Traveling doesn’t have to be a multi-day, overnight stay, meticulously planned ordeal. A quick day trip out of town is a fun and affordable way to experience nearby attractions without all the complicated logistics of a weekend trip. With Houston’s close proximity to a variety of natural landscapes, amusement parks, and unique outdoor activities the options of one-day outings are almost unending. Whether you return exhilarated or exhausted, these top day trip destinations are sure to satisfy young and old travelers alike.
Kemah Boardwalk
215 Kipp Ave.
Kemah, TX 77565
(877) 285-3624

With its close proximity to downtown Houston (roughly only 20 miles), the Kemah Boardwalk is one of the quickest day trips for anyone itching to get out of town.The Boardwalk hosts all the classic carnival midway activities and amusement rides you’d expect, but it’s also home to a variety of well-known restaurants, not just standard hot dog stands and funnel cake fare. Visitors can take a 25 minute, 40 mile per hour, thrill ride around Galveston Bay aboard the Boardwalk Beast , and during the heat of summer kids can cool off in the Dancing Water Fountains located in the center of the Plaza.

River Floats In New Braunfels
New Braunfels, TX 78130
(800) 572-2626

Located approximately 175 miles west of Houston, New Braunfels is any water-loving Houstonian’s dream day trip. The city has two clear rivers running through it–the well-known Guadalupe River and the more family-friendly Comal–each with its own short, medium, and long float trips to accommodate practically anyone’s schedule. Check out the floating forecast before heading up and rent tubes once you arrive, but bring along water-friendly footwear for protection from the rocky river bottom.

Bayou Wildlife Park
5050 FM 517
Alvin, TX 77511
(281) 337-6376

Skip the zoo and head to the small town Houston suburb of Alvin to experience wildlife up close and personal at Bayou Wildlife Park. The park is home to over 60 species of wildlife from around the world and includes over 500 animals, some of which are even endangered. Visitors are commonly greeted by wandering emu as they drive into the park, and once inside guests safely encounter the free-roaming animals on a guided tram tour of the 86-acre natural habitat. The park is open year round, weather permitting, and guests are encouraged to bring a lunch for an on-site picnic.

Related: Best Spots To Spend A Summer Day With Your Family In Houston

Galveston Island Pleasure Pier
2501 Seawall Blvd.
Galveston Island, TX 77550
(855) 789-7437

The Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier has been nostalgically welcoming visitors since its complete renovation and grand re-opening in 2012. The game-filled midway, classic amusement rides, and array of quick-service food options that line the Pier offer something for everyone, young and old alike. Save time by purchasing tickets in advance and look for special pricing on family 4-pack day passes.

Colorado Bend State Park
Bend, TX 76824
(325) 628-3240

Houston-area outdoor adventurers will find the often overlooked Colorado Bend State Park satisfies all of their nature-loving requirements: hikeable terrain, camp sites, swimming holes, fishing spots, paddling opportunity, bird watching and mountain biking. But, unlike other state parks in Texas, Colorado Bend State Park rewards visitors after a guided 2 hour, 1.5 mile hike with a breathtaking view of Gorman Falls–a 60-foot high natural cascading waterfall. Any visitor who’s prepared to get dirty can follow an experienced guide on a speleo-adventure through the park’s 150 caves. Park admission is $5 per person and it’s open daily from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., though it’s best visited in fall or spring to avoid hiking in high heat.

Related: Best Summer Vacation Activities In Houston

Mary Evett is a yoga-loving Houston-area freelance writer, with a healthy DIY addiction. As the mother of three boys, she always knows where to find the best deal on sneakers. Her work can be found on, in addition to a number of other online publications.