Escape the City: Top 8 Weekend Trips Near Houston

Travel Inspiration

Houston is a great place, and it’s hard to run out of things to see and do in this big city. That said, sometimes you just want a break from the hustle and bustle. Other times, a simple change in scenery is what’s needed. In both cases, the key is finding 1) things to do outside Houston and 2) places to have a weekend getaway.

The good news? There are tons of ways to escape the city. From beautiful natural areas to various Texas cities with personalities all their own, you’re sure to find a Houston day trip and things to do around Houston that suit your needs. 

Here are some of our favorites. 

Moody Gardens in Galveston

Galveston Island

Distance from Houston: 1 hour

Craving some sun and sand? Galveston Island is the place to go. We love that this charming little island is located just about one hour from Houston, making it a perfect Houston day trip or weekend getaway.

Some of the best things to do in Galveston include hanging out on the beach, going for a swim in the ocean, and building sandcastles. If the beach isn’t enough to keep you busy, check out Moody Gardens and the Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier for even more fun. 

You’ll also want to make sure to have a fun meal at Rainforest Cafe and stop in at MOD Coffeehouse for a delicious morning cup of joe or afternoon pick-me-up!

Where to Stay

When it comes to parking your RV in Galveston, we have to recommend heading down to Galveston Island State Park. We love that this park is outside of the town, meaning you are completely surrounded by nature. Some sites are located within walking distance to the beach, and partial hookups are available. 

Bird at South Padre Island National Seashore

Padre Island National Seashore

Distance from Houston: 3.5 hours

Galveston is fun, but if you’re looking for an even prettier beach, you might want to drive a little further to Padre Island National Seashore. This gorgeous stretch of beach is managed by the National Parks Service and is the perfect place to sink your feet into the soft sand. 

Fishing is a popular activity at the seashore and there are plenty of great seashells to be found. During the summer months, guests can witness baby sea turtle releases and birding is popular year-round. If you have kids in tow, you will also want to be sure to get their Junior Ranger badges!

Where to Stay

One of the coolest things about Padre Island National Seashore is that dry camping is allowed on the beach. That said, there is a risk that your RV will get stuck in the sand. Therefore, we actually recommend camping at Malaquite Campground which is within the park and just a short walk from the surf and sand. 

Sign for Sam Houston National Forest

Sam Houston National Forest

Distance from Houston: about 1.25 hours, depending on actual destination

If you’re looking to escape into nature but the beach isn’t your thing, you might appreciate a visit to Sam Houston National Forest. Like Galveston, this forest is just an hour or so outside of the city, making it the perfect place for quick trips and outdoorsy things to do outside Houston. 

The Forest offers miles upon miles of shaded trails, making it the perfect weekend destination for avid hikers. There are also opportunities for kayaking and canoeing, and rental kayaks and canoes are available in the Double Lake Recreation Area. Fishing, boating, horseback riding, and biking are also popular activities in this forest. 

Where to Stay

There are tons of places to camp in Sam Houston National Forest. One of our favorites is Prairie Branch Camping Area. This place features a small lake for fishing and paddling, many hiking trails, and easy access to the main road and a town. Water, electric, and sewer hookups are available and the cost is very reasonable. 

Austin, TX

Austin, TX

Distance from Houston: 3 hours

If you don’t mind trading one city for another, you might consider heading over to Austin to experience some of our favorite things to do outside Houston. Although it’s just three hours away, this artsy city is like a completely different world—a world filled with music, barbecue, and great things to do, as it happens!

The first thing you want to do when you arrive in Austin? Find some barbecue, of course! We recommend Black’s Barbecue—not to be confused with Terry Black’s Barbecue, although that one’s worth checking out as well—but pretty much any place you go is likely to be delicious. For dessert, we highly recommend visiting one of the many Amy’s Ice Creams locations. 

Once your belly is full, you can do some sightseeing. For kids, the children’s museum called Thinkery is a must-stop. If you’re visiting during a festival, you will definitely want to see a music performance or two. Lastly, be sure to check out the South Congress Bridge bats and take a dip in Barton Springs Pool during the summer. 

Where to Stay

We enjoy staying at McKinney Falls State Park during our visits to Austin. This state park is close enough to the city to be convenient, but far enough away that it still feels like an escape. The trails here are fantastic, so be sure to give yourself time to explore them. 

