Welcome to the country of Texas!
When it’s as BIG as it is, it just can’t be categorized as a state. It just can’t. And this is great news for road-trippers, especially for those who want to take road trips in Texas.
Aside from Alaska, Texas is America’s largest spit of land encompassing 261,914 square miles! This massive state has something for everyone. From big cities to small historic towns, sandy beaches to grassy plains, mountains, and deserts … there’s just so much to see and do!
- Outdoor Adventure Texas Road Trip
- 1.) Palo Duro Canyon State Park, Canyon
- 2.) Caprock Canyons State Park, Quitaque
- 3.) Caddo Lake State Park, Karnack
- 4.) Hamilton Pool Preserve, Dripping Springs
- 5.) Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, Fredericksburg
- 6.) Pedernales Falls State Park, Johnson City
- 7.) Brazos Bend State Park, Needville
- 8.) Padre Island National Seashore, Corpus Christi
- 9.) Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Salt Flat
- 10.) Big Bend National Park, Big Bend
- Foodie Texas Road Trip
- 1.) Barbeque in Fort Worth, Tx
- 2.) Chili in Austin, Tx
- 3.) Authentic Mexican Food in Austin, Tx
- 4.) Gourmet Burgers in New Braunfels, Tx
- 5.) Chicken Fried Steak in Gruene, Tx
- 6.) Upscale Dining on the Riverwalk in San Antonio, Tx
- 7.) German Fest in Fredericksburg, Tx
- 8.) Tex-Mex in El Paso, Tx
- 9.) Americana in Houston, Tx
- 10.) Ice Cream in Brenham, Tx
- The Full Monty in Austin, Tx
- Route 66 Texas Road Trip
- 1.) VW Slug Bug Ranch
- 2.) Combine City
- 3.) The Big Texan Steak Ranch
- 4.) Amarillo Route 66 Historic District
- 5.) Floating Mesa
- 6.) Palo Duro Canyon
- 7.) Cadillac Ranch
- 8.) Midpoint Cafe in Adrian
- Other Things That Make You Go Hmmm …
- History Buff Texas Road Trip
- 1.) Washington-On-the-Brazos State Historic Site, Washington
- 2.) The Alamo, San Antonio
- 3.) Port Isabel Lighthouse State Historic Site, Port Isabel
- 4.) San Antonio Missions National Historic Park, San Antonio
- 5.) The San Jacinto Battle Monument and Museum, La Porte
- 6.) George Ranch Historical Park, Richmond
- 7.) Historical Fredericksburg
- 8.) Spindletop Gladys City Boomtown
- 9.) Victorian Mansions of Galveston
- 10.) Fort Leaton State Historic Site
- There’s So Much More …
- Texas State Capitol, Austin
- Texas Governor’s Mansion, Austin
- Bullock Texas State History Museum, Austin
- Battleship Texas State Historic Site, La Porte
- The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza, Dallas
- Fair Park National Historic Landmark, Dallas
- Fort Davis National Historic Site, Fort Davis
- King Ranch National Historic Landmark, Kingsville
- National Museum of the Pacific War, Fredericksburg
- The Texas State Railroad, Rusk
- USS Lexington, Corpus Christi
- Space Cowboy Road Trip
- 1.) Space Center Houston
- 2.) Lamar Bruni Vergara Planetarium of TAMIU
- 3.) Big Bend Ranch State Park (Dark Sky)
- 4.) McDonald Observatory
- 5.) South Llano River State Park (Dark Sky)
- 6.) Eagle Eye Observatory
- 7.) Enchanted Rock State Park (Dark Sky)
- 8.) Noble Planetarium of the Fort Worth Museum
- 9.) Moody Planetarium of Texas Tech University
- 10.) Copper Breaks State Park (Dark Sky)
- Natural Science and Dinosaur-o-phile Road Trip
- 1.) Caverns of Sonora, Sonora
- 2.) Perot Museum of Nature and Science, Dallas
- 3.) Dinosaur Science Museum and Research Center, Keene
- 4.) Dinosaur Valley State Park, Glen Rose
- 5.) South Gabriel River Tracks, Leander
- 6.) Inner Space Caverns, Georgetown
- 7.) Natural Bridge Caverns, San Antonio
- 8.) Government Canyon State Natural Area, San Antonio
- 9.) The Witte Museum, San Antonio
- 10.) Houston Museum of Natural Sciences, Houston
- The Big City Texas Road Trip
- The End of the Road … For Now!
Do you love the outdoors? We’ve got 89 state parks covering more than 640,000 acres, 2,199 mapped hiking trails covering over 3,000 miles, over 7,000 lakes, and 15 major rivers (and 3,700 named streams).
Our coastline stretches 350+ miles offering sandy beaches for days (including the longest stretch of an undeveloped, barrier island in the world!) and the National Park Service oversees 14 parks and protected landscapes, 19 of which are IDA recognized as Dark Sky locations for unfettered views of the universe above.
