For individuals and families looking to explore the great state of Texas, there are many opportunities to do so on the weekends. Houston is ideally located to make a quick trip to the island, the beautiful Hill Country or one of the other big Texas cities. For weekend get-aways, many Houstonians head out of town to Galveston, Kemah, the Brenham & Washington County area, Austin, San Antonio, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Louisiana or the Hill Country area.
Texas also has over 115 state parks and historic sites that are very worth visiting. Big Bend and Bandera are some of the most popular parks to visit but there are many others that offer great scenic views, lakes, hiking, boating, camping and much more. Springtime is very popular due to the many wild flowers blooming everywhere. Beware that temperatures in the summertime can be challenging for expats not used to Texas heat. Make sure to watch the Texas Parks and Wildlife Shows on the public broadcasting channel PBS. Visit http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/ for more information.
A good recommendation is a subscription to the Texas Highway Magazine, published by the Texas Department of Transportation. It is an excellent resource for anything Texas as it is the official Texas Travel Magazine. Check out http://www.texashighways.com/
One of the most exciting places to visit that is very close is Galveston Island. It is located approximately 30-45 minutes south on I-45. Galveston is a beach town located on an island in the Gulf of Mexico. Galveston offers typical beach activities for the entire family and also entertains with a historic downtown, beautiful palaces such as The Bishop’s Palace or moody Mansion, island tours, dining and arts, the opera and the famous Moody Gardens. During the severe Hurricane Ike in 2008, Galveston experienced a lot damage, but has managed to rebuild most of the island. It is also interesting to learn about the Great Storm of 1900 which changed Galveston forever at http://www.galvestonhistory.org/. Besides a quick day trip, a weekend stay at a beach hotel is a favorite get-away for Houstonians and expats not wanting to travel far from Houston. Make sure to stop by the visitor’s center on 2328 Broadway, phone 1-888-425-4753 and pick up brochures and coupons. Check Galveston’s website for current events such as Mardi Gras or one of the many arts festivals. For more information, please visit http://www.galveston.com/ Galveston is also a great destination for nature lovers, visit http://www.galvestonnaturetourism.org for more info.
Kemah is also a location that residents often visit. It is located 20 minutes south of downtown off I-45 and on the interior portion of the Gulf of Mexico. Kemah offers a boardwalk with games and activities for families. There is a wealth of retail shopping and restaurants available to select from. Many visitors do the activities during the day and end it with dinner at one of the many restaurants. For more information, please visit http://www.kemah.net/
Brenham & Washington County Area
For day trips, the Hill Country is a popular destination, specifically to Brenham in Washington County, about a 1 hour drive on Hwy 290, between Houston and Austin. One of its biggest attractions is the annual Bluebonnet Festival during springtime. May is the time of Texas’ state flower, the Bluebonnet, and other wild flowers to bloom. Brenham offers antique shopping, restaurants and bed and breakfasts for overnight stays. In the area, you find the Blue Bell Creamery, many historic sites and parks. Somerville Park is located about 20 min west of Brenham and offers hiking, camping and watersports. Twenty minutes north of Brenham you find Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historical Park, known as the site of the original town of Washington and known as the birthplace of Texas, check out http://www.birthplaceoftexas.com/. For more information, please visit http://www.brenhamtexas.com/
Austin lies approximately 2 ½ hours northwest down Hwy 290 in the Hill Country. Austin, the beautiful and historic capitol of Texas since 1888, should be on everyone’s itinerary. Visit http://www.tspb.state.tx.us/SPB/Capitol/TexCap.htm, or, for the Visitor Center specifically, check out http://www.tspb.state.tx.us/CVC/home/home.html. If you catch it during sessions (Texas House and Senate Legislature convene only every two years), you can witness the Legislature live on the floor. Keep in mind, though, that the Capitol will be busy at that time with politicians and lobbyists swarming in the hall ways. The city is full of nightlife and well-known for its 6th Street with bars and bands playing live music. The music scene and festivals are big in Austin. The city is also well known for the University of Texas and beautiful Lake Travis, http://www.laketravis.com/. Besides the many activities at Lake Travis, Austin has museums, lots of shopping, restaurants and the area offers visits to caverns, hiking, bike tours and many other outdoor activities. For more information, please visit http://www.austintexas.org/
San Antonio is located approximately 3 hours west on I-10. San Antonio is well known for the romantic and exciting Riverwalk, the historic Alamo and famous Seaworld. The Riverwalk is a river running through downtown and restaurants and shops border the river on both sides. The river is drained and cleaned in the winter time, so make sure not to visit during that time. Historic Alamo is an old church that served as a refuge for a group of Texans fighting against a huge Mexican Army and explains the story of the fateful days in 1836 that changed Texas and the U.S. forever. Visit http://www.thealamo.org/. This charming city is full of historic activities, family venues, night life and fine dining and is a popular weekend destination. For more information, please visit http://www.visitsanantonio.com/index.aspx
Dallas is located approximately 3 hours north of Houston going up I-45. Dallas is another major metropolitan city offering everything that you would find in Houston but is most often visited for its amusement park, Six Flags, the location downtown where former President John F. Kennedy was assassinated and Southfork Ranch from the TV Show ‘Dallas’ in Plano, TX, about 15 min north of Dallas. For people looking to explore more of the history of Texas, many head to Ft. Worth to experience true Texas style at the Forth Worth Stockyards’ old cattle grounds. Bull-riding, rodeo, cowboys and calf roping can be seen in Ft. Worth. For more information, please visit http://www.fortworth.com/.
Louisiana and New Orleans
Louisiana is located east of Texas and New Orleans is about a 5 hour drive from Houston on I-10. New Orleans is a very popular weekend destination with historic plantations and its famous French Quarters, featuring bars, shops and live bands. New Orleans is a great destination for Mardi Gras as its original city to host the fun carnival activities. There are also many casinos along the coast between New Orleans and Houston that are popular tourist destinations for gamblers. For more information, please visit http://www.louisianatravel.com/ and http://www.neworleansonline.com/
Hill Country Area
Houston is also close to the Hill Country, a favorite destination which expands throughout most of central Texas and includes Austin and San Antonio. It is very famous for its German historic towns at the southern tip such as Fredericksburg and New Braunfels and many other small towns nestled between the hills of Texas. It is a very scenic area, with hills, limestone, rivers, mesquite trees, bluebonnets, and an excellent area for hiking, swimming and camping in one of the many state parks. In the summer, a lot of people go rafting or tubing on the Guadalupe River which is fun for the whole family or groups of friends. A fun destination is also Luckenbach, Texas with its dancehall, featuring famous country singers on a regular basis, http://www.luckenbachtexas.com/. In the Hill Country, there are many opportunities to camp or stay overnight in a nice bed & breakfast. A weekend trip by car, stopping at historical markers alongside the road and visiting the small Texas towns with antique shops can be fun for the entire family. For more information, please visit http://www.hill-country.net/