Explore this unique area south of the city. Houston is home to world-renowned museums, A-list dining and over-the-top entertainment. But, sometimes, it's nice to escape the honking horns and crowded streets within the loop. For a quick getaway, take a trip down the Gulf Freeway to Clear Lake and the Bay Area to explore everything that coastal living has to offer.
Bayou Wildlife Park is perfect for all ages. The exotic animal paradise offers tram rides over 86-acres of natural habitat where guests can see animals from Africa, India, Asia, Australia and North and South America roam the lands. With frequent stops, riders have the opportunity to bucket feed animals as they approach the tram.
Space City's ultimate destination for family fun is Space Center Houston. Check out the replica of the space shuttle Explorer or take the Level 9 Tour to explore behind the scenes including NASA's Mission Control and where the astronauts train. Traveling exhibits mixed with permanent displays keeps things fresh so there's always something new to see.
The 35-acre Kemah Boardwalk features themed restaurants, shops, games and an amusement park. Dining options features 10 restaurants including Landry's Seafood House, Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. and the iconic Aquarium, which features a 50,000 gallon aquarium running throughout the restaurant. Wander the boardwalk and play classic carnival games before riding the Boardwalk Bullet.
Burn some rubber at Bay Area Raceway in Dickinson. Zoom around the quarter-mile concrete track against friends and family in a go-kart, super kart or ride tandem in a two-seater. After a couple laps, take the race inside to the arcade, which features a number of classic video and table games.Go for a stroll under the shaded streets of the League City Historic District. The area seems preserved in time dotted with one-of-a-kind boutiques, Victorian era tea rooms and restored historical sites. Be sure to check out the West Bay Common School Museum - a one-room school house built in 1898.
For the Grown-Ups
Travel down to Santa Fe to explore Haak Vineyards and Winery. The three-acre vineyard consists of 1800 vines along with a 25,000 sq. ft. winery and a 10,000 sq. ft. cellar for aging wines. Tours feature a selection of table wines and are given daily at $10 a person (guests under 21 are free).
Twenty-five minutes south of the 610 loop sits the 134-acre airpark, Skydive Spaceland. Divers free fall at 120 mph before opening their parachute and gracefully gliding through the air for 5 minutes. This adrenaline junkie's paradise is open seven days a week offering tandem jumps suited to all levels of experience.
Looking to experience art in the Bay Area? The University of Houston-Clear Lake Art Gallery is a top spot for visual art exhibitions. Exhibitions include group shows featuring UHCL students, thematic exhibitions of regional artists, and retrospectives of nationally and internationally recognized artists. The UHCL Art Gallery offers many educational programs throughout the year such as public lectures, artist demonstrations and hands-on art-making activities. All exhibitions and many other activities are free.
Take it slow and cruise the sea with Star Fleet Yachts. Board any one of the five yachts at their private Kemah marina, including the 100-foot flagship Star Gazer. Enjoy a magical buffet style dinner accompanied by a variety of entertainment under the stars.
On the Water
Take to the water by way of Pinky's Kayak Rentals. Paddle board through Taylor Lake or kayak amidst Armond Bayou Wildlife Refuge and Wilderness Preserve for some of the best bird watching along the coast. Jet skis, wakeboards and banana boats are also available.
Under the Kemah bridge sits Nautica Watercrafts, a rental paradise known mainly by locals. Take a charted sail boat or a guided fishing trip out to the bay. Can't make it down there? Jet Ski deliveries are available to the Greater Houston Area.
Not a sailing enthusiast, but would like to give it a try? South Coast Sailing is a great place to start. They offer ASA lessons for all skill levels to prepare you for your voyage. South Coast also offers fishing trips and power boat cruises around the bay. For a romantic getaway, spend the night on one of their ships and enjoy falling asleep to the sounds of the sea.
Known for its enormous burgers and oversized onion rings, Tookies is worth the drive. The burger baron took a hit when Hurricane Ike barreled into the Texas coast in 2008, but it has since bounced back and is dishing out the favorites just like they did back in 1975. Try the Squealer-a lip-smacking blend of beef and bacon dressed with all the classics atop a sesame seed bun.
The red barn is hard to miss, but it's the smell of oak wood burning that draws you in. Featured on the Food Network show "Diner, Drive-In's and Dives," T-Bone Tom's started out as a local meat market in the ‘60s and has since developed into one of Bay Area's not-so-hidden gems. Texas sized portions of chicken fried steak, spicy blackened catfish and smoked sausage can be devoured inside or in Tom's Back Yard-an outdoor patio featuring live music every Tuesday - Sunday night.
Situated in a strip center off of NASA Parkway, Nobi Public House is an Asian-fusion gastropub that has brought craft beer to the burbs. Probably the only place in the Bay Area where guests can enjoy a Vietnamese style bahn-mi sandwich while drinking an IPA. Space is limited, so avoid coming during peak hours.
Once the sun goes down the party gets started. Head over to Big Texas Clear Lake for a boot scootin' good time. Never two-stepped before? Big Texas offers free dance lessons from 6 - 7 p.m. every Friday, so you can get past your two left feet before the crowd sets in. If dancing isn't your thing, grab a drink from one of the three large bars and head to the back to shoot some pool or relax at a table and enjoy the sounds of some of Texas Country's finest.
Jackie's Brickhouse is a Kemah hotspot with a little bit of something for everyone. With no shortage of space, up to 530 guests can enjoy live music almost nightly. The kitchen stays open late serving American style pub grub and brick oven pizzas. During the spring and summer, sip tropical drinks under their palapa and play some corn hole out back. The game room includes classics such as shuffle board, darts, golden tee and buck hunter. Host a party here and receive a faux brick to customize and be placed on the Brickhouse wall.
Over 150 hand-selected wines, ports and Sherries are offered at Chelsea Wine Bar. The two-story wine bar has a European pub feel with a waterfront views. For those overwhelmed by the selection, rely on the knowledgeable staff's recommendations and couple them with a variety of cheeses and sweets.
A seaside getaway just steps away from the Kemah Boardwalk is the Boardwalk Inn. This 52 room boutique hotel provides a relaxing getaway while still being in the middle of the action. Guests have access to water front dining, an outdoor pool and complimentary gated parking.
The lakeside South Shore Harbour Resort offers 250 rooms and is located in the heart of the Bay Area. Take a dip in the 185-foot tropical swimming pool with a swim up bar or lounge with a cocktail in the relaxing lobby bar. Dine at the Paradise Reef Restaurant which offers some of the finest selections in gulf coast dining.
Just 20 minutes south of Houston's Hobby Airport is the Hilton NASA Clear Lake. This waterfront hotel feature 243 rooms, up-to-date fitness facilities, and a pool with stunning views of Clear Lake. With access to the Hilton Marina, guests can participate in exciting Texas style water sports such as power boating, windsurfing, jet skiing and parasailing.
By GHCVB Staff
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