Cabin-fever can get to you even if it's not winter. There are times that you just need a quick getaway. Forget crowded airports and security lines and opt for one of these easy day trips from Houston. Just pick a direction and hit the road.
It's only 30 minutes from Houston, but a trip to Old Town Spring feels a bit like time travel. The walkable historic village bustles with more than 150 shops, cafes, galleries and other curious stops. Have lunch at Wunsche Bros. Cafe and watch for a glimpse of the ghost rumored to haunt one of Spring's oldest buildings. Make sure you pop into Thad's for their unique gifts and home decor -- or just to delight in the shop's own fun decor. The Steel Horse, in the old Spring bank building, sells custom wooden signs and other home goods. Ask to see the old vault and the bullet holes from a 1930s robbery by Bonnie and Clyde.
Wunsche Bros. Cafe: 103 Midway St., Old Town Spring; 281-350-1902
Thad's: 110 Main St., Old Town Spring; 281-353-6400
The Steel Horse: 115 Midway St., Old Town Spring; 281-288-2046
Get out of the city and try your hand at sailing on Clear Lake. All Points of Sail offers day and weekend sailing courses at all levels. If the kids are in tow, spend a few hours at Space Center Houston. If you're willing to splurge, the Level Nine Tour takes you behind the scenes to mission control, astronaut training and the vacuum chamber. Whether you spend the day in the water or in space, skip the Kemah boardwalk and end the day watching the sun set over the water at Villa Capri Italian restaurant.
All Points of Sail: 2517 NASA Parkway, Pier 1; 281-532-1518
Space Center Houston: 1601 NASA Parkway; 281-244-2100
Villa Capri: 3713 NASA Parkway; 281-326-2373
Just 45 minutes from downtown, Galveston is the tried-and-true day trip for Houstonians. You've got your choice of beaches along Galveston's seawall, but there is more to the beach town than, well, beaches. If you're looking to keep the kids busy, you can easily spend a day or a weekend exploring the Rainforest and Aquarium, meeting penguins, and checking out the 3D and 4D theaters at Moody Gardens. But if you can leave the kids at home, spend the day in Galveston's historic downtown district, the Strand, where beautiful old buildings house cute shops, galleries, restaurants and homes. Start walking near Strand and 25th and make sure you stop at La King's Confectionery for some salt water taffy.
Moody Gardens: One Hope Blvd.; 800-582-4673
The Strand Historic District: 2100 Strand
La King's Confectionery: 2323 Strand; 409-762-6100
About two hours from Houston lies the city of Orange and Texas' own Shangri La. We may be in the middle of a drought, but you wouldn't know it among these lush gardens near Port Arthur. Spend a couple of hours or an entire day exploring the colorful flowers and immense grounds at this one-of-a-kind oasis. Casinos must be nature's antithesis, but they sure are fun. Head another 30 minutes east to Lake Charles, Louisiana, and spend the night dining, drinking and betting at L'Auberge du Lac casino resort on the lake.
Shangri La Botanical Gardens: 2111 West Park Ave.; 409-670-9113
L'Auberge du Lac: 777 Avenue L'Auberge, Lake Charles, LA; 337-395-7777
About 45 minutes from Houston, the little creamery in Brenham serves up the best ice cream in the country: Blue Bell. Have a scoop following a tour during the week or get your fix at the Blue Bell Country Store on Saturdays. Downtown Brenham is walkable and eclectic, lined with antique shops, restaurants and cute boutiques. Take a break and sample the pie and coffee at Must Be Heaven. The Pleasant Hill Winery is just a few minutes from downtown and offers tours and tastings to visitors. Too much wine is the perfect excuse for spending a night at the Ant Street Inn.
Blue Bell Creamery: 1101 S. Blue Bell Rd.; 800-327-8135
Must Be Heaven: 107 W. Alamo; 979-830-8536
Pleasant Hill Winery: 1441 Salem Rd.; 979-830-8463
Ant Street Inn: 107 W. Commerce St.; 800-481-1951
Photo Courtesy of BFS Man, flickr
What's your favorite day-trip destination, Houston? Let us know in the comments!