Are you more of a city-lover? The Lone Star State has four enormous cities with populations over a million and 36 more with populations between 100,000 and a million.
Folks travel from across the globe to visit Austin, Houston, San Antonio, and Dallas (and even itty-bitty Marfa, believe it or not) to experience their rich cultures, heritage, and nightlife.
Are you a history buff? The Texas Historical Commission stewards 34 state historic sites, from the infamous Alamo and San Jacinto Monument to the State Fair’s Big Tex, standing 55 feet tall and wearing size 96 boots!
Since 1845 (and for thousands of years before) this land has been home to countless cultures and ethnicities from the Native American Karankawa, Apache, and Comanche to the Spanish Missions, to the hard-working German and the fighting Irish.
And the food! Whether you’re in the mood for mouth-watering Texas barbeque or chili, spicy Tex-Mex, authentic Mexican, German, Czech, and anything and everything deep-fried … son, you’ll need to acquire yourself a larger pair of bluejeans before you leave!
So, yeah. It’s a country. And road trips in Texas are every bit as big and awesome as the land they traverse! So, grab your boots and a respectable hat, and let’s rodeo!
Before you head out, download our free printable coloring pages to commemorate your adventures in the Lone Star State. These are a fun way for you and your kids to remember and memorialize your journey!
Texas-Sized Fact: In land mass alone, Texas could be categorized as the world’s 39th largest country. It’s bigger than Britain and twice as big as Japan. Dang, y’all!
Outdoor Adventure Texas Road Trip
- Total Distance/Drive Time: 2,256 miles/36 hours
- Total Destinations: 10 State Parks, Natural Areas, and National Parks
- Suggested Route
Pack your gear or hitch up your camper, it’s time to get nomadic!
This Texas road trip will take you on a tour of some of the best outdoor destinations Texas has to offer. And with over 100 state and national parks, it’s not easy to narrow it down.
Still, being a born-and-raised Texas camping nut, I’ve had a lifetime to explore Texas’s great outdoors and am proud to have a solid grasp of what’s out there.
This Texas road trip itinerary was designed with the intent of sampling as many of the state’s various climates, ecospheres, and geology as is realistically possible in a single circuit.
The route will take you to Texas’ four corners (directionally, speaking … I know it’s not a square; but, then, what the heck kind of shape is Texas?) from the plains and canyons of the North to the humid subtropics of the East to the balmy beaches of the South to the desert mountains of the West.
That being said, you can begin this road trip from any direction you happen to be approaching as it stretches across the state’s colossal breadth from North to South and East to West.
Also, you can check these destinations off your bucket list in any order; however, the suggested route avoids backtracking (and, thus, fuel consumption) as much as possible.
Helpful Tip: All of the following locations require a reservation or day pass to guarantee your entrance into the park. Most reservations can be made up to 5 months in advance via the locations website.
1.) Palo Duro Canyon State Park, Canyon
Palo Duro Canyon is one of the most unique and beautiful places in all of Texas. It’s sometimes referred to as the “Grand Canyon of Texas” due to its size (120 miles long, 20 miles wide, and 800 feet deep in places) and stunning red rock walls.
Lighthouse Rock is one of the most popular attractions in Palo Duro Canyon, a 310-foot-tall sandstone spire carved by wind and water over eons of time.
The canyon was carved over millions of years by the Prairie Dog Town Fork of the Red River and is home to an abundance of wildlife, including deer, javelinas, coyotes, bobcats, and more.
The park also offers great hiking, camping, horseback riding, and a variety of ranger-led programs.
While not as large or deep as the Grand Canyon, Palo Duro is certainly more lush and verdant. The canyon floor is home to a wide variety of plants and animals, including several species of cactus, yucca, and mesquite.
Palo Duro is also home to the state’s second-largest herd of bison.
When visiting Palo Duro Canyon, be sure to take some time to hike one of the many trails or go horseback riding. There are also several scenic drives from which you can take in the splendors of the canyon.
There are numerous trails for hiking, horseback riding, and mountain biking, as well as a few scenic drives. The main attraction, however, is the canyon itself.
Before you go to Palo Duro, download our free coloring sheets to commemorate your experiences in the canyon. These are a fantastic way to memorialize your travels throughout Texas!
2.) Caprock Canyons State Park, Quitaque
Located in the Panhandle of Texas, Caprock Canyons is one of the state’s lesser-known gems. The park is home to a variety of plants and animals, including several species of cactus, yucca, and mesquite.
As early as 1574, Spanish explorers traded with Apache and later Comanche Indian Tribes until, in 1874, this area was claimed by Anglo settlers and ranches sprouted quickly. Large, shaggy bison still roam the plains within the canyon.
The park also offers great hiking, camping, horseback riding, and a variety of ranger-led programs. A visit to Lake Theo, named for the late owner of the land, is a great way to beat the Texas summer heat.
When visiting Caprock Canyons State Park, be sure to take some time to hike the Trailway to Clarity Tunnel where half a million bats roost during warmer months.
