Travel

9 Suburbs Near Houston You Should Absolutely Visit

You could use a little space.

The Woodlands, Texas Waterway Square Town Center
The Woodlands, Texas Waterway Square Town Center | Mario Santos/Shutterstock
The Woodlands, Texas Waterway Square Town Center | Mario Santos/Shutterstock

This may come as a surprise, but suburban life can be pretty rad. Don’t believe us? Then take a quick drive to these actually cool suburbs within spitting distance from Houston. With local oyster houses with dedicated Airbnb rentals, world-class amphitheatres and restaurant-lined waterways, and rapidly growing Asiatowns where you can get Korean-style corn dogs fried in squid ink batter—these little big towns offer up a nice, probably much-needed escape from the city. No judgement if you end up moving there.

Shrimp Siu Mai
Phat Eatery Shrimp Siu Mai | Photo by Dragana Harris

Katy, Texas

Drive from Downtown: 35 minutes
There was a time where this just west of Houston suburb was just that, a suburb. Peaceful, maybe a tad boring, but with a pretty cool historic train depot, if you’re into that kind of thing. Enter: Katy Asian Town, a fresh-faced, 15.5-acre center in northeast Katy that opened a few years back. It’s a boomtown of hot new Asian restaurants, from Malaysian street food favorite Phat Eatery, to Japanese cream puff connoisseur Beard Papa’s, to pocket-sized Korean corn dog specialist Chung Chun Rice Corn Dog, and to Chung Wang BBQ, a Chinese barbecue spot with crispy duck, roast pig, and offal. While you’re in town, you’ll want to quench your thirst at No Label Brewing Co., too.

Pier 6 Seafood & Oyster House
Pier 6 Seafood & Oyster House | Photo by Kimberly Park

San Leon, Texas

Drive from Downtown: 50 minutes
Gilhooley’s. Pier 6 Seafood & Oyster House. Topwater Grill. These are just a few of the jewels sittin’ pretty in this quiet bayside town, where time seems to stand still and the oysters are as fresh as they come. You’ll want to visit them all, of course, starting your Tour de Oyster with the famous Oysters Gilhooley, char-grilled oysters-on-the-half-shell absolutely dripping in garlic butter and crusty parmesan. Get out on Galveston Bay and bring your catch of the day to Topwater Grill, where they’ll fry it, grill it, or etouffee-it as you suck down oysters and shrimp cocktails. Then there’s Pier 6, the latest and greatest addition to the ramshackle town, backed by Texas Gulf oyster guy Raz Halili of his family’s Prestige Oysters and the uber talented chef Joe Cervantez, formerly of Brennan’s. The duo dreamed up a modern, fresh space with water views and the freshest oysters around. Grab a swing seat on the patio, catch the sunset, and slurp up ice cold Gulf oysters with hot sauce and mignonette, crab gratin stuffed oysters, and grilled oysters with habanero butter. Those looking to stay overnight can stay in one of the restaurant’s newly renovated Airbnbs.

Swan paddle boat on the Woodlands Waterway.
Swan paddle boat on the Woodlands Waterway. | PianoMark/Shutterstock

Woodlands, Texas

Drive from Downtown: 35 minutes
This master planned exurb sits north of Houston off I-45, and while you may know it for housing a bunch of people that work at Exxon and Chevron Phillips, it’s also kind of a rad place to hangout. That’s thanks to the Woodlands Waterway district, which rocks an amphitheatre for live concerts and tours (The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion), open greenspace, a landscape of retail shopping and dining off Market Street, a lakefront restaurant row over at Hughes Landing, and fun stuff like, a water taxi, and kayak launch. Nature enthusiasts can also get grounded at the epic 1,800-acre George Mitchell Nature Preserve, which rocks over 220 miles of eye-pleasing hike and bike trails.

Conroe, Texas

Drive from Downtown: 45 minutes
Lake Conroe. That’s not the only reason to go this far north of Houston (there are breweries like Southern Star and B-52 and a really cute, century-old Downtown, too), but it’s a really good one. The 22,000-acre lake rocks 157 miles of shoreline, kayaking, canoeing, fishing, and water sports opportunities, and, most importantly for this second summer spent with your quaranteam, party boats. You can (and should) rent out a six-person floating tiki bar this summer, whether it’s for a “Tequila Sunrise” session, a “5 O'Clock Somewhere” happy hour out on the lake, or a Real Estate Tour because maybe you want to live here, actually.

