A stay at The Woodlands Resort, Texas

Unless you live in south Texas or follow PGA golf, you probably haven’t heard of The Woodlands Resort. Tucked away in the planned community of Woodlands, Texas, about 25 minutes from Houston, this conference and leisure property has undergone a multi-million dollar remodel, and it shows; guests will be immersed in an upgraded experience from check-in to check-out. Ready to get to know (or become reacquainted with) this revitalized property?

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The Woodlands Resort’s renovation included extensive upgrades to guest rooms and conference facilities, but the true ‘wow’ factor lies in its leisure spaces. Families will notice the two championship golf courses immediately, but head behind the first of several guest buildings, and an entire ‘oasis’ of pool and water complexes await. Dubbed the Forest Oasis, this area includes multiple free-form pools, water slides, zero-entry and water fountain play areas, and a brand new 1000+ foot lazy river, complete with rolling current. During peak season, poolside activities are run by the resort daily, and at all times, kids can participate in a fun underwater scavenger hunt (ask for a list of items to find at the cafe).

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But the outdoor recreation by no means ends there. The Woodlands Resort also sports 21 tennis courts, a fitness center (with additional exercise pools), a spa, and miles of bike and hiking trails throughout the property. (Bikes are complimentary, and yes, kids’ sizes are available…an oversight at many resorts). Thanks to strict building and planting bylaws in the Woodlands community, the entire property is lush with trees providing greenery and shade, and interlaced with pleasant walkways with patios, seating areas, and outdoor fire pits.

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Dining at The Woodlands is somewhat limited for families on a budget, but there are ways around this. A shuttle can take families from The Woodlands Resort to popular shopping areas nearby, such as Market Street with outdoor walkways, cinemas, shops and casual dining, and a full grocery story is in easy walking distance, directly adjacent to the resort. On site, the Dining Room offers a very nice buffet breakfast at standard prices (during my visit, it was approximately $15 for adults), the Cool Water Cafe and the Royal Mile Grille offer casual lunch, and Robard’s Steakhouse impresses with an upscale dinner. Parents will want to splurge on at least one nice night out here; I recommend starting out with the Woodlands’ take on the Manhattan, prepared with incredibly smooth smoked whiskey.

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Older kids can grab appetizers and play a game of billiards in the Bistro (which shifts to 21 and older at 9 pm), or families can grab a casual dinner at the pool area (in peak season). While babysitting or children’s club services are not available on site (and how we wish they were!), the concierge desk can absolutely help parents find recommended local babysitting services.

A note about the Woodlands Resort’s large conference facilities: family leisure travelers will hardly notice them. With conference facilities across the main lake and water feature from the guest rooms and leisure side of the property, this section of the resort didn’t impact our stay at all.

Rooms are spacious, located in buildings 3000, 4000, and 5000. The 3000 building faces one golf course and peaceful water features, and 4000 and 5000 encircle the Forest Oasis water park area. Families with kids who plan to spend the majority of their time in this area should book at ground-level room in 5000, where balconies open up right onto the pool. In-room amenities include single-cup coffee makers, free wifi, Bath and Bodyworks bathroom amenities, and mini-fridges. Double queen bed rooms have baths and showers, and king rooms have walk-in showers only.

While The Woodlands Resort is not what I’d consider a ‘destination resort’ for most families, when you get here, you’ll certainly feel as though you’ve arrived.

What do I mean by this? Everything about the Woodlands is so lovely, once on-site, families won’t have much reason to leave. With golf courses, bike and hiking trails, tennis courts, upscale restaurants, and an outdoor water play and pool complex you’ll be hard-pressed to top, families are well-taken care of. However, as the greater Houston region is not already a family vacation magnet, the question becomes, when will families come, and more specifically, for what type of vacation? I mulled this question over throughout my stay, wanting to connect this beautiful property with a logical vacation plan for families. After three near-perfect days at Woodlands Resort, I came up with the following ‘excuses’ to book a trip:

Houston home base:

As the fourth largest city in the US, Houston has plenty of visitors. Whether you’re coming to the city for business or a family vacation, why not skip expensive overnight parking fees and the noise or stress of the city and spread out in a more peaceful setting? This isn’t the first time I’ve recommended booking a leisure-focused resort outside a major destination, and it won’t be the last: the downtime this strategy affords families during a busy travel schedule is simply so beneficial. After spending a full day in Houston’s extensive museum district or before cheering on a Houston team, for instance, families staying at The Woodlands can be floating along the lazy river, riding bikes along tree-lined paths, and spending full mornings on green golf courses. I’m relaxing just thinking about it.

