16 Best Day Trips From Houston, Texas (2023 Guide)

Looking for amazing day trips from Houston? Here are our top 16 ideas for Houston day trips you’ll want to add to your itinerary!

Houston is an incredible city to visit in Texas. Full of museums, attractions, and cuisine, Houston could easily entertain travelers for days.

But if you have time, venture outside the city limits on one of these day trips from Houston!

You can stick close to Houston’s downtown and explore the Houston Space Center, an iconic museum affiliated with the NASA Johnson Space Center.

Or you can head down to the coast and visit a tranquil island, swim in the Gulf, or take the family to an amusement park.

Nature lovers can head to Sam Houston National Forest to see local wildlife and immerse themselves in the wilderness.

Travelers interested in history and culture can visit interesting attractions like the Texas Energy Museum in Beaumont, the Texas State Aquarium in Corpus Christi, or the George Bush Presidential Library in College Station.

No matter where your interests lie, these day trips from Houston have something for everyone and allow you to explore some of the best places in Texas.

Before you set off on your day trips, make the most of the city with our 3 Days In Houston Itinerary!

Best Day Trips From Houston

Here are the best day trips from Houston! From exploring nature to visiting historical sites, to indulging in some amusement park fun, the Lone Star State is incredibly diverse.

Whether you want to admire the forest views from George Observatory in Brazos Bend or take on a beach day trip in Galveston, these day trips from Houston hit all the highlights. If you don’t already have a car, consider renting one in Houston so you can get to all these amazing locations.

The best way to get around is to rent a car and explore on your own! We recommend Rental Cars, which has the largest range of vehicles for the best value on the market.

Sam Houston National Forest

  • Distance from Houston: 48 miles
  • Driving time: 48 minutes

Sam Houston National Forest, situated in southeastern Texas, stands as a testament to the state’s commitment to preserving its natural heritage.

Encompassing over 163,000 acres of woodlands, this national forest makes a fun day trip from Houston for anyone who loves nature. Named after the iconic Texan leader Sam Houston, the forest boasts a diverse ecosystem, featuring towering pine and hardwood trees, pristine lakes, and meandering streams.

Outdoor activities abound, offering opportunities for hiking, camping, mountain biking, bird watching, and fishing. The Lone Star Hiking Trail, stretching over 128 miles, winds through the heart of Sam Houston National Forest and covers all the highlights.

Sam Houston National Forest plays a crucial role in conservation efforts, serving as a refuge for numerous plant and animal species. The forest is home to a variety of wildlife, including white-tailed deer, armadillos, and a plethora of bird species.

Conservation initiatives within the forest aim to maintain a delicate balance between human enjoyment and the preservation of the region’s biodiversity.

As a designated National Forest, Sam Houston stands as a living legacy, inviting visitors to connect with nature and fostering an understanding of the importance of environmental preservation.

Check out more of the best things to do in Texas!

Space Center Houston

  • Distance from Houston: 26 miles
  • Driving time: 26 minutes

Though Space Center Houston is technically part of the city, we’ll include it in our list of the best day trips from Houston because you can easily spend an entire day here!

Space Center Houston, located in Clear Lake, Texas, stands as a captivating testament to humanity’s exploration of the cosmos. Affiliated with the NASA Johnson Space Center, this dynamic space museum serves as a gateway to the wonders of space and the rich history of America’s space program.

Visitors to Space Center Houston embark on an immersive journey through the evolution of space exploration, with exhibits that showcase historic artifacts, cutting-edge technology, and interactive displays.

The center is home to a remarkable collection of spacecraft, including the iconic Apollo 17 command module and the Space Shuttle Independence, offering visitors a rare opportunity to get up close to vehicles that have ventured beyond Earth’s atmosphere.

One of the highlights of Space Center Houston is its educational programs and engaging presentations that provide insights into the complexities of space travel. From astronaut encounters to simulated space missions, the center offers hands-on experiences that inspire curiosity and ignite a passion for science and exploration.

