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50 Amazing Day Trips From Houston, Texas

Looking for the best day trips from Houston, Texas? Find amazing ideas to beaches, theme parks, small towns and more in this epic guide.

Houston is a vibrant destination in Texas.

The city is home to museums, restaurants, shopping, parks, and lots of fun.

The city is dynamic and ever-changing with new attractions coming up every year.

Sugarland is home to the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Temple
Stafford is home to the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Temple

And yet, in spite of all that, every once in a while we just want to leave the city – get away from its crowds, so to speak – and have a fun day trip.

Thankfully, the Houston metropolitan area has some really terrific day trips. 

Whether you prefer natural scenery or culture, there is an amazing day trip just a short distance away from you.

Here are our favorite day trips from Houston.

Aerial view of McGovern Centennial Gardens at Hermann Park Houston Texas
Aerial view of McGovern Centennial Gardens at Hermann Park Houston Texas

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Best Houston Suburbs that make amazing day trips

Houston is spread really far and white.

That means many of its suburbs also make perfect day trips from Houston, TX.

You can stay within the city and still plan a day trip to Katy or Woodlands. 

The Woodlands

The Woodlands is one of Houston’s most famous suburbs. 

Located north of the city, it is famous for its shopping, dining, and outdoor attractions.

People watch while the kids play at Market Street or take the free Town Center Trolley to Waterway Square. 

Woodlands Mall even has a Lego Store
Woodlands Mall even has a Lego Store

The Waterway Square is our favorite area.

Here you will find the beautiful water fountain.

It looks even more amazing when lit up at night. You can also take a cruise on the Waterway.

You can also go kayaking on Lake Woodlands, making this one of the popular day trips from Houston for nature lovers.

Distance – 40 mins

Kids Ride at Kemah Boardwalk near Houston Texas. Kemah is a great day trips from Houston.
Kids Ride at Kemah Boardwalk near Houston Texas

Kemah Boardwalk

The Kemah Boardwalk is one of the most fun day trips from Houston that you can plan for the whole family.

This amusement park has a delightful retro vibe.

Here you will find a variety of rides including a ferris wheel, roller coaster, and carousel.

You can purchase an all day pass which lets the kids enjoy unlimited rides on the boardwalk. 

The boardwalk also has many great restaurants and it is perfect for people watching.

Our kids enjoy the water views and seeing the boats in the inlet.

The sunsets on the Gulf of Mexico are also very beautiful on the boardwalk.

Christmas Holiday Lights boat parade on the Gulf Coast
Christmas Holiday Lights boat parade on the Gulf Coast can be seen from Kemah

Also the boardwalk looks very pretty at night with the neon signs and exciting atmosphere.

We definitely recommend staying here until it’s dark. 

Distance – 1 hour

Also Read: 33 Best Day Trips in Texas

Katy

Katy is one of the oldest and most popular suburbs in Houston.

The area has plenty of historical, cultural, and urban attractions for families.

The Katy Heritage Society  Railroad Museum is a must for train loving kids.

Mary Jo Peckham Park in Katy Texas
Mary Jo Peckham Park in Katy Texas

They can see the historic depot and a vintage caboose.  

The Katy Mills Mall is an exciting destination for shopping.

Here you will find all the major brands as well as entertainment such as movies and arcade games.

For outdoor lovers, hike the mile long Mary Jo Peckham trail or go fishing at the lake. 

Distance – 35 mins

Houston Johnson Space Center NASA
Houston Johnson Space Center NASA

Space Center Houston

Space Center Houston is a must-visit when in the area.

Here you can learn all about human initiatives in outer space exploration.

This is a fascinating place to visit for science nerds and geeks.

We enjoy spending hours here looking at the exhibits such as astronaut uniforms, moon rocks, and debris from outer space . 

Moon Rock at the Houston Space Center
Moon Rock at the Houston Space Center

You can watch a space movie or take the tram tours to see the Saturn V Rocket, Astronaut Training Center, and Mission Control Room.

Spending a day at the Johnson Space Center NASA is definitely one of our favorite day trips from Houston. 

Distance – 40 mins

Clear Lake City

While Clear Lake City is home to Kemah Boardwalk and Space Center Houston, there are many other things to do in this exciting suburb.

Royal Tern on the Texas Gulf Coast Birding Trail
Royal Tern on the Texas Gulf Coast Birding Trail

You can go hiking at the Armand Bayou Nature Center.

You will be able to spot a variety of birds, mammals, and reptiles in the park.

The Lone Star flight Museum is also based here and is home to over 40 vintage aircrafts and aviation artifacts. 

Distance – 40 mins

Views from near the fishing piers on Lake Monroe Texas
Views from near the fishing piers on Lake Monroe Texas

Conroe

Conroe is based around Lake Conroe and naturally, this area is great for different kinds of water sports.

You can go bass fishing or just rent a boat to spend a day on the water.

The Margaritaville Resort is based here and makes a great place to stay, if you’re looking for something more than a day trip.

