The most populous city in Texas — and the fourth most populous in the U.S. as a whole — Houston, Texas is well worth taking the time to explore. From touring the Space Center to eating some of the best food in the country to taking advantage of the various outdoor recreational opportunities in the larger Houston area, this capital city is chock full of amazing diversions to keep the entire family occupied.
Seeing new places, experiencing new things, meeting new people stirs something inside us all… That feeling of wanderlust is buried deep in our souls! But here’s the thing – you don’t have to go far to fill your cup. Sometimes the best adventures are the ones close to home.
So join us as we Explore Local: Houston, Texas.
Why We Love to Travel
So why do we love to travel in the first place? Well, we’ve already said that a huge appeal is the new-ness a place has to offer. Getting to experience cultures that are different from our own or eating cuisine that is not what we’re used to are amazing ways to grow as individuals and learn about others. Seeing how other people live helps us keep an open mind and even gather inspiration to bring back into our daily lives.
Travel is also a great way to get away from the day-to-day. Breaking up our routines with a fun trip definitely recharges the batteries and helps prevent us from getting burnt out.
But again – you don’t have to go far from home to get this perspective!
Benefits of Traveling Locally
While the culture an hour away from your home might not be drastically different from what you’re used to, you can still gain a deepened sense of appreciation for where you’ve laid your roots. Plus, traveling locally has a lot of benefits:
- More cost-effective. Local travel is certainly a budget-friendly way to explore! Many activities and parks are free or have a low cost of entry. For day trips, you can also pack your own meals to save.
- Eco-friendly way to travel. Travel is hard on the environment, but putzing around your area is more sustainable than air travel.
- Quick trips. Getting out locally means you can do it more often! Long weekend trips are a lot easier to take when the destination is a short drive away.
- Easy to plan. Preparing your itinerary for a local getaway will likely save you some time and stress.
- More convenient. Especially if you have little ones, sticking close to home may be much more convenient than far-off destinations. If you forget something, have an emergency, or need to cut the trip short, being close by definitely has its benefits.
Explore Local: Houston, Texas
Today, we’re digging into Houston, Texas. This guide is perfect for those living in or near Denver who want to get to know the city even more. If you’re looking for fun things to do in Denver, this is the guide for you!
*Note: Some of the suggestions may not be doable due to coronavirus closures, but keep this list handy for when things start opening back up more! Be sure to check individual pages for specific operation details.
State Parks in Houston
Getting outside is one of the best ways to get a sense of an area, and Houston is no exception. There are a variety of natural landscapes to explore in the Houston area, including state parks, trailways, and more.
Although there are no national parks in Houston, TX, you can still find yourself so surrounded by nature that you’ll forget you’re actually in one of the largest metropoles in the country. Here are some areas to check out while you’re in the area.
- Brazos Bend State Park is located just under an hour southwest of Houston, and is a great place to fish, hike, bike, camp, and maybe even catch a glimpse or three of an alligator. This park is also home to the observatory that’s connected to the Houston Museum of Natural Science, giving you the chance to see the stars without quite as much light pollution as you’d get in Houston proper.
- Stephen F. Austin State Park is a smaller park, comprised of just under 700 acres. It offers a few miles of hiking and biking trails, but its close proximity to the city makes it a great option for those staying close to the heart of the action who still want to get away from it all on occasion.
- Sheldon Lake State Park and Environmental Learning Center is the spot for you if you’re looking to explore local wetlands and learn more about native wildlife. You can fish in the ponds and streams or explore the educational exhibits that will teach you and your family more about this unique ecosystem.
- Galveston Island State Park is a great place to get away from the hustle bustle of the city to experience the more relaxed atmosphere and pace of the coast. It’s also got marked trails, hands-on exhibits, and sand dunes and sunny shores for days.
Best Hiking Trails
Hiking is one of the most fun things to do in Houston, and it’s a great activity for any traveling party, whether you’re hitting the road with your family, your sweetheart, or a group of friends.
Whether you’re down for a trek of a dozen miles or you’d rather take a more leisurely stroll, there are hiking options for your fitness and ability level. Here are some of the best hiking trails in Houston and the surrounding area.
Houston Arboretum and Nature Center Outer Loop Trail
Considered by AllTrails users to be one of the best hiking trails in Houston, this easy, flat walk of less than two miles is a great way to acquaint yourself with one of the city’s best attractions.
