Sports, food, music and attractions – Houston has it all! You can easily spend long days wandering the beautiful city, taking in the culture, sights and amazing food. However, for locals and tourists who want a little extra, taking day trips is the perfect way to explore.
Houston is just a short drive from the beautiful Gulf of Mexico, and its beaches. As well as many other magnificent destinations.
Taking a day trip from Houston is a great way to experience a little bit of everything that Texas has to offer.
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Getting around Houston, and Beyond
When you are visiting Texas you will see it all. Vast landscapes, eccentric characters, mouth watering food and super interesting sights. You can explore by yourself or with a hired guide.
Here are some tips and tricks for getting around;
Houston’s roads are well maintained and connect the city to many main interstates. The extensive highway system makes it easy to drive between the coastline, city, and surrounding countryside.
Parking can be difficult, and is the most expensive downtown (over $25 for a full day). Parking outside the center is cheaper (or even free), but is much harder to find. As parking is difficult in the city, most restaurants and malls offer valet parking for a low price.
The Metrorail system in Houston links downtown and the Museum District. The bus stops every couple of blocks, departing every 7 to 10 minutes. A one-way, or light rail Metro ticket, will cost you $1.25. Alternatively, a METRO Q Fare Card can be purchased at grocery stores and gas stations.
Cabs and rideshare apps are surprisingly affordable in Houston. Taxis charge a flat rate of $6 for a trip anywhere downtown (between the CBD and the main highways).
Make sure you really think about where you stay in Houston based on how you want to get around.
Half-Day Trips in Houston
Located between the beach, the countryside, and other big cities, Houston is perfectly setup for half-day trips. From Houston, half-day trips are great. You can see a bit of everything just a short drive from the city.
Seabrook is the closest coastline to Houston, located just a 50 minute drive from the the city. The coastal community was recently labeled the best place to live in Texas. It’s a quaint town, that is on the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail, and home to over 300 different species of birds.
Seabrook has a charming waterfront district which is a great place to grab fresh seafood, or do some low-key shopping. The area is also surrounded by national parks and rolling hills, all of which have tons of hiking and biking trails for the adventurous traveler.
Of course, the ocean and lagoons are incredible places for a boat cruise or jet-ski adventure, too.
Suggested trips: Jet Ski Rental in Seabrook and Pedal Barge, and Booze Cruise
Waller County is located in southeast Texas, just a 40 minute drive from Houston. It has a much more rural environment, and seems to move at a slower pace.
If you take a day trip from Houston to Waller County, some of the best things to do and see are in nature. Make sure you stop at Neal’s Berry Farm to pick and snack on some fresh berries (if its the right season).
Trail’s End Park is a great spot for a run or cycle in nature. It has some of the most breathtaking views of the city of Waller. Visitors can experience a real Texan ranch and join an exciting horseback riding adventure.
If the weather isn’t great, take a trip to the Chappell Hill Historical Society Museum for a historical tour. The museum has a bunch of things geared towards kids, and can be a fun adventure for the whole family.
Suggested trips: Waller County Horseback Riding Adventure
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Full-Day Trips in Houston
The hustle and bustle of Houston can get overwhelming on longer visits. Luckily, the city is surrounded by classic western ranches, beach towns, and other historic cities, all of which are ideal for visiting on a Houston day trip.
Beaumont is a small city located an hour and twenty minutes out of Houston by car. You can also catch a train, which will take just over two hours from Houston to Beaumont.
The city was founded during the oil boom in the early 1900s, and is overflowing with rich history and culture.
Beaumont has a reputation for being the museum capital of Texas, with more than ten unique museums. One of my favorites is the Texas Energy Museum. This museum looks at the unique history of Texan oil discoveries, while explaining the process of finding and drilling for oil.
The city is a hotspot for foodies, and two of Beaumonts’ culinary staples are Rao’s Bakery, which was made famous for its King Cakes during Mardi Gras, and Floyd’s Seafood Restaurant, which makes delicious cajun seafood caught fresh daily.
There is a lot to see! If you feel like one day here isn’t enough, book this private upstairs apartment in a historic local home.
The NASA Space Center
Houston, we have lift-off!
No trip to Houston is complete without a day at the NASA Space Center, which is super easy to get to and only a quick half-hour drive from the city. In fact, a huge portion of tourists visit the city purely to see this world-famous attraction, it is the perfect spot for a day trip in Houston.
The Space Center isn’t just a marvel for those interested in space and science, it’s also the only place in the world where visitors can watch real-life astronauts train for missions, touch a real rock from the moon, and land a space shuttle using a simulator.
The museum alone houses over 400 space artifacts, including the famous Mercury 9, Gemini 5, and Apollo 17 space capsules. You’ll even be able to marvel at the new SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket exhibit!
For those fascinated with the solar system – Houston’s Space Center has the world’s largest collection of moon rocks and samples of lunar materials. It is one of the must-do things in Houston!
Suggested trips: Best NASA Space Center Explore Day Tour
Suppose the big city bustle and hustle isn’t your vibe – head south to Galveston, which is only an hour’s drive from Houston. The small coastal town is rated one of the most charming beach towns in the USA.
