Day Trips from Houston - easy, affordable, kid-frienly fun!
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13 of the Best Kid-Friendly Day Trips from Houston

One thing we are repeatedly asked is where are our favorite day trips from Houston. So, straight from Houston moms, these are the places they love. What’s better than getting out of the same old routine with a spontaneous road trip? All of our options are great for those long weekends, summer or spring break, or anytime you feel the need to roam (but don’t have all week!).  

Texas is big… and, so is Houston. There are a lot of places you can get in one day, so to narrow it down and keep the drive time reasonable, we are highlighting trip ideas within a three hour drive. But, again, Houston is big, so you may already have a one hour jump (or deficit) on one of our suggested locales.

Fortunately, we are also blessed with options! Day trips from Houston will have many, many variations available. We’ve mentioned ones that are suggested by local moms, but there are so many more. If you have a great not-to-be-missed stop please comment below! 

Day Trips from Houston

Day Trips from Houston | Lake Livingston SP


Drive Time: 1 hour

Galveston might be the quintessential day trip from Houston! It is close, if you grew up here, it is definitely familiar, and it is fun for all ages. If you are heading down with kids there are definitely some family favorites.

Day Trips from Houston | USS Cavala

Outdoors & Parks

Seawolf Park | This park has been around for a long time. However, it incurred major damage during Hurricane Ike. Fortunately, that gave Galveston the opportunity for a nice glow up! Along with the usual park activities like playgrounds and fishing, Seawolf Park is home to the Galveston Naval Museum that houses the USS Cavalla, a WWII submarine, and a destroyer escort, the USS Stewart.

Ferry & Bolivar Beaches | There are beaches on Galveston Island (Galveston Island State Park is clean, affordable, and has bathroom facilities) however if you cross the ferry you will find broader spans, better fishing, and you can drive on the beach (with a permit that can be purchased at several local vendors). Plus, you get to ride the ferry which is free and almost a guarantee to see dolphins in the channel. The ferry gets very busy during holidays be sure to check ride times.

The most popular Bolivar Peninsula is Crystal Beach but you can turn in before or after it to avoid crowds, and they are all pretty much the same.

Bonus Attraction: Fort Travis Park | If you cross to Bolivar, just after you exit the ferry is Fort Travis Park which is home to bunkers dating back to 1898 and originally established by the Republic of Texas in 1836!


Galveston Railroad Museum | There are trains! All kinds, from many eras, in various states of repair (or disrepair). This museum is a family favorite, sure to be enjoyed by everyone. They also host events like the Polar Express and themed dinner rides. Located at the end of The Strand it has a great location that is close to free parking and some of our favorite eateries.

Moody Gardens | Moody Gardens will keep you busy enough that it is a day trip from Houston all by itself. The iconic pyramids are seen on the drive in. Each houses a different theme – rainforest or aquarium. Additionally, on site is the Blue Lagoon beach, ziplining, the Colonel (an old paddlewheel boat) and more. Plus, the host all sorts of themed events throughout the year.

Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig & Museum | This is a fun museum that highlights a very important part of the Galveston and Houston area economy. If you can coordinate correctly, they do host Family days which are very budget friendly. Additionally, they offer overnight experiences for groups and scouts.

Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier | It’s a carnival over the water – what could be more fun or picturesque? There are rides and sure fire entertainment for all ages. They also host themed days throughout the year where you can get a pretty good deal (like Homeschool Day!).

Where to Eat

The Strand | The Strand is the historic street home to many restaurants and local shops. It runs parallel to Harborside Dr. which is where you head if you are taking a cruise. Between the two streets there are a lot of good food options. The only one we never miss visiting is…

La King’s Confectionary | La King’s is an old school soda fountain and sweet shop. Try to plan ahead as they pull their salt water taffy in-house and there is always a public display but times vary – stay for the entire thing and they throw samples out to the crowd!

Star Drug Store | If you want to go a little off The Strand, Star Drug Store is a great option. Contrary to the name, it is not a pharmacy but is housed in a building that used to be a pharmacy – you can still see the old counters. It is a great place to get a sandwich for lunch. Free parking is ample in this area and the walk to The Strand is only a quarter of a mile, or so.

Day Trips from Houston

Lake Jackson

Drive Time: 1 hour

If you have ever driven to the Houston Zoo, instead of exiting the museum district you just keep driving out of town on Highway 288. After about an hour you’ll reach Lake Jackson (the little town that DOW built).

