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Texas is full of incredible and exciting cities to explore. However, if you like discovering spectacular and interesting places that few others have, these amazing gems in Texas are sure to be right up your alley.
Terlingua has no Walmart or McDonald’s and is home to just a few dozen residents. Located near the Rio Grande, almost in Mexico, this silver mining ghost town is mainly popular with those visiting Big Bend National Park. It boasts a number of eateries, bars, unique lodging options, art galleries and a gift shop, as well as some strange attractions like a sand-locked submarine and a pirate ship. It also hosts two annual chili cook-offs that attract some 10,000 “chiliheads.”
This spectacular 20-mile stretch of road winding through the lush, green hills of Gillespie County in the Texas Hill Country, makes for an incredibly scenic drive, with the narrow two-lane Ranch Road winding for 13 miles through some of the most unique, and oldest, geology in the central part of the state. It’s especially gorgeous in the springtime when you’ll see a breathtaking display of bluebonnet flowers, the official flower of Texas.
This “secret” beach about a half-hour’s drive from Brownsville in Boca Chica State Park, is a place the town has been trying to keep under wraps for years. After Texas Monthly blew its cover recently, more people have been discovering this place where you can drive on the sand, camp, fish and swim in incredibly clear water. Visitors even bring metal detectors, searching for buried treasure that’s believed to remain from pirate days.
Comfort is a picturesque town in the Texas Hill Country with a rather quirky feel. It’s home to the eccentric Comfort Little Theater which enters the realm of “dark-thirty” during the last weekend in April and the first weekend in May houses a unique retail store, “The Elephant Story,” which sells $50-per-cup Elephant Dung Coffee and hosts the very popular Scarecrow Invasion during the second half of October when endless scarecrows of all types fill the town.
Even if you’re not from Texas, odds are you’ve heard of Luckenbach because of the classic Waylon Jennings’ song. One of the most charming small towns in Texas, it has just three inhabitants and two main buildings: one houses the remnants of a post office, a working saloon and a general store. The other is a dancehall that hosts top Texas country artists every week, making it a great place to go for an authentic Texan experience.
This wildlife refuge that sits near the border of Mexico is home to more documented species of birds than any other National Wildlife Refuge in the country. There are an incredible 417 species of birds, including green jays, aplomado falcons, turkey pheasants and cardinals, and in the autumn, a million redhead ducks can be seen on the Laguna Atascosa. It’s also an important habitat for nesting sea turtles, blue crab and many other species.
This replica of England’s Stonehenge is about two-thirds the size of the original and is now located on the Hill Country Arts Foundation’s campus at 120 Point Theater Road in Ingram, Texas. It represents what Stonehenge would look like before erosion and the weather topped some of the original structure. The biggest difference other than the smaller size is that these stones are much lighter, made up of plaster applied to a wire mesh frame -those at Stonehenge weigh more than four tons.
This stunning oasis hidden in cattle grazing lands west of Austin near Dripping Springs is considered to be one of the best swimming holes in the entire state of Texas. The natural pool is surrounded by giant slabs of limestone, while large stalactites grow from the ceiling high above. To get there, you’ll have to hike a short trail through a lush, stream-fed canyon which opens up to a magnificent grotto
With centuries-old cypress trees draped in Spanish moss, you might think you’re in a Louisiana bayou. There are few lakes as enveloping as Caddo, with pristine water boasting top-notch fishing and teeming with wildlife like alligators, mink, wood storks, owls, eagles and great blue herons. Created by the massive log jam known as “The Great Raft,” which began as far back as the 12th century, it’s one of the only naturally-formed lakes in Texas.
Just north of Wimberley is this 30-foot-deep artesian spring that’s considered one of the best spots to swim in the Texas Hill Country. It’s also a popular spot for divers, with its various chambers holding natural wonders like bioluminescent algae and unique limestone patterns, but with false exits and fine silt that can cloud vision, it’s also rather dangerous, with a number of divers losing their lives exploring the caverns below.
Hueco Tanks State Park is home to a bizarre cluster of rocks known as one of the best bouldering areas in the United States. People come to climb, hike and gaze upon the over 200 images of masks on the rocks drawn by Native Americans who used to journey here for the rainwater held inside the rock basins. If there’s been rain recently, you’ll still see many pools of water in the pock-marked rock.
The Blue Lagoon is a scuba diver’s paradise, with extraordinarily clear blue spring-fed waters lined with limestone rocks and towering pine trees. It’s an ideal place to learn to dive or to just experience diving in a tropical environment outside of the tropics. Divers can enjoy night navigation, explore sunken boats and an airplane in one of its two limestone quarries.
The Caverns of Sonora is internationally recognized as one of the most beautiful show caves in the world. The vast caverns were carved from limestone between one and one-and-a-half million years ago and boast one of the most extensive collections of calcite crystal formations on the planet. Visitors can take a guided tour, as well as camp, pan for gemstones, hike and sample homemade fudge in the gift shop on the surrounding property.
This public art installation was created in 1974 and features ten sets of graffiti-covered tail fins that are buried at the same angle as the Great Pyramid, standing as a tribute to the American Dream. The Cadillacs were buried in sequence from the oldest, 1949, to the newest, 1964. Visitors are encouraged to visit, with spray paint, to tag the vehicles.
Since 1883, people have claimed to see white, yellow, red, and orange basketball-sized spheres floating above the ground at all hours of the night, year-round, known as the “Marfa Lights.” The unexplained lights appear in the sky on clear nights between Marfa and Paisano Pass and are best viewed when facing southwest toward the Chinati Mountains. Some say they could be alien beings signaling down to earth. Whether or not you believe that, this place is worth a visit.
Enchanted Rock is a huge dome comprised of pink granite that soars 425 feet above the ground. What makes it mysterious, is that when a cool night follows a warm day, the rock makes audible creaking noises due to the contraction of the outer surface of the rock. Though we know what makes the sound, this is what likely fueled legends about it – coupled with its sparkling appearance on damp nights when the moon is bright.
This magnificent 60-foot waterfall that cascades into a fern-covered grotto can be reached via a 1.5-mile hike in Colorado State Bend Park. If you want to do more hiking afterward, there are a total of 32 miles of trails in the park. It’s also home to Lake Buchanan and offers a variety of other activities, including swimming, fishing, caving, birdlife and wildlife viewing.
This fascinating site holds the largest known concentration of Columbian mammoths to have died from one catastrophic event. Most are believed to have perished in a mudslide, some 68,000 years ago. Visitors can walk above the fossils of the giant creatures that are still embedded in the dirt. Other fossils have also been discovered here, including a prehistoric camel and the remains of a large cat.
This is the second-largest canyon in the country, but surprisingly, it’s one of the lesser-visited. The canyon is 120 miles long, as wide as 20 miles at some points, and has a maximum depth of over 800 feet. Known as the “Grand Canyon of Texas,” the massive sunken valleys reveal greens in nearly every shade and sunset-hued terra cotta. It can be explored on foot, mountain bike, horse or by car.