Do you live in Houston and need a little break from the rate race? Are you a tourist traveling through Texas looking for a break from the usual tourist stops? Either way, here’s just what you need! Here are the 17 very best day trips from Houston.
The 17 Best Day Trips From Houston
1. Galveston Island
Going to Galveston Island is one of the most popular day trips out of Houston. This is essentially a beach town less than an hour out of the city. Put your windows down and breathe in the salt air as you get close to this paradise of sun, surf, and sand. Here you’ll find Moody Gardens, the amusement park named Pleasure Pier, shops, assorted eateries, and more. Other highlights include the Schlitterbahn water park, Stewart Beach, the Texas City Museum, and the Historic Strand District.
2. San Antonio
San Antonio is a smaller city, about three hours away, that can provide visitors with a day of romance and relaxation. Texas’ true cultural center offers guests favorable food, Spanish missions from the 1700s, and the country’s largest Mexican market as well. Be sure to stroll the River Walk for memorable shopping, dining, and drinking. Take a boat ride there too and get another perspective of this tourist fave as you learn some local history.
Austin is reportedly Texas’ coolest city and the “Live Music Capital of the World.” It tends to have a younger crowd populated by the University of Texas. It’s a great place for award-winning cuisine, nightlife, and concerts.
Visit during the warmer months, and go to Zilker Park. It features a world-class botanical garden, the natural Barton Springs Pool, and lovely Lady Bird Lake where you can canoe and kayak. There’s also the popular year-round 6th Street entertainment district full of restaurants and bars.
4. Brazos Bend State Park
This state park is less than an hour from the city. It features almost 40 miles of hiking and biking trails, and one of the country’s largest domed telescopes at the George Observatory. Its residents include American alligators, river otters, white-tailed deer, wild pigs, and 300+ species of birds.
You can learn more about the featured creatures by taking a guided hike via the nature center. You’ll need to purchase a day pass to enter the park. They are $7.00 each.
5. Sam Houston National Forest
Sam Houston National Forest is just an hour out of Houston, but it feels like an entirely different world. Here you can enjoy meandering lakeshores, tranquil, peaceful woodlands, and a lot of wildlife. Local denizens include bald eagles, deer, and woodpeckers.
Feeling athletic? Get ready to hike the state’s longest continuous hiking trail. It runs right through the forest and is 129 miles in total.
6. Space Center Houston And The Johnson Space Center
OK, technically this particular attraction is in Houston. It’s less than half an hour from the city center. Space Center Houston includes the official visitor center and museum. Touch a real Mars rock, see the inside of a space shuttle replica, and even ride in an actual space flight simulator. The Johnson Space Center is the NASA space center for human spaceflight. Take a tram tour and check out the Apollo Mission Control and the astronaut training facilities.
7. San Marcos
If you want to escape Houston for the whole weekend, try San Marcos. Just three hours from the city, you can spend the day here or the entire weekend. Cool off and chill out in the swimming hole at the famous Five Mile Dam Park.
Go kayaking or tubing at Rio Vista Park. Need more? Go hiking at popular Purgatory Creek Natural Area. If that’s not enough, go wakeboarding or water skiing at Texas Ski Ranch.
Conroe is a city about 40 minutes north of Houston. Get a glimpse of the past at the memorable living museum and rugged log cabins of Fernland Historical Park. You can also explore sunflower fields or pumpkin patches at P-6 farms (depending on when you visit) or get a moment’s peace hiking through W G Jones State Forest.
Traveling with children? Visit 7 Acre Wood. Here you can enjoy a mini-golf course, a petting zoo, a playground, a zipline, and more. Visit pretty Lake Conroe too.
9. Corpus Christi
Corpus Christi is one of the most popular day trip locations near Houston. Its most popular tourist attractions include the famous USS Lexington, a former Second World War-era aircraft carrier that’s now a floating museum,
And the stunning South Texas Botanical Gardens & Nature Center, with hummingbird, rose, and succulent gardens. There’s also sunny North Beach. Stroll the authentic 1.5-mile-long Beachwalk and get a view from above with a ride on the fun Ferris wheel.
This city’s motto is “Halfway to Everywhere.” Not only is it about 1.5 hours out of Houston, but it’s also equidistant from San Antonio and Austin. Yes, it’s a popular stopping point on many road trips.
Still, travel writers also think it’s worth a day trip all its own. Steeped in both German and Czech heritage, highlights include a pretty, picturesque main street, and plenty of places to sample Southern comfort food such as the Potter Country Store, and the City Meat Market. Don’t miss the Painted Churches either!
11. College Station
College Station is almost as well-known as Texas A&M University. It’s located roughly 1.5 hours out of Houston. See the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum and learn more about the 41st president, and the popular Museum of the American GI which focuses on military weapons and vehicles. Relax at one of the numerous local wineries. Veteran visitors recommend Messina Hof which was opened in 1977 and is one of the state’s oldest wineries.
Navasota is one of the lesser-known one-day getaways on this list. It actually has something for everyone and several unique attractions too. Stop at the World’s Largest Teapot, where you can also visit an antique shop, a little restaurant, and a lush plant nursery. You can also stop at the local honey farm known as BeeWeaver, and one of the area’s alpaca farms. Downtown you’ll see architecture from the 18 and 1900s. Check out P. Nemir’s Dry Goods, in business for over 100 years, and historical Washington-on-the-Brazos too.
Brenham was founded by German immigrants in the 1900s. It’s a little town rife with history and culture. Foodies though may first recognize it for its famous brand, Blue Bell ice cream. The locals already love it, of course, and visitors are quickly converted. Here you can see the original Blue Bell creamery which harkens back to 1907, see the frozen treats being made, learn all about the history of the company, and, more importantly, sample numerous flavors to your hungry heart’s content.
14. Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge
Take a two-hour drive out of hustling Houston and experience the great outdoors at the awesome Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge. See scenic Trinity Bay before you reach the refuge then meander through the bayous. Enjoy the nature trails and watch for ‘gators, visit the multi-colored butterfly garden, and look for sea turtles along the shore. Bird lovers will spot geese, pelicans, sandpipers, storks, and more!
Travel back through the mists of time to the year 1901. For it was then that the Gladys City Company found a huge oil well that shot black gold 100 feet into the air for nine whole days. Beaumont’s oil boom was born.
This historic place is about 1.5 hours from Houston. Here you can visit the Spindletop Gladys City Boomtown Museum, which features a little 19-century village that regularly holds community picnics and jazz concerts. Into nature? Hike through the 900-acre Cattail Marsh Wetlands. Refuel along the popular self-guided Beaumont Cajun Food Trail.
16. Port Arthur
Located on the border of Louisiana just two hours from the city, Port Arthur offers historical sites, museums, and wonderful views of Lake Sabine’s shoreline. Pick up some local history at the Sabine Pass Battleground State Historic Site and see a scale model of the Civil War-era fort. Check out the Sabine Pass Lighthouse which first shone in 1857. Other highlights here include Janis Joplin’s House, the Dutch Windmill Museum, the Museum of the Gulf Coast, and the Texas Artists Museum.
17. Lake Livingston State Park
This stunning state park is nestled less than an hour north of Houston. Lake Livingston is the second-largest lake in Texas and features peaceful shores and striking sunsets. Here you will find plenty of room for boating, fishing, kayaking, swimming, and stand-up paddleboarding.
Not into watersports? No problem! You can go hiking on the tranquil wooded trails, search for geocaches, and even sample some local adult beverages at one of the area’s numerous wineries. If you decide to spend more time here, there are lakefront cabins available and campgrounds too! Bet you had no idea there was quite so much to do on a day trip outside of Houston!