Day Trips from Houston | Sea Center Texas

Outdoors & Attractions

Sea Center Texas | Sea Center Texas is perfect when you are looking for day trips from Houston. This little museum is so much more than informative. There are aquariums, touch tanks, and fantastic tours of their hatcheries. You would never imagine how interesting the breeding of redfish is! After you tour the museum, then it’s time to head outside where they have a great boardwalk out into the wetlands and many events. Plus – it is FREE!

Surfside Beach | Just down the street is the city of Surfside. Many people who do not like the Bolivar Beaches prefer the quieter beaches of Surfside. There is no driving on the beaches inside of the city limits.

Where to Eat

Dairy Bar | Dairy Bar has been serving fresh hamburgers since 1951! This is a Lake Jackson staple. Your family and budget will love it!

Asiel’s | Asiel’s serves a fantastic breakfast and seafood with a killer view of Mammoth Lake. If the weather is nice you should grab a table on the screened in porch.

Day Trips from Houston


Drive Time: 1 hour

Conroe is a great destination when scouting day trips from Houston. It is so close (for some “Houstonians” it is well under 1 hour!). It has a little bit of everything you can want with a convenient drive home.

Day Trips from Houston | 7 Acre Wood Conroe

Outdoors & Attractions

Moorhead’s Blueberry Farm | If you are there in season (usually April – June) then this is a great stop. Go early to beat the heat and crowds. Expect to spend about an hour. And, double check you do not add an ‘e’ to Moorhead when you are putting the directions in to your GPS.

7 Acre Wood | A family friendly amusement park for younger kids. It has a petting zoo, play area, games, and a child sized zip line. Throughout the year they also host themed events like egg hunts and fall festivals.

Margaritaville Lake Resort | This resort on Lake Conroe offers day passes for non-hotel guests. You will find golf, spa services, restaurants, a waterpark (complete with lazy river), mini golf, and boat & watersport rentals.

Where to Eat

B-52 Brewing Co. | This brewery is family-friendly with ample outdoor space. The have food trucks, games and live music on Friday nights.

Buldogies | A custom hotdog spot on Lake Conroe. Plus it has popular fair food to accompany – such at cotton candy, corndogs, funnel cakes, fried Twinkies, and more!

Day Trips from Houston

The Pineywoods

Drive Time: 1-3 hours

The Pineywoods in the region of Texas east of Houston. There are some beautiful forests and lakes. The best way to experience them is to camp or get a day pass and find a nearby rental. We suggest any of the state parks as they are all well maintained, provide activities for kids, and are usually pretty easy to reserve. Generally, for each park you are within 30 minutes of a grocery or Walmart for provisions and small town grub.

Outdoors & Attractions

Lake Livingston State Park | You can find one of the largest lakes in the state at Lake Livingston State Park. It is a great lake for fishing, boating, and hiking. They also have a great nature center and fishing docks that are always well-stocked with ice cream – for those hot summer days!

Huntsville State Park | Another option, Huntsville is a more intimate campground than Lake Livingston. You can still do some nice hiking and self-serve kayaks are available. Plus, it is pretty close to Houston so if something happens (because, kids!) it is easy to pack up and get home in a reasonable amount of time.

Fort Boggy State Park | Similarly, Fort Boggy offers more primitive camping options but also has some cabins for rent. It has a small no-wake lake for fishing or boating (if you bring your own).

Mission Tejas State Park | This park is great for those interested in Texas History. There are several historic sites as well as the usual park activities.

Martin Dies Jr. State Park | This park, Martin Dies, is great for groups. They also have rentals on site for canoes & kayaks. As well as several cabins.

Village Creek State Park | Choose Village Creek if you enjoy fishing, paddling, and need to be near a big city. This one is 10 miles north of Beaumont. There is one cabin available for rent on-site.

Day Trips from Houston


Drive Time: 2 hours 50 min.

Still in the Pineywoods on the outskirts of the Angelina National Forest is the historic city of Nacogdoches – the oldest town in Texas! You can visit the the brick-lined streets of downtown and wander the shops and restaurants, then head over to some of the more kid-friendly activities.

Day Trips from Houston | Nacogdoches

Outdoors & Attractions

The Texas Forestry Museum | This area of Texas is big in lumber so it is only natural that it is home to the forestry museum. There are a lot of hands on exhibits for kids – like Timber Town, the outdoor train exhibit, and many play areas.

Splash Kingdom Timber Falls Water Park | A small waterpark with several slides, a lazy river, pools, and splash areas. Perfect for hot days!

Old Time String Shop & General Mercantile | If you have a music lover be sure to stop in here. There are old style toys and loads of musical instruments.

SFA Planetarium | On the campus of Stephen F. Austin University is a great planetarium. It is very family-friendly with shows that are appropriate for ages 3 through high school.