To get to Galveston, you can hop on public transport directly from Houston. It will only take an hour and a half round trip for this Houston day trip.
You can relax by the seaside, swim, and enjoy the year-round tropical, Texan climate. East Beach is one of my favorite beaches, it has a lively vibe and is ideal for a game of pickup volleyball. Stewart Beach is one of the better beaches to visit with young kids, lined with hotels and restaurants.
There’s a lot more to see than just sun and sand. Galveston is full of unique historical properties and architecture, world-class eateries and restaurants, and unique accommodations.
Suggested trips: Galveston Tour with Tall Ship Elissa Admission and Segway Galveston Magical History Tour
Austin is another major Texan city, located under three hour’s drive from Houston. In fact, public transport will take you two hours and fifteen minutes, saving you from having to navigate the traffic of two major cities.
Austin is quite a bit smaller than Houston. Like any American city, there’s so much to do and see in Austin. If you only have one day to pack in the top activities, try joining a local day trip from Houston (or doing some really, really good planning).
Make sure to visit the world-famous Congress Bridge bats (all 1.5 million of them). The bats swarm the bridge, making for an incredible photo opportunity. Wonderspaces is another amazing spot. It is a massive museum filled with art installations designed using light, mirrors, and modern technology.
Suggested trips: Best of Austin Driving Tour and Sunset Boat Cruise with Guided Evening Tour
Brenham is home to the national favorite Blue Bell Creameries. Visiting the ice cream factories is one of the must-do things, along with a lot more activities.
Brenham is a historical town, located just over an hour outside of Houston. The region is loaded with the nostalgia of Texas’ ranch lifestyle and cowboy history. With rolling grass fields, oak forests, and sprawling countryside, it feels like the wild west. While the outdoors are the main reason you should visit, there are also tons of antique shops and art galleries to explore too.
As one of the state’s most historical towns, you can also expect to be wowed by rows of historical buildings, especially in the Downtown Brenham Historic District. This combination of culture, history, and outdoor beauty makes Brenham one of the best day trips from Houston.
Suggested trips: Horseback at Rockin’ Star Ranch
Lake Charles, Louisiana
Lake Charles is a city just over the Louisiana border, overflowing with things to do and see. The town blends a Cajun history with southern flair, and is known for its laid-back and carefree atmosphere.
This southwestern Louisiana town caters to just about all types of travelers, from glitzy casino goers to golfers, hunters, anglers, and even culture and history enthusiasts. In fact, it is so popular that there are over 75 festivals held in Lake Charles each year – the most exciting being the annual Mardi Gras festival.
The city is a two hour and ten minute drive from downtown Houston. You can opt to take the scenic route on the Amtrak train, which runs directly between the cities in three hours and twenty minutes.
If a single day in this gorgeous spot doesn’t seem long enough, book out this remodeled historic 3-bedroom home in the heart of downtown.
Just an hour and a half outside of Houston, College Station is a smaller city in Brazos County, and was ranked one of the best college towns in Texas. There’s a suburban blend of young professionals and students scattered across the city, dotted with manicured parks and outdoor spaces.
It is a great place to visit with a group of friends. Whether it’s just for a day trip from Houston, or a longer stay, there is a lot of fun to be had. Depending on what tickles your fancy, you could spend a day touring a vineyard and tasting local vines, watching sports games at the city stadium, or checking out the different museums and special exhibits.
There are a bunch of outdoorsy activities as well, including scenic hikes, cycles, horse riding, and even visiting the local amusement park.
Suggested trips: Interactive Bee Farm Tour
The city of Needville is known as ‘The Home of Friendly People’, and you’ll soon see why. It’s another small Texan city with a relaxed atmosphere and a bunch of outdoor parks and cultural attractions.
Needville is only fifty minutes out of Houston, perfect for a half-day or full-day trip from the city. One of the top spots to visit is the Brazos Bend State Park, which offers beautiful lush trails around the 4-acre lake. Inside the park, you’ll be able to visit the George Observatory, an amazing place to marvel at the stars, planets, and moons in our solar system.
In true southern style, Needville is home to some of the tastiest southern comfort food in Texas. Most of the local restaurants source their produce from local farms and providers in the region, and serve hearty southern dishes.
If you can’t get enough of this charming small city and its natural beauty (or are interested in visiting the George Observatory at night), rent out this cozy cabin in the woods.
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Final Thoughts on Day Trips from Houston
Houston is one of those cities that is so large and populated, you could explore it for weeks on end and still not see everything. Taking a day trip from Houston is one of the best ways to experience southern culture and ranch life.
The city is wonderfully positioned between the Gulf Coast of Mexico, sprawling countryside and southern ranches, and other exciting Texan cities. It’s conveniently easy to get around by both car and public transport.
If I had to pick a favorite day trip in Houston, I’d choose the trip to Galveston. It offers visitors a taste of the tropics, combined with southern food and Cajun personality.
And for transparency’s sake, please know that some of the links in our content are affiliate links. That means that if you book your accommodation, buy your gear, or sort your insurance through our link, we earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you). That said, we only link to the gear we trust and never recommend services we don’t believe are up to scratch. Again, thank you!