With a unique combination of wetlands, wide open space, bayou, prairie, and forest ecosystems within a short ride from Houston, it is no wonder that it is a haven for outdoor and enthusiasts. And parents looking for affordable ways to keep their kids from bouncing off the walls at home.
With local wildlife thriving in many of the Houston protected wildlife and natural refuge areas, it has seen the rise in the number of outdoor attractions. As tourists and city folks throng to the said attractions for quick getaways, it created a boom in Houston’s traditional historical, art and museum scene. Restaurants are found within a short walk from each other, traditional family-run mom-and-pop shops enjoy a steady stream of excited families, hotels are quickly booked up during peak seasons, and its cultural tours are snapped up within weeks of opening.
Whether you choose to call it a road trip or a day trip, the main idea is to spend little, do much. I mean, movies had been made around such ideas. Day trips from Houston are also great for those who are looking for quick ways to sidestep their everyday ‘adulting’ lives for a little while so that they can do the ‘new age thing’ of ‘living in the moment’. There’s nothing like taking a rented charter bus to a hiking trail in a swamp and look an alligator in the eyes that remind you to live in the moment, really.
Without further ado, let’s delve into the things to do around Houston that are worth the gas money.
1. Beach Camping at Mustang Island
Houston enjoys the average temperature of 69 degrees throughout the year. When it is freezing in other parts of the country, in more ways than one, people in Houston are just chilling outside their yard with a beer in hand. And that makes it an excellent place to enjoy the great outdoors.
For instance, you can opt to bring your kids for good ole beach camping on Mustang Island which is approximately 230 miles or 3 hours’ drive from Houston. Some would argue that the sunset over the Gulf opens the floodgates to hours of self reflection and tectonic shifts to world views.
17047 Hwy 361, Port Aransas, TX 78373
A gorgeous beachside state park in South Port Aransas
It’s hot even in the night, it calls for sandals and shorts all day long because… well, it’s the beach
Private and feels like a personal piece of Heaven
Soft sand that feels like clouds sifting through your fingers
Watch out for local wildlife as many curious seabirds would be looking out at you, and you can catch shellfish in action throughout the beach area.
2. Off a-Camping along Lake Houston Wilderness Park
Being the only state park managed by the Houston Parks and Recreation Department that allows for overnight camping, the park lets you run the gamut of going hiking, biking, horseback riding, enjoy recreational and nature-based programs, playing tennis, skating, flying kites, golfing, canoeing… you name it, they have it. Because it is so popular with holiday-goers, the good news is that you can simply take a page from someone who has been there, start pinning down the activities that YOU want to do and start scheduling so that you don’t stretch yourself too thin in the end.
And besides, it’s less than 35 miles from downtown Houston and 35 minutes’ drive away, there are very few excuses left.
Lake Houston Wilderness Park
25840 Farm to Market 1485, New Caney, TX 77357
20 miles of hiking, biking, and equestrian trails
It has a long list of summer activities suitable for young children, teens and adults alike where they also get free lunch! ‘Free’ is hard to beat
Has amenities for golfing, tennis, adults sports leagues, fitness programs, rustic camping areas surrounded by wooded terrain
Its educational nature center is extremely popular; holds programs like Teen Adventure Caravan and Summer Enrichment Programs
Opens from Sunday to Monday 7am to 6pm; Friday and Saturday 7am to 8pm; Closed on Tuesday
3. Kayaking and Hiking at Big Bend National Park
It may be a bit of a drive from Houston considering that the park is tucked away more than 550 miles away from the heart of Houston, which will take approximately 8 hours of driving to reach, review reveals that it will be worth the charter bus drive (AND it will be very scenic along the way – ROAD TRIP!) if you have an inclination towards hiking, photography, camping, kayaking, mountain ranges, steep limestone cliffs, golfing, horseback riding, zip lining and shopping. The RVer in you, the one who is yearning to ‘get away from it all’ will be celebrating the trip. Whizzing past desolate landscape, approaching the Chisos Mountain Range and the Chihuahuan Desert is so breathtaking, you’ll be stopping midway for picture-perfect snapshots. You’ll be, after all, rolling past The Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive, taking you around the ruins of Sam Nail Ranch, Santa Elena Canyon, Rio Grande and the Langford Hot Springs right across Mexico.
