The Houston Botanic Garden officially opened its gates to the public today. Located just off I-45 South on Park Place Boulevard (exit like you're going to Hobby, head in the opposite direction on Broadway, and you’re pretty much there), the massive 132-acre property, which was once the Glenbrook Park Golf Course, is just at the beginning of its 30-year master plan. In the decades ahead, it aims to become one of Houston’s top greenspace destinations, and there’s already reason enough to make a visit and see the progress in bloom.

Here are a few things to know before you go. 

Part of the botanic garden is on an island.  

Turn into the garden’s gorgeous entrance, and you’ll soon hop a bridge and land on a 70-acre island surrounded by the original Sims Bayou meander on three sides and the Sims channel to its south—the channel will eventually have a Bayou Greenway hike and bike trail running alongside it as well, and it is certainly primed to be a bustling outdoor corridor in the years ahead. 

You’ll be going to see the Global Collection and Family Discovery Garden.

Though the first phase of opening includes six “gallery” spaces, designed in collaboration with award-winning landscape designers West 8, there are two distinct areas among them that are the main draws.

The Global Collection Garden, with its three acres of regionally themed zones that are set just beyond the garden’s steel gates, was planted back in March, and it includes some very lovely, diverse plant species among its pollinator garden (all aflutter with butterflies), curiosity garden (we spotted a plumeria), and more zones, which range from Mexican desert to the Mediterranean. Among some 350 varieties of plants, you’ll find rare skutch maples, incredible staghorn ferns, lilies, African grasses, and more oddities.

The Susan Garver Family Discovery Garden, which actually debuted at the end of 2019 but was rather sidelined thanks to the pandemic, isn’t on the island—it’s about a five-minute walk from the entrance to the botanic garden. It has a lovely boardwalk maze around a lagoon, already inhabited by ducks (and ducklings). While kids won’t be able to play on the simple water machine, thanks to Covid-19, we can already tell the area will be a hit when normal times roll around again (please, normal times, we beg of you, roll around already). There are nature play structures crafted from trees that previously grew on the property, and a rainbow garden with plants that, you guessed it, will have you reciting “ROYGBIV.”

There’re 2.5 miles of walking trails.

Much of the former golf course’s paved trails remain (and there’re new trails as well), and folks can walk them through areas in development, including prairie and wetlands, a tree farm planted by Trees for Houston and a picnic grove. In fact, the entire property is game for exploring. But sorry, no dogs allowed. 

Need a rest? There’s the welcome pavilion's covered porch (designed by Overland Partners), a shady pine grove with bistro tables, a covered walkway with bench seating along the garden's "welcome wall," and lots of places to perch around the grounds—look for the little wooden houses nestled in the Global Collection.  

There’s much to come this fall.

The Culinary Garden, which was planted just this week with edible and medicinal plants, is now starting to grow, and its eye-catching waterwall, which was added into the design after the garden exceeded its fundraising goals (they raised $38.5 million for the launch, according to the Chronicle), is forthcoming this fall. There are also plans for a large, communal table for outdoor events in this area. 

Also in the fall, the Woodland Glade, an intimate, open space surrounded by magnolias and sculpted hedges, will open, and visitors can rent it out for weddings and other events.

And in the works for the long haul—more gardens (of course), an education center, a conservatory, and a restaurant. Until then, grab-and-go food and drink will be available in the welcome center.  

The opening season spans four weekends.

For the launch, over the next few weekends expect loads of educational opportunities (and food trucks), inspired by cultures and plants around the world, as the garden celebrates the diversity of Houston with the following theme weekends:

  • Sept 18–20: Latin America 
  • Oct 2–4:  Asia 
  • Oct 16–18: Africa 
  • Oct 30–Nov. 1: Mediterranean 

It does cost to get in (and face masks are required). 

The Garden has memberships at several levels, with prices starting at $50. Single day tickets are $12.50 for adults and $8 for students (with current ID) and kids (3 and up), Monday–Thursday; $15 for adults and $10 for students and kids, Friday–Sunday.

Docent tours (led by volunteers) are offered Wednesdays and Saturday–Sunday at 9:30 a.m. for an extra $3 per adult or $1 per child, and horticulture tours (led by staff) are on Saturdays at 9:30 a.m. for an extra $5 per adult or $3 per child.

9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. The Garden’s entrance is located at 8210 Park Place Blvd. More info at hbg.org.