Less than an hour from the coastline and a short drive from the Texas Hill Country, Houston is the perfect launching point for a the day trip. Here, six escapes from the city—some less than an hour away.
1. Eat brunch at a private ranch-turned-resort (70 miles from Houston)
The only Forbes five-star restaurant in Texas is located in Brenham, a town halfway between Houston and Austin. At luxury hotel The Inn at Dos Brisas, you don't have the be a guest to make a meal reservation. The property's restaurant offers views of the expansive on-site organic garden, working farm, and greenhouse. While the menu is American, the restaurant heralded for its European technique, seasonal menu, expert presentation, and 7,000-bottle wine cellar. The hotel, owned by a Houston couple, is an expansive 313 acres with only nine guest suites. Sunday brunch is $65 for a three-course menu. At dinnertime, a four-course dinner menu is available. Daily lunch is priced a la carte.
2. Pick your own pumpkin—or strawberries, blackberries and blueberries (48 miles from Houston)
Family-friendly Blessington Farms has a bounty of pumpkins beginning in late September each year—head to the patch to pick yours through Halloween. At other times of year, vine-ripe fruit is available for picking for $5 a pound and up. The farm provides the baskets and the admission fee also includes fishing, a petting zoo, hay rides, and other activities. Also near Houston, Atkinson Farms in Spring draws crowds for its seasonal strawberry picking.
3. Take a dip in Hamilton Pool (188 miles away)
Dripping Spring's natural swimming hole Hamilton Pool is carved from limestone and features a dramatic 50-foot waterfall and a collapsed canyon. The breathtaking preserve is beloved for its relatively cool temperature and because it doesn't dry up even in times of drought, which is common in the area. Plan ahead—half-day paid online reservations are now required—about $26 per carload.
4. Hit the beach (50 miles away)
Native Houstonians can't help but brag that a beach getaway is always just an hour away. It's easy to waste away a day on Galveston's public beaches, charming pocket parks, or along the bustling Strand (and the surrounding historic downtown homes). Tourists tend to flock to Pleasure Pier and Moody Gardens, which offer plenty of entertainment. Feel like going off the beaten path? The tony resort community of Beachtown has a small number of charming restaurants and shops open the public, like Porch Cafe.
5. Shop the silos, HGTV style (180 miles away)
Chip and Joanna Gaines of HGTV's "Fixer Upper" series have put Waco, Texas on the national map. Visitors travel from far and wide to patronize their massive Magnolia Market home goods shop at the site of old grain silos, where expansive greens, corn hole, and food trucks beckon customers to stay a while. Next door, lines queue daily at their new Magnolia Bakery. From there, super fans of the show can drive through the Waco neighborhoods near Baylor University (such as Castle Heights and Sanger Heights) to try to spot the couple's finished fixer-uppers that have been featured on the show.
6. Float in a lazy river (60 miles from Houston)
Lake Conroe's La Torretta Lake Resort offers monthly memberships to access their pools, slides, and lazy river. (There is both a kid-friendly pool and one only for adults.) As a bonus, the hotel will help you arrange kayak and paddle board rentals to experience the lake.