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The Best Outdoorsy Things To Do in The Woodlands, TX (+ Food!)

March 18, 2024

Driving into The Woodlands from Houston feels as if you’ve entered into a peaceful oasis. Towering highway systems, a vast urban jungle and traffic at all hours transforms to tree-lined streets with gentle curves. You’ll feel the tension leave your body as you arrive.

The Woodlands was designed to feel this way. The master planned community was founded in 1974 by George Mitchell, an oil entrepreneur and philanthropist. It was a brand new concept at the time, but ended up as a huge success. Today, The Woodlands is home to over 118,000 residents and over 2,000 businesses and corporations.

Not only is The Woodlands a nice place to live, but it makes for the perfect weekend getaway from Houston, DFW or anywhere else. Whether you’re taking a romantic trip, a girl’s trip or visiting with family, there is something for everyone.

If you’re wondering what to do in The Woodlands, I have you covered. In this blog, I’ll be sharing my experience in The Woodlands with a focus on the outdoors. I was amazed to find hiking trails, a unique treetop adventure, kayaking opportunities and more in The Woodlands. Keep reading to find out the best outdoorsy things to do in The Woodlands, where to stay in The Woodlands, and more!

A duck drinking water in a water feature right off of The Woodlands Waterway
The Woodlands Waterway
Lydia looking up at the Texas TreeVentures course wearing a harness and helmet
Texas TreeVentures

Full disclaimer – This is a sponsored blog post by Visit The Woodlands. As always, my opinions are unbiased and my own. I want to thank all participating partners and The Woodlands tourism board for their generosity!

The Best Outdoorsy Things To Do in The Woodlands

The Woodlands is full of fun things to do outside! Whether you’re looking for a wooded hike, a paved path or would like to get out on the water, you’ll find it here. As with any outdoor adventure, be sure to leave no trace by packing out your trash and respecting those around you.

Walk along The Woodlands Waterway

One of the best parts about downtown in The Woodlands is The Waterway. There is a paved sidewalk following along each side of the water and the path extends about 1.3 miles each way. It’s the perfect place for a walk, run or bike ride. A walk here is one of the best free things to do in The Woodlands!

Lydia sitting on a red bench that spells 'love' using various tubesLydia sitting in a large circular art bench in The Woodlands
Art benches

One thing that will quickly catch your eye in The Woodlands is the Art Benches. There are about 30 art benches all over the city and each bench is completely different. They are each underwritten by a local business or individual who provides input on how the location of the bench makes them feel.

A few art benches you’ll get to see along The Woodlands Waterway include a State of Texas bench, a discovery art bench inspired by children’s blocks and a large circular bench that represents the circle of life and infinitely of nature. Each one is so unique!

Along with the art benches, there are art bike racks that follow the same idea. They will be sure to catch your eye!

A few other sights to see along The Waterway include the Koi fish garden (please don’t feed the fish!) and the Town Green Park (a park with wide open green space). You can rent swan boats to explore the upper portion of The Waterway, or kayaks, water bikes, paddle boards and more to explore the lower portion.

A green trolley driving along The Waterway in The Woodlands
The Woodlands Free Trolley

Plus, if you don’t want to walk back, The Woodlands has a free trolley that runs along The Waterway! Whether you plan to walk the whole thing, rent a kayak or just take a look, The Waterway is not to be missed during your visit to The Woodlands.

Pro Tip: Download the Ride Systems app for the trolley schedule!

Challenge yourself at Texas TreeVentures

If you love a challenge and a thrill, Texas TreeVentures needs to be on your list when you visit The Woodlands! Texas TreeVentures is a 3-level rope course that allows you to choose your own adventure. This is such a fun thing to do in The Woodlands!

Lydia crossing over pieces of wood at Texas TreeventuresLooking down towards the center of the Texas Treeventures course
Texas TreeVentures

You’ll start your adventure by attending a detailed safety briefing, where you’ll learn how to safely attach and detach yourself to the overhead wire. When you’re ready to enter, you’ll get to choose from many paths leading out from 3 levels. There are 4 difficulty levels: green, blue, orange and black.

Challenges range between crossing on a stable log to crossing on swinging barrels to pulling yourself over on a suspended kayak. There is a huge variety! I found that most are harder than they look, but that’s what makes it fun.

There is a place on all 3 levels where you can jump from the course platform using their auto belay system. This means that the ropes and harness will catch you and slow your fall all the way to the ground. It’s especially scary to jump from level 3 (if you’re a bit afraid of heights like me), but I thought this was the most fun and exhilarating part of the adventure!

Whether you’re visiting with kids, going on a date, or hanging out with friends, Texas TreeVentures is a must for your Woodlands itinerary! It’s a blast for all ages.

Paddle on Lake Woodlands or The Woodlands Waterway

If the weather is nice, getting out on the water is the perfect way to cool off and enjoy the scenery around The Woodlands.

