Travel, USA

Spending 7 Days in Houston, Texas: Day Trip, Shopping, Exploring, and More!

The Lone Star State: Texas. This famed state is known for its rough and wild interior. From cowboys and rodeos to its massive size and Texan pride, Texas is truly a very interesting and fun place to visit. What better way to visit a state like this than with a little vacation to explore and visit family?!

Why take a trip to Texas to visit family? Well, my boyfriend’s older sister, her husband, and daughter all live in Texas. Since my boyfriend and I both live in Pennsylvania, he doesn’t see his sister, brother-in-law, or niece that much. So every other year, we take a trip to Texas to visit his family. At the same time, as a family, we do some activities and take a day trip to another part of Texas.

We tried to make the most of our time in Texas by spending time with family and partaking in attractions, activities, and exploration. In June of 2023, my boyfriend and I took a plan to Texas to do just that!

Philadelphia Airport on the day of a flight to Houston, Texas

Texas travel with no plans

Prior to our trip to Texas, I asked my boyfriend what he wanted to see and do while we were down there. Needless to say, he didn’t have anything in mind. We were going to Houston where his sister is, so we weren’t short on options and activities. To be honest, I really didn’t know what I wanted to do either while down there.

The main purpose of traveling to Texas was to visit my boyfriend’s older sister, so they could spend time together. Beyond that, we didn’t know what else we wanted to do. With that in mind, we decided to go with the flow and see where the trip would lead us.

I must say, this was unlike me. To say the least, I usually have a few things in mind I want to see or do when I visit a destination. However, this time around, I decided to play everything by ear and see what everyone wanted to do. When you’re traveling to visit family, you often do things together. So, I figured if we were going to do something as a family, we’d need everyone’s input and ideas anyways. Instead of stressing myself and making that long list of places to visit, I was very flexible and open to anything which was suggested for us to do as a family.

Relaxing upon arrival

We arrived in Houston, Texas in the early afternoon on a Sunday. Thankfully, it was a smooth flight with no issues or delays. It was very hot and humid down there that day, even more so for Texas as they were experiencing a heat wave. My boyfriend and I knew that we really didn’t want to do much of anything that required going outside or doing things outdoors. We just wanted to relax and stay cool.

Once his sister picked us up from the airport, we discussed with her about what we wanted to see and do during the week we were visiting Texas. There were multiple suggestions, most of which we did throughout the week (you’ll soon see!). But one thing was for certain, we told her that we didn’t want to go out and do anything too intense with the heat and humidity at the time she picked us up. She completely understood and even recommended us to not go outside but to stay in or go to their community pool later on in the day when it was cooler out.

After an hour car ride from the airport to my boyfriend’s sister’s house, we caught up with his brother-in-law and niece. We relaxed and chilled for a bit, since we were tired from traveling and being in the heat. My boyfriend’s niece wanted desperately to go to the pool and kept asking her mom and us if we wanted to go with her. Though we were very tired, chilling in the pool sounded like a cool way to spend time together and cool ourselves off.

A quick change into bathing suites, towels and sunscreen loaded in bags, we were off to the community pool! We played together and chilled in the pool for about a couple of hours. It was fun and I know his niece really enjoyed spending time with us and playing in the pool. When we were done at the pool, we went home to shower and have some dinner. The remainder of the night, Chris and I relaxed and talked to the family until we finally decided we were too tired to carry on a conversation. We turned in the for the night and boy, we sure slept like babies!

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View of The Galleria Mall in Houston, Texas

The Galleria and dinner

It was the next day and Chris and I were fully refreshed and ready to tackle the day! We literally had no plans and asked his sister for suggestions which were in the Houston area but it had to be inside, as it was still very hot and humid outside. His sister recommend walking around The Galleria Mall, which is a huge mall in uptown Houston. If you’re from Philly and know of King of Prussia and how big it is, The Galleria is like that. Filled with hundreds of stores from every day buys to luxury brands, a play area, food court, and more, there’s a lot to see in there!

