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Kemah: On the Boardwalk

With 52 breezy rooms facing the bay, the Boardwalk Inn offers Kemah revelers a place to unwind after a long day of fun and sun.

Until the mid-1990s, the unpretentious, somewhat funky community of Kemah (pop. 1,200-plus) slumbered along year-to-year, storm-to-storm, on the west shore of Galveston Bay.

Visitors—mostly from the Greater Houston area—”escaped” to Kemah to fish or to feast on fresh seafood while relaxing on the outside decks of the restaurants that overlooked the Clear Creek Channel. Gulls breezed in and hovered overhead for handouts; boats looped between Clear Lake and Galveston Bay within view of the diners; and a few nearby shops and galleries filled in around the edges.

All in all, going to Kemah meant time out from stress, routine, and work. As lagniappe, it also provided a golden opportunity to buy shrimp fresh off the boats across the channel in Seabrook at better-than-Houston market prices. Few folks came to Kemah without a cooler in the car trunk.

What a difference vision, imagination, and an estimated $75 million dollars can make!

The gulls still hover, the boat parade continues its human comedy, and you can still buy fresh shrimp in nearby Seabrook, but what was Kemah’s laid-back restaurant row has bloomed into a 30-acre family-entertainment complex called Kemah Board—walk, a mega-project unveiled four years ago by Landry’s Restaurants, Inc. Handsomely designed and beautifully maintained, it already challenges San Antonio’s River Walk, the Alamo, and Space Center Houston as one of the top tourism draws in Texas.

Kemah is about 35 miles southeast of downtown Houston, one of 9 communities that make up the Clear Lake Area. From Interstate 45, take NASA Road One east for 7.5 miles, and turn south on Texas 146. Continue over the bridge, and turn left at the first signal (Sixth St.). Kemah Boardwalk is 2 blocks north and easy to find.

In summer, Kemah Boardwalk opens Sun-Wed 11-10, Thu-Sat 11-11. Call for fall, winter, and spring schedules and for restaurant hours. Admission is free; rides and carnival games cost $2.

For more information, call 281/334-9880 or 877/AT-KEMAH; www.kemahboardwalk.com. You can also get information from the NASA-Clear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau, 281/244-2144 or 800/844-5253; www.nasaclearlaketexas.com. All of Kemah Boardwalk's buildings, rides, and events are wheelchair accessible.

Thirty-minute boat rides by Kemah Baywatch Tours depart Tue-Sun, every 40 minutes or so, from behind the Flying Dutchman restaurant. Fares: $8, $4 age 8 and younger. Call 713/962-6994; www.islandprincesscharters.com.

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From the July 2002 issue.

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