/ The Houston Guide
Houston — By Christina Uticone on July 24, 2010 at 8:02 am
Filed under: day trips, dining, Lodging, Shopping, top-feature

The Waterway in The Woodlands

road trip, fine diningThere is always so much going on “inside the loop” (that’s the I-610 loop) that some Houstonians insist there is hardly a reason to get out of the city.¬† I like putting a few miles between myself and the city sometimes, and road trips – even short ones – can act as mini-vacations when I need to escape but I am short on time.¬† With so many beautiful, posh suburbs Houston has many options in the “day and weekend” road trip department.¬† For a lovely, upscale getaway on-the-quick – or for a convenient place for travelers to stay outside the city that provides fast and easy access to downtown Houston – my pick is The Woodlands.

The Woodlands – yes, The Woodlands, not merely “Woodlands” – is in Montgomery County, located north of the city.¬† It is a “master planned” community, founded in the mid-1970s by George P. Mitchell.¬† It’s posh, it’s peaceful, and has plenty to keep you busy for a day trip, or an overnighter.¬† At the heart of The Woodlands lies Waterway Square, a one-acre public space that is open seven days a week, 6 AM – 12 AM, and which features beautiful fountains, water jets, and waterfalls, all surrounded by wonderful dining, shopping, and lodging.

The Elegant Outdoors at Waterway Square

This green space doesn’t just have fountains, but an entire water feature show with a 120-foot water wall, 22 cascade jets, 80 “choreo-jets” arranged in concentric rings, boomer jets that send water 75 feet (6-7 stories) in the air, all of which is lit at night for superior effect.¬† Fountains are on timers and “perform” on schedule with musical accompaniment, and when viewed from above the water wall and the fountain are designed to look like an eighth note.¬† There is an interactive children’s fountain as well as outdoor shaded seating for dining al fresco, or enjoying a little of the urban outdoors.

Weekday Schedule (Monday through Friday)

  • 8 AM – 12 PM: Fountain starts in “passive” mode.
  • 12 PM – 2 PM: The first song/show begins, playing every 15 minutes.
  • 2 PM – 6 PM: Fountains return to “passive” mode.
  • 6 PM – 11 PM: The song/show schedule resumes, with songs playing every 15 minutes.

Weekend Schedule (Saturday & Sunday)

  • 8 AM – 12 PM: Fountains start and run in “passive” mode.
  • 12 PM – 11 PM: The song/show schedule resumes, with songs playing every 15 minutes.

the woodlands, overnight, day trip, suburbWaterway Transportation

Another interesting feature of the beautiful Waterway is the transportation system.  Waterway taxis and vintage trolleys are fun and unique ways to get around town.  The Waterway is also very walkable, especially when the weather is cooler.  In the hot summer months you might want to consider one of these options for optimal comfort.

  • Water Taxis: The water taxis (or “Waterway Cruisers”) are a fun and unique way to travel, and they are also fairly inexpensive at $5 per adult ($2.50 per child, senior, or disabled discount) for a general public day pass that includes unlimited rides up and down the 1.4-mile waterway.¬† There are six taxis operating seven days a week, and passengers can board and disembark at designated stops every 45-60 minutes.¬† There are restaurants, shops, and hotels up and down the Waterway corridor, so traveling by taxi isn’t just inexpensive, but convenient as well.¬† All routes begin at the Mall Ring and end at the Pavilion.¬† The last run is one-way, and on each day begins at the top of the last hour.¬† Final runs begin at the Mall Ring and end at the Pavilion.¬† The Water Taxi services do not run on New Years Day,¬† Thanksgiving, or Christmas Day.¬† Hours of Operation: Monday-Thursday 11 AM – 7:45 PM; Friday 11 AM – 10:45 PM; Saturday 11 AM – 10:45 PM; Sunday 11 AM – 8:45 PM.
  • Vintage Trolleys: Two vintage trolleys run seven days a week to take visitors along the Waterway.¬† Each car carries up to 35 people and there is no cost to ride.¬† The trolleys’ route runs along the north side of the Waterway with many stops at the¬† most convenient of locations including (but not limited to) the library, the HEB grocery store, Town Green Park, the Convention Center and Hotel, and The Woodlands Mall.¬† You can view a map with a full list of stops here.¬† Hours of Operation: Monday-Saturday 11 AM – 8 PM; Sunday 12 PM – 6 PM.

