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January Day at Discovery Green Park in Downtown Houston, TX: Ice Sculpture, Ice Skating, and More

Updated on June 5, 2020
Peggy W profile image

I live in Houston and have worked as a nurse. I have a lifelong passion for traveling, nature, and photography (preferably all together!).

See photos of the 4th annual ice sculpting competition at Discovery Green Park by one dozen ice-sculpture artists.
See photos of the 4th annual ice sculpting competition at Discovery Green Park by one dozen ice-sculpture artists. | Source

Downtown Houston Park

More than 600 different free events occur throughout the year in Discovery Green Park in downtown Houston. Some of them are seasonal, while others are ongoing regularly. The address is 1500 McKinney St., Houston, Texas 77010.

There is so much to see and enjoy in this downtown venue. This post will focus solely on impressions and images from a one-day-only event held in this park on Saturday, January 7, 2012. The ice sculpting event lasted from 10 am to 5:30 pm.

Some friends invited me to join them to primarily see the so-called "Dirty Dozen" compete in an outdoor competitive 4th annual ice sculpting competition. I gladly accepted thinking that it would be fun to see and experience. It was one of the free events open to the public.

Around the country, including states as far away as Illinois, California, and Alaska, one dozen recognized ice sculpting artists came to Discovery Green Park to compete. Using chainsaws and some blowtorches and chisels, they transformed large blocks of ice into ice sculptures of various types.

Free street parking is limited, but there is plenty of underground parking spaces where one pays a fee to park vehicles. That is what we chose to do. The day proved to be sunny and comfortably warm. Competitive ice sculpting proved to be a popular crowd-pleasing event.

Video of the first annual ice sculpting competition in Houston

Annual Ice Sculpting Competition

I am sure when this event was reserved well in advance, the planners never expected that this January day would be 76 degrees Fahrenheit or even a few degrees higher. But that is what the day brought by way of outdoor temperatures!

These blocks of ice had come from frozen rainwater. They were shaded from large trees and partially covered with insulating materials to keep them frozen as long as possible. The sculptures would later serve to water areas of the park as they melted. Following several years of severe drought, the extra water from those melting ice sculptures would be welcome.

A white picket fencing surrounded the area where these icy mediums were being transformed into recognizable masterpieces, and the public was invited to vote on their favorites. There was to be a grand prize of cash and a people's choice award as well. Of course, the bragging rights would be priceless!

As you will be able to tell from the many photos that I took, one could view the ice sculptures from different angles by walking around the fenced area. As the day progressed, the blocks of ice indeed became works of art.

We did not stay to see who won this year's contest nor for the performance, which was to take place on the Anheuser-Busch stage between The Reverend Butter and the winning ice sculptors. However, we did see people already laying out blankets on the Jones Lawn in preparation for that event.

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4th annual ice sculpting competition at Discovery Green Park by one dozen ice-sculpture artists.Houston Texans logo in this ice sculpture designThe Texans won their playoff game that day!  Hooray!Too early to tell what this will ultimately become.Great looking fish!We saw the progression as time passed.
4th annual ice sculpting competition at Discovery Green Park by one dozen ice-sculpture artists.
4th annual ice sculpting competition at Discovery Green Park by one dozen ice-sculpture artists. | Source
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Houston Texans logo in this ice sculpture design
Houston Texans logo in this ice sculpture design | Source
The Texans won their playoff game that day!  Hooray!
The Texans won their playoff game that day! Hooray! | Source
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Too early to tell what this will ultimately become.
Too early to tell what this will ultimately become. | Source
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Great looking fish!
Great looking fish! | Source
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We saw the progression as time passed.
We saw the progression as time passed. | Source
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Ice Skating

This year the outdoor ice skating rink at Discovery Green was opened on November 24, 2011, and will remain open until January 22, 2012. The dates may vary slightly year to year, but this has also become an annual thing to enjoy in Houston. Corporate sponsors help make this possible.

Tickets cost $10 plus tax, but this also includes the skate rental. Except for a few people who have moved here from more northern climates and moved their ice skates with them, few Houstonians would typically have a pair of ice skates in their possession.

Just look at the fun people seemed to be having on the day of our visit!

