5 secret gems you can only find in Fort Bend County

HOUSTON – If you haven’t had a chance to visit the outskirts of Houston, you’re missing out. One place you definitely need to add to your weekend plans is Fort Bend County. From Katy to Missouri City, Sugar Land, Stafford – there are a lot of unique cities to explore.

We recently partnered with Sara Ahmed from Sugar Land Sara, and compiled a list of secret and fun gems you can only find in Fort Bend County.

Baps Shri Mandir

BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir (KPRC)

The BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha is a denomination of the Swaminarayan branch of Hinduism. It consists of an 11,500-square-foot, 73-foot tall open-air temple. The mandir is the largest of its kind in Texas and was constructed according to guidelines outlined in ancient Hindu scriptures. The grounds spread over 22 acres and in addition to the mandir, include a haveli and the Understanding Hinduism exhibition. The haveli is a cultural center in which weekly congregations are held. The Understanding Hinduism exhibition provides visitors with a foundation of the key tenets of Hinduism. The mandir is open daily for worship and to visitors.

Brazos Bend State Park

Brazos Bend State Park (KPRC)

This is a 4,897-acre state park along the Brazos River in Needville, Texas, run by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. The park is a haven for a diverse mix of native wildlife and plants covering an equally diverse range of ecosystems. Brazos Bend contains areas of coastal prairie, bottomland forest, and a wide range of wetlands including open and semi-open lakes and transitional marshlands.

The most noteworthy and popular residents of the park are the relatively large population of American alligators. The park is open year-round, with the exception of several weekends a year during which it is closed for controlled hunts to manage the white-tailed deer population.

They conduct bird watching classes, children’s classes plus alligator and snake programs to help visitors learn about the various types of wildlife that reside here.

George Observatory

George Observatory (KPRC)

Located in the Brazos Bend State Park, the George Observatory is a satellite facility of the Houston Museum of Natural Science. It houses three domed telescopes, including the 36-inch Gueymard Research Telescope, which is one of the largest ones in the US. Visitors can see a variety of amazing sites including the Milky Way, to Saturn’s rings and cloud belts on Jupiter.

Regular astronomy classes are offered but the observatory is currently closed for renovations. They’re planning a special sneak peek at these renovations during Spring Break on March 9, 13, 14 and 21 - from 5-10 p.m.

The Nature Center is open ever Saturday, from Sunset - 10 p.m. (weather permitting).

Brandani’s Restaurant

Brandani’s Restaurant (KPRC)

This local restaurant in Missouri City is worth the drive and has the accolades to show for it! They always serve incredibly fresh seafood and create all of their sauces and desserts in-house. It’s a labor of love for the husband-wife duo, Claire and Ron Brandani. Both are Houston-raised and have been working in the restaurant industry since they were 15 years old. Ron is the head chef and has so much passion for what he does whereas Claire manages the business. You can find this cozy restaurant packed on any night of the week – which is no easy feat for a suburban eatery! This is definitely my family’s favorite restaurant and if you go, order the Pan Roasted Chicken – it’s to die for!

Enchanted Forest

Enchanted Forest (KPRC)

Enchanted Forest is another family-owned gem that is located in Richmond, Texas. More than being just a garden center, they have tons of classes from learning about hummingbirds to DIY classes on how to create hanging baskets. You can go there to learn about how to foster a butterfly garden in your own backyard! The best part is the space – it’s so transformative to go and walk around in such a lush and immersive nature setting. With its rustic Texas flair and old country charm, the Gardens will surprise you with its selection of plants, many of which are grown on-site in its greenhouses. They have all-organic options and you can really tell this is a labor of love. Lots of folks will head out to Enchanted Forest for an hour or two just to peruse because everything is so lovely and colorful!

To learn more about these locations, watch the video above.

H/T SugarLandSara

About the Authors:

Heather Kansteiner is a supervising producer for Houston Life. She has been part of the team since the show launched in 2016. She loves all things Houston and enjoys sharing what makes the city a great place to live, work and play.