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By Laura Landsbaum

The Woodlands Resort, which used to be called The Woodlands Inn it first opened, has been through an evolution in the last 50 years. But one thing hasn’t changed. The Woodlands Resort has always been a place of nature and community.

“George Mitchell desired an inn surrounded by nature representative of The Woodlands, where people could stay and get a true feel for the community while looking for a home ,” The Woodlands Resort director of marketing Kelly McCourt says. “He even ate brunch here most every Sunday morning.”

The original 218 guest rooms at The Woodlands Inn were divided into lodges. Each offered full kitchens, with a variety of room styles available — even bi-level suites.  The property boasted boutique shopping, along with two restaurants: The Glass Menagerie and The Woodlands Dining Room. At the time of the resort’s opening, they were two of the only restaurants in the area.

An area of The Woodlands Inn named The Wharf on Lake Harrison had shops, Jamail’s Family Grocery, Cunningham’s Pharmacy and an indoor ice rink. It became very popular with the growing population of The Woodlands. The Inn once even served as a radio station’s headquarters (KMUV AM 1140) —  the first and only radio station in The Woodlands at the time. Six years later, the property added more amenities, and was rebranded as The Woodlands Inn & Country Club. 

 Photo courtesy of The Woodlands Resort.

The original room count increased to 268 in 1977. There were 50 guest rooms that sat in front of the current Meeting & Events building. 

In the late 1970s, Exxon had its training center on the campus — with meeting and lodging space check-ins handled by The Woodlands Inn. The facility was out of use and torn down in the 1990s to make way for the new guest room buildings.  

Also during the 1970s, the new J.L. McCullough High School held graduation ceremonies in area that is now the Grand Ballroom area of The Woodlands Inn — an area that was indoor tennis courts during the time of hosting the graduations.

The Woodlands Resort’s Continuing EvolutionBeginning in 1989 and continuing through 2002, the property — which was renamed again as The Woodlands Resort & Conference Center — would benefit from a renovation and expansion. Additions were made which increased the number of guest rooms, created spacious public areas and added function areas, including The Shell Learning Center. The Shell Oil Company took on 35,000 square feet of dedicated meeting and event space for its sole use at The Woodlands Resort. It became a sought-after location for conferences, aided by a myriad of amenities and an affiliation with IACC (International Association of Conference Centers) cemented in 1981.

In 1996, the Lakeside building was built, the first of the three new guest room buildings.

The Woodlands Resort further embraced the leisure market in 2002 with another renovation. This $28 million revamp created the Forest Oasis Waterpark and splash pad, a series of pools and fountains and new poolside guest rooms in the Water’s Edge building. 

 Photo courtesy of The Woodlands Resort.

Between 2013 and 2015, $75 million was spent to upgrade and enhance every aspect of the visitor experience. It resulted in the renovation of 222 guest rooms, the addition of a new 184 room wing, a 156-seat high-end steakhouse on the 18th hole of the Panther Trail Course and a 1,005-foot-long lazy river. This expansion brought the resort to more than 400 guest rooms.

In 2021, The Woodlands Resort became the first Hilton Curio Collection resort in Texas. The new Back Table Kitchen & Bar opened amid extensive renovations. In 2023, a nearly $30 million dollar renovation project was completed that touched all aspects of the resort, including new gathering spaces, a new lobby with a bar, and room refresh for the 402 rooms on property. The property currently has three new food and beverage outlets including the lobby bar named Harrison’s (named after the first general manager of The Woodlands Inn) and The Spruce Market, which showcases local artisans, designers and makers and includes a cafe. 

 Photo courtesy of The Woodlands Resort.

The Glass Menagerie remains, but in a new form. It’s now The Glass, an event space with stunning views of the lake.

Heading into its 50th year, The Woodlands Resort boasts a fresh look with its green spaces, pathways, golf courses, lakes and forest land. Just like George Mitchell imagined.


Many thanks to The Woodlands 50th Anniversary Sponsors:

FOUNDING – Howard Hughes

PRODUCER – The Woodlands Township

LEGACY – Woodforest National Bank

HERITAGE – Waste Connections Inc.

GOLD – Entergy Texas, Houston Methodist The Woodlands Hospital

SILVER – SVN/JBeard Real Estate, The John Cooper School