Southern Belle in Training

Fashion, Travel & Lifestyle Blog || Est. 2012 || Virginia Beach, VA

December 4, 2018

Houston/The Woodlands Travel Diary.

     You might have seen on Instagram that I spent five days in the Greater Houston area of Texas for Thanksgiving this year! I wanted to share more pictures and details from my trip in today's post. I titled this blog post "Travel Diary" instead of travel guide. This trip was 100% a vacation, and since I didn't stay in a hotel I wouldn't have any lodging options to review for a travel guide. But I still wanted to share some memories from my trip, so Texas travel diary it is. 😊

    One of my really good friends from North Carolina, Ciera, moved to Texas this summer! She had an amazing career opportunity come up, and decided to make the big move. Since I've lived out of state since I went to college, I was so excited for her to have the chance to work and experience life in a new area! Ciera has visited me in both Vermont and Virginia, so I knew I wanted to support her in Texas and make a trip out before 2019.

     Ciera lives just outside of Houston, so flying into a Houston airport was the most convenient. I found in researching flights that it's actually cheaper to fly on Thanksgiving rather than a day or two before (since less people fly on the holiday itself), so I had a 5:30 am flight out of Charlottesville on Thanksgiving Day. Ciera picked me up from the airport, and then we enjoyed a really relaxing Thanksgiving. Our friendship tradition is to make Chrissy Teigen's mac n cheese recipe from her Cravings cookbook, so we had a very cheese-filled Thanksgiving meal! I actually don't like traditional Thanksgiving foods, so this was like my perfect holiday lunch. We also set up and decorated Ciera's Christmas tree on Thanksgiving!

     On Friday morning, we were up and at 'em and ready to hit the mall! Ciera suggested that we do Black Friday shopping at The Woodlands Mall, located just north of Houston. This mall didn't disappoint! The Woodlands area is beautiful. There are several office buildings and hotels near the mall, and there is also a waterway/canal that runs near the mall! In the warmer months, you can ride little boats in it. (I was so sad they had closed that for the season during Thanksgiving week!) The Woodlands Mall itself is two stories, and in addition to having a great variety of stores, it was also very clean and well maintained inside.

     We took a break to have lunch at Brio, located right next to the mall. I think that Brio is one of the best chain Italian restaurants out there. They also had a location in Charlotte, and it was my mom's favorite restaurant to go to when she used to visit me in college. The Woodlands location is beautiful, and it's located right on one of the waterways! It was warm enough that we were able to eat lunch outside. 😊

     Our shopping adventures continued after lunch, and we headed about a mile away to an area of The Woodlands called Market Street. This charming street is where a lot of the higher end stores are located- everything from Kate Spade to Tiffany & Co.! There's also a beautiful Christmas tree in this shopping area that we had to take a picture with.

     Saturday was our big adventure day! I told Ciera that there were two things that I wanted to do while visiting her in Texas. The first was Black Friday shopping (CHECK!), and the second was go to the beach! I'm an East Coast girl through and through, and I'd actually never been to a beach in the Gulf. Galveston is about an hour and a half from Houston, so we decided to head there for a day of fun. It was in the 60s the day that we went to the beach, which was perfect weather! Not too hot, but warm enough to enjoy being outside. On the way to Galveston, we drove right through downtown Houston. The skyline there is HUGE and BEAUTIFUL!

     A lot of people had told Ciera prior to our beach trip that Galveston isn't a nice beach. If you're from the Carolinas, you might relate as a lot of people don't think Myrtle Beach is that great. (I highly disagree- but that's a blog post for another day!) That was kind of the same vibe that we had about Galveston, but we still wanted to see it. Let me just say that this WAY exceeded our expectations in the best way!

    What we discovered Galveston to be was a charming beach area that does a great job fusing old historic areas with new attractions! There are some really nice hotels right on the beach. The beach itself was beautiful and very clean (which was very different than things Ciera heard before our day trip!). The water was amazingly warm for November... I'm pretty sure that the beaches in my hometown in Maine never have water that warm, even in the height of summer!