Wandering around The Galleria

The best part is that it’s all indoors with AC! So, Chris and I thought this would be the best thing to do for a few hours since it was so hot out. I love walking and exploring but when it’s too hot and humid, I’ll take a pass for the time being. Anyways, we drove about 40 minutes to the uptown Houston area where the mall is located. The look of the place from the outside does not do it justice, because the inside is huge!

Needless to say, we spent quite a few hours inside The Galleria. Not only are there hundreds of stores but there are multiple floors as well. We took our time window shopping, going into a few stores to buy items, making our way to each floor. Ensuring we didn’t miss a thing. I guarantee you, we still didn’t manage to see all there is to The Galleria. After a certain point, my boyfriend’s niece got very tired of walking and was hungry. We all collectively decided that we should get some food to eat and then make our way back to the car. After trying to find the food court in the maze that is this mall, we ate some food and rested our feet. We made one last trip to a store for our niece to buy something before we made our way to the car.

Wandering around the mall was fun. I absolutely love exploring malls in new destinations and seeing the types of stores they have. I usually don’t buy anything but it’s just fun for me to walk around and see what the mall is all about.

View of The Galleria Mall in Houston, Texas

Dinner at Chuy’s

When you’re in Texas, you have to eat some good Mexican or Tex-Mex food. For dinner that night, we decided to go to Chuy’s. It’s this chain restaurant which serves Tex-Mex food. The food is pretty good, in my opinion. Chris’s family loves this place and it’s honestly their favorite place to go for Tex-Mex. Not to mention their alcohol, it’s very tasty and not too strong. I’m sure if you wanted them stronger, they could make it stronger.

Their nachos with queso, homemade salsas, burritos, rice and beans, all of it is just delicious! I’ve been here before on the last vacation I took with my boyfriend to visit his sister. They brought us here for dinner and I enjoyed the food back then as well. And I still enjoyed it a couple years later! I also have to mention the staff there as well, as each time I’ve been here, they’ve always been super friendly, respectful, and accommodating to anything we needed. That southern/Texan hospitality is just the best!

We ate our dinner outside and even though it was about 7 or 8pm, I can tell you that it was still hot and humid as hell. But the family has a dog and we took him to dinner with us. That meant we had to eat outside because animals are not allowed inside. Which was fine with me and Chris. This didn’t stop the whole family from enjoying our meals and having a great time.

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A section of Natural Bridge Cavern in San Antonio, Texas

Day trip to San Antonio

The next day, we all decided to take a day trip! To where, you ask? San Antonio! San Antonio is a great day trip option to take from Houston. In San Antonio, you have The Alamo, The Riverwalk, museums, and a variety of other attractions and activities. There’s plenty to do in this area and being only 3 hrs from Houston, it’s definitely a doable day trip. This was our plan for this day. Take a day trip to San Antonio to visit Natural Bridge Caverns, go to The Riverwalk, and get some dinner somewhere along The Riverwalk. However, things didn’t go exactly to plan.

Natural Bridge Cavern

The focal point of the day trip was to visit Natural Bridge Cavern. It’s a cave system with stalactites, stalagmites, and other cool formations. This place got it’s name due to the natural bridge formation which was formed at the entrance to the cave system. It’s so cool how nature can create such unique formations!

We purchased our tickets to the caverns and took the guided tour through this massive cave system. We toured two separate cave systems at separate times, which was fun! Of course, the tour guide went over the history of the caves, it’s discovery, the types of formations that can be found, and it’s continued growth. You can’t help but to be in amazement and awe at the size of the formations and place. Aside from Luray Caverns, Natural Bridge Cavern is one of the biggest cave systems I’ve been in so far.

Of course, there’s more than just caves. It’s like a mini amusement park at Natural Bridge Cavern. There’s rides, souvenir/gift shops, and places to eat. You’d expect to just see a cave, exit through a gift shop, then call it a day. When you come to Natural Bridge Cavern, it’s a whole experience that’s connected to learning and exploring. Naturally, my boyfriend’s niece gravitated towards the games and other attractions. We spent over 4 hours at the caverns and letting my boyfriend’s niece play the numerous games they had.

