For The Beachbum:
Driving Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
We’ve got all the love for Galveston, but sometimes you just need to get a little farther from home. So grab your board shorts and head south to Matagorda Bay.
North of the crowd-filled Corpus Christi and Port Aransas, Matagorda Bay touts serene beaches and marshy wetlands for fishing and exploring. Go boating on the bay, or kayak in the Gulf of Mexico — the island separates the mouths of rivers like the Colorado and the Lavaca from the deep ocean waters. Quiet, but not far off-the-grid, Matagorda’s scenery feels a lot like the aquatic areas of Houston you already love — but without the hustle and bustle of a port city. —TS
For The Casual Cave Enthusiast:
Natural Bridge Caverns
Driving Time: 3 hours
When you first step into the caves you feel as though you never left Houston – the humidity in those things is unreal. It’s sticky and wet and muggy and dirty – every germ-afobe’s biggest nightmare. But once you see the first chandelier or stalagmite formation, you’ll forget it all and you’ll be immersed into the beauty that nature created.
The Natural Bridge Caverns were formed over centuries and continue to form. Touching the formations is not allowed because it stunts their growth, and will cost the curious a third-degree felony charge. The tour guides let you touch a portable nub-like formation so as to contain the need to touch – but it just makes you want to the touch even more. But tie up your hands if you have to, because the trip down further into the caves and the view from the top is astounding.
What you get to see depends on what you pay for and how much it rains. There are eight attractions, though only four that involve the caves. The most basic tour, the Discovery Tour, is $20.99 and the most expensive and interactive one, the Adventure Tour will put you out about $140. It doesn’t matter what tour, or tours, you do though – the price and drive is worth it. —MR
For The Old Soul:
Driving time: 4 hours
The sprawling hills of central Texas part like doors on a time machine to reveal a town preserved in the fields of Gillespie County. Founded in 1846, Fredericksburg boasts Victorian bed-and-breakfasts, peach wine and a mosaic portrait of Texas history. The hurried and worried modern era seemingly forgot to include Fredericksburg. Instead, this town and its 10,000 residents employ their rich background of peaceful homesteading to give even the most stressed-out college student a break from the 21st Century.
Meander down Main Street past quaint shutters and picket-fences to stop in at the Fredericksburg Brewing Company. You’ll soon discover that sipping a frothy German brew doesn’t require a plane ticket to Munich for Oktoberfest. Originally settled by German immigrants, Fredericksburg is a jewel in the crown of Texas breweries and vineyards.
But the local brewery isn’t the only inviting front porch on Main Street. The Pioneer Museum creatively illustrates the struggles and daily life of early Texas settlers, and costs only $5 for a day pass. And if museums don’t give your old soul a thrill, then pull on hiking boots and wander through one of Fredericksburg’s many surrounding parks or trails. The natural beauty of the hill country gets splatter-painted with bluebonnets and purple sage in the summer, making Fredericksburg pop with color.
So watch the world go by in a rocking chair on the porch of the Peach Tree Inn, or grab a walking stick and take a stroll through the fields. Like a slowly-sipped fine wine, Fredericksburg is steeped in the flavor and charm of its past — making this daycation even sweeter for the old soul. —KJ
For The Explorer:
Sam Houston National Forest
Driving Time: 1 hour
Whenever you’re heading into the forest, your packing list should include a tent, sleeping bag, a Swiss army knife and, of course, plenty of flannel plaid. Arrive early — the Sam Houston National Forest hosts three campgrounds on a first-come, first-served basis. At the recreation areas, you can rent paddle boats and canoes. Surrounding the forest, Lakes Conroe and Livingston hold schools of black bass ready to get reeled in. —TS