With its Space Center Theater and educational outreach initiatives, Space Center Houston plays a pivotal role in fostering an appreciation for STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields, making it a must-visit destination for both space enthusiasts and those eager to delve into the mysteries of the cosmos.

Corpus Christi

  • Distance from Houston: 214 miles
  • Driving time: 3 miles

One of the top beach day trips from Houston is Corpus Christ! Nestled along the Gulf of Mexico in southern Texas, this vibrant coastal city is known for its stunning beaches, rich cultural heritage, and maritime charm.

Boasting a scenic bayfront, the city offers a picturesque setting with the iconic Corpus Christi Bay Bridge serving as a backdrop. The sparkling waters of the Gulf provide the perfect playground for water enthusiasts, making Corpus Christi a haven for activities such as windsurfing, fishing, and sailing.

The city’s pristine beaches, including Padre Island National Seashore and Mustang Island State Park, draw visitors seeking sun, sand, and relaxation. On the other hand, the Texas State Aquarium and the USS Lexington Museum on the Bay add educational and historical dimensions to the city’s attractions.

Corpus Christi embraces its cultural diversity, evident in its lively arts scene, festivals, and culinary offerings. The city hosts events such as Buc Days, a celebration of its maritime heritage, and the Corpus Christi Festival of the Arts, showcasing the talents of local artists.

With a delectable array of seafood options, from Gulf Coast shrimp to fresh fish tacos, Corpus Christi’s cuisine reflects its coastal location. As a gateway to the Padre Island National Seashore and Mustang Island State Park and a melting pot of culture and recreation, Corpus Christi provides an excellent day trip full of coastal beauty, outdoor adventure, and cultural richness.

Mustang Island Texas
Escape to the seaside in places like Mustang Island or Padre Island National Seashore.

Brazos Bend State Park

  • Distance from Houston: 46 miles
  • Driving time: 49 minutes

Another top Houston day trip is Brazos Bend State Park. This sprawling natural oasis encompasses over 5,000 acres and has lush landscapes, dense forests, wetlands, and meandering waterways.

The centerpiece of the park is the Brazos River, whose slow-moving currents wind through the terrain, creating an ideal habitat for a variety of wildlife. Nature enthusiasts and birdwatchers flock to Brazos Bend State Park to witness the abundant bird species that call the park home, including colorful waterfowl and majestic bald eagles.

Apart from its rich biodiversity, Brazos Bend State Park is a haven for outdoor activities. The park features an extensive network of hiking and biking trails that cater to all skill levels, providing opportunities to explore diverse ecosystems and observe wildlife up close.

Fishing is a popular pastime in the park’s lakes and rivers, where anglers can try their luck at catching bass, catfish, and other freshwater species.

With well-equipped campgrounds, educational programs, and a George Observatory for stargazing, Brazos Bend State Park is one of the best day trips from Houston if you want to explore the Texas Gulf Coast.

Heading north? Read our list of the best things to do in Dallas.

Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge

  • Distance from Houston: 62 miles
  • Driving time: 1 hour

Another beautiful day trip idea on the Texas Gulf, Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge stands as a critical sanctuary for both migratory and resident bird species, making it a haven for birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts alike.

Spanning over 34,000 acres, this expansive refuge is characterized by diverse ecosystems, including coastal prairies, freshwater marshes, and expansive mudflats. The refuge plays a crucial role in the conservation of habitat for numerous bird species, with over 300 recorded on the premises, including waterfowl, shorebirds, and songbirds.

Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge is strategically positioned along the Central Flyway, making it a vital stopover point for migratory birds during their journeys between North and South America.

Beyond its significance for avian life, Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge offers a wealth of opportunities for outdoor recreation and environmental education.

Visitors can explore a network of trails and levees that traverse the marshes, providing excellent vantage points for birdwatching and wildlife observation. The refuge also features an auto tour route, allowing visitors to experience the diverse habitats from the comfort of their vehicles.

