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. You can hike trails that leave directly from the resort or even take a family bike ride.
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. There is also Scott's Ridge Swim Area, but it's more primitive and better for boat launching.
Jellystone Park - 1 hour from Downtown Houston
34843 Betka Road, Waller 77484
The Yogi Bear Jellystone Park's closest establishment to Houston is in Waller, and it is a blast. 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. For older kids, there are sports fields and courts as well as a miniature golf course and stocked fishing lake.
Huntsville - 2 hours from Downtown Houston
Huntsville State Park is the main attraction here. This state park is the gateway to the massive Sam Houston National Forest that touches Lake Conroe and spreads to the east. We spent countless days and weekends here growing up. The park spans more than 2,000 acres and has 21 miles of trails, multiple playgrounds, nature center, and spots where you can go swimming, canoeing, and kayaking. And while you're here, you might as well stop to take a picture by the massive statue of Sam Houston off I-45.
Lake Livingston - 1 hour 30 minutes from Downtown Houston
A day at Lake Livingston State Park will make you forget you're just a stone's throw away from one of the biggest cities in the USA. You can spend the day hiking one of the numerous trails, swimming, fishing, and playing on the playgrounds. And because it is a state park, there is an interpretive center with educational displays about the regional wildlife and plant life. 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
This is probably a given, because 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 equipped with enough family friendly rides and attractions to keep kids busy for hours. There's the giant ferris wheel, carousel, the C.P. Huntington Train, arcade, stingray reef and rainforest exhibit, just to name a few. And if you have time to spare, you can hop on a boat tour of the Houston Ship Channel.
Top photo courtesy of Moody Gardens