No one puts the "discovery" in Houston quite like Discovery Green. Well into its 10 year anniversary, the park perched in the heart of downtown continues to celebrate the cornucopia of Houston's culture by providing the best and brightest arts, entertainment and activities for everyone to explore. Thanks to contributions from park users, foundations and sponsors, the public can experience a majority of them for free.
Among the roster of events, which run September 1 through November 15, are a series of highlighted occasions as well as a series of mini-seasons that include art, movies, music, fitness classes, youth education and culinary experiences.
"I’m so excited about what we’re able to do and present this fall. There are so many. Each one is a great story. It's going to be an amazing season," said Susanne Theis, programming director for the 12-acre, grass-covered crown jewel of Houston.
Special events dot the schedule, so let's make like Maria von Trapp and start at the very beginning of the highlights: they include moonGARDEN, a flea market, a Halloween celebration, the inaugural Día de los Muertos and the continuation of the Bayou City Music Series, a multi-park series spotlighting the best of local jazz, blues and zydeco.
moonGARDEN, running September 29 through October 7
Take in an installation of 22 illuminated spheres that will transform the park and Avenida Houston into a magical moonscape. Ranging in size from six to 30 feet in diameter, the spheres will feature innovative shadow puppetry that tells the diverse, dynamic story of Houston and Discovery Green, as well as interactive works that allow visitors to become part of the experience. The Houston installation of moonGARDEN is the largest ever presented by Montreal artist collective Lucion Traveling Light. The works will be visible during all park hours, but the lights will be activated nightly beginning at 6 p.m.
Discovery Green's Fall Season Heralds Art, Fitness, Food and More
Included in the programming for moonGARDEN are three auxiliary celebrations:
Opening Night, 7:30-10 p.m. Saturday, September 29
Opening night activities include a Cirque la Vie performance of Lyrical, a screening of Moonstruck and more.
Moon Dance, 7:30-10 p.m., Sunday September 30
Bring your date for “Moon Dance,” a romantic evening at moonGARDEN. After a stroll among the magical moonscape, complete the evening with dancing lessons, Inprint poetry buskers and surprises.
Goodnight Moon, 7-9 p.m., Friday, October 5
Discovery Green hosts a pajama party for the city of Houston at “Goodnight, Moon.” Milk and cookies will be served, celebrity readers will share the beloved children’s book in the languages of Houston and the Astrological Society will be on hand with telescopes for star-gazing.
Rounding out the special events are a few more crowd pleasers:
Flea by Night, 6-10 p.m. Saturdays, September 15 and October 20
Flea by Night, presented by Green Mountain Energy, is an eco-conscious shopping event. Treasure hunt for vintage, handmade, recycled, repurposed and renewed goods, plus enjoy live music and food trucks.
Scream on the Green, 6-10 p.m., Friday, October 26
The annual Halloween celebration features a costume contest for all ages, family fun and more.
Día de los Muertos, 6-10 p.m., Friday, November 2
Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is a Mexican holiday where families and friends gather to celebrate, remember and prepare special foods in honor of those who are no longer living. Presented by Taqueria Arandas, the festival will feature an altar where visitors are invited to place images of their departed loved ones, as well as a procession, hands-on art activities and artist demos, local artist and retail booths, a live Día de los Muertos concert by Jarabe Mexicano and other performances throughout the evening.
Bayou City Music Series, 7-9 p.m., Saturday, November 10
Performances by blues singer and songwriter Diunna Greenleaf and Blue Note jazz pianist James Francies celebrate Houston’s blues, jazz and soul heritage. Made possible by the Kinder Foundation, this series honors the great jazz, blues and zydeco musicians of Houston in concerts taking place at Buffalo Bayou Park (Saturday, September 15), Emancipation Park (Saturday, October 13) and Discovery Green (Saturday, November 10).
Don't forget about the rest of the regular programming, and it's in no short order. The Discovery Green Conservancy works with hundreds of programming partners to present more than 700 artistic, musical, educational, family-friendly and health-focused events each year. Take a restroom break now....the list lasts longer than the Lord of the Rings series on repeat.
Discovery Green makes a concerted effort to match the needs and requests of the city they represent.
"I think one of the biggest shifts is that we have committed more of our resources to presenting public art. The public responds to it so much, they love engaging in public arts," said Theis. "The foundation of our mission and our programming is that we want to be the village green of Houston, and our programming is based on providing health and happiness through the window of life and art in Houston."
The Art Series includes some of the best visual and performing arts available in town.
METdance Season Kick-off, 8-10 p.m., Saturday October 6.
METdance dives into its 23rd season with a performance under the stars and at the moonGARDEN.
Art@DiscoveryGreen, Preview 6-10 p.m., Friday, November 2; Market open 10 a.m.- 6 p.m., Saturday, November 3, and 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Sunday, November 4
Houston icon GONZO247 is the featured artist for the third annual project, which features more than 75 fine art and contemporary craft artists. Shop for paintings, sculptures, photography, jewelry and more at this outdoor market.
Never one to forget the movie lovers, Discovery Green has your back with silver screen hits from the 80s to the contemporary.
The Bank of America Screen on the Green presented by Taqueria Arandas includes family-friendly movies with a view of the downtown skyline. Bring blankets or lawn chairs and arrive early for contest and other activities. The lineup includes WALL-E at 8 p.m. on Saturday, September 22, Goosebumps at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday October 20, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, October 26 and Black Panther at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, November 3.
The party continues with Unplugged at Discovery Green. Formerly dubbed Canned Acoustica, Unplugged presents the best musical acts in town on the park's Transier Bandstand. The series challenges bands to rethink and rearrange their songs using only acoustic instruments, resulting in a unique and intimate performance.