Educational programs and interpretive exhibits at the visitor center contribute to a deeper understanding of the local ecology and the importance of wetland conservation.

Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge serves as a testament to the importance of preserving natural habitats, ensuring the well-being of both resident and migratory species in this ecologically rich corner of Texas.

Texas City

  • Distance from Houston: 41 miles
  • Driving time: 44 minutes

Texas City is a bustling industrial hub with a rich history and a strategic position on the shores of Galveston Bay. It’s one of the most unique Houston day trips for those who want to learn about Texas history and industry.

Known for its petrochemical industry, Texas City is home to one of the largest refineries in the United States. The city’s industrial presence is complemented by a resilient community that has weathered challenges, including the devastating Texas City Disaster of 1947, a ship explosion that had far-reaching consequences.

Despite its industrial focus, the city has a lot to offer in terms of recreation and culture. The Texas City Dike, a long seawall stretching into Galveston Bay, provides a scenic destination for fishing, birdwatching, and enjoying waterfront views. The city also boasts parks, museums, and events that celebrate its maritime heritage and vibrant community spirit.

Texas City has evolved into a diverse and dynamic city, not just defined by its industrial landscape but also by its commitment to community development. The city features family-friendly neighborhoods, schools, and parks that contribute to its overall appeal.

The Texas City Museum showcases the city’s history, including its role in the petrochemical industry and the aftermath of the 1947 disaster.

As a part of the Greater Houston metropolitan area, Texas City stands as a testament to the resilience of communities in the face of industrial challenges, offering a blend of economic opportunity, coastal charm, and a community that continues to shape its identity.

Explore more of the Lone Star State with a 10-Day Texas Road Trip!

Goose Island State Park

  • Distance from Houston: 184 miles
  • Driving time: 2 hours and 45 minutes

Goose Island State Park beckons those on a Houston day trip with its coastal charm and diverse ecosystems. Situated near the historic town of Rockport, this state park is renowned for its ancient and iconic “Big Tree,” a massive coastal live oak that is estimated to be over 1,000 years old.

The park’s picturesque setting along St. Charles and Aransas Bays offers a serene backdrop for a variety of recreational activities, including birdwatching, fishing, and kayaking. Goose Island State Park is a haven for birders, especially during the winter months when the rare whooping cranes make their temporary residence in the area.

In addition to its natural wonders, Goose Island State Park provides a range of facilities for camping and day-use activities. Campers can choose from a variety of camping options, including RV sites, tent sites, and screened shelters.

The park’s fishing pier is a popular spot for anglers, offering the opportunity to catch a variety of coastal species. With its well-maintained trails, bird blinds, and educational programs, Goose Island State Park invites visitors to connect with the coastal environment and appreciate the beauty of the Texas Gulf Coast.

This state park provides a welcoming day trip from Houston for those looking to explore the coastal wonders of the Lone Star State.

Galveston Island

  • Distance from Houston: 50 miles
  • Driving time: 52 minutes

Galveston Island is easily one of the best day trips from Houston! This unique and enchanting destination has nature, an amusement park, and plenty of other unique attractions.

Visitors can explore the historic districts, such as the Strand, where Victorian-era architecture sets the scene for charming shops, art galleries, and restaurants.

The island’s East End Historic District, with its well-preserved mansions and tree-lined streets, offers a step back in time, evoking the grandeur of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Join a guided ghost tour of Galveston so you can learn about the interesting and spooky history behind the area’s buildings!

Galveston Island is also celebrated for its beaches, which stretch along the Gulf of Mexico. The Seawall Boulevard, a bustling promenade overlooking the sandy shores, is a popular spot for strolling, biking, and taking in panoramic ocean views.

Pleasure Pier, extending over the Gulf waters, adds a touch of amusement park excitement, complete with thrilling rides and a lively carnival atmosphere.

Moody Gardens is another gem of Galveston. With attractions like the Rainforest Pyramid and a tranquil botanical garden, Moody Gardens is a must-visit on the island.