3.) Caddo Lake State Park, Karnack
Caddo Lake is a 26,000-acre lake and wetland on the Texas-Louisiana border. The lake is home to a variety of fish, including bass, catfish, and crappie.
It’s also a popular spot for birdwatching, as more than 300 species of birds have been spotted in the area.
The park offers great camping, fishing, hiking, canoeing, kayaking, and paddleboarding. There are also several scenic drives and trails from which you can take in the beauty of the lake and its surroundings.
From the original Caddo Indian tribes to the Spanish explorers, American expeditions, and the discovery of a vast underwater oil depository in the early 1900s, the Caddo Lake area has a vast, rich history.
4.) Hamilton Pool Preserve, Dripping Springs
Hamilton Pool is a gorgeous swimming hole that was formed by the collapse of an underground cave. The emerald-green pool is fed by a 50-foot waterfall that never dries up and is surrounded by a collapsed grotto and canyon, juniper and oak trees, and wildflowers.
The preserve is a part of the larger Balcones Canyonlands Preserve that protects over 31,000 acres of endangered species habitat.
5.) Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, Fredericksburg
A billion-year-old granite giant lies 20 miles north of Fredericksburg in southwestern Llano County.
The Tonkawas and Comanches revered it, making offerings at its feet, believing it to be enchanted because of the strange groans that issued from it on a chilly night.
Climb to the top of this massive prehistoric dome for an unhampered 360° view of Texas’ Hill Country, or stroll the loop trail around its base after dark as the stars of this Dark Sky Park put on a spectacular show.
6.) Pedernales Falls State Park, Johnson City
Pedernales Falls State Park is a 5,212-acre park that features a huge, beautiful waterfall unlike what you might expect.
Here, the Pedernales River has cut a dramatic canyon through layers of limestone, creating a series of cascades and pools that are perfect for swimming on a hot day.
The park also offers great hiking, picnicking, birdwatching, and stargazing. There are also several scenic drives and trails from which you can take in the beauty of the falls and the surrounding and miles of hiking and biking trails.
The park is also home to a variety of wildlife, including deer, coyotes, bobcats, and more.
7.) Brazos Bend State Park, Needville
Pack a solid pair of trail shoes, binoculars, and a camera. You’re gonna need them!
Brazos Bend is home to a wide variety of ecospheres, flora, and fauna. From tallgrass prairies, woodlands, swamps, lakes, and marshes … it’s like Texas Nature Channel, 3-D Theatre, and smell-o-vision all in one!
Brazos Bend State Park is a 4,897-acre park that is home to 14-foot American alligators, whitetail deer, river otters, bobcats, foxes, and thousands of species of grasses, trees, and wildflowers.
8.) Padre Island National Seashore, Corpus Christi
Separating the Gulf of Mexico from the hypersaline Laguna Madre, Padre Island is the world’s longest barrier island.
The national seashore extends for 70 miles along the island, offering visitors miles of unspoiled beaches, sand dunes, and coastal prairies.
The island is also home to a variety of wildlife, including sea turtles, alligators, dolphins, and over 380 species of birds … and 500-year-old shipwrecks!
Beach comb, kayak, 4-wheel the 60-mile coastline, watch a turtle hatchling release, fish, camp … all to your heart’s content.
Helpful Tip: The Padre Island National Seashore and South Padre Island are NOT the same things; although, Google Maps seems to think they are. In reality, they are separated by over 100 miles!
Don’t just rely on your GPS phone to get you there!
To get to the seashore, you need to make your way to Park Road 22, which begins where the John F. Kennedy Memorial Causeway ends. Once you find that, follow it straight into the park!
9.) Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Salt Flat
Have you ever breathed truly clean air?
Are you sure?
You will on our next stop.
Guadalupe Mountains National Park is an 86,416-acre park that features Texas’ highest point, Guadalupe Peak and is surrounded by the arid Chihuahuan Desert.
It is a designated Class I Air Quality Area protected by the NPS. That means your lungs might get a joy-buzz taking deep draughts of that pure atmosphere and your eyes will be treated to crystal-clear visibility that is hard to find elsewhere in this world.
The park hosts awe-inspiring geologic features such as the 1000-foot El Capitan, named for the ancient wonder that lurks beneath: a 270-million-year-old, 400-mile-long fossil reef that stretches from the park to Carlsbad, NM.
This park is chock-full of natural and cultural history making it a fascinating place to explore and discover!
10.) Big Bend National Park, Big Bend
Welcome to Geologist Heaven!
Big Bend National Park is an 800,000-acre park that features a wide variety of landscapes, including mountains, canyons, deserts, and more. Its geologic history has been a complex, difficult one to map out, also earning it the nickname “Geologist’s Nightmare.”
A drive along the park’s main road will take you through hard scapes that seem extraterrestrial and, at times, utterly nonsensical. All in all, if a realism master like Jean-Francois Millet created the rest of the world, Jackson Polluck was given free rein in Big Bend.
Sorry, was that over the top?