Food & Drink

There are many wonderful places to get a bite and a glass of wine or a cocktail, but two of my favorites are Hubbell & Hudson and Uni Sushi.

  • Hubbell & Hudson Market & Bistro, 24 Waterway Ave. (map):¬† Considering how much I adore the Rice Village Black Walnut Cafe, I had to give their sister restaurant Hubbell & Hudson a go.¬† Part-grocery, part-bistro, part-catering company, Hubbell & Hudson is a wonderful place to pack a picnic on the fly or to have a leisurely, elegant meal.¬† Vegetarian and gluten free options are available alongside rich dishes of spaghetti carbonara and foie gras.¬† Hours: Monday-Thursday, 11 AM – 10 PM; Friday & Saturday 11 AM – 11 PM; Saturday & Sunday Brunch 9 AM – 3 PM; Sunday Dinner 3 PM – 9 PM.¬† Reservations can be made online or by calling 281-203-5641.
  • Uni Sushi, 9595 Six Pines Dr. (map): My love of sushi has only been developed over the past couple of years (all those wasted non-sushi years … I kick myself).¬† Houston has a very competitive sushi scene, but I’ve never heard anyone utter a negative word about Uni Sushi in The Woodlands.¬†¬† Asian/American/European fusion in a casually elegant atmosphere, there is plenty on the menu to satisfy the “old me” (non-sushi lover) as well.¬† Call 281.298.7177 for reservations.

Shopping

In addition to the fun boutiques and shops you’ll find along the Waterway, there is also a fabulous mall – cleverly named The Woodlands Mall, 1201 Lake Woodlands Dr. (map).¬† Open seven days a week, you can scratch that shopping itch in major department stores like Dillard’s, JCPenney, and Macy’s along with many of your retail favorites like Banana Republic, Sephora, and bebe.¬† Hours of Operation: Monday – Saturday 10 AM – 9 PM; Sunday 12 PM – 6 PM.

convention center, golf, spa, luxury

The Woodlands Resort & Convention Center is perfect for travelers looking for convenience and luxury.

Lodging

If you want to extend your day trip into an overnighter or a full weekend, I recommend The Woodlands Waterway Marriott, 1601 Lake Robbins Dr. (map).¬† The¬† hotel is connected to the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion via a skybridge, which makes taking in a show a breeze.¬† The Marriott also has access to several nearby golf courses, an in-house spa, and an on-site fitness room.¬† In addition to its proximity to the wonderful restaurants along the Waterway, the Marriott boasts an in-house Starbucks, the Acqua Cocktail Lounge, and a casual Italian restaurant called “Ristorante Tuscany”.¬† Call 281-367-9797 for information and reservations.

Some people want some all-in-one luxury, and for that I recommend The Woodlands Resort & Conference Center.  You might never make it to the Waterway if you stay here; the resort has golf (with a driving range and a lighted putting green), dining, a luxury spa, tennis courts and pro shop, indoor and outdoor whirlpools, and much, much more.  You can go online for reservations, or call toll-free at 800.433.2624.  The Woodlands Resort & Conference Center is located at 2301 North Millbend Dr. (map)

Photos courtesy the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Related places:
  1. A
    Hubbell & Hudson
    24 Waterway Ave # 125, The Woodlands, TX
    View Details and Book
  2. B
    Uni Sushi
    9595 6 Pines Drive, The Woodlands, TX
    View Details and Book
  3. C
    Dillard's: Woodlands Mall
    Ste 400, 1201 Lake Woodlands Drive, The Woodlands, TX
    View Details and Book
  4. D
    The Woodlands Waterway Marriott Hotel and Convention Center
    1601 Lake Robbins Drive, The Woodlands, TX, 77380, US
    View Details and Book
  5. E
    The Woodlands Resort & Conference Center
    2301 North Millbend Drive, The Woodlands, TX
    View Details and Book
Tags: day trips, dining, Lodging, Shopping, top-feature


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