Published Jul/Aug 2006

Left: The guys may enjoy a game of golf at Houston’s Redstone Golf Club. Greater Houston CVB photo

For a getaway with the guys, girls–or with your sweetie–these Southern spots have it all.
By Theresa Russell

adies and gentlemen, start your car engines. It’s time for a Southern summer road trip. But deciding on a destination that appeals to everyone in the travel party can be a challenge.

The following trips address his, hers and their getaways, while offering plenty of diverse attractions that appeal to almost anyone in the family.

Sports and the city

Gentlemen, there’s a team to cheer for in Houston, which “Sporting News” ranked as one of the best sports cities in the country. Texans (NFL), Astros (MLB), Rockets (NBA), Dynamos (MLS), Comets (WNBA) and Aeros (AHL) proudly call Houston home. Greyhound and horse racing (Sam Houston Race Park, 7575 N. Sam Houston Parkway West) also take place in town. The Gulf Greyhound Park in nearby La Marque is reputed to be the largest of its kind and includes a huge full-service restaurant.

Active participation defines sports for many, and Houston’s city parks provide the venues for cycling, hiking and running on 95 trails. Buffalo Bayou offers canoeists a pleasant urban paddling spot with great views of the downtown area.

Athletic types can book a room at the AAA four diamond Houstonian Hotel, Club and Spa (111 N. Post Oak Lane), an oasis in the city due to its peaceful and convenient setting plus outstanding fitness facilities. “USA Today” ranked it as the No. 1 hotel fitness facility. The exclusive fitness facility is open to club members and hotel guests free of charge during their stay.

Several excellent golf courses are scattered throughout the area. Houston hosts the Shell Houston Open at the Redstone Golf Club in nearby Humble (58680 Wilson Road). This course provides a respite from the hustle and bustle of Houston, and its clubhouse serves excellent meals in a calm atmosphere.

Good friends and good food come together in Houston’s several sports-related restaurants. Roger Clemens’ Rocket Sports Grill in the Memorial City Mall (Interstate 10 at Gessner Road) displays Clemens’ pitching awards and other baseball memorabilia. A scoreboard will keep diners updated on all sports.

The NBA’s Clyde “The Glide” Drexler operates Drexler’s Barbecue at 2020 Dowling. Another Rocket, Yao Ming, is represented with Yao Restaurant and Bar, 9755 Westheimer, which is run by his parents.

A fine food experience waits at the Backstreet Café, 1103 South Shepherd. This casual bistro setting formally prepares and presents its tasty menu. It’s no surprise that executive chef Hugo Ortega won chef of the year in 2002 at the Houston Culinary Awards.

Beach beauties

Ladies, here’s a tip: the secret to a girlfriend getaway is not being connected at the hip to your travel buddy. And there are enough activities at the northwest coast of Florida to satisfy almost any interest.

Those energized by solitude and nature will prefer the western and eastern ends of the beach. Pensacola, Navarre and the Beaches of South Walton, including Rosemary Beach, offer many options like beachcombing, walking, bicycling, kayaking and even surfing.

Those who enjoy the energy of shopping, restaurants and urban conveniences may wish to stay in Destin, Fort Walton Beach and Sandestin. Lodging options run the gamut from typical hotels to popular condos. Sandestin Golf & Beach Resort (9300 Emerald Coast Parkway West) is a AAA three diamond resort with shops, lodging, restaurants and marina that offers girlfriends the Magnolia & Ivy tearoom and popular cooking classes or wine festivals. In Destin, Tops’l Beach & Racquet Resort (9011 Highway 98 West) is a gated condo development that is highly rated for tennis. It is a AAA three diamond property.

Pensacola Beach, with its upscale Portofino Condo Vacation Rentals (10 Portofino Drive), completes the options package. No girlfriend getaway is complete without a spa treatment, so pick at least one at Spa Portofino.

Food at Pensacola Beach varies from chain restaurants to local establishments like Flounders Chowder House, a showcase for nautical items including a 55-foot shrimp boat.

Magic in the mountains

Couples often find their way to Pigeon Forge, Tenn., in the Smoky Mountains. Wedding chapels, including one offering a drive-through option, proclaim this is a romantic destination.

Pigeon Forge boasts a diverse range of lodging facilities. Traditional hotels like the AAA three diamond Music Road Hotel and Convention Center (303 Henderson Chapel Road) offer whirlpool rooms and honeymoon suites.

The Alpine Mountain Village (2250 Parkway) cabins feature a pleasantly natural experience for couples seeking a woodsy retreat with city amenities like whirlpools, fireplaces and hot tubs.

Condos throughout the area also include whirlpool tubs, along with plenty of room for stretching out.

Many shows abound throughout town and include country, religious, memory and ’50s shows. The Dixie Stampede (3849 Parkway) is a popular outing and includes impressive horseback riding and a finger-lickin’-good dinner. AAA members can save $3 off an adult admission.

Shopping outlets range from clothing to furniture to tools. Nature lovers can explore the most-visited national park, Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The Porter’s Creek trail is an easy hike along an old village road. Remnants of the village–stairs, foundations and barns–lie just off the trail. Anglers will want to fish the stream and photographers record the moment for memory.

City, shore or mountains for him, her or them–any choice leads to good times together this summer.
Theresa Russell is a contributor from Round Lake, N.Y.

Above: The Magnolia & Ivy tearoom in Sandestin is a gathering place for girlfriends. Sandestin Resort photo

Before You Go
For more information, contact:

• Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau, www.visithoustontexas.com, 1-800-446-8786;

• Emerald Coast CVB, www.destin-fwb.com, 1-800-322-3319;

• Santa Rosa Tourist Development Council (Navarre Beach), http://beaches- rivers.com, 1-800-480-7263;

• Beaches of South Walton (Rosemary Beach, Sandestin), www.beachesofsouthwal ton.com, 1-800-822-6877;

• Pensacola Bay Area CVB, www.visitpensacola.com, 1-800-874-1234;

• Pigeon Forge Department of Tourism, www.mypigeonforge.com, 1-800-251-9100.

Stop by your nearest AAA service office for maps, reservations, TripTiks and TourBook guides. View a list of offices.

Order free information through the Reader Service Card online. Click on Reader Resources.

^ to top | previous page

Contents may not be reproduced in whole or in part unless expressly authorized in writing by AAA Traveler Magazines.