George Bush Hike and Bike Trail
If you’re going to explore Houston, Texas, you’ve got to go to George Bush Park. This trail is a long and meandering one, spanning almost twelve miles, but you can pick and choose your start and stop points along the way.
Buffalo Bayou Loop
This heavily trafficked loop extends less than five miles but takes hikers around some of the most scenic portions of the river of the same name. Starting right downtown, this is one of the best Houston hiking trails for urban adventurers looking to walk themselves off the beaten path and out into nature.
Best Restaurants In Houston
All that walking around is sure to work up an appetite. Fortunately, Houston is home to some of the best cuisine in the country, whether you’re after Indian, Italian, Asian, or a plain old American steak dinner.
Search for “best restaurants in Houston,” and the first hit you’ll get is this New Orleans-style joint, which serves up authentic Cajun and Creole creations, including some of the freshest seafood around. From freshly shucked oysters (choose from Gulf or east coast varieties) to crawfish enchiladas and snapping turtle soup, this spot is a must-visit.
Houston is blessed to have a thriving Vietnamese population, which means it also has a thriving Vietnamese cuisine scene. Huynh Restaurant dishes up authentic Asian eats, but if you want a drink with dinner, keep in mind it’s BYOB!
Inspired by the streets of Mumbai, this industrial-chic eatery serves up delicious and authentic Indian food that’s favored by Houston locals.
There’s no shortage of steak restaurants in Houston, but this upscale steakhouse — which was historically a vintage bakery — is well-known for a reason. Custom cuts, signature sandwiches, salads, and more await, whether you dine in for lunch or dinner.
Local Insider Tips From Britney Samson:
Nestled in East Downtown, 8th Wonder is truly one of Houston’s best with delicious, crisp beers, a taproom called WonderWorld filled with Houston-centric art, and the largest patio around for soaking up the sun. Grab a Dome Faux’m (i.e. a throwback cream ale), post up, and play a round horseshoes or bocce. Enjoy!
If you’re in need of a proper breakfast, you must visit Yale Street Grill. Half of the building is a restaurant/diner, while the other half houses tons of antiques and vintage decor. The service is always top-notch and the food is delicious.
Ice cream cookie sandwiches are right up my alley, and they’re perfect for hot Houston days! Pick your two cookies and flavor of ice cream, then pile on the toppings, like sprinkles or strawberry jam, to create a one-of-a-kind cookie sandwich. Pro tip: A bad combination doesn’t exist. Go wild.
Fun Things to Do in Houston
Eating and hiking may keep you occupied for a while… but what else is there to do in Houston, Texas? Here are some of our favorite options for all sorts of scenarios.
Activities For Couples in Houston
Houston Arboretum and Nature Center
Meander through nature trails, learn about the local plant and animal life, and enjoy the view at one of the top Houston attractions. The Houston Arboretum and Nature Center even offers classes and events to help you recreate the experience in your own yard at home!
Landmark’s River Oaks Theater
There’s nothing quite like a movie date with your sweetheart, whether you’ve been going steady for years or you’re just getting started. Landmark’s River Oaks Theater offers both indie films and the hottest new releases in a quaint, down-home-style cinema setting.
Southern Star Brewery
Want to kick back and grab a drink with your sweetie? Southern Star Brewery is a craft brewery that’s been making its own suds since 2007. It was also the first in the state to can its craft beers. Their spacious tasting room is the perfect place to enjoy a sip with your significant other, and maybe even make some new friends. They also host events and have attracted some food trucks to their location, so you’ll be able to grab a bite to accompany your lager.
Kids Activities in Houston
Here are some of the best things to do with kids in Houston.
Children’s Museum of Houston
Interactive exhibits that help your kids learn while actually enjoying the experience? You can find all that and more at the Children’s Museum of Houston, which also includes vast play spaces and great dining options as well.
Space Center Houston
Easily one of the top things to do in Houston for any set of visitors, and even more so for those traveling with kids, the Space Center is a must-stop no matter how long or short your stay. Enjoy informative and interactive exhibits, hands-on experiences, and a whole range of educational attractions designed specifically to get kids geared up about space.
If your kids are skeptical about fruits and veggies, give them the opportunity to pick their own — you might be surprised how much enthusiasm they gain from the experience! Blessington Farms is located just on the outskirts of Houston and allows families to pick their own vine-ripe blueberries and strawberries, as the season allows. The farms also host birthday parties and other fun family activities, like gem mining, trolley swings, tug-o-war, and more.
