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Let’s face it. When it comes to landscapes of pictorial beauty, Houston isn’t in the same league as San Francisco, San Diego, or even San Antonio. So we completely understand the dilemma faced by wedding parties, quinceañera parties—any party, really, in search of a dramatic backdrop for a group photo. Still, that’s no excuse for showing us pics taken in the same places, year after year. And so it is with a heavy heart that Houstonia officially bans the following three special-occasion backdrops, replacing them with a few oft-overlooked options.

Banned: The Waterwall at Williams Tower. The sight and sound of Philip Johnson’s 64-foot-tall wall of rushing waters is certainly soothing, but parking is a nightmare and worse, this site is the uber-cliché of Houston group photos. Bust out the pics from a shoot here and watch as your guests stifle yawns and say things like “Hmmm. The Waterwall. How...interesting” and “Oh that’s where we did our engagement pictures too.” 

Alternative: The ivy-walled spurting-water gardens and tumbling-stream columns of the Gus S. and Lyndall F. Wortham Park fountain on Holcombe Blvd (where the Shamrock Hotel once stood) is not in the same architectural league as the Waterwall, but you won’t fight a crowd and your shots will be far more original. Bonus tip:  If you really must have a waterwall in your photo, head over to the Texas Medical Center Commons, where the romantically-named TMC Garage #15 offers the same aqueous backdrop, and conceals both a food court and a parking garage. How Houston-cool is that? 

Banned: Live oak tunnels on West, North and South Boulevards. Unquestionably, this is one of the most beautiful spots in the city—maybe the whole country. The New York Times once lauded South Boulevard as the “most magnificent residential street in America.” In April, with the azaleas running riot and the herons nesting in sublimely majestic oaks, the esplanades of these wide thoroughfares are nothing short of magical. That’s why roughly a dozen brides get their photos taken there every weekend. No more. Stop. 

Alternative: East Midtown’s Elizabeth Baldwin Park is a venerable gem of a greenspace, one that would not look out of place in New Orleans’ Garden District. There’s a pretty gazebo, a century-old stone fountain, and if anything, the live oaks there—their limbs reaching down to the ground and up again—are even more stately and marvelous than their counterparts on North and South Boulevards.

Banned: Mecom Fountain / Cancer Survivors Plaza / Sam Houston Statue / Hermann Park.  Yeah, we know. Bob Hope supposedly once said this was the finest view he’d ever seen anywhere. But you don’t hear him say it now, do you? And yes, we know he’s dead. 

Alternative: Downtown’s Sam Houston Park is the preferred choice. There’s an amazingly gorgeous, 122-year-old cast-iron fountain, not to mention a lovely water garden with a trio of little bronze coyotes loping through it. (What says “celebration” more than a pack of coyotes? Nothing, that’s what.) If the Smithsonian is America’s attic, this park is Houston’s, thanks to its gazebo, the 19th-century houses (most relocated from their original sites) and the bronze statue of a melancholy, winged youth down near the tranquil, cypress-lined lily pond.

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