Our friends from other parts of the country (poor things) tell us about going away for the weekend to a nearby state. Well, except for a little bit of Louisiana and the Gulf of Mexico, the only place within three or four hours of Houston is still Texas. Here are our favorite weekend getaways. We took travel time, attractions and food into account as we made our choices. See if your favorite made our list.
10. Dallas (4 hours) We start with Dallas. If it isn't football season, we don't usually have much to say about Dallas. It's too much like Houston (big city, no real tourist zone, lots of traffic) to warrant frequent trips, but we do make it up there once in a while. The big attractions for us are the museums (excellent) and steak houses (even more excellent). See, just like Houston.
9. College Station (1.5 hours) Come bluebonnet time, College Station is one of our favorites. Aggies love "going home" to the motherland and plenty of people make the trek for football games and other school related events. That's not the attraction for us. We like the small town atmosphere and all that open land. Not too much to do, unless you count the George Bush Library and Museum, which is worth a visit (you can get Barbara Bush to "write" you a letter at one of the kiosk there).
8. Palacios (1 hour) The self-named Shrimp Capital of Texas, Palacios doesn't have much more than a sliver of a beach, but the fishing is great and you can find excellent shrimp served up morning, noon and night at the local restaurants. We like sitting on the patio of Outriggers, watching the shrimp boats come in at sunset, knowing the shrimp on our plate comes from the waters right outside the restaurant.
7. Beaumont (1.5 hours) Beaumont's a prime spot for history and art buffs. The Texas oil boom started there, which made for a lot of overnight millionaires. They built themselves fancy houses, many of which are open for tours, and they left all their money to their kids. That second and third generation of oil millionaires found out that giving money to museums was a great tax deduction. Those deep pockets have been filling Beaumont museums for generations now. Like the rest of the Gulf Coast, Beaumont got flattened by Hurricane Ike, but it's recovered nicely. And the city is close enough to Louisiana to guarantee great zydeco music and excellent Cajun food.
6. San Antonio (3 hours) The city of San Antonio makes our list for two reasons: the river walk and food. The river walk is great for strolling or canoodling and the food is definitive Tex-Mex. Oh yeah, and there's a little building called the Alamo folks say is worth a visit.
5. Brenham (1.5 hours) Like Palacios and San Antonio, one of the big draws here is food. Blue Bell Ice Cream, to be exact. Take a tour of the creamery and spend the weekend antiquing or lolling around the countryside. The area is beautiful, with long winding country roads that somehow all seem to lead to the creamery.
4. Brazos Bend State Park (1 hour) We're not really into roughing it, but a visit to Brazos Bend State Park is worth a mosquito bite or two. You have your choice of campsites (we usually opt for a screened- in shelter), and there are plenty of organized activities. There's also the George Observatory, which is open to the public and allows all of us who don't work at NASA to get a great look at the stars, too.
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3. Corpus Christi (3.5 hours) The deep blue water and long, open beaches of Corpus Christi is just about as beautiful as waterfront gets in Texas. Sports enthusiasts will find Corpus has plenty to do, from fishing to hang gliding, and birdwatching to hiking. Take your sunscreen.
2. Austin (3 hours) The Live Music Capital of the World, Austin has plenty of nightlife and the natural beauty of the area offers lots of outdoor activities during the day. Don't be surprised if you end of having coffee next to your favorite musician or politician.
1. Galveston (1 hour) The water's usually a lackluster shade of brown, but Galveston is the sentimental favorite for a weekend getaway for Houstonians. There's enough beach you're sure to get a spot to yourself. Moody Gardens is open year round. There are excellent, if slightly downhome-ish, barbeque and seafood restaurants. The Pleasure Pier has enough attractions to keep even the most hyper kids busy all day long. The Strand has plenty of festivals and concerts. We like to stay at the Galvez, it's like stepping back into the 19th century.
Be smart and make sure you visit Galveston during the Halloween season - no one does Ghost Tours like Galveston. The ornate, above ground cemeteries and hundreds of years of sea wrecks and hurricanes, not to mention good old fashioned only-in-Texas murders, make for plenty of ghosts on the island. And then there was that cannibalistic Karankawa Indian tribe. Some of those spirits are sure to haunt the island.