Caddo Mounds State Historic Site | This one is a little outside of town so you may want to swing by on your way to or from, but either way it is a great addition to your day trip from Houston. A really good site to learn a little about Texas’ own mound-building culture.

Where to Eat

Auntie Pasta’s Italian Kitchen | Over and over this is the restaurant that is recommended most when heading to Nacogdoches. Maybe its the build your own pasta or maybe the historic, off-the-beaten path location, but it is definitely something different your family will enjoy.

Day Trips from Houston


Drive Time: 3 hours

First there are the Mammoths, then there is the Magnolia Empire. Waco has become quite the destination for families, girls’ weekends, for everyone.

Day Trips from Houston | Waco Mammoth NHS

Outdoors & Attractions

Cameron Park Zoo | A nice smaller zoo. It can be done in about 3 hours and is part of the AZA reciprocal program. There is also a playground and splash area (for warmer visits).

Waco Mammoth National Monument | The Mammoth monument is a spectacular discovery and the set up that the national parks service provided is really great. The exhibit is very family-friendly and engaging. Your kids (and big kids) will love it!

Mayborn Museum | This is a great museum for kids. There are many hands-on exhibits, a discovery center, and a historic village they can explore.

Dr Pepper Museum & Free Enterprise Institute | This small museum has a lot of family-friendly experiences. You can taste different flavors, bottle your own, and experience the museum in augmented reality.

Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum | See the exhibits, meet a ranger, and learn about this special facet of Texas History. There is a 45 minute introductory film so this may be better to do with older children.

Where to Eat

Jake’s Texas Tea House | This is not that kind of tea house – this is Texas Tea! Expect southern fare in a great retro gas-station themed diner.

Magnolia Market at the Silos | While this may not be the best choice during busy times otherwise it is a great choice for families. There are many different food choices and huge lawns for the kids to run and play.

Hey Sugar | Okay, not really somewhere to eat but how can you pass up a candy shop when you are on your epic day trips from Houston with kids?

Day Trips from Houston


Drive Time: 1 hour 15 minutes

Day Trips from Houston | Newman's Castle

Outdoors & Attractions

Newman’s Castle | This is really the reason you are bringing your kids to Bellville. There is a castle, complete with moat and working trebuchet. It is fun! {Website}

Historic Austin County Jail Museum | Older kids will enjoy the Austin County Jail Museum housed in the historic courthouse. It is open every Saturday and by appointment other days of the week.

Where to Eat

Bellville Meat Market | This is more market than place to eat but they do have barbecue plates. You can also stock up on all things meat (throw a cooler in the car).

Newman’s Bakery | If you are visiting the castle you will stop here first. Their food is amazing. You can enjoy all kinds of pastries and/ or a hot breakfast or lunch.

Day Trips from Houston


Drive Time: 2 hours 30 minutes

Austin is a destination in and of itself a simple day trip from Houston may not be enough time. As the gateway to the Hill Country it could just be stop one. But, if you are just wanting to hit the road to a familiar location Austin is a great place to aim. In fact, if you are heading in off 71 you should stop in West Point, Texas (just past La Grange). There is a fantastic drive-through safari, Sanctuary Serengeti.

Day Trips from Houston | McKinney Falls SP

Outdoors & Parks

McKinney Falls State Park | It used to be on the outskirts of town but now feels like it is part of town. However, it is small enough to do in one day and a great little park with falls (when there is enough water) to splash in!

Austin Nature & Science Center | This is a great center. It is adjacent to Zilker Botanic Garden and Park so you could easily explore both. The nature center has animals and creeks to explore. The kids will really enjoy it.

Barton Springs Municipal Pool | Barton Springs is a spring-fed pool. It maintains a brisk 68 degree temperature year round. If the pool is full (which happens often) you can hike Barton Creek and find other places to splash.


Texas State Capitol | This stop is for older kids. There is a lot of history and beautiful architecture. Consult the website for current visiting hours and safety protocols.

Thinkery | A fun hands-on science museum geared toward kids. There are science and art exhibits along with storytime and outdoor play spaces.

Where to Eat

Hula Hut | Located on the water you will get great views and fun food – Tex-Mex with a Hawaiian Twist.

Kerbey Lane Cafe | An Austin classic! They have fantastic pancakes. It is definitely not a hidden-gem, it is well-known and there will be a wait and busy times – like weekend brunch. During the week you will have no problem.

