A vacation can mean many things. It can be a way to reconnect with family and friends, a chance to do some soul-searching, or a way to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life and discover new locales. Sometimes we all just need to get away for a while, and what better way than to explore some of the great places that are practically in Houston’s backyard. We’ve pulled together a list of some outstanding vacation destinations, all of which are within three hours of Houston.
All distances included in our guide below are measured as the crow flies from downtown Houston.
Whether you’re naturally outdoorsy or are looking to branch out, camping trips are an excellent way to reconnect with nature, do some hiking, and enjoy the natural beauty of Texas.
Brazos Bend State Park, 32 miles southwest of Houston, has over 37 miles of trails that are friendly to hikers, bikers, and even equestrians. Fishing and and geocaching are also popular activities in the park, and the Nature Center and George Observatory are some favorite attractions. Every Saturday visitors can explore the observatory or view the stars through one of the telescopes. Overnight stays are available at the park via campsites, screened shelters, or cabins.
Located 65 miles to the north, Huntsville State Park provides numerous outdoor activities that are perfect for the entire family. The park has 21 miles of trails, a playground, and nature center, and Lake Raven is perfect for fishing, swimming, or venturing out on a water vessel. The park even has fishing gear, canoes, kayaks, and paddle boats for rent to make things easier. All campsites have water available, and many also have electricity. The park also has 23 sites with sewer hookups for RV camping.
If you are into really roughing it, Matagorda Island is a beautiful place to explore and camp. Unfortunately, the only way to reach the island is by private boat or charter so all supplies must be brought with you, but it provides an opportunity to truly connect with nature without any added amenities. Some primitive campsites are available near the dock area with shade, BBQ pits, and fire rings, and gulf front beach camping is also allowed. The lighthouse on the island has been standing there since 1852 and is certainly a cool site to visit while out on a hike.
More of an unconventional camping opportunity, the Texas Renaissance Festival is held each year in Todd Mission, Texas on fairgrounds 45 miles northeast of the city. Each weekend has a different theme, and the more you immerse yourself, the more fun you will have. Costumes are encouraged and the festival has no shortage of period-related shows, “shoppes”, and food. They have onsite tent and RV camping and the sense of community in the campgrounds creates a really fun and social environment. This year the festival is running every Saturday and Sunday from September 30th through November 26th.
If you would prefer a more structured stay, there are plenty of great towns with rich histories and great local culture that are just a couple of hours away and perfect for a weekend escape.
Located just 87 miles northwest of Houston, Downtown Bryan is an excellent choice for a nearby romantic getaway. The town certainly has a love of artistry, music, and culture, which can especially be felt during First Friday. On the first Friday of every month businesses open their doors to the festivities and street performers and vendors line the main streets of downtown. You can also enjoy a dinner for two at Caffe Capri, a family-run restaurant in the heart of downtown and the Messina Hof winery is just a short drive away with $10 tastings. Revolution Cafe and Bar and Grand Stafford Theater are a couple of great local music venues, and the area has several cute bed and breakfasts to choose from.
Port Arthur is a town rich in history 86 miles east of the city. The nearby Sea Rim State Park is a great place to explore the Texas coast and marshes and is a popular spot for beach-combing, kayaking, birdwatching or fishing. The Museum of the Gulf Coast showcases the story of the Texas and Louisiana Gulf Coast Region and also has a special exhibit, the Pompeiian Villa, which was designed in the likeness of ancient Roman villas. Built in 1900, this villa has belonged to some important Texas figures over the years. Port Arthur is also home to the Sabine Pass Battleground State Historic Park, the site of a battlefield from the Civil War.
Just across the Louisiana border, Lake Charles is just 133 miles northeast of Houston. Gambling is legal there so the city boasts a number of casinos, making it a great place to enjoy some Vegas-style fun without the cross-country travel. But gambling isn’t all there is to do in Lake Charles—you can take a tour of the Crying Eagle Brewery or stroll through the Charpentier Historic District. You can also visit one of the area’s great museums, like the Imperial Calcasieu Museum, the Mardi Gras Museum, or the Lake Charles Children’s Museum.
Surfside Beach is a great little beach town, perfect for catching some sun and getting a few quiet days out of the city. The area has plenty of affordable houses for rent and several burger and seafood joints. Port Cafe Surfside is a great spot to grab a quick breakfast or bite to eat, and the recently opened Seahorse Bar & Grill has an amazing view overlooking the water. Surfside has both a pedestrian and drive-on beach, with beach parking passes running $12 for the entire year. If you get tired of soaking in the sun on the beach, you can always drive over to the Quintana Neotropical Bird Sanctuary to do some bird watching.
We hope you enjoy experiencing some of these awesome nearby vacation spots. What are your favorite local vacation destinations?
For more Good Fun, check here!