And then there are Big Bend’s vastly diverse ecosystems, giving the visitor the sensation that it’s more like 3 parks in one: towering mountains, arid desert-scapes, and a silver slice of river running through it all.
And solitude! Hiking Big Bends backcountry trails promise that you will rarely if ever, come upon another human for long stretches of time.
Foodie Texas Road Trip
- Total Distance/Drive Time: 1,053 miles/16 hours
- Total Destinations: 10 distinct eateries that epitomize Texas’ rich food cultures
- Suggested Route
1.) Barbeque in Fort Worth, Tx
Texas Barbeque was invented in Heaven, I swear. But, since we can’t all go to Heaven, the next best thing is to go to Texas. Fort Worth is a great place to start your foodie road trip because it’s home to some of the best barbeque joints in the state.
But, one restaurant has been lauded as the state’s best more than a few times:
- Address: 4645 Dick Price Road, Fort Worth, Tx, 76140
- Contact: [email protected]
Named after the old golden F-150 that hauled their first pit, Goldee’s Bar-B-Q is a central Texas-style barbecue restaurant in Fort Worth, TX.
The restaurant is owned and operated by Lane Milne, Dylan Taylor, and Jonny White, who have years of experience in the barbecue industry. Goldee’s Barbecue serves up classic barbecue dishes with a modern twist and is known for their innovative side dishes and smoked meats.
If you’re ever in Fort Worth, be sure to check out Goldee’s Bar-B-Q for some of the best barbecue around!
2.) Chili in Austin, Tx
Chili is the Official State Dish of Texas, so it’s only fitting that your road trip should include a stop in Austin for some of the best chili in the state.
The original home of Texas Chili is, of course, San Antonio. But, in all honesty, Texas chili recipes are as varied as the people that make Texas the great state that it is.
That being said, Austin encompasses more variety than any other Texas town which promises a wider range of chili recipes than you could shake a bottle of antacids at.
If you’re looking for a legendary bowl of red, your search ends here.
Texas Chili Parlor
- Address: 1409 Lavaca Street, Austin, Tx, 78701
- Contact: 512.472.2828
In 1976, just one year before chili was heralded as the Official Dish of Texas, a hole-in-the-wall was born. And inside that hole, seven different legendary varieties of chili, both traditional red and non-traditional white were painstakingly developed.
With three different levels of heat to choose from, x, xx, or xxx, they’ll cater to your tolerance. Wash it down with a Mad Dog margarita, pop a few antacids, and ponder why other states even bother to attempt their own version of chili.
Download our free coloring sheets featuring Austin City Limits so you can keep track of your trip to Texas’ weirdest city!
3.) Authentic Mexican Food in Austin, Tx
It feels paradoxical promoting authentic Mexican food anywhere further from the Texas-Mexico border than San Antonio. But, the fact is, there is SO MUCH GOOD MEXICAN FOOD in Texas that narrowing it down to one is a fool’s errand.
That being said, we’re going to focus on the best of the best in Austin.
While most people think of Mexican food as Tex-Mex, there is a whole other world of authentic Mexican cuisine to be explored, and Austin is the perfect place to do it.
With a wide variety of taquerias, cantinas, and Mexican restaurants to choose from, you’re sure to find something to your liking.
For now, we’re singing the praises of one particular buena cocina:
Fonda San Miguel
- Address: 2330 W. North Loop, Austin, Tx, 78756
- Contact: 512.459.4121
If you’re looking for a delicious and authentic Mexican meal, look no further than Fonda San Miguel, Texas first restaurant to exclusively provide authentic Mexican cuisine (as opposed to Tex-Mex).
Established in 1975, this culture-rich restaurant features co-chefs Blanca Zesati and Carlos Monroy, who have created their De la Tierra menu: a tantalizing array of authentic cuisine based on the classic recipes of Mexico’s interior and coastal areas, such as Oaxaca, Yucatan, and Veracruz.
4.) Gourmet Burgers in New Braunfels, Tx
Welcome to my hometown: Where a German prince built a town for his lady friend … and then left.
Fortunately for us, Prince Solms-Braunfels left behind a rich German heritage in the colony he established, resulting in many cultural marvels not limited to good food and great beer!
At this point, you may wonder, “So, why are we having burgers here and not German food?”
Because I LOVE (to the point of clinical obsession) hamburgers and there is one particular joint in town whose front doors to me are the gateway to Burger Shangri-La.
(We’ll eat German food in another prominent (and the first) German settlement, Fredericksburg, later on.)
Muck ‘n’ Fuss
- Address: 295 East San Antonio, Suite #101 New Braunfels, TX 78130
- Contact: 830-255-7055
Muck ‘n’ Fuss is a craft beer and burger restaurant located in the heart of New Braunfels, Texas. The restaurant was founded on the idea of serving creative, fresh food that everyone can enjoy. With 26 craft beers on tap and live music every night, Muck ‘n’ Fuss has something for everyone.
These are not your father’s burgers, and, after partaking, you may not want to eat any other kind of burger again.
