Saturday, July 29, 2017

Local Destinations: The Woodlands

I kind of hate driving. But not the way I hate being crammed in with people on large transit machines. I mean have you seen "Midnight" in the Doctor Who series? I always feel like that's about how it is going to go for me. 

We'll do the larger travel stuff if and when we can, but only for some select trips. Universal Studios Harry Potter attraction is on my bucket list. But even that takes some serious penny hoarding and planning with three kids.

And I'm probably still going to hate getting to and from Florida. 

So, if you don't have the means for larger trips or just hate being packed in for long amounts of time, you don't have to skip out on adventures. 

People miss so much that is right in front of them. Which is almost a tragedy, especially in a large city like Houston that houses so many unique things and is very close to other great destinations. 

You can find something to do every week here. A new place to eat, a new museum, a new trip to take to a nearby town...

This summer we packed up and went to the Woodlands in Texas for a few days. 

It's an incredibly family-friendly place, with a waterway that (on select days/hours) has a ferry to take you around and is generally running trolley cars to help you get around the large Market Street area. There's a mall with a ton of things to get into, but we passed on that, opting to take the kids walking the decorative paths. 

If you don't do anything else, go see the Waterway at night, I forgot my camera that evening but it is
gorgeous, I swear it. 

One of the things you have to take into account with the kids is what they need to keep from being bored or overwhelmed. Our first choice hotel, The Woodlands Resort, has a water park attached but it was booked. We opted to get a hotel that had a nice pool, a huge breakfast bar, and a splashpad; The SpringHill Suites Houston The Woodlands had a great deal on a room for all five of us and having the pool and splash pad kept everyone extremely happy. There were no boring moments-when we weren't out exploring, we were out swimming. The rooms were clean, the lobby was nice, the free breakfast puts the usual hotel continental breakfasts to absolute shame, and everyone was courteous. I'm still hoping to get to explore The Woodlands Resort in the future, but if you are looking for a great deal and a great place, SpringHill Suites will make you happy. It's also located strategically to stores and food joints to make everything fairly low stress. 

The pool is always stocked with swim toys, too, which is amazing. 

One of the biggest draws for us here is The Woodlands Children's Museum. We have a giant, award-winning one here in Houston. But, it's giant. So get ready to pay for parking, fight for a spot to park in, wade through people, and keep a hawk-like watch over your kids in the giant facility. This museum, on the other hand, is hidden away in a shopping center. 

You'll have to walk down a magic-looking alleyway with hanging colorful decorations to even find the front door. 

The place isn't tiny, but it's small in comparison. You can keep an eye on everyone at the same time. Even my ten-year-old was able to find enough things to do to have a great time, and my eight and three-year-old love the place. If you have children, definitely don't pass this place up. The reviews are right, it's nicer for smaller kids, but with so much to do, I'd say you could swing this until about eleven without a lot of sighing, and twelve before they'd probably stop enjoying everything. 

And, the best part is that it's very close to a TCBY. So you can stop for ice-cream on the way in or out to make it a memorable day for sure. 

The Woodlands has way more to do than what we have explored, and for a driveable distance, it is an awesome place to plan a getaway with your family. There are enough amenities to make you comfortable and enough to explore (including hiking trails, though we won't be hitting those in summer) to keep you excited. It's a balance hard to find in a trip, but one necessary for us with three kids. 

Travel doesn't have to mean leaving the country. Or even the state. 

There is something to be said for going out to explore with a backpack full of stuff for the family and uncovering places close to where you live. 

It's more economical, for us it is more enjoyable, too. 

It's about finding those moments where you're just enjoying being with the people you love and trying new things. 

I'm hoping to be able to save some to try this during our holiday season as well. The swimming might be missing (unless you can snag a place with a heated, indoor pool) but many cities in Texas change attractions during the winter, so there are new things to visit and do. 

Don't forget to go out and explore closer to your hometown, too. Check city websites for big events, ask around to find new places to eat, look out for travel guides for your town and those right around you. You never know what you'll discover right around the corner. 


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