Looking directly at a the dragon statue in Lake WoodlandsLydia kayaking towards trees on Lake Woodlands
Kayaking on Lake Woodlands

You can rent kayaks, paddle boards, water bikes and more from either the Lakes Edge Boat House on Lake Woodlands, or the Riva Row Boat House on The Waterway. The Waterway and Lake Woodlands connect, so you can’t go wrong with either!

I rented from Lakes Edge Boat House and loved paddling the lake. You’ll see several large homes right along the water, and it’s interesting to admire all of the various architectural styles. I also saw many birds and several turtles.

The highlight of the kayak trip for me was paddling out to the Water Dragon, which is located right next to Southshore Park. This large sculpture will remind you of the Loch Ness Monster!

Paddling on the lake is a peaceful and fun way to spend a perfect day in The Woodlands.

Hiking in The Woodlands

As the name suggests, The Woodlands has many trails to choose from! In fact, there are 200 miles of hiking, biking and jogging trails. The extensive trail network can get you all over the area, especially if you have a bike.

A flat path surrounded by trees on the Spring Creek Nature Trail
Spring Creek Nature Trail
Lydia hiking among tall trees in W G Jones State Forest
W G Jones State Forest

If you love hiking like me, George Mitchell Nature Preserve is one of the best places to hike in The Woodlands. The park covers nearly 1,700 acres and has a 2-mile hiking trail and a 3-mile biking trail. Both will lead you through a tranquil, forested area.

You can also connect from George Mitchell Nature Preserve trails over to the Spring Creek Nature Trail. This hike will lead you across a creek and includes viewpoints of the water. Plus, you can connect to Rob Fleming Park and Texas TreeVentures from this trail. The Spring Creek Nature Trail is perfect to do before or after the Texas TreeVentures course!

For more hiking nearby, it’s worth a visit to W G Jones State Forest, which is just outside of The Woodlands. Education is the primary purpose of this forest; They aim to use forest resources while protecting the native flora and fauna in the area. I really enjoyed the Sweetleaf Nature Trail, which led to a neat suspension bridge over a creek.

W G Jones State Forest offers nearly 15 miles of trails, paths for horseback riding, picnic areas and plenty of areas to enjoy nature. It’s a great park to include your trip to The Woodlands.

All of these hiking trails are free to visit and a great way to spend some time out in nature. Hiking is one of the best free things to do in The Woodlands!

Geocaching in The Woodlands

There are numerous opportunities for Geocaching in the parks, such as George Mitchell Nature Preserve, and around the city.

A camouflaged container hanging off of a tree
A Geocache in the Woodlands
Lydia looking up at tall trees on a trail in W G Jones State Forest
W G Jones State Forest

George Mitchell Nature Preserve has several fun Geocaches, including a whole series of Bigfoot themed caches (available using a Premium account).

There is also an extensive series of “Around the World” mystery caches in The Woodlands, which involve geo-guessing locations to find the caches.

And in the downtown area, there are some Adventure Lab geocaching tours that involve answering questions at some of the neat art benches around town.

There are lots of options to add Geocaching to your stay in The Woodlands!

Where to Eat in the Woodlands

There are so many great places to eat in The Woodlands, it’s hard to go wrong! Here are the places that I enjoyed.

Hearsay on the Waterway

Hearsay on the Waterway is where chic meets antique. They fuse historic architecture with modern elements and serve eclectic American cuisine. It’s a fantastic place for date night or drinks with friends.

Watermelon poke tostados from Hearsay on the WaterwayHolding up a strawberry cocktail while looking down at the view of The Woodlands Waterway Square
Hearsay on the Waterway

They offer a classic craft cocktail menu with classic choices such as an Espresso Martini or an Old Fashioned. I enjoyed the Flaming Leah cocktail with vodka, strawberries, mint and more.

The food is fresh and delicious, and I really appreciated the vegetarian options. The Watermelon Poke Tostados was bursting with flavor and unlike anything I’d had before!

However, the best part of this dining experience was the view. I sat on the outdoor patio and enjoyed the colorful fountain show at The Woodlands Waterway Square and The Waterway during my meal. Hearsay on the Waterway is a fantastic choice if you’re looking for an elegant (yet still casual) dinner in The Woodlands.

State Fare Kitchen and Bar

State Fare Kitchen is a bright and colorful spot that feels stylish with a Southern twist. They serve Southern fare and have some nods to the State Fair of Texas with dishes like fried oreos, an XXL Buttermilk Griddlecake or a chili frito pie.

A bowl of spaghetti from State Fare Kitchen and BarA flight of 4 cocktails from State Fare Kitchen and Bar
State Fare Kitchen and Bar

Personally, I loved the jalapeno hushpuppies and the vegan veggie spaghetti (made with beyond meat crumbles).

And don’t forget about the cocktails. State Fare serves a refreshing frozen cocktail flight, along with regular cocktails full of flavor.

State Fare Kitchen is right along Lake Woodlands, so it’s worth walking along the water and admiring the art benches before or after a meal. You can also check out the “Shoal,” an experimental art piece that is a couple doors down!

Whether you come for weekend brunch or date night, State Fare Kitchen should be on your list for The Woodlands!