The menu features elevated takes on traditional favorites like the Street Cred with pepper jack cheese and Mexican street corn, jalapeno bacon, BBQ sauce, fried tobacco onion, and chipotle mayo (ask for extra napkins).
Then there’s the Diablo: a spicy masterpiece of Angus beef partnered with a jalapeno and cheese fritter, fresh jalapenos, jalapeno bacon, pickled red onion, and a healthy smattering of spicy Southwest ranch (ask for a side of fire extinguisher).
What’s more, the restaurant is located next door to the historic Prince Solms Inn and its basement cocktail bar Sidecar.
So if you’re looking for a place to eat, drink and stay in New Braunfels, look no further than Muck ‘n’ Fuss.
Oh, if you want to still grab some fine German cuisine in this fine German town, head to Alpine Haus.
5.) Chicken Fried Steak in Gruene, Tx
Once upon a time in the ’70s, a lone kayaker, one Chip Kaufman, shooting rapids on the Guadalupe looked up the steep shoreline and spotted an old water tower peeking above the treeline. He had to check it out!
Cresting the hill, he found himself transported back in time to the late 1800s. An old German farm settlement complete with a Dance Hall, General Store, and cotton gin lay abandoned.
Immediately recognizing the historical significance of the area, he contacted the Texas Historical Commission, who, not a moment too soon, prevented the area from being razed by land developers to build river-side condominiums.
The area, now called Gruene (pronounced “green”), Texas, after the original German settlers, is a well-preserved example of what life was like in a small Texas town at the turn of the century.
And while there are many things to do in Gruene (shopping, live music, antiquing), the best thing to do is eat!
Gristmill River Restaurant and Bar
- Address: 1287 Gruene Rd New Braunfels, TX 78130
- Contact: 830-625-0684 or [email protected]
What was once a cotton gin for the area’s German inhabitants in the 1800s became in 1977 a purveyor of juicy hamburgers and steaks.
This multi-level, rustic, barnwood structure teeters on the hilly banks of the Guadalupe River and boasts a plentiful menu of tasty traditional American staples.
And the chicken-fried steak smothered with their proprietary gravy accompanied with profanely delicious mashed potatoes and Gruene beans that are simply too good to be considered vegetables any longer … sigh, … and burp.
6.) Upscale Dining on the Riverwalk in San Antonio, Tx
If you come to South Texas and don’t visit the Riverwalk, shame on you.
The Riverwalk is a 15-mile network of walkways along the San Antonio River lined with restaurants, bars, hotels, shops, and more. It is truly one of the most unique places in the world.
But while the Riverwalk is great for casual dining and drinks, it also boasts some of the best fine dinings in the state.
If San Antonio is on your bucket list, download our free printable coloring sheets featuring the Riverwalk to commemorate your travels!
Biga on the Banks
- Address: 203 S Saint Mary’s St. San Antonio, TX78205
- Contact: 210.225.0722
If you want to experience a truly unique and memorable dining experience, then you need to check out Biga on the Banks. This world-renowned restaurant is known for its innovative and creative cuisine, which is sure to shatter your conceptions of traditional American cuisine.
I was going to make a recommendation from the menu; but, after sitting here for 20 minutes in an unescapable dilemma, I gave up. You’ll just have to explore yourself and see what the biga deal is.
That’s a pun, folks!
7.) German Fest in Fredericksburg, Tx
In the 1840s, thousands of Germans fled their mother country and the political oppression that plagued Germany at the time. The vast, unsettled reaches of Texas became their sanctuary and they established rural communities stretching from the coastal plains to the hill country.
And, thus, the land was blessed with people who know how to cook good food and brew even better beer!
So if your belly and Stein are empty, we know a great spot to fill ’em up again!
The Ausländer Restaurant and Biergarten
- Address: 323 E Main St, Fredericksburg, TX 78624
- Contact: 830) 997-7714
Inspired by the state of Bavaria in southeastern Germany, The Ausländer Restaurant and Biergarten is a must-stop on any Central Texas foody tour.
The restaurant boasts a modest 12 taps, including several German beers and a few local Texas brews. The food menu is just as enticing, with traditional Bavarian favorites like weisswurst, schnitzel, and pretzels.
If you’re looking to really get into the German spirit, make sure to check out their special events calendar. They often host live music and other cultural events throughout the year!
8.) Tex-Mex in El Paso, Tx
Gas up! You’re gonna need a full tank to get to the next stop.
Directions to El Paso: Get on I-10 West and drive.
If you find yourself in Mexico, you El Paso-ed it.
Known as Chuco Town (thus monikered for the pachuco suits (zoot suits) that became popular in the area in the ’30s, El Paso is the farthest-removed (geologically speaking) member of the Texas family of well-known cities.
So far removed that the Texas Revolution (1936) wasn’t felt in the area at all. It wasn’t until 1850 that someone finally said, “Hey, we forgot about El Paso!” almost as an afterthought.
