Alyssa has been writing about exciting travel topics for Trips to Discover since 2013. After living the big city life in Chicago, Washington, DC, and Atlanta, Alyssa sold the bulk of her possessions and became a digital nomad, living full-time in her camper and working from wherever she could find an outlet and an internet connection for her laptop.
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In many ways, Texas has defined Southern and Southwest culture in America, and it definitely has a one-of-a-kind vibe that you won’t find anywhere else. Sure there are the 10-gallon cowboy hats and cattle ranches, but there’s also a lot more to Texas than meets the eye. Here you’ll also find some of the most stunning natural parks, quirky traditions, and low-key beaches…not to mention the unforgettable barbecue! Texas is a huge state with lots to see and do, but without a doubt, these are some of the very best places to visit in Texas.
A Texas park worth visiting is the Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, which is an impressive natural dome and full of local legends. The Native American tribes that once lived here believed that the rock was magical, and it’s easy to understand why when you visit. It’s considered a must-see when traveling to Fredericksburg.
The Palo Duro Canyon has been called the Grand Canyon of Texas because it’s so enormous. This is a wonderful place to hike and see impressive natural sights and learn about the Native American tribes that once called this place home. Don’t miss the unique lighthouse rock formation!
Located in the heart of San Antonio, the Alamo is one of the most famous and significant historical places in the state of Texas. It was established as a mission and later used as a fort to protect soldiers in the Texan War of Independence against Mexico. Another top attraction in San Antonio is the famous River Walk, with its festivals, restaurants, and shops, as well as the other historical missions just outside of the city.
If you only have time to visit one park in Texas, make it Big Bend. This natural landscape will make you look at Texas in a whole new way in the Rio Grande Valley, Chisos Mountains, and the Chihuahuan Desert. This is a great place to spot wildlife and birds while hiking on the 200+ miles of trails. Long guided hikes are available, as well as short day hikes suited to different skill levels. You can also see the canyons by boat on a river trip.
Located in Glen Rose, Texas, Dinosaur Valley State Park has rare evidence of dinosaurs’ existence, including fossil and footprints. You’ll also find plenty of themed activities and educational programs here.
Cadillac Ranch is one of Texas’ notoriously quirky roadside attractions that has been featured in countless photos, television shows, and films. Here in Amarillo, you’ll find junked Cadillacs stuck in the dirt and spray-painted with colorful graffiti-like designs. Even if you’ve seen the Caddys before, you could still be in for a treat because they are occasionally painted over to provide new space for visitors to leave their mark.
Texas isn’t exactly famous for its beach scene, but your perception of that will change as soon as you visit Padre Island National Seashore. Many visitors use Corpus Christi as their home base in the area to explore Padre’s 70 miles of beaches, sand dunes, and bird habitats. Here you’ll also find cute beach towns, touristy souvenir shops, island-themed bars, and seafood restaurants. In some places, you can even drive your car onto the beach and camp right along the water!
Texas has played a big part in American space exploration throughout history, and Space Center Houston is a popular tourist attraction just outside the city. Mission control and the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center are here, as well as space-related exhibits, simulator experiences, and educational films.
One of the most interesting things to checkout in Marfa is the mystery lights, which are known to appear on clear nights in the area. The lights’ history dates back to the late 1800s when they were first recorded by puzzled locals. There is a lot of folklore surrounding these lights, which have been known to appear as moving objects and in colors. Those interested in paranormal activities will enjoy a quick stop here.
Located in Fort Worth, the stockyards are full of U.S. history and a major draw for tourists in the area. Millions of cattle were transported through these stockyards dating back to the mid-1800s. Today, this is a place to embrace old Texas history by attending a rodeo, watching a historical theater performance, or shopping for authentic western wear.
You’ll find thousands of stalactite formations at Natural Bridge Caverns, which is near San Antonio and easily accessible by tourists. One of the top highlights here is the King’s Throne, which reaches heights of 40 feet. This is a great example of family-friendly fun that combines the best parts of education and adventure.
Lots of places in Texas have a family-friendly vibe, but if you’re looking for a local nightlife scene, then head to Galveston. This is an area known for festivals, concerts, bars, and good restaurants. Mardi Gras and Dickens on the Strand are two of the best festivals to check out while you’re in Galveston. The Pleasure Pier is an amusement park along the shore. Galveston Island is also off the shore and a welcome retreat for nature lovers and a little quiet time to unwind at the end of your trip.
Austin stands out among all Texas cities for its progressive, hipster, and musical reputation. This is a great city to catch a live local performance and hear emerging bands in a variety of unique genres. Some of the best local music venues to check out include The White Horse, Elephant Room, and the Paramount Theater. Of course, if you time it right, you could also plan your visit around an Austin City Limits performance or the South by Southwest music festival.
State fairs take place in lots of places across America, but few are as large and iconic as the State Fair of Texas. The fair occurs every year in September and October and is famous for having the largest Ferris wheel in North America. The fair is located in Dallas and has livestock shows, auto shows, creative arts competitions, musical performances, beer and wine garden, and of course lots of traditional Texas food. This is the place to taste funnel cakes, corndogs, and deep-fried everything!
Located in Wichita Falls, the Texas Ranch Roundup embraces the Texas history and stereotypes and offers visitors an authentic glimpse into cowboy life on a legendary ranch. Check out a ranch rodeo, festival, or trade show while you’re in the area or learn a bit about horses and ranch cooking.