Before March, I was a jet-setting working mother, traveling from city to city (at least four business trips per month) and I was always adding the fantastic places I visited to my MUST RETURN “bucket list” for family vacations.

Speaking of which — and I might “date” myself and show how high I rate on the “corny” meter — but my favorite movies as a child were Chevy Chase’s “National Lampoons Vacation” series as the Griswolds visited Wally World, Paris and other fun places.

I love introducing my children to new experiences, but when the world went on lockdown, I became more than an obedient servant following the “stay-at-home” guidelines, I actually became an extreme quarantiner who let my fear of contracting COVID-19 stop me completely from venturing out into the world.

But eight months, cabin fever and kids dying to break free had me ready to get moving again — with cautious baby steps of course — wanting to go somewhere drivable and close to home, but far enough away for it to feel like a vacation.

When we typically look for family-friendly weekend activities, the focus is usually on Downtown and the Museum District, but our perfect staycation turned out to be in the north Houston area.

My daughter, her BFF and I packed a light bag and headed to Springwoods Village and CityPlace, where the holiday spirit is at every twist and turn, despite the challenges of 2020.

[WATCH]: Check out our holiday adventure!

CityPlace is a world-class destination featuring the area’s best restaurants, an exciting calendar of events, LEED-certified luxury residences at The Mark and Class-A office space. The vibrant community hub is connected to 290 acres of nature trails, offering the perfect balance of greenspace and modern amenities.

Being that I am a loyal Marriott Bonvoy member, I booked our weekend retreat at the Houston Marriott CityPace Springwoods.

The AAA Four Diamond hotel, which is located in Spring, Texas, offers everything you need to travel brilliantly. Recharge in the pet friendly accommodations with plush bedding, Keurig coffee makers, and ergonomic workspaces. Enjoy concierge lounge access in select rooms and suites. The hotel also offers an outdoor pool, a 24-hour fitness center and over 24,000 sq. ft. of event space for meetings, weddings, or other special occasions, and has easy access to The Woodlands, Hughes Landing, Market Street, and more.

Savor meals and drinks at SwitcHouse Plates & Pours, the onsite restaurant and bar offering Texas cuisine and craft drinks in a rustic setting. You can also try local restaurants nearby like Corkscrew BBQ, Jinya Ramen Bar, Tarka Indian Kitchen and Common Bond. GREAT DEAL: Enjoy a discounted rate of $99 per night at the luxurious property between November 23 and January 1.


The Juiciest Burger Ever at Common Bond

Aside from enjoying room service and complimentary eats at the Marriott’s “M Club Lounge,” we also enjoyed food at some of the many fantastic eateries in the complex.

Serving up breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner, Common Bond Bistro & Bakery is a neighborhood favorite for its house made sweets, casual savory fare, and playful, communal atmosphere. The chic CityPlace location spotlights the homegrown brand’s first full bar, and being a burger lover, I can honestly say they had one of the juiciest burgers I’ve had in a while. Delicious!

Island Grill is a healthy, fast-casual Mediterranean-American fare destination for lunch, dinner and weekend brunch, as well as for smoothies and fresh juices. Unique to the stylish CityPlace location is an Italian brick, wood-fired pizza oven and a full bar with a curated selection of craft cocktails, beer and wine. We enjoyed flavorful, savory pasta dishes here.

Give movie night a whole new meaning! We went to Star Cinema Movie Grill and watched “Croods: A New Age” and there was plenty of space for social distancing. We were among the first to grab seats for an early showing, but there was a nice, modest flow of movie-goers throughout the day. Take advantage of the less-crowded theaters to catch the latest blockbusters, paired with delicious food and drinks amidst a glamorous interior with stunning central lounge. Reserved recliner seating and Sony 4K laser digital projection technology is featured in all 10 of the theaters, as well as two auditoriums with Dolby Atmos sound. In a first for the brand, CityPlace showcases the pocket-sized Audrey comprised of 30 reclining seats, plus a pre-function/lounge area.

The girls and I also went to a lighting ceremony at CityPlace Park, and of course, had our picture taken with Santa and Mrs. Claus (who was rocking a stellar fur coat that night — you go girl). Attendees gathered around the waterfront Plaza to watch the 35-foot Christmas tree rise from the main pond, creating a dazzling beacon of holiday light.

We then enjoyed strolling a super-sized, fantasy version of the gingerbread village, winding around a path dotted with oversized candy canes, popsicles and gumdrops. The attraction also included a raised clearing featuring cookie trees, a 16-foot high house and 12-foot windmill. The first-of-its-kind endeavor was created by local creative entrepreneur Steve Kopelman, who is a pioneering and globally recognized haunted house producer, COO of the country’s largest escape room company, and co-founder of soon-to-open immersive experiential museum Seismique.

Guests were treated to the soothing sounds of carolers, a live DJ and complimentary hot chocolate.

Don’t be jealous if you missed it, there’s still time to go! Both the tree and gingerbread village will be on display through January 9 with free hot chocolate served on the Plaza every Thursday and Sunday from 4 p.m. – 7 p.m.

Here’s more upcoming fun for you to enjoy:

On Friday, December 4 from 5 until 8 p.m., The Market at Springwoods Village, 2102-2180 Spring Stuebner Road, Spring, TX 77389, will unwrap its month-long giving tree installation, conceived by sought-after holiday styling firm Regina Gust Designs and benefitting local non-profits though an easy QR code donation point. The complimentary kickoff event will feature music, letters to Santa, cookie decorating, and a special guest appearance from Kris Kringle. While you’re there, check out special promotions including a Cherry Blow Dry Bar gift card offer – buy $100 and receive $20 – $5 off from Postal Annex with purchases of $15 or more.

Find that perfect gift for friends and loved ones at the CityPlace Holiday Pop Up Market presented by DASH on Saturday, December 5 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Browse offerings on and around CityPlace Plaza from more than 20 premier vendors showcasing upscale home accessories, art, jewelry, clothing, handcrafted ornaments and more. Insider tip: you’ll want to dash to be there early given the popularity of DASH’s destination happenings and their wonderfully curated home décor and gifts.

The popular Children’s Storytime series returns to City Plaza Plaza on Thursday, December 10 starting at 5:30 p.m. Santa and his top elf will be on hand to share stories from the North Pole, take photos and treat participants to candy canes.

Experience the funny, heart-warming tale of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” at Family Movies on Plaza – Wednesday, December 18 with showtime at 6 p.m. The film’s reclusive star will be on site for a rare photo opportunity, and admission and popcorn are complimentary. Space is limited. Please RSVP to with subject line: Grinch.

For those looking for a seasonal staycation with plenty of shopping, dining and entertainment options nearby, including Old Town Spring, The Woodlands and The Light Park holiday drive-thru display at Hurricane Harbor Splashtown, hotels in Springwoods Village are offering fantastic packages to stay, shop and play.

Courtyard Houston Springwoods Village is spotlighting a king or double queen room for $79 a night inclusive of a $10 shopping credit at The Market at Springwoods Village plus hot chocolate. Residence Inn Houston Springwoods Village is spotlighting a $99 rate for a studio king suite with $10 credit at The Market at Springwoods Village, hot chocolate and grab and go breakfast.

The safety and well-being of all visitors is a top priority for Springwoods Village and CityPlace. Visitors are encouraged to practice social distancing with suggested spacing as well as wear masks as appropriate for all activities.

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