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Thursday, June 20, 2024 — Houston, TX

Explore Texas: Six perfect day trips to make the most of sprinkle days

Illustrated by Dalia Gulca

By Andrew Cormack     3/9/21 10:14pm

As we continue to battle the pandemic, Rice has made the decision to eliminate spring break to reduce the risk of students going out of state and transmitting the virus to loved ones or bringing it back to campus. Instead, we get sprinkle days — randomly selected days off that are intended to offer students time to relax in lieu of a traditional spring break. Used correctly, these days can offer students an opportunity to destress and unwind by spending time in nature, visiting cultural sites, or trying new activities.

In the coming months we have three upcoming Sprinkle Days: Tuesday, March 16, Friday, March 26 and Thursday, April 8. For students with cars looking to explore greater Houston and the Lone Star State, here are six day trips to maximize your sprinkle days. While enjoying these days, even if off campus, it is critical that we all exercise good judgement and abide by the Culture of Care agreement. Have fun and stay safe!

The Alamo and River Walk

The Alamo is one of Texas’s most visited landmarks, and for good reason. Visitors can revel in the mission complex’s rich history and enjoy the nearby San Antonio Riverwalk. This staple of Texas history recently became one of the United States’ 11 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Built in 1718 as a Spanish mission, the Alamo gained its fame in the 1836 Battle of the Alamo where a small garrison of U.S. soldiers defended the complex to their deaths in the Texas Revolution. After roaming the Alamo grounds and checking out some the exhibits and live demonstrations, walk over to the San Antonio Riverwalk to experience live music and an array of dining options. 

The Alamo is a three-hour drive from campus and is centrally located in San Antonio’s city center. Reservations are required to enter, but admission is free. According to the preservation group that operates the Alamo Mission Complex, Alamo Trust, the maximum number of guests has been limited to allow for physical distancing, and masks are required.

Johnson Space Center

Houston, nicknamed the space city, is home to NASA’s Mission Control and Astronaut Corps. The Johnson Space Center is less than an hour away from campus and houses Space Center Houston, the official visitor center for the Johnson Space Center. In addition to the museum’s 400 artifacts, visitors can also tour mission control and the astronaut training facilities. Currently, two SpaceX Falcon 9 Boosters and the original NASA 905 shuttle carrier carrying a replica of a space shuttle are on display. Visitors will also get to experience the interactive Mission to Mars and International Space Station exhibits, as well as a special exhibit showcasing how crisis sparks innovation and NASA’s contributions to fighting COVID-19. 

The Space Center is committed to providing guests with a safe experience and requires mask wearing and physical distancing. Perfect for a shorter day trip, The Space Center’s $30 entry fee grants entry to all exhibits and the guided tours.

New Braunfels

The Guadalupe River weaves its way through New Braunfels deep in the Texas hill country. The river provides the perfect opportunity for what is arguably one of the best outdoor activities in Texas: river tubing. New Braunfels hosts a plethora of tour operators that offer affordable tube rentals and shuttle service on the Guadalupe and Comal Rivers. You can also bring your own tube and start your float at Hinman Park for free! Especially as summer draws closer, the river is an excellent way to relax and escape the heat. Tubers often bring food and drinks to enjoy the slow float through the dense green forestry that lines the river’s edge. Aside from floating the river, check out the downtown area for restaurants, retail and cultural centers. New Braunfels’ deep roots in German heritage can easily be tasted at some of the town’s dining establishments, including the Alpine Haus Restaurant and Krause’s Café. 

Rockin’ R Tubing, one of the bigger operators in New Braunfels, provided the Thresher with their COVID-19 policies: In accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, face coverings must always be worn when riding in the shuttle and sanitation measures have been increased. New Braunfels is a three-hour drive from Rice’s campus and lies between Austin and San Antonio.

Sam Houston National Forest

Experience over 160,000 acres of beautiful mature woodlands at the Sam Houston National Forest. Located north of campus, under a two-hour drive away, it is the perfect opportunity to escape city life and experience nature. Sam Houston National Forest Offers visitors the opportunities to hike, swim, camp, bike and spot wildlife. The forest has hundreds of miles of hiking trails, several lakes that are open to recreational swimming and an extensive path system for bikers. Hiking can be found in the Big Creek Scenic Area and lake activities can be found in the Double Lake Recreation Area. There are also hundreds of campsites throughout the forest. The closest town to Sam Houston National Park, New Waverly, offers several dining options and grocery stores to provision for camping or a hike.

If you are interested in camping, check out Rice Recreation Center’s Rice Outdoor Programs and Education for tips and to rent equipment. Visit the U.S. Forest Service’s website for reservations, operating hours and restrictions.

Bastrop State Park

The small, picturesque town of Bastrop lies in the heart of Central Texas. Downtown Bastrop sits on the Colorado River and features classic old town charm, a great selection of restaurants and artisan shops. Just a mile from town lies Bastrop State Park, a 2,000-acre recreation area and home to the mysterious “Lost Pine Forest.” The park is full of opportunities to hike, fish, bike, swim and spot wildlife. Bastrop’s pine forest has made a strong recovery from a massive wildfire 10 years ago, giving visitors a chance to see new forest growth. Camping is also available at the park. 

Bastrop is only two hours from Rice and lies 40 miles to the east of Austin. The park requires advanced reservations and charges a $5 visitor fee that goes to support preservation and improvement. 

Galveston Island

Just an hour from campus, Galveston Island offers visitors an array of top attractions, restaurants and museums. Galveston may be known for its sandy beaches, but it is also home to the Historic Pleasure Pier, Moody Gardens complex and Schlitterbahn Waterpark. Spending a day at the beach or walking the seawall affords you the perfect opportunity to witness a dramatic Gulf Coast sunset. At the beach, try out paddleboarding and take advantage of the many tour operators that offer board rentals. In town, the Galveston Strand is lined with one of the best-preserved stretches of Victorian Architecture in the country. The barrier island also houses the Texas Seaport Museum, the Galveston Railroad Museum and the Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig and Museum. Paid parking can be found along the Seawall; however, there are also four free lots along the beach north of the seawall. 

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