Phil’s Icehouse | A fun burger joint with a playground for the kiddos. There are a few locations around Austin

Day Trips from Houston

New Braunfels

Drive Time: 2 hours 45 minutes

New Braunfels is situated just between Austin and San Antonio and slightly closer than Canyon Lake. It is famous as jumping off point for some of the most popular tubing in Texas. However, a full day on the river keeping kids fed and above water can be stressful. Fortunately, there are many other activities in the region that make it a great destination for a day trip from Houston. If you are heading to San Antonio instead of home be sure to check out Natural Bridge Caverns, it can be on the way.

Day Trips from Houston | Schlitterbahn

Outdoors & Attractions

Schlitterbahn Waterpark New Braunfels | The Hill Country Schlitterbahn is the water park in Texas. It is bigger and better than the one in Galveston so if you are heading out this way it is a fun stop that kids will love! Do be aware that they do not have a “lazy” river – it is called Torrent River for a reason! However, there are many, many other areas appropriate for younger kids.

Stars and Stripes Drive-In Theatre | A modern drive-in with a vintage vibe. Along with the movies they have a great playground for kids.

McKenna Children’s Museum | We have a great children’s museum in Houston but it can be a lot particularly for younger children. This museum is small and perfect for eight and under.

New Braunfels Railroad Museum | For the young and young at heart! This train museum is perfect for all ages of train lovers. There are many displays and model trains.

Where to Eat

It is hard to recommend food in New Braunfels because you have so many great options. It will be hard to go wrong. But, sticking with the classics is always a good idea (particularly if you’ve never been) so check out Gristmill River Restaurant & Bar.

Union Station Diner | This is a traditional American diner serving breakfast and lunch. The kids will love he train décor.

Fork & Spoon | Another breakfast and lunch option, but this one let’s you try some of the German flair the area is historically know for!

Day Trips from Houston

San Antonio

Drive Time: 3 hours

San Antonio is one of the best places to scoot over to for the day. It is just on the bounds of too far but you can do it if you have someone in the party who doesn’t mind the driving the trip home after a long day. Unless you stay overnight your day will probably be an “either – or” – either you go to a theme park (all day) or you do the river walk and smaller attractions. With kids doing both is probably asking for meltdowns. San Antonio is not just for day trips from Houston, it is a great jumping off point for bigger trips – like heading out west and Big Bend.

Day Trips from Houston | The Alamo

Outdoors & Parks

The Alamo | Maybe it’s a Texas thing, but we love the Alamo. Even if it is closed and we’re wandering the Riverwalk. We usually, at least, pop by to see it. It is a beautiful not-to-be-missed landmark. Even if it’s not totally your thing if you’ve never gone try it, if it’s your 300th time mix it up and wander the area. So many attractions have moved in around it. If you just want to relax, wander across the street to the Menger Hotel and have a drink in the bar (that’s where people claim to see Teddy Roosevelt’s ghost).

San Antonio Missions National Historical Park | This is a very large park that includes four historic missions. They are beautiful and a lovely way to spend the day. Plus, it has free entrance!


SeaWorld | All the sea life you can want to see! During the summer you can add on water park tickets and during the cooler months there are many themed events. They also host some really great scout/ group overnight options.

Six Flags Fiesta Texas | When this amusement park originally opened it was three rides and lots of shows. Now it is jammed packed with fun rides and play areas for all ages. There is plenty to do for all ages and Six Flags is improving and tweaking year after year. {Website}

Riverwalk | The Riverwalk is super touristy but iconic. Even though we’ve walked it since we were kids it is still a nice relaxing stroll. Often we just pick a place, grab dinner along the river, and watch the river boats full of tired tourists putter along. Unless, you go high dollar most restaurants along the river are touristy but that is okay, especially with kids – they will be used to tired kids and the food will be designed to people please.

Where to Eat

Magic Time Machine Restaurant | If you are looking for a unique experience here it is. This restaurant is a crazy mixed up multi-themed restaurant featuring costumed servers representing pop culture icons from somewhere in time!

Two Bros BBQ Market | This BBQ spot is casual and fun. There is a large outdoor area with picnic tables and a playground. Plenty of room for little ones to move.

StreetFare | This is where you head when no one can agree. StreetFare is a food truck park surrounding a playground. It is very family friendly.

Day Trips from Houston


Drive Time: 2 hours 20 minutes

If you like Texas history or forts (what kid doesn’t?!) Goliad is a fantastic destination for a day trip from Houston. And, no joke, the best gravy on a chicken fried steak I have ever found, but more on that in a minute. One more note, head down in late March to early April and you may find some great bluebonnet spots.

