Come See The Woodlands - It Has Everything You Need for a Fun Day Out.
Nestled within the southern end of the Piney Woods, the Woodlands has found a way to protect the beauty of the surrounding forest while providing a growing list of entertainment options, a wide variety of dining experiences and a selection of stores that will keep any shopper happy.
Visitors will be heading for Town Center, which has been developed slowly and over time. Town Center consists of Hughes Landing, Market Street, The Waterway, The Woodlands Mall, and Pinecroft Center. With a wealth of potential stops along the way, you're guaranteed to have fun exploring the Woodlands!
The most recently developed area of Town Center is Hughes Landing, located on the eastern shore of Lake Woodlands. Here you’ll find a wide boardwalk along the water and the recently added Lakes Edge Boat House, where you can rent a single or tandem kayak. For the more daring, paddle boards are also available for rent.
The restaurants along Restaurant Row offer outdoor seating on terraces with views of the lake. This area also has an outdoor stage which provides guests with live music on Thursday evenings in the summer and fall. In addition to Whole Foods and Pier 1, you’ll also find a number of smaller stores. If you’re considering an overnight stay in the Woodlands, there’s an Embassy Suites overlooking the lake.
For those who prefer to do their exploring on foot, it’s possible to walk over to Market Street by following the sidewalk along Lake Woodlands Drive. A much more enjoyable solution will arrive in the summer of 2017 when the Waterway path will be extended to Hughes Landing. The path will be wide enough to accommodate the green trolleys that service the Town Center Area. If you would like to make use of the free trolley service, they operate Mondays to Saturdays from 11 am to 8 pm and on Sundays from 12 noon to 6 pm.
Market Street was completed in 2004 and has essentially served as the Town Square ever since. It has a really nice assortment of stores where I have no doubt anyone could find something of interest. In the central green space area, you’ll find fountains and a splash pad - always a nice spot for the kids on a hot day, especially if parents know beforehand that a towel could come in handy. The restaurants in Market Street range from pricey to very reasonable and most of them offer an outside eating area.
Also in Market Street, you’ll find a boutique sized Hyatt hotel, an HEB grocery store and a small Cinemark movie theater. It’s the smaller of two Cinemark theaters in the Woodlands and tends to focus on independent/artsy movies, although it will also show some of the blockbusters. It tends to be less crowded than the larger theater, which is located in the mall area, and is my favorite for that reason. On a rainy day it’s nice to exit the movie theater through the door to the parking garage.
Opposite Market Street and next to the Waterway, you can’t miss the tent shaped roof of the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion. It’s an outdoor entertainment venue with 6,500 seats and a total capacity of 17,000 and is apparently the second busiest outdoor venue in the world. Some of the biggest names in the entertainment industry perform here, so if you’re coming for a few days, it might be worth it to check if your trip coincides with a performance you would like to see. The newly built multi-purpose building adjacent to the Pavilion offers an opportunity to go ice skating from around the middle of November to the middle of January.
There are many ways to reach the Waterway, but if you’re coming from Market Street, a convenient access point is Town Green Park, located next to the Pavilion. Next to the lawn area, on the right hand side as you enter, is a little maze that young kids tend to enjoy. Just after that, on the lower portion of the Waterway, you’ll see Riva Row Boat House. We’ve enjoyed renting kayaks here and heading down the waterway to Lake Woodlands. I would recommend crossing to the south side of the Waterway here, so you have a chance to pay a visit to the Koi Garden. When you’re standing across from the Marriott hotel, the Koi Garden will be on your right.
Once you reach the bridge at Waterway Avenue, cross to the north side of the Waterway. Up ahead you’ll see the large Cinemark theater and if you’re ready for a meal, or just a place to sit down and have a drink, you’ll have numerous restaurants to choose from.
If you take a right at Waterway Square Place, you’ll arrive at Waterway Square Park with its musical fountain. Should you arrive after dark, you’ll get a light show along with the water dance. There’s another splash pad here for the kids to enjoy and a number of benches shaded by thoughtfully placed trees. On Saturday evenings you can enjoy live music throughout most of the year.
As you continue along the Waterway and past the newly opened Westin hotel, you won’t see any more stores or restaurants until you reach Landry’s and the mall just beyond. I always enjoy this part of the walk for the quiet and the clouds reflected in all the high-rises. If you walk up to the front entrance of the Anadarko tower on Lake Robbins Drive you’ll see some beautiful sculptures of deer. The eight sculptures each weigh 2,000 pounds and are twice the size of an average deer.
As you walk along the Waterway, you’re likely to see one of the Waterway Cruisers. They don’t travel very far but might be a fun one-time experience. The cost for the trip is $5/person. Kids four and under are free.
The Woodlands Mall
When you reach the end of the Waterway, you’ll find yourself in the mall area. You’ll again find a selection of restaurants that might warrant a stop, or maybe a stop at Barnes and Noble would be more exciting.
The mall itself has some stores you don’t find everywhere else. There’s the sweet shop Lolli and Pops, which you really should see for the experience, whether you buy anything or not. There’s also a Lego store, a shaving store and more to discover. For kids, there’s an indoor play area downstairs and a carousel upstairs in the food court.
Additional shopping and activities
The Pinecroft Center, adjacent to the mall on the north side, offers a more traditional shopping area with its mix of big-box stores and eating places.
Although I’ve chosen to focus on the Town Center area of the Woodlands, there’s plenty more to see if you choose to get in the car and go exploring. Each of the villages of the Woodlands have a shopping center, several parks, and pathways connecting everything. The George Mitchell Nature Preserve in the Village of Creekside is great if you want to go for a walk in the woods.