The Perfect City Park
Hundred-year-old oak trees line the Brown Foundation Promenade.
A couple enjoys a picnic while women stretch into Pilates poses and children run through dancing water jets. Houston’s new urban park, built amid high-rises and hotels, spreads out as a welcome burst of green in this city center. With my toes in the grass and a basil lemonade from The Lake House in hand, I decide that Discovery Green is the kind of park every town should have.
Debuting in April, Discovery Green challenges visitors to get active outside, connect with their neighbors, and shake off their expectations about what a public park is supposed to be. Organizers put a lot of thought into plans for a park that would draw people outside. The result is part community center, part exercise hub, part art gallery--and all fun.
“The concept of a park in the U.S. had grown a little stale until recently,” says Guy Hagstette, president of the Discovery Green Conservancy. Guy and his colleagues spent months talking with Houstonians. Their goal was to think big about the possibilities of this space, which was once a parking lot. The final product--12 acres of greenspace--marks an exciting new phase of downtown development.
Plus there’s more “green” to the park than its sprawling promenades. An eco-friendly mission exists throughout, from the solar panels that line the roof of park offices (providing enough energy to run the whole building) to the organic wines served at the park’s cafe, The Lake House. On Recycling Saturdays, Houston residents unload their recyclables and enjoy the area.
Discovery Green is packed with things to delight children, but they seem drawn to the section with the Gateway Fountain, where synchronized jets shoot water 14 feet in the air. After drying off, the kids climb on the John P. McGovern Children’s Playground, constructed to reflect the migratory birds that often fly over Houston.
Just a short walk away I find Kinder Lake, where remote controlled sailboats are available for rental on the weekends. Come Thanksgiving, part of the lake will be converted to an ice-skating rink. People walk their dogs, in-line skate, and jog on the path that winds around the lake and through the park.
The day I visit I’m kicking myself for not bringing workout clothes. How often is free lakeside Pilates available? At Discovery Green exercise classes are scheduled several times a week. For those more inclined to enjoy the outdoors from the comfort of a lawn chair, free concerts take place at the Anheuser-Busch Stage.