As a non-Texas resident, it’s hard to explain why you might head down to the Woodlands, a master planned community just outside of Houston, Texas. Many people come to this resort for conferences, of which they host hundreds per year. Those living in Houston may come for the weekend as a relaxing staycation.
Out of town guests will tack on a few extra days after a conference so their families can join them at the pool, for a great steak at Robard’s and some shopping on Market Street. Moms might gather their girlfriends together to enjoy the sun, spa and shopping in the area. But is this really a destination for families living outside of the state and not traveling for business? Possibly.
Although the idea of mixing business travel with a family vacation is not a new concept, it is definitely one that you have to really plan. If your business takes you to a major metropolis, it’s a no brainer. Have the kids explore NYC or San Francisco while you are in meetings all day.
Houston is not to be left out though. Texas industries are booming and more than one parent finds themselves in this fourth largest city in the U.S. for work. The Woodlands is a great place to escape the concrete jungle of the city, give the kids room to ride bikes, swim and enjoy kid-centric activities while a parent is in meetings, but it is also close enough to go into Houston for the day to explore the museums, open spaces and food scene.
The Woodlands Resort and Conference Center is about a 30-minute drive from downtown Houston, and traffic could be maddening getting to and from the resort from Houston if you don’t time it right, but this quiet retreat is a cozy place to unwind and enjoy a respite from your normal grind.
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If you have kids who like to take a tub after a long day of playing, you will want to book a double queen room. These are the rooms with the tubs. King rooms have stand up showers. Junior Suites are a great option for families, as it gives you more room to spread out, but there is only a king bed in the bedroom.
There is no pull out couch in the living room, so you children either have to be OK with the floor, you need to ask for a cot, or the kids can cozy up on the sectional together. Connecting rooms are also an option if you have the budget for it.
Many rooms do have views of the PGA golf course on site, but some will have views of the parking lot. Ask for a golf course view room when you book, or better yet, a ground floor room that walks right out to the pool area.
The Woodlands are located about 30 minutes from Houston, where you will find loads of museums, NASA tours and a thriving food scene. In the Woodlands, which is a planned community, you can also find a concert venue that brings in top acts every month, especially in the summer, as well as prime shopping on Market Street and in the indoor mall near by.
There are plenty of hiking, biking and walking trails, loads of top golf courses, including Palmer and Fazio courses, and even kayaking. If you just want to kick back while in Houston, and don’t need to be in the city much, it’s an easy place to escape to and play for a weekend.
Lazy River. They say that the lazy river is as long as it will take you to start and finish a frozen margarita. Yes, they tested this out. There are plenty of tubes for the whole family to float around in the small waves of this portion of the pool. Kick back, relax and enjoy. Let the kids worry about how fast they will get around.
Summer Dive In Movies. The summer is filled with family and kid activities for the whole family to enjoy. A favorite is the dive in movies that are set up by the pool. Swim or float around while you watch Finding Nemo and other kid-appropriate films as you cool off from the Texas heat.
Water slides. Children rejoice– there is a water slide at the Woodlands. Actually there are two. No, make that three. Now parents, just try to get your kids out of the pool for dinner. You have been warned.
Free Wi-Fi. No more paying for high-speed Internet. You can watch movies, download large files and everything else you need to do to make your stay enjoyable.
Complimentary life vests at the pool. I cannot applaud a resort more than when they have life vests on hand for kids. Not every child is a strong swimmer, but they still want to have fun in the water. Having a life vest for your child gives you peace of mind as you play with them in the water, especially when they go a little further away from you than you would like.
Childcare. There is no kids club at the resort. This is a place to reconnect as a family, not get rid of the kids. That being said, you might want a quiet meal at the resort’s new restaurant Robard’s. The resort has a list of babysitting services that will be happy to send a sitter out to you.
Robard’s: This is not a restaurant for kids. This is a safe haven for parents at night. There are no high chairs or kid menus. Grab a sitter and get ready to enjoy the best steak in Texas (OK, so this might be a stretch since I haven’t tasted every steak in Texas, but it was a very, very good steak). Their signature cocktail menu is reasonably priced and has some delectable brews to wet your whistle, including the smoky Outlaw.
The Bistro: If you are looking for a place to watch the game, enjoy a drink or pick up some basic bar food, the Bistro is the place for you. There are two billiard tables for the kids to play at during the day, but this venue does turn over to a 21 and up space at night.
The Woodlands Dining Room: The Woodlands Dining room used to be the only place to eat at the resort. They are still the only place for breakfast, which is buffet style and worth the $15-20 price tag. There are special room packages that do include breakfast, so keep an eye out for those, especially if you are traveling with hungry boys who need to eat their body weight in eggs and biscuits. The omelet station made it easy to load up on protein before a day of playing in the Texas heat and the French toast with peach-infused syrup was a tasty treat that went perfectly with the never-ending coffee service.
The Woodlands recently completed a $75 million renovation of the property. There were many, many upgrades done to the refresh the rooms and the property as a whole to make it even more accommodating to family travelers, many of which have already been mentioned. The resort also added on another wing of rooms, a covered entryway with a second check in location, the lazy river to their pool complex and even added the new restaurant, Robard’s, which serves one of the best steaks you will ever have. No toppings needed. The plain steak is superb.
Overall The Woodlands Resort and Conference Center was a pleasure to stay at for the weekend. The beds and pillows were cozy, the rooms were spacious and there were plenty of ways to relax on property. The shuttle to Market Street made it easy to do a little shopping without having to cool down the car with a blast of A/C before you headed over. If you are in town on business, definitely bring the kids by for some R&R. Is it worth a trip all on its own? That’s for you to decide.