Travel

9 Suburbs Near Houston You Should Absolutely Visit

You could use a little space.

Mario Santos/Shutterstock
Mario Santos/Shutterstock
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.

Photo by Dragana Harris
Photo by Dragana Harris
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.

Photo by Kimberly Park
Photo by Kimberly Park
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.

PianoMark/Shutterstock
PianoMark/Shutterstock
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.

Sonja Botes/Shutterstock
Sonja Botes/Shutterstock
Sonja Botes/Shutterstock

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.

 Barre Kelley/Shutterstock
Barre Kelley/Shutterstock
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.

John_Silver/Shutterstock
John_Silver/Shutterstock
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.

Timothy L Barnes/Shutterstock
Timothy L Barnes/Shutterstock
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.

Courtesy of Corkscrew BBQ
Courtesy of Corkscrew BBQ
Courtesy of Corkscrew BBQ

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.

Alizada Studios/Shutterstock
Alizada Studios/Shutterstock
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.

Travel

8 Suburbs Near Phoenix You Should Absolutely Visit

You could use a little space.

Discover Gilbert AZ
Discover Gilbert AZ
Discover Gilbert AZ

Phoenix is pretty great. There’s the burgeoning culinary scene, the diverse culture, the arts, of course, the sports, the great outdoors, and don’t forget about the more than 300 days of annual sunshine. We could really go on, and on, about how great this place is, but all of that greatness can blind you to all the excellence just outside it. The suburbs across The Valley are not to be missed. To encourage you to actually explore them, here’s what the best of ‘em have to offer.

Photo courtesy of Tempe Tourism
Photo courtesy of Tempe Tourism
Photo courtesy of Tempe Tourism

Tempe

Notably, Tempe is recognized as home to one of the largest universities in the country, Arizona State. But this Phoenix suburb is so much more than a college town, although it does add to its undeniable magic. Downtown Tempe plays hosts to epic arts festivals, dragon boat races, marathons and triathlons, and dozens of other events that all take place a short-distance from Tempe Town Lake, a two-mile long perennial reservoir and urban park that attracts cylicts, rowers, and active types. Break a sweat with a hike to the top of A Mountain and take in a panoramic sunset view. Or, just belly-up to the bar at one of Tempe’s innumerable craft breweries. Both are solid choices. And both can get you acquainted with this laidback Phoenix suburb.

Photo courtesy of Hotel Valley Ho
Photo courtesy of Hotel Valley Ho
Photo courtesy of Hotel Valley Ho

Scottsdale

Nearly half of Scottsdale’s land area is dedicated to open spaces and untamed desert. Outdoor activities like mountain biking, hiking, road cycling, horseback riding, and kayaking reign supreme here, and the city certainly leans toward an active, wellness-centered lifestyle. And while there’s no shortage of desert to explore, Scottsdale also claims some of the best spas in the world, award-winning restaurants, world-class golf courses, it’s the center stage for major events like luxury car auctions and sporting events, and it’s even got a bustling arts scene. This Phoenix suburb checks all of the boxes, really.

Photo by Lauren Topor Reichert
Photo by Lauren Topor Reichert
Photo by Lauren Topor Reichert

Gilbert

Not too long ago Gilbert was a sort of sleepy, far-away farm town. That’s certainly not the case anymore. Gilbert has grown exponentially, but its agricultural roots are still readily present in its personality and charm. Downtown Gilbert is home to dozens of restaurants and bars, most of which have a local, farm-to-table approach, naturally. And then there’s Agritopia, a friendly neighborhood with its very own shared garden and community spaces that include Epicenter and BARNONE, where you can order a wood-fired pizza, a can of experimental natural wine, and camp out under a canopy of trees in the open-air. It’s practically a utopia.

Mike Boening Photography
Mike Boening Photography
Mike Boening Photography

Cave Creek

A gateway to Horseshoe and Bartlett Lakes, Cave Creek’s position on the outskirts of Tonto National Forest makes it a primo spot for outdoor activities like biking and hiking and adventure by way of air balloon or horseback. Modern cowboys and gals can mosey over to The Buffalo Chip Saloon where bull riding and swing dancing are just part of a typical day. Additionally, Cave Creek has its own botanical garden, raptor rescue, and a gallery packed with person-sized crystals. And it’s all yours to discover.

Ade Russell/Flickr
Ade Russell/Flickr
Ade Russell/Flickr

Mesa

Point your GPS east and you’ll arrive in Mesa, Arizona’s third largest city. Whether you’re after outdoor adventure, looking to explore the arts and culture scene, or searching for locally made ciders and craft beer, Mesa has it all. There’s a hip, growing downtown area lined with storefronts, restaurants, theaters, and tasting rooms. And if you’re game for a little outdoor recreation, Mesa is your jumping-off point to scenic Sonoran Desert trails including Usery Mountain Regional Park, Lost Dutchman State Park, and San Tan Regional Park. Mesa is also just a short distance from The Salt River where you can cruise by wild horses and native wildlife via paddle board and Saguaro Lake is just up the road.

Experience Fountain Hills
Experience Fountain Hills
Experience Fountain Hills

Fountain Hills

At the center of this Phoenix suburb is an expansive urban park and monumental water fountain that tops out at 560-feet. The fountain in Fountain Hills is larger than the Washington Monument, and it’s three times as high as Old Faithful. Pack a picnic and spread out in the park for an afternoon where you can traverse the walkable paths, cycle around the waterway, or play a competitive bout of frisbee golf. If you swing more towards traditional golf, there’s a shortlist of premier golf courses to tee-off at. And like many of the Phoenix suburbs here, Fountain Hills is surrounded by wide-open desert and scenic vistas just waiting to be explored.

Camelback Ranch - Glendale
Camelback Ranch – Glendale
Camelback Ranch – Glendale

Glendale

Arizona sports teams including the Coyotes and Cardinals have home turf advantage in Glendale. Over the years Glendale has hosted three Super Bowl bouts and will host another in 2023. But Glendale’s not just a sports mecca for fans of professional football and hockey. This Phoenix suburb is homebase to Camelback Ranch, a modern ballpark with all the amenities where the Chicago White Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers take the field each season as part of Cactus League Spring Training. Take your time in Glendale into extra innings and visit Historic Old Town Glendale. Here you’ll encounter eclectic antique and vintage stores, restaurants, candy shops, and coffee houses.

Pedal Haus Brewery
Pedal Haus Brewery
Pedal Haus Brewery

Chandler 

Museums, urban parks, art galleries, and growing neighborhoods like Uptown Chandler and Downtown Chandler give this Phoenix suburb lots of appeal. Rows of palm trees line the Downtown area where you can start your day with a locally roasted coffee and organic breakfast bowl. Downtown Chandler regularly hosts community-focused events and it’s a popular hangout for craft beer drinkers. SanTan Brewery, Pedal Haus, and The Perch, with 40 beers on tap and tropical birds at every turn, all call this Phoenix suburb home.

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Lauren Topor Reichert is a Phoenix-based multimedia storyteller, photographer, and content creator. Her work has been featured in travel guides, national publications, and the social feeds of some stellar local restaurants. Follow her around Arizona, and beyond, on Instagram @hungryinphoenix.

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