     There's an amusement park in Galveston called Pleasure Pier. While we didn't end up doing any of the rides there, we did walk over to check it out! (And amazingly across the street, there is a combination Chick Fil A and Dippin' Dots ice cream restaurant!)

     We also walked around in a few of the residential streets near the beach. The homes in Galveston were so charming!! Look at all of these beautiful colors:

    Visiting Galveston was truly the highlight of my trip! I'm dying to go back and actually stay in that area, and have a few days to both relax on the beach and explore more of the history in this quaint little beach city!

    On the way back from Galveston, Ciera told me that we had a special pit stop. It was a visit to Buc-ee's! I had never heard of Buc-ee's,  but I learned that it's a uniquely Texas attraction. Buc-ee's is a gas and convenience store chain, but what really sets them apart is that they own the largest convenience stores in the world! I think the Buc-ee's that we visited was probably twice the size of the grocery store in my hometown. They sell every convenience store item known to man, as well as a lot of clothing and home decor. It reminded me of a larger version of a Cracker Barrel gift shop. I also couldn't get over the Buc-ee's mascot!

     Sunday was the most chill day of the trip. I joined Ciera for a service at her church, and then we set off in search of Tex-Mex for lunch. What's a trip to Texas without Tex-Mex, right?

     Oh my gosh y'all... I think that the food we ate has permanently ruined me from eating any other Mexican food ever again. Ciera took me to a favorite restaurant called Pappasito's. OH MY GOSH! This might have been one of the best meals of my life. Their queso was 100% the best that I've ever had. Since getting home, I've been looking up a lot of copycat Pappasito's queso recipes online to see if I can try and make something that resembles it. We split an order of the chicken fajitas, which were also the best fajitas that I've ever had! I had tres leche cake for dessert, and their cake isn't only housemade, but it's also topped with homemade meringue. DIVINE! Have I convinced you yet that you need to eat here? Sadly Pappasito's restaurants are only in Texas- but I am praying they might try and expand to the East Coast! 😉

    We finished off Sunday with something that was in very true Texas fashion: a visit to a shooting range! I had never shot a gun before, and I felt like Texas would be a good place to do that for the first time. In full honesty, shooting is not my thing and I don't really have any desire to do it again soon. But hey- I can say I tried it!

    On Monday morning, Ciera had to go back to work, but I had one more fun thing to do! I finally got to meet my blogging friend Jenny from Breakfast at Lilly's in person! I've run a blogging group called the Millennial Blogger Network (it's for blog and social media engagement) for a few years now, and Jenny is another friend that helps run it. So fun to finally meet her!

    Then it was off to the airport for me, and back to Virginia! I had such a wonderful little Thanksgiving vacation to Houston and the surrounding areas. Ciera and I were able to do quite a lot in the days I was there, but at the same time it felt like we didn't do anything since there is so much to see and do! This is one destination that I'm already excited to go back to. Here's my list of things I want to do on my next visit to this part of Texas:

  • Eat at Escalente's (Jenny says this Tex-Mex restaurant is better than Pappasito's- how is that even possible?!)
  • Eat at Whattaburger 
  • Eat Vietnamese food (Houston area has a huge Vietnamese population and this is one of my favorite cuisines!)
  • Eat at a local donut shop
  • Explore Downtown Houston
  • Visit the Houston zoo 
  • Visit Lake Conroe 
  • Shop at the Houston Galleria (This is one of the top 10 largest malls in the country! I loved Woodlands Mall, but apparently this puts it to shame.)
  • Spend more time in Galveston. 

