing to do in Houston. Permanent exhibits encompass five floors of astronomy, space science, Native American culture, paleontology, energy, chemistry, geology, seashells and Texas wildlife—and this doesn't include all of the rotating special exhibitions. Tickets may be purchased online or at the box office. Admission on Thursdays is free, but online reservations aren't available. Thursday tickets are first come, first served.

Find it: 5555 Hermann Park Dr., Houston, TX 77030; 713-639-4629

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