By the time we were all ready to leave, it was in the late afternoon and we were all hot. Chris’s niece had a bad headache, felt tired, and just wanted to go home. So, we inevitably decided to scratch The Riverwalk and drive 3 hours back to Houston. It was a bummer for Chris, myself, and his sister because we were looking forward to visiting The Riverwalk again. But we didn’t want to push the little one when she wasn’t feeling good already. It was for the best, so we left.

The natural bridge that formed at Natural Bridge Cavern in San Antonio, Texas

A section of Natural Bridge Cavern in San Antonio, Texas

A section of Natural Bridge Cavern in San Antonio, Texas

A section of Natural Bridge Cavern in San Antonio, Texas

Dinner at The Cheesecake Factory

Before we went back to the house, we decided to stop and get dinner while we were out. We were all pretty hungry by now and wanted to get some food in our system. Once we thought about where we wanted to eat, we ultimately decided upon The Cheesecake Factory at The Galleria (the HUGE mall we went to a few days ago). It was still open by the time we made it back to Houston, so it was a good option at the time.

The wait for a table wasn’t too long at all. Before we knew it, we had a table. Let me tell you, we were all looking forward to eating our food after the long day we had. Most of Natural Bridge Cavern, besides the caverns, were out in the open. Since it was yet another hot and humid day, we were all very hungry and dehydrated.

After ordering our food and devouring it, it was time to head home. The remainder of the evening was spent sleeping to be completely honest. We were too tired to even stay up and chat with one another. That’s alright though, because we needed the rest.

Lunch and the movies

Moving onto the following day, Chris, myself, and his sister collectively agreed that we wanted this day to be very chill. We were a bit tired from all the walking and exploring, half of which was in the Texas heat and humidity. An activity we could all do in doors was much needed. I thought that a movie would be nice. Not only because it was indoors but Chris’s niece hadn’t seen the new Transformers movie which just came out at the time. I thought it’d be a kid friendly thing for her to do with all of us.

Before we could go to the movies, which we were going to do later on in the afternoon, we went to lunch. Slurp Ramen Factory was suggested by Chris’s sister because of their amazing ramen. Chris loves ramen so he was happy about that suggestion. I agreed to the suggestion and so did his niece. We loaded up in his sister’s truck and went to lunch!

Lunch at Slurp Ramen Factory was very good! I had a taste of Chris’s ramen, which was amazing! And the curry chicken I had was fantastic as well! Highly recommend this place if you’re ever in Richmond, TX. Bellies full of food, we made our way to the movie theater down the road to watch the new Transformers movie. Needless to say, Chris’s niece and sister enjoyed the movie. This was my second time seeing it and I did enjoy seeing it again as well! Chris liked the movie but said it wasn’t his favorite out of the franchise.

Evening swim

To finish off the evening, we went to the community pool to swim. Of course, this was Chris’s niece’s idea. She just wanted to swim as much as possible when we were there. We had nothing else to do, so we went for a swim.

We were only there for about an hour or so. The weather started to turn, as we were due for a storm. I also developed a headache after a little while, so we called it a day and left early. With the little time we did spend at the pool, we all enjoyed ourselves.

Relaxing for the rest of the evening was all we did. It felt good to just take a day to relax and not be on the go. Sometimes, resting and partaking in slow paced things is needed when traveling or on vacation.

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Morning mimosas and a museum

If you know anything about my travels, is that I LOVE visiting museums and learning. So, before we left Texas, I told Chris and his sister that I wanted to visit at least one museum. She recommend a few, as the museum district in Houston is filled with a variety of different museums. Because his sister’s daughter was going with us, we decided to go to The Houston Museum of Natural Science. There’d be something for everyone to see, so it was a fun and safe bet with a kid.

Breakfast at Snooze, An A.M. Eatery

But before we could go to the museum to do some learning and exploring, we had to get breakfast. Chris’s sister recommended a place near an outdoor outlet that had mimosas for breakfast. Did she say mimosas!? Because I LOVE mimosas. I optimistically and graciously agreed to go to this place. The name? Snooze, An A.M. Eatery at the LaCenterra at Cinco Ranch.