The city also has many parks and a historic downtown district and that is great for a quick stroll. 

Distance – 50 mins

An 1864 antique cannon in park in Conroe Texas
An 1864 antique cannon in park in Conroe Texas

Sugar Land

Sugar Land is one of our favorite day trips from the Houston area where you can visit museums and enjoy a cultural experience away from Houston’s busy downtown Museum District.

Here you can visit the Houston Museum of Natural Science Sugar Land campus.

Or let the kids enjoy at Fort Bend Children’s Discovery Center.

The area also has many hiking trails and the beautiful Oyster Creek Park. 

Distance – 35 mins

White Lake at Cullinan Park in Sugarland Texas
White Lake at Cullinan Park in Sugarland Texas

Rosenberg and Richmond

Rosenberg is a small town located southwest of Houston.

The main attraction here is the Rosenberg Historic Downtown District.

Here you will find striking Western style buildings.

Most of them have been restored to their original glory and house boutiques, cafes, and antique stores. 

Rosenberg Railroad Museum is a must visit attraction for kids
Rosenberg Railroad Museum is a must visit attraction for kids

Rosenberg is also home to many other attractions such as the Fort Bend Museum,

where you can learn about the first colony established in the area in the 1820s…..

…..and the George Ranch historical park, a living history park in Richmond.

Creekfield Lake in Brazos Bend State Park in fall
Creekfield Lake in Brazos Bend State Park in fall

Brazos Bend State Park is also located here and is great to observe the night sky at the George observatory or go hiking and spot alligators. 

Distance – 50 mins

Brazos Bend State Park is one of the best day trips from Houston to see alligators
Brazos Bend State Park is one of the best day trips from Houston to see alligators

Spring

Spring was once famous for the railroad.

Since then, the suburb has grown by leaps and bounds yet Old Town Spring has retained the historic charm to attract visitors.

This historic part of the city has Victorian style buildings and is charming to take a walk.

You can spend the day eating delicious food at restaurants and cafes, sipping on drinks, and shopping at boutique stores. 

A must visit Spring attraction is the Houston Texas Temple.

The Houston Texas Temple in Spring Texas is very beautiful
The Houston Texas Temple in Spring, Texas is very beautiful

Mercer Botanic Gardens are also located in spring.

Spring is also home to amazing parks, nature trails, and has lots of hiking.

During the holiday season, you will find some of Houston’s most fabulously decorated homes here.

This is the perfect day trip from Houston for those living within downtown area. 

Distance – 30 mins

Missouri City and Stafford

The Missouri City – Stafford area is home to one of Houston’s most Instagrammable spots, BAPS Shri. Swaminarayan Temple.

BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Temple in Sugarland Texas
BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Temple in Stafford near Sugarland Texas

The BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Hindu Temple has excellent architecture and is a great place to admire the intricate carvings on its facade.

The temple is stunning and just amazing to visit.

The suburbs also have great parks where you can enjoy the natural views and local flora and fauna including the Cullinan Park and Kitty Hollow Park. 

Distance – 35 mins

Best Beach Day Trip from Houston

Houston is located in the Gulf Coast region of Texas.

That means it is pretty close to some of the best beaches in the Lone Star State.

So pack your bags with a swimsuit, sunglasses, and sunscreen and put a beach chair in the trunk.

Let’s have a fun day at the beach! 

Also Read: Best Beaches near Houston for a Beach Vacation

Pretty streets in downtown Galveston Texas
Pretty streets in downtown Galveston Texas

Galveston

When you think about a day trip from Houston, Galveston is the first destination that comes to most people’s minds.

This island city is the perfect fun day trip.

If you want to relax on the sand and swim in the water, then visit either Stuart Beach or East Beach. 

Galveston has really pretty beaches
Galveston has really pretty beaches

If you love amusement rides, then visit Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier.

Or spend the day at Moody Gardens.

Galveston has just about something for everybody and is one of the best beach towns in Texas

Distance – 55 mins

Greetings from Galveston Mural
Greetings from Galveston Mural

Galveston Island State Park

If you prefer undeveloped and unspoiled beaches over the beach umbrellas and beach crowds, then head to Galveston Island State Park.

Here you will likely have the beach to yourself. 

You can spend a relaxing day beachcombing for sea glass and seashells or go on hiking trails or bird watch on the bayside.

Nature hiking trail in Galveston Island State Park, Texas
Nature hiking trail in Galveston Island State Park, Texas

You can also build a sand castle or just splash in the ocean.

This natural paradise is the perfect antidote to Houston’s busy city life. 

Distance – 1 hr 5 mins

Surfside Beach

Surfside Beach located near Freeport, Texas in Brazoria County is an amazing beach day trip from Houston.

This is one of the cleanest beaches on the Gulf Coast of Texas.

Surfside Beach is one of our favorite beach towns in Texas
Surfside Beach is one of our favorite beach towns in Texas

It is much quieter and calmer than Galveston beaches and is a great alternative. 

