The Best Day Trips to Take From Houston, Texas

Moody Gardens is an hour outside Houston and has activities the entire family will enjoy
Moody Gardens is an hour outside Houston and has activities the entire family will enjoy | © Danny Lehman / Getty Images
Photo of David Darbyshire
Writer1 July 2020

To tame this Texas longhorn of a city and its surrounding areas, you’re going to have to travel on four wheels or even four hooves if you really want to throw yourself into the local culture. Within one day, you will find enough new experiences to fill a small country. Here are some excellent day trips to take from Houston.

Moody Gardens

Amusement Park, Aquarium
Map View

Only an hour’s drive from Houston, Moody Gardens has so many different attractions contained within its trio of pyramids that you’ll want to visit this sprawling hub of learning and fun more than once. Indeed, you could spend a whole week here. It features a 12-story aquarium pyramid, another one containing tropical plants, birds, reptiles and animals, along with a water park, a 4D theatre, a beach, a golf course, a zip line and much more.

Kemah Boardwalk

Architectural Landmark
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Horse and carriage at the entrance to Kemah Boardwalk, Houston, Texas, USA
© Heather Drake / Alamy Stock Photo

Take a short ride out of Houston to suddenly find yourself surrounded by sea, sand and an amusement park at the Kemah Boardwalk. Every type of thrillseeker is accommodated at this fun attraction over the sea – from the gentle Ferris wheel and carousel to the 73ft-tall (22m-tall) looping rollercoaster. The retail shops, restaurants and, of course, revitalizing sea air make this well worth the trip out of town. A 40-minute car journey is all it takes to get you to the Texas Gulf Coast and all the funnel cake you can eat.

Brenham, Texas

Natural Feature
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If you’re weary of the pace of Houston and want a taste of the more peaceful, small-town Texas life, visit Brenham. It’s a town rich in history and home to multiple museums covering pretty much every aspect of the authentic Texan experience and many picturesque historical buildings. For those more interested in the artistic side, Brenham has a busy calendar of gallery shows, live music and theater, all of which are worth checking out. Plus, there’s a tearoom and Blue Bell Creamery, where you can wrap up your day with a sweet treat. Getting to Brenham is a straightforward one-hour trip down the US-290.

Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge

Zoo
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1st spring American White Ibis at Shoveler's Pond in Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge in Texas.
© Janice and Nolan Braud / Alamy Stock Photo

If you want to learn about Texas’s wildlife and ancient landscape, this beautiful 37,000-acre (14,973ha) wildlife reserve is the place to do it. Houston is known as the Bayou City, and here, the swamps and marshes of Texas, as well as their critter residents, are on full display. Relax and take things at a more leisurely pace as you explore the trails, woodland, fishing areas and beaches of this stunning area of natural beauty. Make sure to keep an eye out for the superb species of butterflies that make their home here. The primary visitor’s center is located near the town of Anahuac, Texas, on FM 563.

Greater Houston Soaring Association

Building
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How about an experience that will let you see Texas from a whole new angle? The Greater Houston Soaring Association (GHSA) offers glider adventures to visitors, co-ordinated by experienced FAA-certified pilots, providing a thrilling ride and stunning views of the Greater Houston area. Go up in one of these peaceful, quiet, motorless vehicles, and maybe you’ll come back down with a taste for more (the GHSA also gives flying lessons for those who catch the bug). Flights operate on weekends, weather permitting. Make a reservation, and then it’s just an hour’s drive from Downtown Houston.

USS Lexington

Museum
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USA, United States, America, Texas, Corpus Christi, USS Lexington, Museum, Aircraft Carrier, ship, military
© Prisma by Dukas Presseagentur GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo

Civilians don’t get many opportunities to get up close and personal with a military aircraft carrier, especially one of this size, so it’s worth paying a visit to this imposing World War II vessel. The 33,000-ton Lexington isn’t just a stunning piece of engineering for visitors to admire; it is a tangible piece of American history. More than a ship, it also houses exhibitions, a flight simulator and a cinema. Also, tours take place throughout the day, so there are plenty of fun activities. To get here, take a three-hour journey down the US-59 along the coast.

These recommendations were updated on July 1, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.