Old rustic building on Main Street in Tomball, Texas
Old rustic building on Main Street in Tomball, Texas | Barre Kelley/Shutterstock

Tomball, Texas

Drive from Downtown: 40 minutes
What if we told you there was a place that made both bean-to-bar chocolate and ace barbecue (some of the best in Texas, by the way). And what if we told you that place was just a short drive from Houston? You’d want to go there, right? Well, you can! Tejas Chocolate + Barbecue puts out things like pastrami beef ribs, snappy chile relleno sausage links, and scratch-made chocolate bread pudding over in the Old Town Tomball. Also in Old Town Tomball, a wonderland of boutiques and antique shops, a rain-or-shine farmers market, old-timey bakeries and cafes, and plenty of Texas charm.

August, 2018: inside starship gallery in The Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, Texas.
August, 2018: inside starship gallery in The Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, Texas. | John_Silver/Shutterstock

Clear Lake, Texas

Drive from Downtown: 30 minutes
Yep, this Bay Area town is the home of the NASA Johnson Space Center, which we find to be a pretty legit reason to visit, given that it trains astronauts, houses mission control, has a bunch of rocket ships, and is responsible for space exploration, and all. Do nerd out there, then get to know the area for its other extraordinary features, mainly taking a boat or jetski out onto the lake itself, checking out the nearby, East Coast-style Kemah Boardwalk on the other side of the lake, getting some nature-fueled steps in at Armand Bayou Nature Center, and finishing up your day with banh mi and fresh crafts at Vietnamese suds-house Nobi Public House.

Richmond, TX - March 10, 2018 The historical courthouse in Fort Bend County
Richmond, TX - March 10, 2018 The historical courthouse in Fort Bend County | Timothy L Barnes/Shutterstock

Richmond, Texas

Drive from Downtown: 40 minutes
Just southwest of Houston in Fort Bend County, this sleepy, historic town got its start as one of the first 19 cities incorporated by the Republic of Texas way back in 1837. It’s come a long way since then (though those looking to get in the area’s storied history can window shop its beautifully preserved historic homes, or pay a visit to the Fort Bend Museum and the 1824 George Ranch Historical Park, which tells the story of a four-generational Texas family). There’s a brand-new wine experience, for starters. Messina Hof Harvest Green Winery & Kitchen opened just this year, sporting both a garden-to-table restaurant and posh tasting room. Then there’s Harlem Road Texas BBQ, sitting on the outskirts of town and slow smoking its meats over vintage oak wine staves; or Galvan's BBQ, a family-owned smokehouse known for its housemade sausage. Afterward, feel real deal Texan with a stop into the Lone Star Saloon in historic Downtown or Scotty’s Saloon set at the old Booth Trading Post.

Spring, Texas

Drive from Downtown: 30 minutes
Imagine a quaint, old German settler’s town, then imagine that town having some of best barbecue in the city. That’s what you’re getting in Old Town Spring, plus a bunch of antique stores and local boutiques, a saloon set in an old jailhouse, a hand-pattied burger joint, relaxed wine tasting patio, the perfect spot for live music and in-season crawfish, and one of the most exciting new additions to Houston’s other-worldly dining scene. That’d be Belly of the Beast, a New World taqueria and Mexican restaurant where LA born-and-bred chef Thomas Bille offers a mix of bright ceviches, transcendent tacos, and a life-affirming Sunday brunch. Bonus points if you visit Spring around Halloween, when ghost tours offer both a glimpse into the Old West town’s haunted past and a pretty good scare.

Exterior view of Royers Cafe in Round Top, TX
Exterior view of Royers Cafe in Round Top, TX | Alizada Studios/Shutterstock

Round Top, Texas

Drive from Downtown: 1 hour 30 minutes
We’re gonna go ahead and bet that you’ve gotten really into HGTV over the past year of social distancing. If we’re right, you’ll want to head on over to Round Top, a “big small town” known as a gold mine for treasure hunters. The town holds the Round Top Antiques Fair each spring, fall, and winter (there are the Blue Hills shows, too), as dealers bring their best vintage goods and you to score big on. Shop, then venture out to Kooper Family Whiskey for a tasting of the brown stuff, or Blue Mule Winery for the red, and finish up with a big slice of buttermilk pie at Royers Round Top Cafe.

Brooke Viggiano is a Houston-based writer who is really trying to fight suburban life as hard as she can right now but the bbq and lake life are kind of calling to her. Stay strong and #InTheLoop with her @brookeviggiano on Twitter and @brookiefafa on IG.

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