We love driving to the beach along the scenic Bluewater Highway Trail.

Once there, you can play on the beach, swim, walk on the jetty, or go fishing at the Surfside Jetty County Park.

The jetty is very long and amazing for a romantic sunset stroll.

Camp next to the water's edge at Brazoria County Beach in Freeport, Texas
Camp next to the water’s edge at Brazoria County Beach in Freeport, Texas

You can set up the grill, have a picnic, and watch the boats come into the port. 

Distance – 1 hr 5 mins

Bolivar Peninsula and Crystal Beach

Bolivar Peninsula is one of the most exciting day trips from Houston for kids because of the Galveston-Bolivar ferry.

Once on the peninsula, you can drive or set up camp anywhere along the 27 miles of coastline. 

The Bolivar Lighthouse on Bolivar Peninsula across from Galveston Island
The Bolivar Lighthouse on Bolivar Peninsula across from Galveston Island

One of the most popular beaches here is Crystal Beach.

Along with the soft, powdery sand, you will also find several restaurants, shopping, and more here.

There are many other things to do on the Bolivar Peninsula including the lighthouse, birding, and the historic Fort Travis. 

Distance – 1 hr 30 mins

Sea Rim State Park

Sea Rim State Park located in Port Arthur is one of the hidden gems near Houston.

This pristine state park has about 5 miles of beach frontage and hardly any visitors. 

Sea Rim State Park is home to empty Texas beaches
Sea Rim State Park is home to empty Texas beaches

You can hike the Gambusia Nature Trail over the marshlands and spot lots of wildlife.

Or just spend a day on the beach and hunt for seashells.

The state park has excellent kayaking trails too. 

Distance – 1 hr 45 mins

Sea Rim State Park is popular for fishing
Sea Rim State Park is popular for fishing

La Porte 

Sylvan Beach Park in La Porte is an amazing beach day trip from Houston.

The beach and the water here is really clean and great for swimming.

The park also has one of the longest fishing piers in Texas.

The park is fun for the entire family as there is a play area right next to the beach. 

San Jacinto Monument Texas
San Jacinto Monument Texas

Besides the beach, La Porte has many other attractions such as the San Jacinto Monument and Museum, The La Porte Bay Area Heritage Museum, and the Governor Ross Sterling Mansion. 

Distance – 35 mins

Also Read: Houston to South Padre Island Road trip

Road through Sam Houston National Forest in Texas
Road through Sam Houston National Forest in Texas

Best Hiking and Birding Day Trips from Houston for nature lovers

Houston is also located close to many natural areas and outdoor attractions.

These are excellent for activities such as hiking, biking, birding, wildlife watching, and even camping if you want to extend your day trip. 

Here are some of the best day trips in Houston for outdoor lovers. 

Statue of Sam Houston located near I 45 Houston
Statue of Sam Houston located near I 45 Houston

Sam Houston National Forest

Sam Houston National Forest is one of the four national forests in Texas.

This national forest is the one located closest to Houston and is just 50 miles north of the city. 

The forest has multiple recreation areas including those located along Lake Conroe.

It is a popular recreation ground for those interested in hiking, camping, hunting, and wildlife watching. Sam Houston National Forest has lots of opportunities for water sports.

Huntsville Texas State Park near Houston is excellent for birding
Huntsville Texas State Park near Houston is excellent for birding

You can go fishing, canoeing, and kayaking on the lakes on the lakes. 

The popular Lone Star Hiking Trail passes through the National Forest and is great for both short day hikes or multi day backpacking. 

Distance – 55 mins

Brazos Bend State Park

Brazos Bend State Park is a favorite with our kids for alligator spotting.

In fact, this is one of the best places near Houston to see alligators in the wild.

Hiking and fishing boardwalk trail at Brazos Bend
Hiking and fishing boardwalk trail at Brazos Bend

The park is located just 45 miles south of downtown and has plenty of hiking and biking trails. 

We especially love the boardwalk accessible Creekfield Lake Nature Trail.

The trail is just half a mile long and has wonderful views of the wetlands and its wildlife.

If you’re looking for more than a day trip then you can also camp within the park. 

The most exciting feature of the State Park is the George Observatory.

Trail in the woods at the Brazos Bend State park in Texas
Trail in the woods at the Brazos Bend State park in Texas

The observatory is located within the park and managed by the Houston Museum of Natural Science.

It is open to the public on Saturday nights.

Here you can enjoy stargazing at the night sky through the observatory’s telescopes. 

Distance – 50 mins

Angelina National Forest

Angelina National Forest, located in the Piney Woods region of Texas, makes a great outdoor day trip from Houston. 

Popular activities here include boating and fishing on the Sam Rayburn Reservoir, boarding and wildlife watching, hiking, biking, and scenic drives. 

Small Creek in the Piney Woods near Huntsville State Park Texas
Small Creek in the Piney Woods near Huntsville State Park Texas

The forest also makes a great fall day trip from Houston.