With its diverse attractions, maritime heritage, and resilient community spirit, Galveston Island stands as one of the most popular Houston day trips!

Pleasure Pier Galveston
Be sure to check out the Pleasure Pier!

Village Creek State Park

  • Distance from Houston: 98 miles
  • Driving time: 1 hour and 30 minutes

Village Creek State Park, situated in the piney woods of southeastern Texas, offers a serene retreat for nature lovers seeking refuge in a tranquil natural setting. Measuring over 1,090 acres, the park is characterized by its diverse ecosystems, featuring dense forests, bottomland hardwoods, and the meandering waters of Village Creek.

The park’s pristine landscapes provide a haven for a variety of flora and fauna, making it a popular destination for birdwatchers, hikers, and nature enthusiasts.

Numerous hiking trails wind through the park, offering opportunities for exploration and glimpses of the East Texas wilderness. Canoeing and kayaking on Village Creek are popular activities, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in the peaceful ambiance of the park while navigating its scenic waterways.

Village Creek State Park provides camping facilities, enabling visitors to extend their stay and fully embrace the beauty of the natural surroundings. The park’s campground offers both tent and RV sites, allowing guests to camp beneath the towering pine trees and under the canopy of stars.

With its emphasis on preserving the natural environment, Village Creek State Park stands as a testament to Texas’s commitment to conservation, offering one of the best day trips from Houston.

Lake Livingston

  • Distance from Houston: 86 miles
  • Driving time: 1 hour and 25 minutes

Lake Livingston is another one of the best Houston day trips. The lake is one of the largest reservoirs in the state at just over 90,000 acres. Situated in the scenic Piney Woods region, Lake Livingston offers a picturesque setting surrounded by towering pine trees and lush vegetation.

The reservoir is formed by the Trinity River and provides a haven for boating, fishing, and other water-based activities. Boasting more than 450 miles of shoreline, Lake Livingston offers ample opportunities for anglers to catch a variety of fish, including catfish, bass, and crappie. The lake’s clear waters and peaceful coves create an ideal environment for kayaking, paddleboarding, and other water sports.

Surrounding Lake Livingston, there are numerous parks, campgrounds, and marinas that cater to visitors looking to enjoy the natural beauty and recreational opportunities the lake provides.

Lake Livingston State Park, located on the northwest shore, features campsites, hiking trails, and a designated swimming area, providing a perfect escape for families and nature enthusiasts.

The lake is not only a popular destination for day trips and weekend getaways but also a vibrant community for those who choose to make its shores their home. Lake Livingston stands as a gem in the East Texas countryside, inviting individuals and families to unwind and connect with the great outdoors.

Read next: The Perfect 3 Days In San Antonio Itinerary

Beaumont

  • Distance from Houston: 85 miles
  • Driving time: 1 hour and 20 minutes

Beaumont is a southeast Texas city that combines historical significance with modern amenities, making it a unique day trip destination.

Known for its rich cultural heritage, Beaumont played a pivotal role in the Texas oil boom of the early 20th century, earning it the moniker “Spindletop,” after the famous oil field that sparked the boom.

The Spindletop-Gladys City Boomtown Museum and the Texas Energy Museum stand as a living testament to this era, allowing visitors to step back in time and experience the sights and sounds of a bustling oil town.

The city also boasts architectural gems like the McFaddin-Ward House, a beautifully preserved Beaux-Arts mansion that offers insight into the lifestyle of a prominent Texas family from the early 20th century.

Modern Beaumont is a vibrant city with a diverse cultural scene and recreational opportunities. The downtown area, characterized by its historic buildings and tree-lined streets, is a hub for dining, shopping, and entertainment.

The Neches River, which flows through the heart of Beaumont, adds a scenic touch to the city, with parks and trails along its banks providing a serene escape.

Travelers can also check out the Art Museum of Southeast Texas and the Julie Rogers Theatre, both of which contribute to Beaumont’s cultural vibrancy.

From exploring historical landmarks like the Texas Energy Museum to enjoying outdoor activities, Beaumont is a city that captivates both residents and visitors with its unique blend of history and modernity.

