It's summer time! (Or as of the publishing date, almost summer time.) Now what? Great family fun doesn't need to mean a weekend away. You can spend some time at a nearby water park or at one of these other day-trip worthy destinations. Note: Drive times are estimates and vary depending on traffic and what side of town you're coming from.
The Woodlands Resort - 40 minutes from Downtown Houston
2301 North Millbend Drive, The Woodlands 77380
Spend some time in The Woodlands and then kick back and relax at The Woodlands Resort, which is home to a massive water area that includes lagoon-style pools, a lazy river, and whirlpools.
Lake Conroe - 1 hour from Downtown Houston
There are many ways to enjoy this nearby lake. Public access to the lake can be found at places like the 13-acre Lake Conroe Park where you'll also find restrooms, a fishing pier, pavilions, and sports fields.
Jellystone Park - 1 hour from Downtown Houston
34843 Betka Road, Waller 77484
At Yogi Bear Jellystone Park you have the option of staying the weekend at the campground, cabins, or the lodge, or you can spend the day enjoying its miniature water park. There is a lazy river, swimming pool, water slides, and more.
Huntsville - 2 hours from Downtown Houston
Huntsville State Park is the gateway to the massive Sam Houston National Forest that touches Lake Conroe and spreads to the east. The park spans more than 2,000 acres and has 21 miles of trails, multiple playgrounds, nature center, and water activities. And while you're there, stop to take a picture by the massive statue of Sam Houston off I-45.
Families can cool off at Jellystone Park in Waller. Photo courtesy Yogi Bear Jellystone Park.
Lake Livingston - 1 hour 30 minutes from Downtown Houston
At Lake Livingston State Park you can spend the day hiking, swimming, fishing, and playing on the playgrounds. There is also the KOA Campground, where for $6 a person you have access to the park's playgrounds, swimming areas, swimming pool, and fishing.
Galveston - 1 hour 15 minutes from Downtown Houston
No Houston family's summer vacation is complete without at least one trip down to Galveston. There are tons of things to do, such as the rides and amusements at Pleasure Pier, Schlitterbahn Galveston, and Moody Gardens (you can easily make a day of just Moody Gardens, which is home to three pyramid museums and a water park).
Kemah - 40 minutes from Downtown Houston
Just south of Seabrook you'll find the Kemah Boardwalk with family-friendly rides and attractions, a giant Ferris wheel, carousel, the C.P. Huntington Train, arcade, stingray reef, and rainforest exhibit. And if you have time to spare, you can hop on a boat tour of the Houston Ship Channel.
Blue Bell Creamery - 1 hour from Downtown Houston
This is a must-do item on any Texan family’s bucket list. Touring the creamery where Blue Bell ice cream is made and tasting their delicious desserts is closer than you might think and makes for a perfect day trip.
Port Arthur - 1 hour 20 minutes from Downtown Houston
Take a day to explore the nearby coastal city of Port Arthur where families can enjoy hiking various trails and fishing at Sea Rim Park. You can even take a lantern-lit ghost tour of the city in the evening with older kids or tour the Museum of the Gulf Coast with the entire family to learn about this historic Texas town.
Beaumont has canoe trails perfect for families. Photo courtesy Beaumont Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge - 1 hour 30 minutes from Downtown Houston
The bayous and marshlands of Anahuac will transport you to a wildlife haven where alligators, birds, and fish can be seen in their natural habitat. Visit the refuge free of charge and learn all about what the wetlands of the Texas Gulf Coast have to offer.
Surfside beach - 1 hour 10 minutes from Downtown Houston
Just a bit further south than Galveston Island, Surfside beach boasts pristine parks, amazing fishing areas, and plenty of places to set up camp for a day at the beach with your entire family. The small coastal community offers several waterfront restaurant options that are typically way less crowded than the ones on Galveston Island, but offer similar spectacular views.
Brazos Bend State Park - 1 hour from Downtown Houston
If your family loves camping, fishing, bird watching, hiking, or just being in nature, Brazos Bend State Park is a must-visit area for you to explore. The park and nature center offer a plethora of activities for families to enjoy including canoeing and horseback riding.
George Bush Presidential Museum at Texas A&M - 1 hour 30 minutes from Downtown Houston
If your family enjoys history or politics at all, touring the George Bush Presidential Museum on the Texas A&M campus is a can’t-miss activity. This is a great activity for kids who are eager to learn, but probably best suited from those ages 10 and up, otherwise you might be doing a ton of reading out loud to younger kids as you take the self-guided tour of the 41st president’s collection of memorabilia.
Beaumont - 1 hour 15 minute from Downtown Houston
Visit the city of Beaumont where your family can explore the beautiful Beaumont Botanical Gardens, see the country’s biggest fire hydrant for free at the Fire Museum of Texas, and tour the Spindletop Gladys City Boomtown Museum at Lamar University.
Top photo courtesy of Moody Gardens