It was during the afore-mentioned Pachuco period in 1927, that a small eatery sprouted touting home-cooked meals, home-brewed beer, and slot machines … all during Prohibition!
It still stands as a Texas favorite, today, infamous alone for its red salsa!
- Address: 3622 E. Missouri Ave., El Paso, TX 79903
- Contact: 915-566-8418
First, yes, you can buy a jar of salsa to take home. I know you were going to ask.
In fact, stock up and by several.
Whether you drop by for breakfast, lunch, or dinner (or all three), you’re going to find an assortment of platters that will make the hardest life decisions you’ve made pale in comparison.
Personally, I recommend the burritos. You’ll need a solid fork, a pound of napkins, and a wheelchair to get your gordo chungus back to the car when you’re finished.
9.) Americana in Houston, Tx
Welcome to Space City! Also known as Bayou City, H-Town, and the Big Heart (after sheltering thousands of Hurricane Katrina evacuees) Houston is home of the Houston Astros, NASA’s Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, and the world’s first domed stadium.
Oh, and did we mention the food?
Crawfish, BBQ, Tex-Mex, Cajun … you name it, they’ve got it!
And if you’re looking for a truly unique gastronomical experience, you can’t miss this little culinary wonder:
- Address: 1103 S Shepherd Drive, Houston, Tx 77019
- Contact: 713) 521-2239
Almost 40 years ago, a humble watering hole opened up in a ’30s-era 2-story house providing sandwiches, soups, and salads to the hungry passer-by.
Fast forward to today, and Backstreet Cafe has evolved into an award-winning eating establishment that takes culinary innovation ultra-seriously.
Southern, Cajun, Creole, Hispanic, Asian … they’ve got it in spades complete with live Jazz and a wine and spirits program that is simply mind-blowing.
I recommend eating out on their legendary New Orleans-style patio and imagining you own the place. It’s a pleasant fantasy.
10.) Ice Cream in Brenham, Tx
Now, for dessert.
About halfway between Houston and Austin, there is a tiny map dot. And from this tiny dot has emerged one of the most iconic American foods: Blue Bell Ice Cream.
Started over a century ago as the Brenham Creamery Company, they’ve come a long way from their humble beginnings of a butter churn.
These days, you can find Blue Bell in most major supermarkets across the nation. But if you want the full effect, you need to go to the source!
- Address: 1101 South Blue Bell Road, Brenham, Tx 77833
- Contact: 800.327.8135
First, grab an ice cream in the second-floor ice cream parlor. Heck, grab all 16 offered flavors (always rotating), a Fudge Bar, and a Mooo Bar.
Then, visit the Observation Deck to see the way-cool (pun intended) way they make the wonderful stuff, snag a nostalgic souvenir in the gift shop, and peruse the museum in the Vistors Center.
Before leaving, take a family selfie by the bronze sculpture of Belle …
… and grab one more ice cream.
And that concludes our Foody Texas Road Trip. I’m stuffed. But, if you have a little more room, I have one more suggestion …
The Full Monty in Austin, Tx
If you don’t want to wear your tires down to the rim touring the whole Texas landmass in search of good food, there’s one place that has it all: Austin.
The Live Music Capital of the World is also a foodie’s paradise. In terms of food trucks alone, there are over 1,000 from which to choose!
And if you’re looking for a more stationary option, no shortage of brick-and-mortar establishments will tantalize your taste buds by offering ethnic eats ranging from the traditional to the exotic to the straight-up strange.
Download our free Austin City Limits coloring page to commemorate your trip to Texas’ weirdest city, Austin, with our free printables!
Route 66 Texas Road Trip
- Total Distance/Drive Time: 267 miles/4.5 hours
- Total Destinations: a mix of 8 tasty, amazing, and straight-up odd experiences
- Suggested Route
Historic Route 66 is like the spirit animal for avid road trippers. Made famous by the eponymous John Steinbeck novel, this legendary stretch of highway has been immortalized in pop culture as the ultimate American road trip.
Asphalt begins in Chicago and stretches 2,448 miles all the way to California, but the most iconic section (as determined by my inherent prejudice) runs through the Lone Star State.
In Texas, you’ll want to hit up Amarillo, Shamrock, McLean, and Glenrio or anywhere else that captivates your wanderlust along the way.
In my opinion, the most interesting things seem to concentrate around Amarillo; however, feel free to add or detract from the following itinerary according to what tickles your fancy-bone.
1.) VW Slug Bug Ranch
There are things in life that, when you encounter them, make you go Hmmmm …
One of these is 18 miles east of Amarillo, Tx.
In all honesty, I envy the individual with enough spare time and land to sink 5 vibrantly-painted Volkswagon Beetles butt-skyward into the North Texas soil.
It wasn’t just for kicks and giggles. There’s more to the story, actually. And it’s a sad one.
I feel compelled to let you discover the mystery behind this strange monument for yourself…
… and so, I will.
2.) Combine City
What do you do with a massive 50,000-pound combine tractor when it has finely depleted its usefulness?