San Antonio

  • Distance from Houston: 197 miles
  • Driving time: 3 hours

At 3 hours from Houston, San Antonio is a bit of a trek and is probably better suited to a weekend trip. That said, if you only have time for a day trip to San Antonio, it’s worth it!

San Antonio is an iconic city with a rich cultural tapestry. The city’s crown jewel is the iconic Alamo, a former mission and site of a pivotal battle during the Texas Revolution. Visited by millions annually, the Alamo serves as a symbol of bravery and resilience, encapsulating the spirit of the Texan struggle for independence.

The surrounding historic district, with its preserved Spanish colonial architecture and lively ambiance, invites visitors to step back in time and explore San Antonio’s roots.

The River Walk, a meandering network of pedestrian pathways along the San Antonio River, is another iconic feature, lined with shops, restaurants, and vibrant entertainment venues. Illuminated by charmingly lit bridges and adorned with lush landscapes, the River Walk is a popular destination for leisurely strolls and boat rides.

San Antonio is also celebrated for its diverse cultural offerings and modern amenities. The city’s Market Square, one of the largest Mexican markets in the United States, is a lively hub where visitors can experience the flavors, colors, and traditions of Mexican and Texan cultures.

The Pearl District, a former brewery turned mixed-use development, showcases contemporary urban living with a blend of upscale boutiques, eateries, and cultural spaces.

San Antonio’s arts culture is evident in the McNay Art Museum and the San Antonio Museum of Art, both housing impressive collections spanning various periods and styles.

As a city that seamlessly combines history, culture, and modernity, San Antonio invites exploration and provides a captivating experience for residents and visitors alike.

San Antonio River Walk
Enjoy the scenery along the San Antonio River Walk!

Sea Rim State Park

  • Distance from Houston: 110 miles
  • Driving time: 1 hour and 45 minutes

Sea Rim State Park is a coastal haven where pristine beaches, marshlands, and diverse ecosystems converge to create a unique natural escape.

Covering over 5,000 acres, the park offers a picturesque blend of sandy shores, salt marshes, and freshwater marshlands, providing a vital habitat for a variety of wildlife.

Birdwatchers flock to Sea Rim to observe the rich avian diversity, including shorebirds, waterfowl, and migratory species, making it a premier destination for birding along the Texas Gulf Coast.

Apart from its ecological significance, Sea Rim State Park invites outdoor enthusiasts with opportunities for fishing, kayaking, and wildlife photography.

The park’s paddling trails wind through the marshes, allowing visitors to explore the scenic waterways teeming with life. Anglers can cast their lines in the Gulf surf or try their luck in the marsh canals, aiming to catch a variety of fish species.

With its well-maintained boardwalks, interpretive programs, and beachfront camping facilities, this is another one of the best day trips from Houston on the gorgeous Texas Gulf Coast.

Port Arthur

  • Distance from Houston: 90 miles
  • Driving time: 1 hour and 20 minutes

Port Arthur, situated along the coast in Southeast Texas, is a city steeped in industrial history and natural beauty.

Known for its strategic location on the Sabine-Neches Waterway, Port Arthur has long been a key player in the petrochemical industry, with sprawling refineries and chemical plants contributing to the city’s economic landscape.

The city’s ties to the energy sector are evident in landmarks like the Museum of the Gulf Coast, which celebrates the region’s cultural heritage and highlights notable residents such as Janis Joplin and Robert Rauschenberg.

Port Arthur also serves as a gateway to the natural wonders of the Texas Gulf Coast, with nearby attractions including Sabine Lake, a haven for fishing and birdwatching.

Despite its industrial prominence, Port Arthur maintains a connection to the environment, and efforts have been made to enhance its waterfront areas.

The city’s Pleasure Island district, situated on a reclaimed marshland, features parks, marinas, and recreational facilities, providing residents and visitors with opportunities for outdoor activities and relaxation along the water.