You can see splashes of vivid and vibrant fall colors amidst the dense forests of evergreen pine trees. 

Distance – 2 hrs 10 mins

Davy Crockett National Forest route in Texas
Davy Crockett National Forest route in Texas

Davy Crockett National Forest

This one is for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts!

Davy Crockett National Forest located north of Houston is named after the legendary frontier pioneer.

This amazing outdoor recreation and wildlife habitat has many hiking trails that go through its landscape of hardwood trees, evergreen pine forests. 

Camping in a tent on Ratcliff Lake in Davy Crockett National Forest Texas
Camping in a tent on Ratcliff Lake in Davy Crockett National Forest Texas

The forest is home to endangered birds and wildlife.

As such, birding and wildlife watching are very popular.

The Ratcliff Lake Recreation Area is popular for water activities such as swimming, paddling, canoeing, boating, and fishing. 

Distance – 2 hrs

East Texas national forest are amazing day trips from Houston Texas
East Texas national forest are amazing day trips from Houston Texas

Sabine National Forest

Sabine National Forest is located east of Houston near the Texas Louisiana border.

The outdoor recreation opportunities in this national forest are dominated by the water sports on Toledo Bend Reservoir.

This massive reservoir is said to be one of the largest lakes in Texas. 

Fall colors in Sabine National Forest hiking trails
Fall colors in Sabine National Forest hiking trails

Visitors can enjoy activities like boating, fishing, canoeing, paddling, swimming, and even camping by the water.

The forest has numerous hiking and mountain biking trails as well as dedicated horseback trails.

The forest also offers excellent wildlife viewing and is a great fun day trip for the entire family. 

Distance – 2 hrs 50 mins

Big Thicket National Preserve is great for nature lovers
Big Thicket National Preserve is great for nature lovers

Big Thicket National Preserve

The Big Thicket National Preserve in Southeast Texas is one of the largest forests in the country.

The forest has over 40 miles of hiking trails and is an amazing natural paradise.

Inside the forest you will find creeks, bayous, and a river. 

Snapping turtle in Big Thicket National Preserve Texas
Snapping turtle in Big Thicket National Preserve Texas

On the hikes you can admire the natural ecosystem and see carnivorous plants such as the pitcher plant and sundew, beautiful bald cypress trees, and towering pines.

Apart from hiking, you can go kayaking or canoeing as well as bird watching in the forest. 

Some of the other popular ways to explore Big Thicket National Preserve include biking and horse riding on the Big Sandy Trail.

Distance – 1 hr 45 mins

Pitcher plant on the nature trail at Big Thicket National Preserve
Pitcher plant on the nature trail at Big Thicket National Preserve

Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge

Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge is an excellent day trip if you want to spend time in the nature.

The best way to explore this preserve is through scenic drives on the park roads.

Black Necked Stilts Coming in for a Landing in Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge in Texas
Black Necked Stilts Coming in for a Landing in Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge in Texas

This preserve also has several well maintained boardwalks over the marshes and swamps. 

On the trails, you can spot many alligators, songbirds, water birds, and waterfowl.

The refuge also has a butterfly hummingbird garden.

This is an excellent day trip to take the kids and enjoy the outdoors on the Gulf Coast. 

Distance – 1 hr 25 mins

Boardwalk Through a Remote Wetland in Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge in Texas
Boardwalk Through a Remote Wetland in Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge in Texas

Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge

Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge located in Freeport is an excellent place for birding and wildlife watching.

It is also a favorite with bikers, hikers, and wildlife photographers.

Discovery Center at Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge, Texas
Discovery Center at Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge, Texas

Hike the Big Slough Wilderness Area boardwalk trail and spot alligators.

Go on the auto driving tour to spot roseate spoonbills and sandhill cranes.

See the exhibits inside the Discovery Center to learn about local wildlife.

On the Big Slough Trail at Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge, Texas
On the Big Slough Trail at Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge, Texas

Hunting and fishing are also permitted in the reserve.

Best time to visit is during April when you can watch the migrating birds.

Distance – 1 hr 5 mins

Goose Island State Park

Goose Island State Park is located about three and a half hours away from Houston in Rockport, Texas.

The park is most famous for the Big Tree which is one of the largest live oak trees in the country.

Famous large oak tree in Rockport Texas on the Gulf Coast
Famous large oak tree in Rockport Texas on the Gulf Coast

The tree is around 35 ft wide and is over centuries old. 

The park is also famous for its nature.

Because of its location on the southern tip of Lamar Peninsula amidst the bays, many bird species and animals call it home.

Whooping Crane at Aransas National wildlife Refuge Texas
Whooping Crane at Aransas National wildlife Refuge Texas

On a visit you can spot deer, armadillos, rabbits, the endangered whooping cranes, and blue crabs. 

