Whether you come early or stay after the conference, there’s plenty to do just a short way from Houston. With two main interstates connecting in the city, day trips are a breeze. Make arrangements to rent a car at the airport or through your hotel.
Are you planning to explore Texas before or after the conference? If you’ve visited Houston or live in or around the city, what else would you recommend? Let us know!
San Jacinto Battleground and Battleship Texas
For history buffs, be sure to add a trip to LaPorte, Texas to your agenda. LaPorte is just 25 miles east of Houston and is home to the San Jacinto Museum of History and Monument and the Battle of San Jacinto State Historic Site. This marks the site of the battle between the Texan Army, led by General Sam Houston, and the Mexican Army, led by Mexican President Antonio Lopéz de Santa Ana, in 1836. This important battle led to Texas’ independence from Mexico. Near the San Jacinto complex, you can also find the Battleship Texas State Historic Site. This battleship was commissioned in 1914 and served in both World War I and World War II before being decommissioned in 1948.
Galveston Island is located 50 miles south of Houston. The city of Galveston is home to several historical districts as well as Moody Gardens, an entertainment complex featuring an aquarium, a rain forest, and a 3D IMAX theater, all housed in glass pyramids. This is definitely a family-friendly place to visit. You can enjoy a nice lunch or dinner of fresh Gulf seafood along Seawall Boulevard. If you have more than a day or two, you can take a cruise to the Mexican Riviera, Cayman Islands, or Jamaica from Galveston.
On your way to Galveston, you can stop at Space Center Houston and explore the official Visitors Center of NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC). JSC houses NASA’s Mission Control Center. They have many different things for adults and children alike to explore, including an IMAX theater, tram tours of NASA, and a variety of galleries and exhibits.
College Station, home to Texas A&M University, is located 95 miles northwest of Houston. You can visit the George Bush Library and Museum, which is located right on campus. You can also explore neighboring Bryan and its historic downtown area.
Heading 165 miles northwest of Houston will bring you to Austin. Austin is home to many interesting attractions. You can visit the LBJ Library and Museum, located on the University of Texas campus. You can also check out the university’s Blanton Museum, the Texas State Capitol, take a nice walk around Lady Bird Lake on the Hike and Bike Trail, or climb to the top of Mt. Bonnell for a panoramic view of Austin and the surrounding area. While in Austin, enjoy a delicious BBQ lunch from Rudy’s, Iron Works, or The Salt Lick. You can stop off in Brenham and tour the Blue Bell Ice Cream Creamery and sample some delicious ice cream. My favorite flavor is Pecan Pralines and Cream, but their most popular is Homemade Vanilla.
If you have more time and you’re up for a longer drive, you can visit San Antonio. San Antonio is home to the Riverwalk, the biggest tourist attraction in Texas. You can enjoy a nice margarita, either frozen or on the rocks, with your Tex-Mex lunch on the Riverwalk. You can also visit the Institute of Texan Cultures, mentioned in The Texan Experience blog post.
Sports Venues in Houston
Finally, for sports fans, you can spend the day visiting the three major sports venues in Houston: Reliant Stadium, home to the Houston Texans; Toyota Center, home to the Houston Rockets; or Minute Maid Park, home to the Houston Astros and adjacent to the Brown Convention Center.
Lake Charles’ Casinos
If you feel lucky, you can try out one of the casinos in Lake Charles, LA, a three-hour drive from Houston. You can check out L’Auberge, Isle of Capri, or Coushatta. While there, you can try some boiled crawfish and other delicious Cajun food.
Which day trips seem most appealing to you? How can we help you plan your day trips?
Mark Powell has spent his career working in academia both at Brigham Young University and the University of Texas at Austin. He made his first study abroad trip to the Soviet Union in 1991. In addition to studying Russian, he has taught ESL in the United States, Mexico, and Russia. He has been involved in NAFSA for almost six years. He served on the Region III Team for three and a half years as the Tech SIG Liaison. He most recently was the co-organizer of the first ever Technology Fair at the NAFSA Conference in 2011 in Vancouver. He will be coordinating the Technology Fair again in Houston this year. Mark has lived in Austin, TX for the past 18 years and loves it there.