Open Road

8 Water-Based Activities to Experience in Texas

Venture out and find somewhere exciting to escape the relentless heat.

By Stephanie Bartels Published in the Summer 2022 issue of Houstonia Magazine

A picture-perfect summer at Lago Mar Crystal Clear Lagoon

While there are plenty of pools and water activities in Houston, it’s time to venture out and find somewhere exciting to escape the relentless sun. Fortunately, there are refreshing ways all around Texas to achieve sweet relief from the heat and boredom. It’s not hard to locate an ideal spot to cool down, ranging from a crystal-blue lagoon to an indoor water park to a natural spring.

Balmorhea State Park

9207 TX-17, Toyahvale
8-hour drive from Downtown Houston 

Take a dip in the calm, clean waters of one of the largest spring-fed pools in the country. The pool at Balmorhea State Park is 25 feet deep, covers 1.3 acres, and holds 3.5 million gallons of water from San Solomon Springs for swimming, scuba diving, and lounging in West Texas. Even when it’s hot out, the water temperature stays at 72 to 76 degrees throughout the year. Besides the water, experience bird-watching, geocaching, and exploring the newly restored desert wetlands, which are home to various endangered fish and wildlife. If you're planning to stay overnight, the park usually offers 34 campsites and rooms at the San Solomon Springs Court, but these are currently closed for renovations. The pool is open daily, and swimmers pay only the park entry fee of $7 for adults. Children 12 and under are free.


Lago Mar Crystal Clear Lagoon

3240 Lago Mar Blvd, Texas City
50-minute drive from Downtown Houston 

A picture-perfect summer wouldn’t be complete without a white sandy beach, crystal blue water, and a cocktail in hand. Don’t have time to visit paradise? Lago Mar Crystal Clear Lagoon has that picturesque backdrop and is not too far from Houston. The 12-acre lagoon is the first and largest public-access lagoon in Texas. It features resort amenities such as cabanas, loungers, bumper boats, an aqua course, live performances, and various food favorites, providing the vacation experience you are craving. Lago Mar Crystal Clear Lagoon is open in three separate seasons from March through October: Spring Break, Summer Fest, and Fall Fest. The entire lagoon is open to the public Memorial Day weekend through October.


Drive out to Austin and swim at Barton Springs, located in Zilker Park.

Barton Springs Pool

2131 William Barton Drive, Austin 
3-hour drive from Downtown Houston

Cool off with a swim at Barton Springs Pool, located at 358-acre Zilker Park in Austin. The 3-acre spread is fed by a fresh, cold, natural underground spring from Edwards Aquifer. The water is always 68 to 70 degrees, making it the perfect temperature to escape a scorching summer day, and there’s a grassy area surrounding the pool for lounging, showering, and snacking. Zilker Park also has hiking and biking trails and a sports field, and it's just a quick drive from Downtown Austin. 


Margaritaville Lake Resort is a staycationer's dream.

Margaritaville Lake Resort

600 Margaritaville Parkway, Montgomery
1-hour drive from Downtown Houston 

Inspired by the tropical sounds and lyrics of Jimmy Buffett, Margaritaville is where you’ll want to stay all season long. Set on 186 lakefront acres of 21-mile-long Lake Conroe, the resort features a 3-acre water park with a lazy river, outdoor pools, swimming, boating, fishing, Jet-Skiing, and waterskiing. Find a foodie’s paradise among the seven restaurants and bars, with the 5 O’Clock Somewhere bar offering a pool swim-up option. Or plan an escape to the St. Somewhere Spa, which offers therapeutic experiences like the “Discover Your Inner Chill” wellness retreat weekend, therapeutic massages such as the St. Somewhere Signature Massage, and limited-edition seasonal body treatments. The island-inspired suites and cottages offer airy amenities such as a private balcony with lake views.


Head to New Caney fo the ultimate family-fun at Big Rivers Water Park.

Big Rivers Water Park

23101 TX-242, New Caney
42-minute drive from Downtown Houston

If Clark Griswold taught us anything, it’s that you pack up the station wagon and head to the ultimate family-fun destination. Big Rivers Water Park in New Caney will cross off more than one summer bucket-list entry, since admission to the park gets you access to both the water park and the new fairgrounds. Here, you’ll find water slides like the Storm Surge and Frio Falls for a classic water-park experience, and 11 newly added carnival rides such as the Rolling Thunder spinning roller coaster, the SPINdletop pendulum-style gondola, and the Screaming Eagles. The park opened for the summer on April 30 and operates on select days and times through December. 

Krause Springs 

424 County Road 404, Spicewood
3-hour drive from Downtown Houston

Immerse yourself in the sights, sounds, and smells of the forest surrounding Krause Springs in Spicewood, just 36 miles west of Austin. The Krause family founded the 115-acre property in 1955, and they graciously opened their 32 springs for visitors to escape the heat. You’ll find natural and artificial pools among the springs, with a rope swing and a dazzling mini waterfall into the 68-degree natural pool. Even smaller pools throughout the property offer water shallow enough for small children to play in. The area has a camping site and a Butterfly Garden with wind chimes and fountains.


Great Wolf Lodge Water Park has 80,000 square feet of indoor water adventures.

Great Wolf Lodge Water Park

100 Great Wolf Drive, Grapevine
4-hour drive from Downtown Houston 

If we know anything about Texas weather, it can be clear blue skies one minute and thunderstorms the next. Great Wolf Lodge’s indoor water park is the way to go if you’re looking for a summer escape without any rainouts. It offers 80,000 square feet of indoor water adventures and dry-land activities, such as dance parties for the whole family. The park also has overnight lodging, cabanas, and various dining options. 


Garner State Park near San Antonio.

Garner State Park

234 RR 1050, Concan
4-hour drive from Downtown Houston 

Swim along 2.9 miles of the Frio River, which winds through 1,774 acres of Hill Country terrain at Garner State Park near San Antonio. Popular for overnight camping and hiking, the park also offers opportunities for canoeing and fishing, as well as a community dance every summer evening in the dance hall. The park usually reaches capacity by noon during the peak season, so you’ll want to get your tickets as soon as possible. Tickets are $8 for adults, and children 12 and under are free.

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