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How I’d spend a Woodlands Resort stay as a Houston home base:

  • Drive into the city after 9 am, and return before 4 pm, to avoid traffic
  • Visit Houston museums and public parks
  • Spend late afternoons in Forest Oasis

Travel tip: with extensive conference space, The Woodlands Resort sees more than its share of business travelers. But take my word on this: while on the property for work, you’ll be seeing activities your kids would love at every turn. Bring them in for the weekend following a conference or meeting.

Golf vacation:

With two championship courses, Panther Trail and Oaks, families who golf together will be content at The Woodlands for days. Both courses welcome children on the links (afternoon tee times are the most kid-friendly), rent clubs, even child sizes, and offer lessons. The practice green is lit at night for additional play time, and the driving range has extended hours as well. When not golfing, kids will want to be in the Forest Oasis ‘waterscape’.

How I’d spend a Woodlands Resort stay during a golf vacation:

  • Let the kids play in Forest Oasis during the morning, or take a golf lesson
  • Play 18 holes starting right after lunch
  • Relax with a family game of pool in the Bistro before dinner
  • Take the resort shuttle to Market Street for a movie

Parents’ or adults getaway:

I’ve already warned you that if you don’t bring the kids, you’ll immediately miss them with so many family-focused offerings, but should you be able to tear yourself away, parents will do well on the tennis courts (book a lesson!), bike paths, and enjoy the Woodlands Resort spa in addition to the golf courses. With 194 miles of trail, you could easily spend a whole morning or afternoon cycling. Add a shopping trip to Market Street for some leisurely shopping at storefronts from Tiffany’s to Charming Charlie, or a music performance at the nearby Pavillon, and you may not miss the little ones.

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How I’d spend a Woodlands Resort stay during a getaway without the kids:

  • Sleep in!
  • Eat a leisurely breakfast at the Dining Room buffet before a spa treatment
  • Spend time by the spa and fitness area pools
  • Take the shuttle to Market Street for some shopping or window shopping
  • Enjoy an easy five mile cycle or walk around the golf courses
  • Book a late dinner at Robard’s Steakhouse, followed by after-dinner drinks at a fire pit outside the bar

Houston staycation:

Houston residents should absolutely be taking advantage of the Woodlands Resort’s proximity. Because all you need for play, rest, and relaxation are at your fingertips, it makes for the perfect staycation hotel. Definitely book a stay in the off-season to avoid heat and crowds at the Forest Oasis, and to snag lower room rates. Only resort guests can use Forest Oasis, so book at least a one-night stay, then plan to linger the next day.

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How I’d spend a Woodlands Resort staycation:

  • Arrive after work and school on an off-season Friday night
  • Grab appetizers for dinner at the Bistro
  • Play in the pools or golf the next day, lingering after check-out to have lunch at the Cool Water Cafe

Room rates:

During off-season, room rates are more than comfortable at $159 to $199 (poolside walk-out), and rates only rise about $100 during peak season. Five can fit into a room with a rollaway, or additional space (and a second bathroom) can be secured via adjoining rooms. There are a limited number of suites and junior suites, but the best value for families still lies in the single or double room options.

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Directions:

From Bush Intercontinental Airport, it’s an easy 25 minute drive (without traffic) on I-45 or the Hardy Toll Road to Woodlands Parkway at Exit 76B. Turn left onto Grogan’s Mill Road, then turn right at the first light at North Millbend Drive. The resort entrance is on the left.

As I disclose whenever applicable, I experienced The Woodlands Resort as a hosted guest, for the purpose of review. Without this opportunity to preview the resort, I would not be able to write a comprehensive review. 

About the author

Amy Whitley AUTHOR: Amy Whitley is the founding editor of Pit Stops for Kids and content editor of Trekaroo. She writes on staff monthly as a family travel expert at Go Green Travel Green and Practical Travel Gear, and contributes to Outdoors NW as an outdoor adventure traveler. Find Amy at Google.

Comments

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Comments

  1. The prices have increased.
    It’s no longer affordable family fun! 🙁
    Now with resort fees added.
    $288./ night is too much for most
    Families. 🙁 sad

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