True Food Kitchen

I loved going to True Food Kitchen when I lived in Dallas, so I was excited to visit their Woodlands location! If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, True Food Kitchen has a seasonal rotating menu and has a commitment to making real food that is good for both you and the planet.

A view of the interior of True Food Kitchen - the word 'true' made of greenery is on a white wall and surrounded by shelvingThe Farmer's Market Scramble and huevos rancheros from True Food Kitchen
True Food Kitchen

I visited for brunch and absolutely loved the Farmer’s Market Scramble, which included sweet potatoes, charred onions, roasted brussels sprouts and more in addition to the scrambled eggs. My husband loved the Huevos Rancheros and the service was wonderful.

The True Food Kitchen in The Woodlands is located in Market Street, which was named the top shopping destination in Texas by the 2023 Texas Travel Awards! The open-air shopping area is full of luxury boutiques and includes on-site concierge, complimentary umbrellas and more luxurious perks.

This is the perfect place for brunch or dinner in The Woodlands!

Bluestone Cafe

Bluestone Cafe is a cute cafe that offers items like avocado toast, breakfast burritos and lemon ricotta pancakes. They also have lunch items, but the breakfast menu is available all day!

Avocado toast, pancakes and lattes from Bluestone CafeHolding up syrup over a plate of lemon ricotta pancakes
Bluestone Cafe

Plus, they serve premium coffee and have a colorful mural inside. It’s a great place to catch up with friends while enjoying a filling breakfast.

More Restaurants in The Woodlands

These were the places I visited, but The Woodlands has many more dining options! One that I’d love to visit next time is Amrina, an enchanting local spot where each dish tells a story. Discover more restaurants in The Woodlands using this guide, there is something for everyone!

Nightlife in The Woodlands

Enjoy the outdoor adventures by day and kick back with some of the live music in The Woodlands by night! There is some fantastic live music around town, and a night out is one of the most fun things to do in The Woodlands for adults.

Several local bars and restaurants offer daily and weekly live music. It’s also worth checking the concert schedule at The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion. This concert venue welcomes big names such as Kenny Chesney, Hozier and many more artists.

Check out the Woodlands Event Calendar to see what is coming up!

Side Project X performing at Mahoney's
Holding up a moscow mule on the outdoor patio of Como Social Club
Como Social Club

Mahoney’s ‘Texish’ Live Music Venue & Bar

Southern cuisine meets the luck of the Irish at Mahoney’s! This bar and restaurant has almost daily live music by incredible bands, along with serving brunch, dinner and a wide range of drinks. I watched Side Project X, a Rock and Roll Cover Band that was very talented and full of energy! Mahoney’s is a fun, local hang out spot that is sure to give you a good time.

Como Social Club

Como Social Club, located on The Woodlands Waterway, is a sleek place to enjoy a cocktail or some live music. They also have a lovely outdoor terrace with a view.

There is typically live music here on the weekends. When I visited, local musicians Ellen Radford, Bryce Shaver and Luke Whitney were performing.

Como serves pizza, tiramisu, charcuterie and more bites in addition to premium cocktails.

Where to Stay in The Woodlands

There are several fantastic hotels to enjoy in The Woodlands, but I had a wonderful stay at The Woodlands Resort and can’t recommend it enough!

A lake with a water fountain at The Woodlands Resort
The Woodlands Resort

The Woodlands Resort is not only an amazing place to stay, but it’s a destination in itself. The property has a golf course, a huge pool area (with a lazy river), bike rental, multiple restaurants, a spa and even a boutique. It’s a peaceful place where you’re sure to feel pampered and at ease.

It’s worth spending some time to walk around the property and explore. I saw several giant frogs in one of the ponds and many birds overhead. And if you want to cover more ground or enjoy some of the wooded paths around The Woodlands, you can rent a bike from the resort. Each bike comes with a helmet and a lock (and they have kids bikes available too!).

And be sure to spend an afternoon enjoying the pool and lazy river. The pool is even heated during the warmer months. They have a couple of giant slides, a kid’s play area and private cabanas available for rent. It’s a fun area for families and adults alike.

Lydia sitting on the couch inside a hotel room in The Woodlands ResortLooking over the lazy river at The Woodlands Resort
The Woodlands Resort

When you go to book your stay, you can choose between one of their deluxe rooms, a room with a balcony and even rooms that allow you to walk directly to the pool.

If you’re looking for a true escape, The Woodlands Resort is easily the best place to stay in The Woodlands.

Final Thoughts

If you’re looking for a relaxing escape, but still want a variety of outdoor fun and great dining, The Woodlands is the perfect place to visit! Don’t be surprised if a wash of relief comes over you when you first arrive, as the endless buildings and roads are replaced by Texas Piney Wood forests.

The Woodlands makes an incredible weekend getaway from Houston or any other city in Texas. It’s a great couples getaway, but also nice for families. It has something for everyone! I hope this guide helps you discover the outdoor adventures in The Woodlands and aids you in planning a perfect Woodlands getaway.

For more Texas travel guides, check out these blogs:

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