Distance – 2 hrs 45 mins

Mustang Island State Park

Combine a beach day with a drive down the coast and some excellent hiking amongst the sand dunes at Mustang Island State Park.

Sand castle at Mustang Island near Port Aransas, Texas
Sand castle at Mustang Island near Port Aransas, Texas

The park has 5 miles of coastline where you can go beachcombing, swimming, or just relax on the beach.

The island is also excellent for bird watching and has many paddling trails. 

Distance – 3 hrs 36 mins

Port Aransas beach access
Port Aransas beach access

Best Small Towns to Visit on a Day Trip from Houston

Pack your car and drive west, the Eastern border of the Texas Hill Country and its amazing small towns beckons you.

Or drive north to the small towns in the Piney Woods region. 

Here are some of the best small town day trips from Houston.

Greetings from Navasota Mural
Greetings from Navasota Mural

Navasota

Navasota makes an excellent day trip from Houston, especially during spring.

You can explore this charming town, visit Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historic Site, and even see the Grimes County Courthouse as well as Fanthorp Inn Historic Site which is just 10 mi away in Anderson

We love seeing the historic homes downtown in Washington Ave and Railroad St.

Classic Rock Cafe in Navasota Texas
Classic Rock Cafe in Navasota Texas

They have amazing architecture and some are even open for interior tours.

The Horlock Art Gallery and History Museum is also a great place to visit. 

Music is also a big attraction in Navasota and the city is must visit for all blues lovers.

Distance – 1 hr 15 mins

Blues Mural in Navasota Texas
Blues Mural in Navasota Texas

Brenham

Time for some ice-cream!

Brenham is a favorite day trip for most Houston area families for one reason: Blue Bell Creamery!

You can go to the creamery in Brenham to see how the ice cream is being made from the observation platform.

And you can eat as many scoops of ice cream as you want for just $1 per scoop.

Brenham downtown buildings
Brenham downtown buildings

Our kids love visiting the Creamery. 

However a day trip to Brenham is not just about ice cream.

Historic Downtown Brenham is a very pretty place to explore and shop.

Here you will find charming architecture and stunning murals.

You can shop for antiques, souvenirs, and more.

Enjoy shopping and art in Brenham Texas
Enjoy shopping and art in Brenham Texas

Attractions like the Brenham Heritage Museum are worth a visit. 

Apart from Blue Bell and historic downtown, Brenham is also famous for its abundant Texas bluebonnets in the spring.

To see these beauties just drive around the Brenham countryside or visit the Texas Independent Trail through Independence and Chappell Hill. 

Distance – 1 hr 10 mins

Bluebonnets growing at Independence Texas
Bluebonnets growing at Independence Texas

College Station

College Station is a great vibrant day trip from Houston.

The city is home to Texas A & M University and has a very youthful vibe.

The University campus is also home to the George H. W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum.

Iconic bell tower in Aggie land College Station
Iconic bell tower in Aggie land College Station

Here you can see a replica of the oval office and also a part of the Berlin Wall. 

Take a stroll through historic downtown Bryan, see the art galleries and museums, and visit Santa’s Wonderland in the holiday season.

Another favorite with our kids is the Aggieland Safari where they can see the wild animals on a drive-through safari and even feed them. 

Distance – 1 hr 30 mins

Fred Hartman Bridge during Twilight near Houston Texas
Fred Hartman Bridge during Twilight near Houston Texas

Baytown

Baytown, located to the east of Houston, is a great place to visit for art and culture lovers.

There are several types of public arts, sculptures, and murals in downtown Baytown.

The city even holds an annual arts festival every year. 

The most popular attraction of Baytown is definitely the Umbrella Alley.

Umbrella Alley in Baytown Texas
Umbrella Alley in Baytown Texas

A canopy of rainbow colored, colorful umbrellas covers this previously unused alley.

Beautiful murals are located on the side walls.

The alley is very beautiful and one of the most Instagrammable places in Texas. 

Baytown also has many other attractions.

Spend a day splashing in the water at Pirates Bay Water Park or take the Lynchburg ferry across the Houston ship channel.

Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier is one of the best things to do in Texas with kids
Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier is one of the best things to do in Texas with kids

At the Baytown Nature Center, you will find miles of hiking trails in tranquil surroundings.  

Distance – 25 mins

Texas City

While Texas City is located on the Gulf Coast, it doesn’t have a pretty beach as such.

That’s why we have included it in this list of the best small towns that you can visit on a day trip from Houston.

Our kids love seeing the vintage steam train locomotive in Noble Park. 

If you love shopping, then you will love the Tanger Outlets Houston located in Texas City.

Most renowned brands have a store here.

Civil War era wagon in Texas
Civil War era wagon in Texas

The Texas City Museum is another great place to visit.

Here you can see lots of historical artifacts including civil war era cannon, model trains, and exhibits related to the 1947 Texas City explosion disaster. 

Of course no trip to Texas City can be complete without visiting the Texas City Dike.