Orville Ladehoff’s wife told him to bury it. She was only joking.
He took it seriously and planted it nose-down-blades-up on his 2-acre spit of land along Claude Highway.
Then, he planted 13 more!
And, we continue to say, “Hmmmm …“
And to wonder, what does it take for one man to position 700,000 lbs. of machinery in such a way?
3.) The Big Texan Steak Ranch
Have you ever seen a burly, backwoods Texan wolf down a 72-ounce slab of beef, shrimp cocktail, baked potato, salad, and a roll with butter … in less than an hour?
I did. I watched the spectacle while enjoying a profanely large chicken fried steak with buttery mashed potatoes, and rich mac ‘n’ cheese washed down with a brewed-in-house ale.
Wipe the drool off your face …
The Big Texan Steak Ranch is just that … BIG.
The food, the servings, the brewery, the memorabilia, and the people are all supersized in this legendary Amarillo eatery.
There’s a LOT more to do here than just eat; so, prepare to stay for a stretch. You’ll be glad you did.
Oh, and the burly, backwoods Texan I mentioned. He was one of the 10,000 winners (out of 90,000 attempters) to win the Steak House’s 72 oz. steak-eating contest and got the meal for free.
Then, he shared the meal with the floor.
Fortunately, I was done eating.
4.) Amarillo Route 66 Historic District
In terms of Texas cities along Route 66 in Texas, Amarillo is it. As the blacktop enters these parts, it becomes one and the same with 6th Avenue for a 13-block stint of what used to be part of the old Ozark Trail Highway.
Today, over 100 mom-and-pop shops line the curbs of the historic district providing an enjoyable pull-off on this Great American Journey.
Eat. Drink. Sample local art. Scavenge for antiques. Repeat.
5.) Floating Mesa
Again … Hmmmm …
When I feel artsy-fartsy, I grab a clean sheet of paper, a freshly sharpened pencil, and my set of colored pencils.
When Stanley Marsh feels artsy-fartsy, he commandeers a whole geological land mass and makes it levitate.
You’ll just have to see this one for yourself. Trust me.
6.) Palo Duro Canyon
My family is originally from the city of Canyon, 18 miles due south of Amarillo. Head West from Canyon on Hwy 217 for about 16 minutes and you’ll come across the town’s namesake and Grand Canyon’s little bro.
Palo Duro Canyon is 120 miles long, 20 miles wide, and as much as 800 feet deep in places.
This is one of the most beautiful places on Earth. Hands down.
The Palo Duro is home to the official Texas State Musical Drama “Texas”, performed every summer in an outdoor amphitheater carved into the canyon walls.
Even if you’re not a musical person, the performance is an awe-inspiring event in and of itself.
If you plan to explore Palo Duro, grab our free coloring sheets to commemorate your adventures in the canyon. These are a fun way to remember your travels through the great state of Texas!
7.) Cadillac Ranch
All together now … Hmmmm …
At first, I figured Orville Ladehoff (the Combine City dude) must have been a member of some obscure backwater occult who determined the best way to immortalize themselves was to bury old-and-busted farm machinery upright along the roadside.
But now, it’s butt-to-the-sky Cadillacs!
As it turns out, it had nothing to do with Orville or any occult he may or may not have been affiliated with. It was, in fact, billionaire Stanley Marsh (Floating Mesa dude) and a group of San Francisco art-hippies who decided to earn a collective Hmmm from the locals.
To accomplish this, they drove 10 Caddies, year models and makes ranging from a 1949 Club Sedan to a 1963 Sedan de Ville onto one of Stanley’s fields, and sunk them nose-first up to their doors in the red Texas dirt.
That was in ’74.
Fast forward, and this monument to Hmmm still stands.
It appears to have become an acceptable tradition to vandalize the cars with spray paint judging by the chaotic coats now gracing the rusting metal and by the overwhelming fumes that smack your olfactory sensors as you approach.
It’s too weird to pass up.
8.) Midpoint Cafe in Adrian
A source of Texan pride surrounding Route 66 through Texas is that we are the proud Keepers of HalfWay Point.
No, that’s not an official title and, yes, I made it up. But, it’s no less true.
The small map dot of Adrian reached its peak when Route 66 came through. Now, like an aging old codger regaling those around about his derring-dos as a young stud, Adrian is still basking in the glory of one bragging point:
It’s exactly the middle of Route 66, 1,139 miles from Los Angles and 1,139 miles from Chicago.
And what else is a halfway point good for other than a restaurant? Stretch your jaws around a triple-decker burger or order a plate of flapjacks cattle-branded with the Route 66 emblem.
And then, of course, get a selfie in front of the halfway sign so you can brag to your friends about your epic excursion along America’s iconic roadway.
Other Things That Make You Go Hmmm …
There are so many interesting and just plain quirky attractions along this stretch of road … just too many to cover in a single post. However, if you have the time and want to pack more in, here are some honorable mentions that have their home along Route 66.
