Houston Arboretum & Nature Center Begins Phase One of Nature Center Building Renovations

Fall Events Calendar Starts in September

Renovations have already begun at Nature Center

The Houston Arboretum & Nature Center’s renovations have begun this week and the two-phase building overhaul will be ongoing through early 2020. Part of the Nature Center will remain open to the public throughout renovations, while all fall programming will continue as planned. However, the Discovery Room will be closed until phase 2 is completed.


Phase 1 renovations, which will last until November 2019, will focus on the original 4,000 square feet of the Nature Center building built in 1967. Since the building’s last renovation and expansion in the mid-1990s, this portion of the building has housed offices, a staff workroom and the old Discovery Room which will all be converted into a new Nature Shop and two new classrooms.

Additionally, the building’s main entrance will be moved back to its original 1967 location on the western front of the building and the outdoor bathrooms will receive much needed updates.

Until phase 1 renovations are complete, visitors will still enter the Nature Center via the current main entrance on the north side of the building.

A welcome kiosk with a limited number of items for sale is open, and building hours will continue to be 9 a.m.–5 p.m.

As always, the Arboretum grounds will stay open from 7 a.m. to dusk. Guests can enjoy the trails, including the popular Outer Loop, new Ravine Trail, and Field Stations featuring interpretive signage designed to enlighten and educate.

During phase 1 of renovations, public restrooms and water fountains will only be available from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.


The second phase of the Nature Center’s renovation is scheduled from November through early 2020 and will focus on the newer portion of the building which was added in the ‘90s. This remodel includes needed updates to four existing classrooms, conversion of an old library (recently used as office space) into a new classroom, addition of a new outdoor classroom and construction of the new Discovery Room.

Once it reopens, the new Discovery Room will feature a mixture of guest favorites and brand new exhibits. Visitors will still be able to enjoy wetland wildlife in the aquarium, peer through microscopes, get up close and personal with biofacts, and explore a re-imagined version of the old Discovery Room’s iconic tree, adorned with whimsical illustrations of animals.

Other highlights of the Discovery Room include a new home for the Arboretum’s ambassador animals, a Prairie Underground for kids to crawl through, and exciting new interactive exhibits, all designed to educate visitors about the habitats, plants and animals of the Arboretum.

“We are thrilled to embark on this next step in our Master Plan,” says Debbie Markey, Executive Director. “The Plan has always been two-fold: to restore the Arboretum’s resilient and sustainable native ecosystems and to expand our educational reach to adults and children through outstanding facilities and programs. The newly reconceptualized Nature Center is a key component in realizing our educational mission.”

Arboretum staff members are now enjoying new offices, a conference room, and a large staff and volunteer workroom in the recently opened Administration Building, designed by Lake|Flato Architects. Located next to the Nature Center in what was formerly the parking lot, the new building was designed to have both a low profile and minimal impact on the landscape of the Arboretum.

One novel aspect of the building is “bird-friendly” glass, which embeds a subtle crisscross pattern that birds can detect but is not easily seen by humans. This helps birds in the area to avoid window collisions – an unfortunately common occurrence that kills over 365 million birds annually in the US alone.


Markey emphasized that programming at the Arboretum is “full speed ahead.” Two new free offerings are available in September, including Roving Naturalists on Saturdays from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. and Guided Nature Hikes on Saturdays at 10 a.m. and 11 a.m.

Come and learn fun facts and make new discoveries about flora and fauna with the Roving Naturalists around the Nature Center building. Guided Nature Hikes will give guests an insider’s view of the Arboretum. Stroller-friendly hikes are available for families of young children. Registration is required for the Guided Nature Hikes, which can be done online at www.houstonarboretum.org.  

Additionally, the Arboretum will host two September open houses, including Sept. 4 from 10 a.m. to noon for anyone interested in volunteering as a Docent Naturalist and Sept. 7 from 10 a.m. – noon to learn about general volunteer opportunities. Volunteers are vital to the Arboretum’s success in education, outreach and conservation.

Check the Arboretum’s program schedule for all fall events, including the Fall Plant Sale and family favorite, ArBOOretum, both in October. The remodeled event lawn, which is also currently under construction, will be open for ArBOOretum.


The Houston Arboretum is located at 4501 Woodway Dr., Houston, 77024. For more information visit www.houstonarboretum.org or call 713-681-4833.

Photos courtesy of The Houston Arboretum