Hiking Enchanted Rock State Natural Area

Fredericksburg, TX

Distance from Houston: 4 hours

Every Texan should visit Texas Hill Country at least once. This is a beautiful part of the state full of swimming holes, lovely natural areas, and charming small towns. One of those towns is Fredericksburg and visiting this quaint place might just be one of the best things to do outside Houston.

Yes, Fredericksburg is the perfect home base for your Hill Country adventures. Here, you’ll find unique German-inspired architecture, the National Museum of the Pacific War, and the historic Fort Martin Scott. This town is also not far from the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historic Park, which is well worth visiting, and Enchanted Rock State Natural Area is nearby. 

Most importantly, Fredericksburg is home to a whole slew of wineries. In fact, you could probably spend your whole weekend visiting wineries and not run out, so if wine is your thing, this is your place. 

Where to Stay

Obviously, you will need a place to stay while visiting Fredericksburg. For this we recommend Lady Bird Johnson Municipal RV Park. This is a small, city-run park with large sites, full hookups, a nature trail, a playground, fishing, a golf course, and more. 

San Antonio Riverwalk

San Antonio, TX

Distance from Houston: 3 hours

Another big city, San Antonio is also a great weekend trip option. This beautiful city is the perfect spot for history buffs, but actually has a little bit of something for everyone and is one of the best things to do outside Houston. 

The Alamo is obviously a must-see when in San Antonio and you will want to give yourself plenty of time to wander the grounds, especially if history is your thing. Another awesome place to learn about the history of the area is San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, where you can explore some of the old Spanish missions. 

For more fun, be sure to visit the San Antonio River Walk and the Historic Market Square. SeaWorld San Antonio, Six Flags Fiesta Texas, Morgan’s Wonderland, and the DoSeum are also great spots!

Where to Stay

Not sure where to stay? KOA locations are always a good bet, and the San Antonio KOA is no exception. This lovely park is in the perfect location and includes a laundry room, an onsite restaurant, a camp store, a dog park, a playground, a pool, and more.

Natural Bridge Caverns
Image source: Yinan Chen

New Braunfels, TX

Distance from Houston: 2.75 hours

Named after Braunfels, Germany, New Braunfels is another lovely little Hill Country town. It’s the perfect place for an afternoon stroll, but also offers plenty of adventures for those looking for exciting things to do outside Houston.

Hoping to cool off during the summer months? You’ll be happy to learn that New Braunfels is home to the Bavarian-themed Schlitterbahn water park. This is a truly enormous park that could easily keep one happily entertained for a full weekend. 

That said, you will want to leave room in your weekend for more fun. This is because the famous Natural Bridge Caverns and its huge natural limestone bridge is just a few minutes down the road. Additionally, you will want to check out the adorable shops in the Gruene Historic District.

Where to Stay

There are a few RV parks in New Braunfels. That said, for a true escape, we actually recommend heading about 30 minutes outside of town and parking your camper at Cranes Mill Park Campground. This Army Corps of Engineers park is set right on a lake and is a lovely place to stay. Partial hookups are available and the price is very reasonable. 

Mammoth National Monument
Image source: Larry D. Moore

Waco, TX

Distance from Houston: 3 hours

Last on our list of places to go and things to do outside Houston is Waco. This small city offers a whole host of things to do and is a great place to spend a weekend away from home. 

The number one thing to do in Waco is visit the Waco Mammoth National Monument. This place is super cool because it allows visitors to see actual fossils of mammoths and hear about the process of finding the fossils. Additionally, it is an active dig site, so there are likely to be more fossils to see when you return next time. 

After you finish at the dig site, you can check out the Cameron Park Zoo with the kids or head to the quirky Dr. Pepper Museum. The Texas Ranger Hall of Fame & Museum is another fun place to visit while in town. 

Where to Stay

Looking for someplace to park your RV? We like John Tanner Park Campground. This county park is located a little bit outside of town, so you can have that escape into nature you’re likely craving. Water and electric hookups are available and the price to camp here is super affordable. 

More Things to Do Outside Houston

The spots above are our favorite places to escape the city of Houston for a bit. That said, they are far from the only things to do outside Houston. If you’re looking for even more fun, check out the city of Dallas and its neighbor Fort Worth. You could also head to the up-and-coming town of San Marcos and pay a visit to the nearby town of Wimberly for a dip in their swimming hole. 

Honestly, there are so many amazing things to do around Houston that we could never list them all here. The good thing is, you’re sure to have a blast no matter which destination you choose! Pick one, book your Houston RV rental, and get ready for an amazing getaway!