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Ice skating at Discovery Green Park in Houston, Texas
Ice skating at Discovery Green Park in Houston, Texas
Ice skating at Discovery Green Park in Houston, Texas | Source
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Gateway Fountain

It brought smiles to our faces to see the delight of children and their parents splashing about and having fun in this Discovery Green fountain. On a patterned granite surface, jets of water sometimes low and at other times arcing up to heights as high as fourteen feet have people laughing and playing.

In the heat of the summer months, the cooling effect of the water would be particularly lovely!

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Playing in the Gateway Fountain at Discovery Green Park
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Playing in the Gateway Fountain at Discovery Green Park
Playing in the Gateway Fountain at Discovery Green Park | Source
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Art in the Park

Some of my photos also captured giant balloons hanging from the large 100-year-old live oak trees along the Brown Foundation Promenade.

That temporary public art display was adjacent to where the blocks of ice were becoming ice sculptures. The exhibit was titled "Through the Eyes of a Child," created by David Graeve. David Graeve is a well-known artist who does these balloon sculptures with their faces as well as other types of art.

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Seasonal art exhibit at Discovery Green Park by artist David Graeve with the title "Through The Eyes of a Child"Crowds of people looking at the ice sculpting competition.Behind the white fence was the ice sculpting competition.
Seasonal art exhibit at Discovery Green Park by artist David Graeve with the title "Through The Eyes of a Child"
Seasonal art exhibit at Discovery Green Park by artist David Graeve with the title "Through The Eyes of a Child" | Source
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Crowds of people looking at the ice sculpting competition.
Crowds of people looking at the ice sculpting competition. | Source
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Behind the white fence was the ice sculpting competition.
Behind the white fence was the ice sculpting competition. | Source

Artful Golf Cart

Those who follow my writings know my appreciation of the wild and wacky forms of art plus the beautiful and sublime. This vehicle in Discovery Green drew lots of attention and also made people smile.

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Bringing smiles to people's facesClose-up portion of the art cartThey appear to rent hula hoops from the back of the cart.
Bringing smiles to people's faces
Bringing smiles to people's faces | Source
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Close-up portion of the art cart
Close-up portion of the art cart | Source
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They appear to rent hula hoops from the back of the cart.
They appear to rent hula hoops from the back of the cart. | Source

John P. McGovern Playground

Kids are always having fun in this playground area of Discovery Green Park. For the first time, I walked over to it and discovered that the ground area is composed of some soft yet sturdy material (perhaps recycled rubber?), which would make for a soft landing if children happen to trip or fall.

From a distance, I noticed some bird images. I found out that they are a permanent feature of the playground and represent the many types of birds that fly over Houston migrating further south or north, depending upon the time of year.

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John P. McGovern Playground at Discovery GreenNote the flying bird images at the top of the playground equipment on the right.See flying bird images at the top of the playground equipment on the right.
John P. McGovern Playground at Discovery Green
John P. McGovern Playground at Discovery Green | Source
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Note the flying bird images at the top of the playground equipment on the right.
Note the flying bird images at the top of the playground equipment on the right. | Source
See flying bird images at the top of the playground equipment on the right.
See flying bird images at the top of the playground equipment on the right. | Source

Fun Day

As readers of this post can tell from the photos below, many people had their four-footed friends on leashes with them in Discovery Green Park.

There were many different concessionaires ready to supply food and drinks to the people enjoying a day in the park, whether strolling the grounds, sitting at picnic tables, chairs, or sprawled out on blankets placed on the ground.

The skies over Houston that day were clear and blue with an occasional cloud passing overhead. Everyone seemed to be having a good time.