This fishing pier stretches 5.3 miles in Galveston Bay and is the longest artificial fishing pier in the world.

Reload riding down the dike and watch the fishermen and their boats come in.

You can also spot dolphins and enjoy the beach at the end. 

Distance – 45 mins

Beautiful Fall views in East Texas
Beautiful Fall views in East Texas

Rusk

Rusk is a favorite with Houston area families for one reason: its home to the Texas State Railroad.

The rail depot offers scenic train rides on vintage trains.

There are a variety of themed train rides year-round including the Pumpkin Patch Express and the famous Polar Express during holiday season.

The train rides are an amazing day trip from Houston. 

cropped-Palestine-Texas-Polar-Express-Train-Ride.jpg

Other things to do in the Rusk include walking over the Historic Rusk Footbridge, seeing the exhibits narrating the history of the area at the Heritage Center of Cherokee County, and exploring the charming city on foot. 

Distance – 2 hrs 40 mins

Palestine

The most popular train excursion of the Texas State Railroad will take you to the charming town of Palestine.

Here you can see historic landmarks such as the Texas Jail House, the Railroad Heritage Center, and the Museum of East Texas Culture. 

Anderson County Courthouse in Palestine, Texas
Anderson County Courthouse in Palestine, Texas

Anderson County Courthouse is also located in Palestine and is a beautiful and photogenic building.

Palestine also has many parks including Davey Dogwood Park and Reagan Park where you can enjoy nature.

You can easily combine Rusk, Palestine, and the train ride in one day trip. 

During winter, the Palestine Polar Express is our favorite day trips with the kids.

Distance – 2 hrs 30 mins

Jefferson County Courthouse in Beaumont East Texas
Jefferson County Courthouse in Beaumont East Texas

Beaumont

Beaumont, located to the east of Houston, is an amazing cultural destination.

The most popular attraction here is Spindletop – Gladys City Boomtown Museum.

The museum commemorates the first discovery of oil in Texas at the Spindletop Hill Salt Dome.

Here you can experience life as it was during the time when oil was first discovered in Texas. 

Beaumont has many other cool museums including the Fire Museum of Texas, Clifton Steamboat Museum, Texas Energy Museum, and the Beaumont Children’s Museum.

Sunrise views at Cattail Marsh Boardwalk in Beaumont Texas
Sunrise views at Cattail Marsh Boardwalk in Beaumont Texas

The beautifully landscaped Beaumont Botanical Gardens are great for nature lovers.

Another cool attraction is Gator Country, where you can view several large alligators. 

Distance – 1 hr 25 mins

New Braunfels

New Braunfels in the Texas Hill Country makes a great day trip from Houston.

The main attraction here is Gruene Historic District and floating in the Comal River.

Oldest dance hall in Texas in Historic Gruene
Oldest dance hall in Texas in Historic Gruene

The famous Gruene Dance Hall is located in the former ghost town. 

The two mile stretch of the Comal River in New Braunfels offers some of the best river tubing in Texas.

The Schlitterbahn Waterpark is also located in New Braunfels and is in great option if you don’t want to float down the river. 

Distance – 2 hrs 45 mins

The Guadalupe River as it makes its way through Gruene and New Braunfels in autumn
The Guadalupe River as it makes its way through Gruene and New Braunfels in autumn

Port Arthur

There are many other things to do in Port Arthur other than the Sea Rim State Park and that’s why we love visiting here on a day trip.

Our favorite is the Museum of the Gulf Coast. Here you can see artifacts ranging from the arts to history and music. 

The Pompeiian Villa is a historic home that is open for tours.

Built in the 1900s, the home is beautiful inside out. Sabine Pass Battleground which is the site of an important civil war era battle is also located in Port Arthur. 

Distance – 1 hr 20 mins

Go beachcombing for treasures on the Texas beaches
Go beachcombing for treasures on the Texas beaches

Best Historic Attractions to visit on a day trip from Houston

There are a variety of historical attractions near Houston which are excellent to visit for native Texans.

They make a great stop for the entire family and provide kids an opportunity to experience Texas history in its original setting. 

Washington on the Brazos

Washington on the Brazos State Historic Site is known as the Birthplace of Texas.

It was here that the Texas declaration of independence was signed and the idea of the Republic of Texas was formed in 1836. 

Washington County is the birthplace of Texas
Washington County is the birthplace of Texas

Visitors to the historic site can see Independence Hall where the declaration was signed.

Other historic buildings on site include the star of the Republic Museum and the Barrington plantation homestead.

Washington on the Brazos is an excellent place to take kids and introduce them to the history of Texas. 

Distance – 1 hr 15 mins

Washington on Brazos State Historic Site is one of the best day trips from Houston for history lovers
Washington on Brazos State Historic Site is one of the best day trips from Houston for history lovers

San Jacinto Museum and Monument

San Jacinto Monument, located in La Porte, commemorates the site of the Battle of San Jacinto.

This final and victorious battle in the Texas Revolution led to the formation of the independent Republic of Texas.

