While the Lone Star State’s major metros offer plenty to see and do, Texas is peppered with small towns that offer one-of-a-kind experiences just waiting to be explored. Nestled just north of Houston, Shenandoah provides a wealth of shopping, restaurants, hotels and outdoor activities for locals and visitors alike, while still maintaining the small town Texas feel visitors crave. With unique offerings you simply can’t find anywhere else, here are six things you should do when visiting Shenandoah.
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The Venetian architecture, complete with Roman-style statues and fountains, makes this shopping destination unique. It’s like it was picked right out of Italy and landed in the heart of Texas. The sprawling shopping center offers more than 40 different restaurants and stores, including both chain and independent retailers. It’s a great way to spend an afternoon, whether you choose to shop ‘til you drop or grab a coffee, sit by the fountain and people watch.
Just up the road from Portofino, Shenandoah’s latest mixed-use development, Metropark Square and the Sam Moon Shopping Center will be opening several new businesses to join the new, state-of-the-art AMC Metropark Square 10 & IMAX that opened earlier this spring. These include: a soon-to-open Dave & Buster’s, and an Urban Air Trampoline & Adventure Park, and several new restaurants and businesses. To learn more, go to MetroparkSquare.com.
Shenandoah offers a variety of restaurants to please every palate in your group, but a few eateries showcase the local fare in an extraordinary way. Fieldings Wood Grill is known for using local ingredients and supporting local meat and dairy purveyors. Everything is made in house — yes, even the bacon — and the kitchen prides itself in using hormone- and antibiotic-free products. Meanwhile, visitors can sample the flavors of both sides of the border at Goode Co. Kitchen & Cantina, where the smoky flavors of a South Texas ranch and fresh seafood from the Gulf are combined with family recipes from Mexico for a new take on Tex Mex. Goode Co. was the first restaurant in Houston to grill fajitas over mesquite wood and you can taste why they’re so famous at this restaurant group’s second location in Shenandoah. Earlier this year, the second Killen’s Steakhouse opened in Shenandoah, and foodies take note — Chef Ronnie Killen was a James Beard semifinalist this year for Best Chef in the Southwest. For a complete list of Shenandoah restaurants by category, go to VisitShenandoahTX.com.
If there’s one thing Texas knows, it’s football. And this year, Shenandoah will host the 2019 NCAA Division III Football Championship, known as the Stagg Bowl, at Woodforest Bank Stadium. It’s the first time in 25 years the Stagg Bowl has been played in a city other than Salem, Va., and Shenandoah is only the fifth city to host the championship game. You can buy tickets to the game here. But this isn’t the only nationally recognized sports event the city has hosted, as The NCAA Division III Men’s and Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships have been hosted in Shenandoah at the CSID Natatorium.
Take a break from city and reconnect with nature on the trails within this scenic state forest. Visitors can go hiking or horseback riding along the nearly 15 miles of trails and pathways that wind through towering oak and pine trees. There are also two lakes on the property that offer a bit of fishing, and it’s a great place for a picnic with the family. WG Jones State Forest is one of the nation’s largest working urban forest, so you may spot researchers or school groups visiting too.
A day at the lake is a great way to spend time with family, friends or your loved one. Drive over to Lake Woodlands for a day of adventure exploring this 200-acre lake. There are several places for kayaking, including the Riva Row Boat House and Lakes Edge Boat House. Visitors can rent single or tandem kayaks, as well as paddleboards and swan boats.
If you’re looking for something more unique, something you can only do in Shenandoah, then stop by The Boy in the Plastic Bubble Exhibit. David Vetter, known as The Bubble Boy, was a Shenandoah resident who was born in 1971 with severe combined immunodeficiency and lived his life in a specially constructed sterile plastic bubble from birth until his death in 1984. Vetter’s story was made famous by the 1976 film featuring John Travolta and the exhibit at the Shenandoah Visitors Center chronicles his life and his impact on the medical field.