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People already laying out blankets and getting their spots secured on Jones Lawn for the performance which was to take place on the stage.George R. Brown convention center in backgroundA DJ providing music for the crowd at Discovery Green during the ice sculpting contest.One of the many concession trucks selling items in the park that day.Friends Judi and Teresa who spent the day with me in the park.
People already laying out blankets and getting their spots secured on Jones Lawn for the performance which was to take place on the stage.
People already laying out blankets and getting their spots secured on Jones Lawn for the performance which was to take place on the stage. | Source
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George R. Brown convention center in background
George R. Brown convention center in background | Source
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A DJ providing music for the crowd at Discovery Green during the ice sculpting contest.
A DJ providing music for the crowd at Discovery Green during the ice sculpting contest. | Source
One of the many concession trucks selling items in the park that day.
One of the many concession trucks selling items in the park that day. | Source
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Friends Judi and Teresa who spent the day with me in the park.
Friends Judi and Teresa who spent the day with me in the park. | Source

The Grove

At the south end of Discovery Green is a beautiful restaurant called The Grove. It blends perfectly with the surrounding area overlooking the century-old trees and lawn areas with spectacular views of the park. Large glass windows allow one to view activities in the park, and one can sit both inside and outside.

My two friends and I decided to have lunch there, and we were very pleased with the décor, food, service and overall ambiance.

We shared an appetizer of BBQ glazed pork meatballs with a buttermilk dressing as a base on the plate. Then we all decided to have the same entrée with was a grilled salmon salad Mediterranean style with chickpeas, shaved carrots, and fennel. The wood-grilled 5-ounce portion of salmon had an herbed aioli sauce drizzled over the top. All of us agreed that the food was not only visually beautiful but tasty as well.

I would choose to return anytime! Looking at the plates of other diners as we walked out, there are many more enticing dishes just waiting to be sampled and enjoyed.

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Exterior view of The Grove restaurant.Inside of The Grove restaurantLooking out one of the windows at the crowd looking at the ice sculpting competition.  The table had just been cleared so I could get these photo shots.Looking out one of the windows at the crowd looking at the ice sculpting competition as well as those enjoying food and drink outside of The Grove.Looking out one of the windows of The Grove restaurantInterior view of The Grove before it got really busy with customers.Private room in the back at The Grove restaurantArtwork inside of The GrovePretty lampshadesAppetizer of BBQ glazed pork meatballs with buttermilk dressing.  Tasty!Close-up photo of the BBQ glazed pork meatballsThe grilled salmon salad is delicious.
Exterior view of The Grove restaurant.
Exterior view of The Grove restaurant. | Source
Inside of The Grove restaurant
Inside of The Grove restaurant | Source
Looking out one of the windows at the crowd looking at the ice sculpting competition.  The table had just been cleared so I could get these photo shots.
Looking out one of the windows at the crowd looking at the ice sculpting competition. The table had just been cleared so I could get these photo shots. | Source
Looking out one of the windows at the crowd looking at the ice sculpting competition as well as those enjoying food and drink outside of The Grove.
Looking out one of the windows at the crowd looking at the ice sculpting competition as well as those enjoying food and drink outside of The Grove. | Source
Looking out one of the windows of The Grove restaurant
Looking out one of the windows of The Grove restaurant | Source
Interior view of The Grove before it got really busy with customers.
Interior view of The Grove before it got really busy with customers. | Source
Private room in the back at The Grove restaurant
Private room in the back at The Grove restaurant | Source
Artwork inside of The Grove
Artwork inside of The Grove | Source
Pretty lampshades
Pretty lampshades | Source
Appetizer of BBQ glazed pork meatballs with buttermilk dressing.  Tasty!
Appetizer of BBQ glazed pork meatballs with buttermilk dressing. Tasty! | Source
Close-up photo of the BBQ glazed pork meatballs
Close-up photo of the BBQ glazed pork meatballs | Source
The grilled salmon salad is delicious.
The grilled salmon salad is delicious. | Source

Discovery Green Conservancy

The video below tells more and shows more images regarding this downtown Houston park. I did not realize until recently that it is not a city park but a privately run and operated non-profit entity called the Discovery Green Conservancy.

Year-Round Venue

If you find yourself anywhere near downtown and are at a loss of ideas of what to do in Houston, perhaps this one half-day journey to Discovery Green Park with my photos will give you ideas of what there is to see in January. Even if there is no ice sculpting and ice skating, excitement and special events will help keep you entertained at all times of the year. The best part of all is that the vast majority of things in the park are always free.

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Discovery Green Park:
Discovery Green, 1500 McKinney St, Houston, TX 77010-4011, USA

get directions

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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2012 Peggy Woods

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