Our latest Good Town began as a company town, created by sweet circumstances before blossoming into an integral foundation of the Houston metropolis. Welcome to Sugar Land, Texas.
By age, it’s just a Baby Boomer. But it’s history goes deeper, rooted in a growing nation’s need for a simple carb that gave the town its name.
So we take you back to the end of the 19th Century, when the Imperial Sugar Co. gave this Good Town life, situated on what used to be an old plantation next to Southern Pacific rail. Soon, a post office, retail and homes sprouted, and the aptly named Sugar Land took roots. It would evolve into one of Texas’ most affluent communities.
The Imperial Sugar Mill survived floods and the Great Storm of 1900, the historic hurricane that ravaged nearby Galveston, as refined sugar became a staple in markets across the nation. Today, the former mill is now a popular historical site and the home of Fort Bend Children’s Discovery Center, an interactive showplace featuring a child-size city dubbed Kidtropolis.
But the city’s growth is meteoric. Sugar Land wasn’t incorporated until 1959. Just over 60 years later, it’s one of America’s fastest growing towns.
Space Cowboys Take Flight
About 20 miles from where the World Champion Houston Astros call home, the next-gen prepares for big-league success at sparkling Constellation Field, an 8,000-seat venue built in 2012. For the town, the stadium was a gamble that paid off with record crowds when the original Sugar Land Skeets joined the Atlantic League with teams spread out from Kentucky to North Carolina to Pennsylvania and upstate New York.
The Sugar Land Skeeters were wildly popular until they were no more. Because, in 2021, the Astros moved their Triple-A affiliate, one notch below the major league team, and redubbed the outfit the Space Cowboys. And, of course, the crowds kept spinning through the turnstiles.
For John Stacy, Regions’ market exec in Houston, Constellation Field is the perfect place to get away from it all. The venue offers a bevy of food and beverage choices, plus terrific sightlines no matter where you view the action for a sneak peek into the Astros’ future.
“It’s one of my favorite places,” said Stacy, whose son played in the minors. “I love what the stadium has done for Sugar Land, and the entertainment choice it offers the entire community.”
The Hub of it All
Sugar Land Town Square is the city center of the budding metropolis, drawing families for the shopping and food options. City Hall sits in the middle of it all, with a front lawn and water fountain that lure the playful and curious. It’s a cultural must-see, with nightclubs and live music, pop-up retail and plenty of parking.
It opened with a single hotel, in 2003, and exploded from there. In the 20 years since, it’s grown to include nearly one million square feet in retail and office space, and the hottest place for quasi-urban living in condos that line the property.
If Sugar Land Town Square is the place to see and be seen, the Houston Museum of Natural Sciences at Sugar Land is the perfect spot to blow your mind. This is where Drayton DuPree holds court. He’s the museum’s general operations manager and, with a background in science, he’s the perfect tour guide.
The museum is housed on the old Central State Prison Farm No. 2 – or Two Man Camp – where prisoners helped harvest sugar for Imperial. One of the former residents was the blues singer, Huddie Ledbetter. You know him better as “Leadbelly,” who incorporated his not-so-pleasant memories of his stay in his iconic song, “Midnight Special:”
DuPree’s love for science is evident as he takes you through eons of history, weaving stories from fossils and meteors to dinosaurs and the salt mining that made the area boom even before the discovery of sugar and oil.
“If I try to get through this tour in 30 minutes, I have to talk 21 million words a minute,” DuPree said with a knowing grin.
But the best, DuPree said, isn’t in the past.
It’s an optimistic vision of what’s to come.
“We are in the midst of a scientific evolution,” DuPree said. “The world these kids are growing up in won’t look like anything we see today. It will be wonderful.”
A Nature Lover’s Paradise
There are plenty of ways to explore Sugar Land, but the best come on your own two feet – or four, if you bring a furry friend along. And that’s just what brings Rod Morrison, a long-time real-estate broker, to Sugar Land Memorial Park every few days.
It’s an expansive green space, with a lake, walking and biking trails, and a veteran’s memorial obelisk that’s the ideal spot to pump up cardio or spend time with family and friends.
Morrison moved to Sugar Land 28 years ago and never regretted the decision.
“You have a convenience factor,” he said. “Every store you could possibly need is within 5 miles, no matter where you live. You don’t have to deal with the traffic of Houston, even though downtown is just 19 miles away. The schools are great, and the people are nice. I can’t imagine living anywhere else.”
But we’re just getting started …
Brazos River Park, along the banks of the famous flowing water, features a golf disc course. Nearby, Oyster Creek Park is an oasis, landscaped to perfection with arched wooden bridges, miles of walking and biking trails, and water fountains. It’s also a photographer’s paradise. While we were there, one shutterbug captured glimpses of a family outing while another created senior portrait magic.
But the best-known nature preserve in the area is Cullinan Park, a slice of heaven with two lakes for kayaking and fishing, plus a wetland with boardwalks and an observation tower where you can visit the area’s most popular residents: alligators. It’s also home to one of the nation’s largest pecan trees, while other towering timbers offer the ultimate spot for bird enthusiasts. On our visit, visitors alternated between staring down at the gators to gasping as hawks circle majestically overhead.
In the great expanse that is Metro Houston, we’ve found heaven.