Day Trips: Lucky Land, Houston

Chinese-themed gardens guarded by thousands of terra-cotta soldiers

Photos by Gerald E. McLeod

Lucky Land in Houston takes you on a journey to China through an outdoor museum. It's a fun garden of pandas, Buddhas, monster robot art, martial arts, and terra-cotta soldiers.

It was the terra-cotta soldiers that brought me to the park among the flea markets, auto shops, and Mexican restaurants in North Houston. The statues are the last vestiges of the Forbidden Gardens.

From 1997 until 2011, the Forbidden Gardens was the biggest tourist attraction in Katy. Ira P.H. Poon, a Hong Kong real estate investor who lived in Seattle, built the gardens as a showplace of Asian culture.

Among the many symbols of China brought to the Texas Coastal Plains were 6,000 terra-cotta soldiers. Poon had the soldiers made at one-third scale to match the clay army unearthed in 1974 by farmers near Xi'an, China. It was an amazing sight.

When the Texas Department of Transportation announced that it was building a highway through the 40-acre gardens, Poon gave up on his Texas hobby and auctioned off everything. The emperor's army of sand-colored soldiers was furloughed to backyards around Houston.

Just days before bulldozers were to begin leveling the site, Nida Lee discovered that hundreds of the soldiers remained at Forbidden Gardens. She and her husband, Jack, gathered what they could and added it to their impressive collection of outdoor art next to their Sunny Flea Market.

Lucky Land is at 8625 Airline Dr. in North Houston. The park is divided into different themed gardens connected by koi ponds. Admission runs from $5 to $10. Closed on Mondays, the gates open Tuesday through Friday from 10am to 5pm, and until 6pm on weekends. 346/410-5847,

1,617th in a series. Everywhere is a day trip from somewhere: Follow “Day Trips & Beyond,” a travel blog, at

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Lucky Land, Houston, Forbidden Gardens, Ira P.H. Poon, China, Nida Lee, Jack Lee, Sunny Flea Market

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