Sometimes you need a quick getaway to escape the responsibilities of life. Simply pack a bag, tend to the pets, grab the kids (if that applies), and suddenly, the piles of laundry, stacks of bills, and unmowed lawn become a distant memory.
But where to go? Houston offers savvy vacationers myriad choices for a getaway just a few hours from Austin. From a historic club and resort to Houston’s only Five Diamond winner, these favorites will pamper and spoil families and couples with grace, style, and savvy service.
The Houstonian Hotel, Club & Spa
With its location on Buffalo Bayou, history as home to President George H.W. Bush and wife, Barbara, and reputation as an abode for local elite, it’s little wonder why The Houstonian has enjoyed legendary status in Houston.
Insider tip: When staying at the hotel, there is no resort fee for guests who partake in the offerings of the exclusive Houstonian Club. (Resort fees often run a minimum of $50 per day). The club was recently recognized as one of the top in the nation for its amenities and services.
Families will delight in the “Family Stay & Play Weekend” package, where youngsters can slide down a 30-foot pool slide and play in geysers, a lagoon, and at the club’s kid’s gym, bungalow, and playground. Kids receive a “nature’s friend” stuffed animal, popcorn, and a complimentary in-room movie. Take advantage of the early morning nature hike, which leads guests throughout the lush, tree-lined grounds and bayou trail. (One package offers a complimentary breakfast after the stroll.)
No stay at the hotel is complete without a visit to the famous Trellis Spa, which offers luxe treatments, refreshing meals, and a chance to decompress in the hot tubs and soaking pool. Tribute, the newly transformed restaurant, pays homage to Texan, Louisianian, and Mexican influences and provides an excellent brunch or tasty, top-level dinner. No lodging in Houston provides a more old-guard experience than the lobby of the hotel, where foreign dignitaries, celebrities, and more rub elbows with locals and travelers.
Four Seasons Houston
Houston’s downtown site of one of America’s most iconic luxury hotel brands offers walking distance to Minute Maid Park, Toyota Center, and House of Blues. Inside, Dad can work on his swing at the indoor Top Golf, Mom can relax at the spa, and the whole family can dive into the popular saltwater pool. (Be sure to watch for a visiting professional athlete or celebrity.) Kids can delight in movie time at the pool, which offers a smorgasbord of sweet treats.
Thanks to the celebrity clientele, the hotel prides itself on catering to any guest's whim. (Want to pet a monkey? Have dinner with J.J. Watt? Done.)
Enjoy some Southern charm at the downstairs Bayou & Bottle restaurant and bar, or go upscale Italian with Quattro. Service at Quattro is so keen, it’s not unusual for a guest to mention a favorite wine and have said bottle appear in their room later that night, courtesy of the deft sommelier. Speaking of Quattro: the restaurant boasts arguably Houston’s biggest and best brunch, which rivals any high-end Vegas buffet and is so sprawling, it almost warrants two days of visits to fully enjoy.
The Hotel Sorella is the undisputed draw for those in west Houston looking for a weekend retreat. The Sorella’s CITYCENTRE location makes a family escape a breeze with its kid-friendly, programmed central green, plus a multitude of pedestrian-oriented dining, retail and entertainment options ranging from Studio Movie Grill, Escape Game and Bowl & Barrel. Hotel guests can purchase day passes to the adjacent, 140,000-square-foot Life Time Athletic Club with indoor and outdoor pools, indoor basketball, rock climbing wall, and childcare.
As for the hotel, the infinity pool is a major player, as are the Monnalisa and Milano bars. Enjoy a sip at either (or both), then head to International Smoke for an urbane twist on barbecue.
For a waterpark experience without leaving the Greater Houston confines, look no further than downtown’s Marriott Marquis and its massive Texas-shaped (and Texas-sized) lazy river pool. Since its opening, visitors have swarmed the hotel’s Parkview Terrace, where they hop in tubes and drift down the river, lounge in the infinity pool — that overlooks Discovery Green — or soak in the hot tub.
Insider tip: Grab the kids and plan to arrive at the pool at or before 10 am, as it is jam-packed with families by mid-morning. (The hotel offers Open Deck Days for non-hotel guests.) For some added privacy from the masses, splurge for a day bed, a pergola, or a cabana rental. Post-splash, head to the Pure Spa for an array of Elemis Biotic beauty treatments, lounge in a robe, and chill out before an Astros game or an early downtown dinner.
Gracefully appointed with European flair (the lobby makes for perfect selfies), the Alessandra brings a romantic, old-world charm to downtown. The hotel’s many packages (spa days, couples, etc.) make for an easy way to explore the Alessandra’s offerings. Food and drink is a draw here: the Bardot lounge is modeled after turn-of-the-century bars in London. Enjoy a sip there, then head to Lucienne for Mediterranean and French-inspired fare.
The “Bienvenue” package allows for lodging, a $200 credit toward the bar or restaurant, and two glasses of sparkling wine at dinner. Service shines at Spa by Alessandra, which offers a quiet, pampering atmosphere (whispering is a must). Lounge at the pool, change, and hop in the hotel’s Maserati for a quick jaunt to a downtown destination.
Hotel Zaza Museum District
If these walls could talk, what stories they’d tell. Since its opening in the Museum District in the early aughts, Hotel Zaza has been home to racy rendezvouses in its scandalously seductive suites. Look for the Rock Star Suite (a favorite), which boasts more than 2,000 square feet, rock ‘n’ roll appointments, two bedrooms, and a stainless steel kitchen.
Arrive early to dine at the open-air Monarch Bistro, sidle up to the bar, roam the romantic settings (even the hallways are eye-catching), and later, retreat to the room. Wake up late and join the scenesters at the pool; the cabanas here are always hoppin’ and often spark impromptu parties. When weather permits, a stroll down the Museum District walkways near the Sam Houston fountain is simply divine.
The Post Oak Hotel
Houston’s billionaire Tilman Fertitta built his palace for an opulent, over-the-top experience catering to society elites (see the exclusive 25th-floor club), titans of industry, and visiting moguls.
The city’s only hotel to achieve the coveted AAA Five Dining Rating is a shining example of the luxury lifestyle: the wine room alone boasts a $3 million inventory. The hotel’s crystal chandelier is valued at $1 million, as are paintings by artist Frank Stella. Well-heeled guests can even opt for the hotel’s helicopter service. Then there’s The Spa, 20,000 square feet of first-to-market treatments and pampering. The Post Oak’s four restaurants — Craft F&B, Bouchée Patisserie, Bloom & Bee, and H Bar — as CultureMap Houston food editor Eric Sandler notes, are worth a visit.
Power players can book the new $1 million package, a once-in-a-lifetime offering to enjoy 43 vintages of Chateau Mouton Rothschild in Magnums, “His & Hers” Bentleys, up to four gourmet dinners, along with overnight stays at the hotel.