Weekend escape: The Woodlands

Note: This is part of a series about weekend trips to take from Austin. 

I lived in Houston for eight years before moving back home to Austin, and even when I lived there, there was always something I loved about The Woodlands. This master-planned community about 40 minutes from downtown Houston just seemed to have so much going on.

This summer, eager to get out of town but short on time for an extended vacation, my daughters and I headed to The Woodlands for a one-night trip. Our time there confirmed what I had always suspected: It’s filled with family-friendly fun.

We checked into The Westin at the Woodlands around 4 p.m. and quickly made our way to the hotel’s infinity pool, which offers in-water lounge chairs and a nice view of the waterway that connects major features such as The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, The Woodlands Marriott Hotel & Convention Center, Waterway Square and The Woodlands Mall via water taxi.

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The infinity pool at the Westin at The Woodlands. credit: Kristin Finan/American-Statesman

We had dinner at Tommy Bahama — yes, it’s a chain, but the food was great and the kids loved the tropical theme, especially the miniature umbrellas and plastic monkeys that accompanied their lemonades. The restaurant is located on Market Street and overlooks a fountain and a park with excellent people-watching that kept the kids entertained our entire dinner.

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Lemonade comes with an umbrella and a monkey at Tommy Bahama in The Woodlands. credit: Kristin Finan/American-Statesman

Then came the highlight of our trip: “Star Wars & More: A Tribute to John Williams,” performed by the Houston Symphony with free mezzanine and lawn seating at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion. My Star Wars-loving girls were thrilled to pose for pictures with Darth Vader and Kylo Ren, who were on hand to greet incoming guests, but they loved meeting Houston Symphony principal harpist Megan Conley even more.

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Megan Conley is the principal harpist for the Houston Symphony. credit: Kristin Finan/American-Statesman

Conley, who was warming up as we took a quick pre-show tour of the stage, was enthusiastic and welcoming, even letting the girls try out her harp.

“I just walked back from dinner and there were lines of people around, which is really exciting for us because we always want to reach as many people as we can,” Conley said. “It’s great to see people excited about the concerts that we’re about to play.”

The concert included a number of familiar John Williams’ tunes from movies including “Harry Potter,” “Born on the Fourth of July” and, of course, “Star Wars.”

Some of our other favorite places in The Woodlands include Crave Cupcakes, the Goose’s Acre and Black Walnut Cafe. We’re already excited for our next trip.


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