Day Trips from Houston | Goliad

Outdoors & Attractions

Goliad State Park and Historic Site | If you want to make it a camping trip Goliad SP is a nice little park to home base out of. The highway does run right through, which can make for some loud road noise at night. Texas history is forefront on this excursion but Goliad is on the San Antonio River so paddling is an option as well. In the park, be sure to tour the Mission Espiritu Santo. The park rangers are knowledgeable and it is a great tour for kids.

Presidio-La Bahia | Less than a mile away is the Presidio (the fort). Kids will love running all over he place. There are several other historic places, like General Zaragoza’s birthplace, nearby and admission is included. The fort is great and they even have a few rooms to rent if you want to sleep there.

Fort Fun City Park | On your way into town you might like this little city park. It has a huge wooden playground. Definitely keeps with the fort theme.

Where to Eat

Empresario | Empresario is on the historic town square so aside from the food you can see the courthouse – one of the really impressive historic ones (complete with historic hanging tree). But, back tot he food! Empresario is home to the best gravy in Texas. It’s so good I am actually afraid to recommend it in case you go and find it lacking. It might break my heart! Beyond the gravy they have a robust affordable menu perfect for family dining.

Day Trips from Houston


Drive Time: 3 hours

Rockport is just shy of Port Aransas but there is plenty to do without driving the extra twenty minutes. If you are making more than a day trip one family friendly activity many people love is flounder gigging (particularly with older children) – but it is a nighttime activity so you will want to look into accommodations if you want to try your hand.

Day Trips from Houston | Rockport, TX

Outdoors & Attractions

Aransas National Wildlife Refuge | On your way in or out of town you can go by the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. It is huge. Fortunately, there is a nice driving loop for the condensed version. Kids will love the observation tower – you know, because it is a tower. There is also an alligator viewing area that they will enjoy. Both are easy to access along the 9-mile scenic loop (the drive will take about 45 minutes the alligator viewing area is just north of the loop).

Rockport Beach Park | Rockport has a nice clean little beach. There is no driving or pets allowed at this beach. There are playgrounds, picnic tables, and restroom facilities.

Bay Education Center | Adjacent to the beach is the family-friendly Bay Education Center. It is pare of the University of Texas at Austin and free to the public. There are hands on displays for kids and a boat they can play on. It is educational and informational in a fun accessible way.

Where to Eat

Our Family Kitchen | Consistent quality, affordable food, and good-sized portions – what more could you want? They are open for breakfast and dinner and will definitely please your family!

Apple Dumpling Deli | A great hole-in-the-wall kind of place. Deli food is served only for lunch.

Stevie Lew’s BBQ Kitchen | Great BBQ with seasonal house specials and old school thick, rich milk shakes! They also roast their own coffee daily (may seem amiss but small town places often multi-task!) and serve as the Rockport Coffeehouse, complete with bakery selection. There’s a lot going on here you should check them out!

Day Trips from Houston

Lake Charles, LA

Drive Time: 2 hours 15 min.

On your way to Louisiana on your day trip from Houston be sure to stop into the Texas Travel Information Center. Just before you cross the Sabine River into Louisiana, from Texas, the Texas Travel Information Center is on the northside of I-10 (westbound, but easy to get to if you are traveling eastbound). This little center is like a small museum. Plus, it has fantastic boardwalks out back that go out over the wetlands to view wildlife and possibly alligators!

Golden Nugget Lake Charles

Outdoors & Attractions

Golden Nugget | If you are looking for an easy getaway this is it. Everything is onsite – restaurants, pool, and entertainment. Golden Nugget is the most kid-friendly on the area casinos and resorts with a great pool that has some small water slides and a lazy river. {Website}

Millennium Park | Millennium Park is a very large play structure. There are separate areas for younger kids. During the summer enjoy the splash pad and spray park. Plus it is right on the lake (the park is fenced) so it is a great view and has nice places to stroll around.

Creole Nature Trail Adventure Point | You don’t have to hit the trail to stop here. Adventure Point is a free attraction at the trail head with hands-on displays immersing you in Cajun/ Creole culture. Kids can make music, practice their crabbing skills, and see the wetlands.

Where to Eat

Botsky’s | Known for their hotdogs but also make a darn good burger! They have some classic combos, like the the Duck Norris (duck sausage, spinach, feta, cherry reduction) or you can create your own. The possibilities are endless (or finite, but there are still a lot!).

Steamboat Bill’s | Looking for seafood and authentic a Cajun cooking? And, why wouldn’t you in Louisiana? Check out Steamboat Bill’s. Large portions in a family-friendly atmosphere – right on the lake.

Other Helpful Resources

Discover Houston: Museums & Eclectic or Parks & Nature

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