The historic site is a must visit for any Texan. 

San Jacinto Monument is a must visit for every Texan
San Jacinto Monument is a must visit for every Texan

The over 563 ft high towering column is a beautiful architectural structure.

The grounds have a reflecting pool and an amphitheater.

The museum located at the base of the monument has many artifacts dedicated to Texas history.

Visitors can also write to the top of the monument and see amazing views of the Houston Ship Channel. 

Distance – 30 mins

Views from top of the San Jacinto Monument Texas
Views from top of the San Jacinto Monument Texas

Battleship Texas

USSS Texas was commissioned in 1914 and is the only battleship in existence that has fought in both the World Wars.

Today, the historic Battleship Texas is dedicated as a museum ship and is open to visitors for guided tours.

It is located near the San Jacinto Monument. 

There are a couple of ways that tourists can experience the ship.

The easiest way is a self-guided tour where you can see the sleeping quarters and learn about life on the ship.

Naval and maritime enthusiasts can also take a 3 and 1/2 hour long hardhat tour which goes into the boiler room, plotting room, and many other areas not accessible on the general tour. 

For the ultimate experience you can go on the overnight education program, where you can spend the entire night on the ship and visit areas that are not open to the public such as the gun turret.

Battleship Texas is currently undergoing renovation and hence all tours are stopped at the moment. 

Distance – 30 mins

San Antonio Missions and the Alamo

The San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, located in San Antonio, is home to four Spanish frontier missions built to spread Christianity.

The Alamo in San Antonio is one of the most popular places to visit in Texas
The Alamo in San Antonio is one of the most popular places to visit in Texas

The 4 missions within the park and the Alamo together are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

Visitors can see these five missions on a day trip to San Antonio.

The five missions are Mission Concepcion, Mission San Jose, Mission San Juan, Mission Espada, and the Alamo Mission.

Mission Espada in San Antonio Missions National Historic Park Texas
Mission Espada in San Antonio Missions National Historic Park Texas

While the most popularly visited mission is the Alamo, each of the missions is really beautiful and has something unique for visitors. 

Distance – 3 hrs 5 mins

Read: Houston to San Antonio Drive Guide

Sam Houston Memorial Museum

The Sam Houston Memorial Museum is located in Huntsville and makes a perfect day trip from Houston.

Here you can learn about the life of Sam Houston who had a prominent role in the formation of the Republic of Texas and was its first president. 

The museum is located within the Sam Houston State University.

Sam Houston Statue at Hermann Park in Houston
Sam Houston Statue at Hermann Park in Houston

This is an excellent place to understand the early history and culture of Texas in the 19th century.

There are plenty of historic buildings on the ground and a variety of informative and interesting exhibits. 

Distance – 1 hr 5 mins

Sabine Pass Battleground Historic Site

Located in Jefferson County near Port Arthur, this historic site was home to a significant Civil War battle.

The Confederate army held off a Union attack in September 1863 at Sabine Pass.

This was a key port for the shipping of Confederate supplies and hence was of significant importance in defending Texas. 

Kids can feed zebras at the Natural Bridge Caverns Widllife Safari
Kids can feed zebras at the Natural Bridge Caverns Wildlife Safari near San Antonio

Visitors to the site can admire a statue of Confederate Lt. Dowling who led the army to victory.

You can also see a scaled model of the civil war era fort and the battleground.

There is a monument dedicated to the Union soldiers who died in the battle. 

Distance – 1 hr 35 mins

Best Cities to Visit on a Day Trip from Houston

One caveat: these are not really day trips since there are lots of things to do in these Texan cities.

However, if short on time we have seen these cities on a day trip as well. 

Welcome to Dallas mural
Welcome to Dallas mural

I mean, we have once seen both San Antonio and Austin on a single day trip from Houston while showing guests around the state! 

You do need to leave early and devote a whole day to make these day trips work.

They also make excellent weekend getaways from Houston. 

Dallas

The Dallas metropolitan area makes an excellent day trip from Houston.

Enjoy the museums in downtown Dallas including the 6th-floor museum at Dealey Plaza, the Museum of Art, and the Perot Museum. 

If you love nature, then the Dallas Arboretum is a must visit.

The botanical gardens look fantastic year round and have a variety of seasonal attractions such as the pumpkin patch in fall and the colorful azalea gardens in spring. 

Distance – 3 hrs 30 mins

Views of Dallas skyline at dusk
Views of Dallas skyline at dusk

Arlington

A day trip to Arlington means a trip to Six Flags over Texas theme park.

This amazing park has a variety of roller coasters for all ages but it’s thrilling rides are most admired by the teens.

It really makes a fun family getaway from Houston.

You can also plan a trip to Arlington without visiting Six Flags.

There are many things to do in Arlington including the amazing river legacy Park and it’s walking trails, the Museum of Art, and football games and concerts at the AT&T Stadium. 

