Day Trips from Houston (Eleventh Edition)
by Carol Barrington; updated by Syd Kearney

Reviewed by Elizabeth Hathaway

In light of recent economic woes, many people may be looking for cheaper and more accessible travel destinations. But though the luxe getaway to a pristine tropical island or the once-in-a-lifetime trek through an exotic rainforest may have to be put on hold, there is no need to ignore the endless opportunities for economical entertainment right in our own backyards. With the eleventh edition of the Insiders’ Guide’s Day Trips from Houston and a car full of kids, college roommates, or visiting in-laws, a day of amusement for all personalities and characters can be navigated at ease along both the well-known and not so well-known routes and roads outside Houston, Texas.

The guide, originally written by Carol Barrington, has been recently updated and revised by Syd Kearney. Both gals are native Texans with a more than respectable amount of Houston knowledge, tallying over 35 years of combined expertise on the travel writing front. Their goal for the guide is to offer endless possibilities of rich and rewarding experiences for the ready-to-wander reader looking for a diversion.  As the preface proclaims, “When money and time are in short supply, nothing is more pleasing than a day trip. Short and often sweet, day trips provide a change in scenery, a family outing without distractions, the opportunity to share a childhood memory with a new spouse, or the chance to rekindle a romance”(ix). The guide, which is an easy read yet stock full of information, allows the reader to create a day trip which best suits him or her with plenty of direction and just the right amount of mystery— for what’s the excitement in a road trip when there’s nothing to discover? “Let curiosity be your guide,”(ix) Kearney advises. But with Day Trips from Houston in hand, you can be sure that you satisfy that curiosity without stress or anxiety and with an awareness of side roads leading to fun, worthy of stopping, destinations.

The guide is carefully structured into sections, each representing a different compass orientation. The reader can either follow a route which has destinations organized thematically (i.e. history lessons or beach party) or mix and match destinations from different themes— handy for a car that may be traveling in one direction yet carrying mindsets of more than one focus. And the guide is certainly sure to satisfy all types of focuses, from the outdoor enthusiast’s and antiques collector’s, to the history buff’s and Christmas tree hunter’s.

Each section provides a helpful and informative introduction so that the adventurer knows what they are getting into and follows with  “What to Do” and “Where to Eat” segments. Every stop has been meticulously selected for the guide and is accurately and objectively described with even a phone number and address listed- essential for the reader on the road who may want to double check openings and prices. A “Wandering the Back Roads” segment concludes every section, and is a great jumping off point for someone who has caught the travel bug and is looking to continue heading further from Houston in search of more discoveries. These bits sometimes include places to stay in case an extended day-trip turns into an impromptu weekend excursion.

A basic map supplements every route described, but Kearney does suggest that one invests in a reliable and extensive map of Texas before wandering along back roads. However, for those following a basic route, the guide supplies everything one needs and more. The guide also has an encompassing  “Celebration and Festivals” section that highlights the best the Greater Houston area has to offer throughout the year. Whether the Annual Texas Gatorfest or the South Shore Dockside Food & Wine Festival is your thing, timing a trip around one of these events would be a great way to add the extra umph to a low-priced yet richly rewarding day trip.

Usable by all and useful for everyone, Day Trips from Houston offers a wide range of trips for those trying to get off the beaten track or for those looking for a fresh perspective on the well-worn one. Small and saturated with information, this book is the perfect companion to a roadmap in anyone’s glove box. This guide will provide you with destination suggestions you never knew existed— and wouldn’t want to miss. So, as Kearney beckons, “pack a picnic basket, load up the minivan, and put Houston in your rearview mirror, if only for a few hours.”(ix)

Carol Barrington. Revised and Updated by Syd Kearney
Day Trips from Houston Eleventh Edition
(Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot Press, 2006)
ISBN 0-7627-3867-7    $14.95    275 pp.

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