I was so happy when we had breakfast here, because there’s nothing like some breakfast with a mimosa on the side. Chris, his sister, and niece all got pancakes as well. They each got a different flavor with toppings, while I was the boring one and just ordered plain pancakes. We all enjoyed our food, which definitely filled us up. I ate my pancakes, drank 2 mimosas, and was ready to start my day!

The Houston Museum of Natural Science

Breakfast, done! Now, it was time to drive to the museum. The biggest worry for us was trying to find free parking but we managed to find it! We parked in the back of a parking lot for another museum, near the little train tracks, and it was completely free. All we then had to do was walk from that parking lot to the museum we intended to go to. This was only a 7 to 10 minute walk at best.

Once we got to the museum, we waited in line and got our tickets into the museum. We decided to include the exhibition on Egypt, because it was the newest section which was added at the time and I just love learning about ancient Egypt! With tickets in hand and feet ready for lots of walking, we made our way through the museum.

Let me tell you, this museum is a decent size! But everything is bigger in Texas, so that makes sense. The building has 4 floors and plenty of exhibits to wander through. Everything from space and astronomy to marine life, Native American culture, and even the wildlife you’ll find in Texas is all here! It was very fun and interesting walking through and learning more about each topic area.

I’m just a nerd, so I found this to be very exciting and educational. My boyfriend, his sister, and niece enjoyed the museum as well. Though towards the end, his niece was very tired from all the walking. But I don’t blame her, this place is big! When we got home, we stayed in and ordered food, because we were all too tired to go out again or cook. We all at food from Texas Roadhouse and relaxed until we went to bed.

Egypt Exhibit at The Natural Museum of Science in Houston, Texas.

Egypt Exhibit at The Natural Museum of Science in Houston, Texas.

The Gem and Jewels Exhibit at The Natural Museum of Science in Houston, Texas.

Final day of relaxation

On the final day of our stay, we knew we had to catch an early flight back home. Which meant we had to wake up before the crack of dawn to drive an hour to the airport in Houston. Ultimately, we decided to just take this day to relax ourselves and to pack our things.

The day was uneventful, really. All we did was sit in the house, watching movies for most of the day, until Chris and I had to pack. But you know what? After a week of activities and the hot, humid Texan weather, staying in the house wasn’t such a bad idea.

At the end of the day, we went to the pool one last time with my boyfriend’s niece and sister. One last little activity that wasn’t too strenuous or long. His niece enjoyed the final little activity we did as a group. Of course, she was sad that our time in Texas had come to an end.  But we reassured her that we’d be back to visit soon!

After the pool we returned home, ate dinner, and went to sleep for the night.

Delayed flight…again

Chris and I woke up around 3am or 4am. We were extremely tired but had to get up to finish packing the last of our things. Once that was done, we loaded up his sister’s truck and started driving at 5am to the airport. We arrived at 6am, where we said our final good-byes to each other until our next visit.

My boyfriend and I walk to the check-in kiosk to check into our flight. Come to find out that our flight, which had a layover, was delayed and they pushed it back to the next day. So, SURPRISE! We ended up staying another night in Houston with his sister. I know his niece sure did love that little twist of us staying until the next morning.

Trust me, we eventually did make it back to Philly. All we did was return to Houston, grabbed dinner, and watched a movie until it was time for bed. Only this time, our flight wasn’t so early in the morning and it was a direct flight. But Chris and I weren’t happy that we had a delay in our initial arrival and departure flights for this trip, so I guess that change in flight day worked out. Hey, that’s travel for ya! We learn to roll with the punched and keep it moving.

The next and final day, we each said our good-byes again. We actually checked-in, went through TSA, and made it to our flights with no issues. Before we knew it, we were back in Philly and that was the end of our trip. The family and us had a wonderful time together and we cannot wait to go visit them again in a couple of years!