Big Bend National Park
One of the coolest and most memorable scenic drives in North America
A wide range of activities available
Suitable for people of all ages, including children and the elderly
An opportunity to explore hot springs, historic sites, old bathhouses, woods, and catch the best sunrise and sunset
Has camping spots where nature offering the best of both natural and modern world
Best time to visit is during spring or fall
An abundance of wildlife
4. Croc-Watching at Brazos Bend State Park
If you’ve ever wanted to prove your mettle and show that you’re a man made of steel, there’s nothing like the wild experience of staring wild crocodiles in the eyes while nonchalantly walking past them. Located less than 50 miles from Houston, approximately an hour’s charter bus ride away, the park is a sure-fire winner with nature lovers. All the better if you’re always ready with your camera. Armed with a good pair of boots and a few binoculars, there is a large number of alligators waiting in the six lakes in the park. If you’re not one to come face to face with alligators, the park exhibits bronze sculptures of local wildlife, a boardwalk and an observation deck, complete with shaded areas for rests and picnics. Suffice to say, as long as you’re familiar with the alligator safety rules, you’re good to go.
Brazos Bend State Park
21901 FM 762 Rd, Needville, TX 77461
Offers the perfect blend of a laid-back road trip and an exciting camp-out
Located near Brazos River in Needville, TX
A half-mile trail, Creekfield Lake Nature Trail, is perfect for nature walks
Self-guided tours and scavenger hunts available
On-leash pets are allowed
13 miles worth of equestrian trails
Learn more about local wildlife and ecosystem at the nature center
The observatory, a part of the Houston Museum of Natural Science, is open on Saturdays only from 3pm to 10pm
5. Romantic Stargazing at Enchanted Rock
The magical and mystical location can be found about 4 hours northwest from Houston, TX, and offers you views so unforgettable that it could be an impetus for something creative and inspiring. Climb the ancient dome and be rewarded with gasp-worthy views of Hill Country, gawk at the unusual pink granite dome sticking out of Central Texas as Mother Nature intended it to while taking picture after picture of the enchanting and legendary rock formations that are like no other. Rock climb, backpack, hike, picnic, study birds, stargaze or bike around the attraction while finding your sweet spot throughout the more than 10 miles worth of scenic trails. It is worth mentioning that interactive and physical maps of the terrain will prove to be absolutely essential here so, arm yourself with it before setting off. Legend has it that if you want a superpower, this is the place to get it. Natives believed that anyone who stayed overnight at the rock will become invisible and the rock is haunted.
near Fredericksburg, Texas, US
Located close to the historic and iconic Fredericksburg, TX
All trails close, rain or shine, 30 minutes before the sun sets, except for Loop Trail
Rock climbers are required to check in with the headquarters before heading out; guide regarding rock climbing is available at the HQ
Park rangers are available for individuals or groups for special tours and field trips
Look out for awesome vernal pools and hidden caves
Houston is a Massive Playground for Outdoor Lovers
Houston is blessed with many natural wonders which includes free/affordable parkes, beautiful rock-climbings sites, sweeping canyons and unforgettable waterfalls. Once you’ve sampled what Houston has to offer, you’d be soon planning your nest trip!
And after traversing your way around the rough, rugged terrains of Texas, you can spend a few days getting to know the locals, head out for some shopping and visit some quaint little antique shops and galleries. It would make your trip to Houston one you would not soon forget.
Dennis is an avid traveler who loves traveling, the wild outdoors and writing from a quiet, quaint cafe in the middle of nowhere. He writes for Bus Rentals Houston, a renowned national charter bus rental company.