     I also thought it would be fun to conclude this travel diary with a few funny observations of mine about Texas! I had only been to Texas once before when I was five years old, so I barely remember it. I also hadn't been anywhere near Houston before, so this was a totally new experience for me. Here's a few random things I noticed about this part of the Lone Star state:

  • MALLS EVERYWHERE: I'm not sure if this is the case for all of Texas... but the Houston metro area had more malls and strip malls than I'd EVER SEEN IN MY LIFE. We drove I-45 to Galeveston and back... 80-90% of that two hour drive was just going by mall after strip mall after mall after strip mall... you get the idea! Don't get me wrong... I love a good mall and I love to shop, but after awhile it got to be a bit much even for me! I guess you can't say that Houston has a lack of shopping options? 
  • Local donut shops: While I didn't actually go to any of these, one thing that I noticed from all of the driving around was that Houstonians love their local donut shops! I didn't see a Krispy Kreme or Dunkin' the whole time I was there, but most shopping areas had either a Shipley's donuts, or some sort of local donut shop. 
  • Cowboys: The Texas stereotype about cowboys is true!! Many local businesses use cowboys or western themes in their marketing. I even saw a car dealership called "Cowboy Kia."
  • Dialysis: This is super random, but all over Houston and surrounding areas I saw tons of doctors offices that specialized in dialysis! I've honestly never seen a specific medical office for that before, and I kept seeing these everywhere. Like... most of the exits off of I-45 had at least one place that did this. 
  • Adult stores: Houston has a TON of adult stores and adult entertainment. Some of them had really funny names that Ciera and I laughed about... but overall it was kind of sad to see all that. One thing that I did like about living in Vermont was that strip clubs were illegal in the state (and there weren't many adult bookstores either), and here in Charlottesville you don't really see that stuff either. Just kind of shocking to me that there's a big enough market to support all that in Houston. 
  • Post-Hurricane Harvey: Houston of course was devastated in 2017 from Hurricane Harvey. I was expecting to see a lot more damage, at least closer to Downtown Houston. After seeing Houston, I honestly wouldn't have believed that a catastrophic hurricane moved through just a year ago! Houston has done an amazing job at repairing the damage it seems. Maybe there are some areas that are still very affected, but I definitely didn't see any.

     So that is my trip recap for Texas! Would I go back to Houston and the surrounding areas? 100% yes! I think Thanksgiving was a perfect time to visit with the weather, it was in the 60s and 70s everyday. Would I want to live in Houston? Probably not. I love big cities, but I think Houston is just a little bit too big. Pretty sure that I'm an East Coast girl through and through. 😊 But it sure is a fun place to visit! Now I'd really like to go to San Antonio and Dallas.

    Have you been to Houston or any of the surrounding areas before?

    God Bless,

     xoxo Annaliese


  1. I love Galveston so so much! Houston is such a fun place

  2. So glad you enjoyed your time in Texas! As a local Houstonia, you have to come back and stay in the city! There's just soo much to do.


  3. Wow, great photos. I've newly moved to the Houston area. Gotta check these out. Love the Christmas tree pic!

  4. Wow such fun images!! I love Houston its always a good time.

  5. It looks like you had an amazing time!! I'm jealous of that weather!! My husband has ate at Whattaburger and he says it's soooo good (I haven't though!).

    I just got the Chrissy Teigen cookbook and I'm wanting wanting to make her macaroni and cheese! I hope it's as good as everyone says!!

  6. looks like such a fun girls trip! i've never been to houston but looks like there's so much to do - plus the weather looked nice!

  7. FYI

    There is a Pappasito's in Atlanta.

  8. What a fun trip! I just love Texas!!! Glad you got to visit Galveston and go to the beach. Looks like you had a wonderful holiday. Safe travels back home :)

  9. I love this, it was so fun to read! Personally, I like that you did a travel diary because I find it weird when people write travel guides for cities they only visited. I've lived in DC since 2008 and I still don't feel qualified to write a guide to this city!

    xo Deborah
    Coffee, Prose, and Pretty Clothes

  10. Those beach houses are gorgeous! I haven't been to TX but am planning to go to Austin in January :)

    -xo, Azanique |

  11. Looks like you had a great trip! And Texas does have a ton of malls, which I love (and currently miss)!

  12. I'm so envious of the malls there!! Black Friday looked like the best time- definitely adding Texas to my travel list!

  13. So many beautiful spots to go and places to see! Love your pictures!


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