Love the nightlife? Here are some options for those staying up after dark in Houston.
If you think classical music or opera isn’t quite your speed, don’t worry — the Houston Symphony has so, so much more to offer. Along with tribute bands celebrating artists like Pink Floyd and Whitney Houston, the symphony house has also hosted movie nights, live dance performances, and other events.
Howl at the Moon
Looking for dinner, drinks, and a show you’re sure not to forget? Howl at the Moon is a nationwide chain in a variety of large cities, and its Houston location is one of the best. The night centers on a live music spectacular featuring dance hits and party anthems that will get even the most hesitant person in your group moving before they know it.
Spas in Houston
This location is the oldest spa in Houston, and its holistic services have been helping people feel rested, relaxed, and rejuvenated since 1984. Along with facials and massages, Sanctuary Spa also offers other types of bodywork and even hair removal, so no matter what you need done, you can find the right service.
The Woodhouse Day Spa
Although it’s a nationwide chain, the Houston branch of Woodhouse is still worth visiting, especially if you’re interested in one of the company’s signature services. For instance, they offer a one-of-a-kind four-hands massage, as well as sleep treatments, mani/pedis, and more.
Hiatus Spa + Retreat
Want to go on hiatus from the day-to-day? Hiatus Spa + Retreat can help. From relaxing massages to more therapeutic, deep-tissue versions, to manicures, pedicures, facials, hair removal, and more, you can get whatever health and beauty treatments you crave in a restful, tranquil atmosphere.
Best Gyms & Yoga Studios
An all-inclusive gym that offers its members not only access to regular machines and weights but also classes, personal training, and more, Houston Gym is a go-to for a reason. You can even get a massage while you’re there!
With two locations built to serve the entirety of the Houston metro, Washington Gym prides itself on its member transformations and strengthening regimes.
Taking rest is just as important as working hard, and yoga helps you balance both. If you’re looking for a great studio to help you get aligned both physically and mentally, YogaWorks offers several locations across Houston, each of which hosts a variety of classes and yoga styles.
Day Trips in Houston
There’s a reason this little seaside Texas town has been immortalized in song. Along with its dune-strewn beaches, Galveston is also home to a historic pleasure pier complete with carnival games, cotton candy, and rides — including a Ferris wheel that looks striking against a Gulf coast sunset.
Along with all the built-up city stuff to do, Galveston also offers visitors stunning seaside vistas and hiking trails in the state park of the same name. It’s just an hour outside of Houston, but an entirely different atmosphere.
Sam Houston State Forest
One of four such wildernesses scattered across the expanse of Texas, Sam Houston National Forest is a sprawling 160,000+ acre swath of beauty located just fifty miles north of Houston proper. Visitors can enjoy hiking, biking, water sports, hunting and more, as well as a variety of on-site camping options.
Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge
If you’re all about getting up close and personal with the local wildlife, the Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge is well worth the trip — it’s located only about an hour and a half away from Houston. This refuge is home to a wide range of waterfowl and plenty of alligators, and is also an important habitat for monarch butterflies.
Austin, San Antonio, and Other Texas Towns
Although these might constitute more of a second leg of the vacation than a day trip, keep in mind that Houston is little more than a stone’s throw from some other amazing Texas cities. Austin is well known for its music and party scene, but is also home to the flagship Whole Foods and has a strong contingency of “crunchy” types; San Antonio’s River Walk is the perfect place to shop for souvenirs while occasionally resting to sip a margarita.
You could also find yourself venturing into Texas Hill Country, which is well known for overflowing with bright wildflowers during the springtime… and producing some of the finest wines this side of Sonoma! Here are some of our other guides to explore other parts of the Lone Star State!
- RVshare Guide to Big Bend National Park
- RVshare Guide to Guadalupe Mountains National Park
- Explore Local: Austin, Texas
- 15 Texas Road Trips: These You Have to Take
As a final reminder, some of these activities may need to wait until businesses fully reopen from coronavirus closures. However, there is still much to see and experience in Houston that you can enjoy today! What are your favorite spots in Houston? Send them our way to [email protected] or by tagging us on Instagram @rvshare and using the hashtag #rvsharelocal.
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