Day trips to Port Arthur provide a unique blend of industrial heritage and coastal charm where the past and present converge against the backdrop of the Texas Gulf Coast.

Heading to Texas’s capital? Check out our list of the best day trips from Austin!

La Porte

  • Distance from Houston: 27 miles
  • Driving time: 25 minutes

La Porte is a charming city located along the shores of southern Texas that is one of the best day trips from Houston. This waterfront community is known for its maritime heritage, as it played a significant role in the early days of the Texas Revolution.

The city is home to the San Jacinto Monument and Museum, commemorating the Battle of San Jacinto, a pivotal conflict that secured Texas’ independence from Mexico. The monument, standing tall at 567 feet, offers panoramic views of the surrounding bay and Houston Ship Channel, providing a picturesque vantage point that reflects the city’s ties to both history and the sea.

A highlight of the area is the Governor Ross Sterling Mansion. Once the residence of the influential oil magnate and former Governor Ross Sterling, the attraction showcases the grand architecture and opulence of a bygone era.

La Porte’s proximity to Galveston Bay contributes to a leisurely lifestyle, with opportunities for fishing, boating, and waterfront recreation.

Sylvan Beach Park, nestled along the bay, provides a scenic retreat with a sandy beach, fishing piers, and picnic areas.

The city embraces a balance between preserving its historical roots and fostering a modern community, evident in its local parks, schools, and cultural events.

With a welcoming atmosphere and a strong sense of community, La Porte stands as a hidden gem along the Texas Gulf Coast that is great for day trips from Houston.

San Jacinto Monument And Museum
The San Jacinto Monument and Museum is a highlight of La Porte.

San Marcos

  • Distance from Houston: 165 miles
  • Driving time: 2 hours and 30 minutes

Situated in the heart of the Texas Hill Country, San Marcos is one of the best day trips from Houston for those who want to experience history, cultural diversity, and natural beauty.

Home to Texas State University, the city has a lively and youthful atmosphere, with a thriving arts and music scene. The San Marcos River, a crystal-clear waterway winding through the city, provides a picturesque setting for recreational activities such as tubing, kayaking, and paddleboarding.

A popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts, the city is surrounded by the scenic landscapes of the Texas Hill Country, offering nature trails, parks, and opportunities for birdwatching.

In addition to its natural attractions, San Marcos boasts a historic downtown area with charming shops, restaurants, and art galleries. The city’s heritage is reflected in landmarks such as the Hays County Courthouse and the Old Hays County Jail, both contributing to the cultural tapestry of the community.

San Marcos is also known for the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment where visitors can explore the natural springs and learn about the region’s unique aquatic ecosystems.

Whether exploring the historic district, enjoying outdoor adventures, or immersing oneself in the local arts scene, San Marcos offers an excellent day trip from Houston in the heart of Central Texas.

Read next: The 21 Best Things To Do In Austin, Texas

College Station

  • Distance from Houston: 92 miles
  • Driving time: 1 hour and 20 minutes

One of the best educational day trips from Houston is College Station. Located in the heart of the Brazos Valley in Texas, this city is intertwined with the academic prowess of Texas A&M University.

College Station also offers a mix of cultural attractions, parks, and a growing business community.

The George Bush Presidential Library and Museum, located on the Texas A&M campus, pays tribute to the 41st President of the United States and offers visitors a glimpse into the nation’s history.

Opened in 1997, the museum offers a comprehensive look at President Bush’s life and career, featuring exhibits on his early years, his service as Vice President, and his impactful presidency.

The George Bush Presidential Library houses an extensive collection of documents, artifacts, and interactive displays, providing visitors with an immersive experience that highlights the historical significance of the Bush administration.

The city’s Wolf Pen Creek Park features walking trails, a lake, and a vibrant outdoor amphitheater, providing a scenic and recreational space. College Station’s commitment to education, innovation, and community engagement makes it a dynamic city with a unique blend of academic excellence and Southern charm. It’s one of the best day trips from Houston!

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