Tarrant County Courthouse is downtown Fort Worth
Tarrant County Courthouse is downtown Fort Worth

You can also see a space themed show at the Planetarium at the University of Texas Arlington.

The international Bowling Museum and Hall of Fame is a quirky attraction for the whole family. 

Distance – 3 hrs 50 mins

Fort Worth

In the early days, Fort Worth was an important trading post for cowboys.

Today, that part of the Texan Heritage is preserved at the Fort Worth Stockyards and the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame. 

The Fort Worth Stockyards is one of the best attractions in Texas.

Fort Worth Historic Stockyards Cattle Drive is an exciting event
Fort Worth Historic Stockyards Cattle Drive is an exciting event

From the historic buildings to the clothes selling western outfits, hats, and boots, the Stockyards are a lot of fun.

You can step back in time and order a drink at the salon or see a live rodeo. 

Distance – 3 hrs 55 mins

Grapevine

If you’re looking for day trips from Houston during the holiday season, then consider a trip to Grapevine.

The city located north of Dallas is known as the Christmas capital of Texas. 

Grapevine is just beautiful to visit during the holiday season when a million lights light up the historic downtown district.

Winter light displays in Dallas
Winter light displays in Dallas

Kids can even ride a North Pole Express to meet Santa, Claus making this a highlight of the holiday season. 

Distance – 3 hrs 48 mins

San Antonio

San Antonio is an amazing cultural and historical destination from Houston.

The main attraction of the city is the Alamo.

San Antonio Riverwalk look stunning when decorated during the holiday season
San Antonio Riverwalk look stunning when decorated during the holiday season

This historic site has been the rallying point in Texas’s War for Independence from Mexico. 

The San Antonio Riverwalk is another amazing place to visit.

Take a stroll and admire the architecture and vibrant nature of the Riverwalk.

Have a meal by the waterside and enjoy a cruise on the river. 

Distance – 3 hrs

Austin

The state capital of Texas is just a little over 2 hours away from Houston and can be easily visited on a day trip.

Texas state capitol building in Austin is a must visit attraction
Texas state capitol building in Austin is a must visit attraction

See the beautiful Texas state capitol building, enjoy the campus of University of Texas Austin, and take a dip in the famous Barton Spring Pool. 

Enjoy a meal on Rainey Street and take a stroll in Zilker Park before enjoying the city’s famous music scene at night.

Austin is known as the live music capital of the world and you can easily find a band performing in the entertainment districts of 6th Street and Rainey Street. 

Distance – 2 hrs 35 mins

Barton Creek Bridge spanning across Barton Creek in Austin
Barton Creek Bridge spanning across Barton Creek in Austin

Rockport

Rockport, located on the Gulf Coast of Texas, makes an excellent beach getaway.

It is home to the popular Rockport Beach.

Here you can swim in the waters, enjoy fishing, and spot a variety of birds. 

But there are many other things to do in Rockport besides the beach.

Seagulls on the beach in Texas
Seagulls on the beach in Texas

You can visit the Texas Maritime Museum to know all about oil drilling and pirating off the Gulf Coast.

See the amazing sculpture garden at the Rockport Center for the Arts and enjoy fresh seafood meals in the city. 

This is one of the best budget friendly day trips from Houston, Texas.

Distance – 3 hrs

Corpus Christi

Another nice beachy getaway on the Gulf Coast of Texas!

Beautiful views from the Corpus Christi promenade
Beautiful views from the Corpus Christi promenade

Corpus Christi makes an excellent day trip from Houston for a variety of reasons.

You can see the USS Lexington Museum ship or enjoy the touch pools at the Texas state aquarium. 

The drive to the city itself is also a delight as you will pass by smaller coastal fishing towns and fresh fruit stands in the countryside.

The beaches around Corpus Christi are also some of the most beautiful and calm beaches in Texas. 

Distance – 3 hrs 13 mins

Corpus Christi Texas Skyline views
Corpus Christi Texas Skyline views

Lake Charles

Looking for an excellent day trip from Houston across the border in Louisiana?

Then plan a visit to Lake Charles.

This day trip is full of nature, culture, and delicious food.

Driving through Cajun country in Louisiana
Driving through Cajun country in Louisiana

You can also visit a casino and enjoy gambling in Lake Charles. 

And drive the Creole nature trail to enjoy the Cajun foods, culture, and wildlife.

Sport and alligator or an osprey and listen to Zydeco music.

Return downtown to see the famous Mardi Gras museum and the beautiful homes in the Charpentier Historic District. 

Distance – 2 hrs 10 mins

Cajun boiled shrimp with potatoes and corn
Cajun boiled shrimp with potatoes and corn

Also Read: Houston to New Orleans Drive

Interested in knowing about Fredericksburg, Port Aransas, and other amazing destinations from Houston?

Read our post on the best road trips from Houston

We hope you liked our post on the most awesome and terrific day trips from Houston.

Did we miss any amazing destination near H-Town? Let us know in the comments.