I must confess, growing up in suburban Houston left me with certain prejudices against foreign lands. Sure Sugar Land, Pearland, the Woodlands and all the other planned and not-so-planned 'burbs might be lovely places to live. But I don’t, now. So why visit?
Still, I like to think of myself as an fair-minded person, so when I was invited on an explore-the-Woodlands tour and mini-staycation, I resolved to confront my biases and remain open to all that this close, but alien, land has to offer. After my eating, drinking and boating adventure, I realized while I still wouldn’t want to live there, there are some good reasons to visit.
So if you, too, are pondering under what circumstance should you take a trip into the woods, I present a handy quiz, already completed with the most correct answer (i.e. excuse) for embarking on a Woodlands weekend.
1. Is your favorite hipster band, '80s crooner, or country music superstar set to play Houston’s longest-named concert venue, The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion?
Answer: OMG, yes! Fun. is coming! They really get me, and I know all their songs, not just 'Some Nights" like those other posers.
A concert in the Woodlands is one of the best reasons to splurge for a full night out instead of braving the car crawl back to I-45.
A concert in the Woodlands is one of the best reasons to splurge for a full night out instead of braving the car crawl back to I-45. There are several hotels within walking distance of the Pavilion, so end your evening of fun with a stroll back to your hotel room and have a leisurely drive the next morning.
After being a guest of the Hyatt Market Street, I realized it might be close enough to the Pavilion that someone — not me, of course — might try to skip buying a ticket and just cock an ear in the general direction of the music of fun. or Lionel Richie while relaxing by the hotel’s second-floor outdoor pool.
2. Are you looking for a girls or boys night out/restaurant and bar crawl in a safe environment, where, if need be, you can actually crawl from place to place?
Market Street and Waterway Square have their share of low-to-high-end chain restaurants, but they also contain some surprises, like celebrity chef Ken Rathbun’s Jaspers and the cozy tapas bar, 1252. Try to stop by Schilleci’s New Orleans Kitchen when owner Wayne Schilleci is around. His New Orleans and Houston stories are the perfect seasoning to their tradition Cajun fare.
Lengthy wine lists and signature cocktails abound on the Street and in the Square so crawl away.
3. Have you always wanted a wedding at sea but need to take a Dramamine before jumping in a pool?
Answer: Yes, I love open water but only if it’s waveless and tightly regulated by humans.
The Woodlands Waterway connects the Woodlands Convention Center, the Woodlands Mall, and Waterway Square. One of the few ways to traverse this mighty way full of water is on a cruiser. Cruise goers can buy a $5 day pass and hop on and off as much as they want, but the cruisers may also be chartered and catered, for dinners, corporate meetings, bachelorette parties and yes even weddings. Got bickering divorced in-law problems? Put them into separate boats.
The Woodlands is a popular spot for conferences, parties and wedding, with lots of leafy venues to choose from. Tori Enriquez, director of sales at the Woodlands Resort, told me the own record is five weddings in one day. The resort’s multi-million dollar renovation will include a lazy river pool, so maybe you could even get married floating along in an inner tube.
4. Do you (I’m not judging) or your 4 year-old find great joy running about on splash pads and playing on spraygrounds?
Answer: Hey, when it’s 102 degrees in Houston I, and my 4-year-old, which I definitely have and am not making up so it won’t look weird for me to play in fountains, take our watery relief wherever we can get it.
For those without a child or the childless without a Zooey Deschanel sense of whimsy, spraygrounds are water-dousing playgrounds; splash pads are those padded decks that spray water from nozzles embedded in the ground. They’re everywhere in the Woodlands. While I have no definite proof, I wouldn’t be surprised if a secret township ordinance requires one public, interactive water apparatus for every five Woodland kids.
With lots of pools and playgrounds and the Children’s Museum for the kids, there needs to be some way to combine excuse 2 and 4. Find a designated kid wrangler to herd them from one splash pad to the next while you restaurant and bar hop through the night just a few yards away.
5. Do you like to golf?
The Woodlands is not so creatively named for a reason, but I wonder if all those trees are mostly there to separate all the golf courses.
Got even one answer right? You might be ready for that weekend walk on the wooded side.