Expect performances from Nick Gaitan, Jealous Creatures, Christian Kidd of The Hates, SG & The Soul and Pecos Hank from 5-9 p.m. on Sunday, September 16. The second half of the series will have performances from Ancient Cat Society, Howard & the Nosebleeds, Kay Weathers, John Egan and Kimi Kent from 5-9 p.m. on Sunday, October 21.
In addition to the Unplugged series, the park also features concerts with the best music of the Gulf Coast with its Thursday Concerts, presented by Green Mountain Energy. Get ready for David Lee Garza on September 20, The Tontons on October 4, and Secret Sisters on November 1. All concerts start at 7 p.m. on name-implied Thursdays. More acts will be announced at a later date.
And what good would a park be without a few fitness classes? In Discovery Green's case, they are overflowing with options, so find one that works best for you and dive in:
Fitness in the Park, presented by Sprouts Farmers Market, offers a fitness series sure to fit anyones health level and lifestyle:
Yoga, 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m., Mondays, September 10-November 12
Heartfulness Meditation, 12:30 p.m.-1:30 p.m., Mondays, September 10-November 12
Circus Arts, 6-8 p.m., Tuesdays, September 4-November 13
Core-Focused Yoga, 6:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m., Tuesdays, September 4-November 13
Zumba, 6:30-7:30 p.m., Wednesdays, September 5-November 14
Parkour, 6:30 p.m.-8 p.m.,Thursdays, September 6-November 15
Hatha Yoga, 9:30-10:30 a.m., Saturdays, September 1-November 10
Tai Chi, 9:30-10:30 a.m., Sundays, September 2-November 11
Also, schedule some time for Kayak Rides and R/C Boats on Kinder Lake, 11 a.m.-6 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays from September 1-November 11.
The Earth's health is just as important, so the park will offer Recycling Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. from September 1-November 17. Bring sorted glass, paper, plastic and aluminum to recycling stations provided by the City of Houston and iRecycle Glass.
Taking a hint from Whitney Houston's infamous "Greatest Love of All," Discovery Green knows the children are our future, so they've also include some educational opportunities for the tykes. The McNair Foundation Families and Children Series will provide a chance for enrichment for our youth:
Young Writers Workshop, 10:30-11:30 a.m., Saturdays, September 1-November 10
STEM Saturdays, 12:30-1:30 p.m., Saturdays, September 1-November 10
Toddler Tuesdays, 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m., Tuesdays, September 4-October 30
Youth Performance Poetry Sessions, 6:30-8 p.m., Fridays, September 7, October 5 and November 2
Sundays in the Park, 2-5 p.m., Sundays, September 2-November 11
My First Music Lesson, 3-4 p.m., Sundays, September 9, October 14 and November 11
Take Me Outdoors Houston, 10 a.m.-3 p.m., Saturday, September 22
And, of course, it wouldn't be a Houston experience without sampling the great dining scene, including The Grove and The Lake House. The Grove is an urban dining concept from the Schiller Del Grande Restaurant Group that overlooks the park's aisle of century-old live oaks. James Beard Award-winning Executive Chef Robert Del Grande and Chef de Cuisine Ryan Williams curate an ever-evolving menu of American fare with a nod to the restaurant's Gulf Coast locale. Be sure to check our the Tree House Happy Hour from 4-7 p.m. on Monday, September 3 and the Sunday Suppers from 5:30-8:30 p.m. on Sepember. 9, October 7 and November 11. For a more casual bite, The Lake House is a fast-casual concept offering burgers, grilled chicken, salads, beer and wine.
Getting to the 10-year mark was no easy task. Getting the park to open was even harder.
"I was here before the park opened. Twice a week, I did a breakfast club presentation about Discovery Green. I heard from so many people that no families would go downtown. Downtown Houston was notorious for rolling up the sidewalks at night, even though 150,000 people work here. Discovery Green changed those ideas," Theis said. "People didn’t come downtown for recreation or leisure, and there was a dearth of public space in Houston that brought people together from different backgrounds. You might go to your neighborhood park to walk your dog, but there were only a few places you could go to a relaxed environment with your citizens, and Discovery Green changed that."
Theis says the park plans its programming in an inclusive way to represent all the various facets of Houston's community, and it encourages people to take in all of the rich culture that surrounds us. Since we are the country's most diverse city, it's a herculean task, but it's one that Discovery Green has managed to slay - and they make it look easy.
"Houston is a difficult town to get to know from the outside, and by programming that reflects life in our city in this visible space, people experience aspects of life in Houston in a very visible, public way. It helps peel back the onion that sometimes Houston can feel like," she said.
Discovery Green's 10 years have provided a boon for the city, especially downtown, and there are ways for the public to get involved with the park beyond attending its multiple events, including joining the affinity group Forever Green.
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For a gift of $120 per year, anyone can become a member of Forever Green, which includes access to member-only programs, preferred seating and express lines at select programs, and special discounts and promotions at select in-park vendors.
"It works out to $10 per month. The program provides a way for people who love the park to get more involved and engaged," said Theis. "Our members will be invited to a private preview [of moonGARDEN]. That’s a way to get more involved in Discovery Green, giving back and helping it’s programs to be extended."
Like a Joni Mitchell song in reverse, Discovery Green took a row of paved parking lots and transformed it into paradise, so get out and enjoy the wide spectrum of cultural events offered around the year - all at an unbeatable price.
Discovery Greens fall season runs September 1 through November 15 at 1500 McKinney. For more information about classes, programs, special events or joining Forever Green, please visit discoverygreen.com.