Escaping for exotic summer destinations can be tricky if your kids are active during the summer. I was one of those kids who was always active but never really out of my parents' hair. But you don't need kids to deserve some personal R&R. If you're looking to take a break or just need to clear your head for the weekend, these are only a fraction of the quick escapes that Houston has to offer the chronically overworked.
Ask any of my friends and they'll tell you I'm a fan of a nice hotel. The quiet luxury of a plush hotel room is the perfect way for me to relax and let the creative juices flow. Far and above, Hotel ICON is my place. An echo to the luxury hotels of long past, ICON has been named one of Condé Nast Traveller's top hotels to visit. And I'd be remiss if I failed to mention the two-story marble pillars lining the lobby or animal-hide seating arrangements. The restaurant, Line and Lariat, isn't too shabby, either. Pro tip: ask for a corner room – they have twice the windows looking out over downtown and a bit more space than the typical double.1
When it comes to wine, I'm the first one to admit I'm a bit of a snob. I refused to believe that Texas, with its ridiculously hot summers and its affinity for hurricanes, could ever be a decent wine-producing state. I was gravely mistaken. A quick 90-minute drive northeast of Houston is Messina Hof Winery and Resort. Every year in late summer, Messina Hof opens its doors for the annual harvest when the public can take part in grape-picking and stomping, followed by a tour of the wine-making process and some food pairing. Because eating and drinking often don't go hand in hand with driving, the Villa Bed and Breakfast and individual Manor houses offer the seclusion and feel of a wine country vacation within driving distance of home.2
The Boy Scout in me loves a good camping trip. It's one of the easiest ways to completely leave everything behind and decompress from the stress of the brick-and-mortar city and almost nonstop traffic. Texas has long been a treasure chest of amazing camping locales and outdoor activities, and the closest to Houston is Brazos Bend State Park and George Observatory. About 30 minutes from the city, Brazos Bend has activities for anyone from the REI enthusiast to the outdoorsy wannabe: hiking, horseback riding, fishing, and backpack camping. The 40-acre park is also home to the George Observatory, which is open on Saturdays from 3-10 p.m. Make sure to give them a call for stargazing activities during the summer. And even if you don't want to spend the weekend camping, the observatory is open to guests – so brush up on your astrological signs and constellation names. There’s nothing like seeing the rings of Saturn on a clear summer night.3
Houston has perfected the air-conditioned escape. If you're in the mood to pamper yourself for a weekend, a stop in CityCentre is your best bet. Anchored by Hotel Sorella (which made the 2014 Condé Nast Gold List), CityCentre is a sprawling complex of shops, restaurants, and activities for you to explore during your spur-of-the-moment time off. Hotel Sorella and CityCentre sit halfway between Katy and downtown, and with The Bistro serving as the hotel's in-house restaurant, you'll only have to go downstairs for a great dinner followed by some conviviality at the MonnaLisa Bar. Occasionally, a local jazz band will play well into the night as you sip cocktails on the balcony overlooking the city.4