Postcards From Beyond the Beltway

Best of the Burbs: Greetings from Clear Lake

The area is home to Armand Bayou Nature Center, one of the largest urban wildlife refuges in the U.S.

By Andrea Park May 31, 2016 Published in the June 2016 issue of Houstonia Magazine

Kemah bridge with bubba red e8yhvv

Every Houstonians should ride Kemah's Boardwalk Bullet coaster at least once.

Image: Landry's Inc.

Kemah Boardwalk

Just 20 miles from downtown Houston, the boardwalk attracts hordes of visitors, all of whom like their seafood, cocktails, live music, carnival games and rides even better against a gorgeous view of Clear Lake. And while there’s opportunity to shell out cash at every turn—this is a Tilman Fertitta operation, after all—the truth is, our favorite activity here is finding a bench and watching the boats cruise by. Can’t resist the water’s siren call? Take a ride out to Galveston Bay on the Boardwalk Beast. And remember: roller coaster before wine, and you’ll be just fine.

215 Kipp Ave., 877-285-3624,

Armand Bayou Nature Center

With 2,500 acres of coastal wilderness and over 300 species of birds, this is one of the largest urban wildlife refuges in the U.S.—and the perfect place to explore the unique ecosystems of prairies, marshes and wetlands. Explore the preserve from a canoe or pontoon boat, or take a hike on one of its winding trails. The half-mile Discovery Loop Trail makes for a fun and educational introduction, with keepers offering live animal displays of hawks, turtles and snakes. Watch out for gators.

8500 Bay Area Blvd., 281-474-2551,

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Forget Mario Kart and play the real thing at Formula Racing Center.

Formula Racing Center

Adrenaline junkies can’t get enough of this place, where go-karters ages 7 and up—at every skill level, from rookie to pro—put the pedal to the metal. Racers are evaluated, fitted with helmets, and placed into groups before going head to head on the indoor track at this monster 50,000-square-foot warehouse. Each round lasts 12 laps, allowing plenty of time to jockey for position at speeds of up to 30 mph. Not into burning rubber? There’s a cafe and plenty of arcade games in the lobby.

12552 Highway 3, 281-581-7223,

UH Clear Lake Art Gallery

A visit here begins with a meandering drive through the lush, almost tropical grounds of the university’s campus. Since 2004, the fresh and modern space inside the school’s Bayou Building has hosted over 50 exhibits by students and local talent; this month brings a juried show featuring artists living within 30 miles of the Bay Area, selected by gallery curators Jeffrey Bowen and Karen Fiscus. “There is plenty of life outside the loop,” says Fiscus. Expect the place to be hopping at the June 2 reception for the new show, which also will feature craft beer tastings. “A partnership with Saint Arnold,” says Bowen, “never hurts.”

2700 Bay Area Blvd., 281-283-7600,

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