1.) The Caprock Canyons State Park and Trailway
Camping, biking, hiking, geocaching, swimming, camping, and actual herds of bison await you at this state park located just 2 hours south of Amarillo.
2.) Lake Meredith National Recreation Area
Within an hour’s drive north of Amarillo, this massive lake is perfect for boating, fishing, kayaking, and swimming. You can also hike, camp, or take a scenic drive along the 26 miles of shoreline.
3.) The Devil’s Rope Museum
In Texas, there are ranches. Where there are ranches, there’s barbed wire (Devil’s Rope) and there are untold thousands of miles of the stuff crisscrossing the Texas plains and Hill Country.
And, as crazy as it may sound to an out-of-stater, it is a critical part of our history.
We even have a barbed wire museum for your educational benefit.
4.) Glenrio Ghost Town
On the Texas-New Mexico border lies the eerie remnants of a town that, while never housing more than a dozen residents, had its debut with fame in the movie Grapes of Wrath (1940).
In its heyday, tourists traveling along Route 66 pumped gas from its Texaco pumps, shacked up at its motels, ate from its diners, and poured a stable income into its tiny economy.
Then, the new, faster highway was built, and traffic to Glenrio dried up. Thus, ghost town.
This will be the final or first stop on your Texas Route 66 adventure, depending on which end you begin at.
5.) Osymandius of The Plains
Stanley Marsh strikes again. This time, a ginormous pair of disembodied legs in the middle of nowhere gains the eccentric artist another Hmmm badge.
History Buff Texas Road Trip
- Total Distance/Drive Time: 1,432 miles/23.5 hours
- Total Destinations: 10 sites of critical historical significance for Texans
- Suggested Route
The story of Texas began long before Sam Houston defeated General Santa Anna at San Jacinto in 1836, before even the precarious settlement by the Spanish began in 1690.
For 15,000 years or more, human beings have called this land home for as long as they could hold out, fighting against insurmountable odds.
Even the name Texas has endured the test of time, as ancient as the first cultures that occupied it.
Texas is derived from the Caddoan word táyshaʼ, meaning “friend.”
And although it may seem ironic that the history of Texas is fraught with bloody, violent conflict and struggle, skirmishes and battles, the epic quest to protect this land from invaders and those that would seek to oppress its peoples, freedoms, and way of life have for hundreds of years united Texans, be they Native American, Spanish, German, Irish, or true-blue American in an unbreakable bond of friendship.
Dang, that was straight-up poetic.
That being said, to orchestrate a road trip itinerary that fully encompasses all the monuments and locations that stand in memoriam of Texas’ vast history is, well, laughable.
But, I tried. And, I dare say, it ain’t half bad!
1.) Washington-On-the-Brazos State Historic Site, Washington
In 1836, the fate of Texas was decided at the General Convention. It is on this site that our forerunners risked their lives to draft the Texas Declaration of Independence on March 2, 1836.
I just got goosebumps.
Washington-On-the-Brazos State Historic Site is a beautiful park located on the Brazos River. The expansive park grounds provide a beautiful setting for picnicking, sightseeing, and bird-watching.
The Star of the Republic Museum, Independence Hall, and Barrington Plantation offers the visitor a unique insight into the lives and times of the men who fought and won Texas’ independence from Mexico.
2.) The Alamo, San Antonio
If there ever was a symbol of Texan bravery, heroism, and sacrifice …
The Alamo is located in downtown San Antonio and is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Texas.
The mission was originally built as a Spanish Catholic mission in 1718 but became famous as the site of the Battle of the Alamo in 1836.
On these grounds, legendary heroes like Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie made their last stand against the Mexican army.
Today, the Alamo serves as a shrine and a reminder of the courage and sacrifice of those who fought and died for an idea bigger than themselves.
3.) Port Isabel Lighthouse State Historic Site, Port Isabel
Due to Texas’ low-lying coasts, sea captains seeking safe harbor along the Gulf of Mexico depended on lighthouses to guide them to land.
The Port Isabel Lighthouse, built in 1852, is the oldest remaining lighthouse on the Texas coast. The lighthouse stands 72 feet tall and offers spectacular views of South Padre Island and Laguna Madre Bay.
The Port Isabel Lighthouse State Historic Site also includes the Museum of Port Isabel, which chronicles the history of the area from its earliest inhabitants to the present day.
4.) San Antonio Missions National Historic Park, San Antonio
Welcome to the one-and-only UNESCO World Heritage Site in Texas!
For 10,000 years, the people of South Texas lived lives fairly oblivious to the world beyond its reaches and shorelines.
Then, in the early 1700s, with the incursion of European explorers, it must have seemed to the native Texans that the apocalypse had come upon their world: drought, disease, and colonization by a strange and, more often than not, violent people from another land.
The San Antonio Missions National Historical Park consists of four Spanish missions: Mission Concepción, Mission San José, Mission San Juan Capistrano, and Mission Espada.
These well-preserved missions offer a glimpse into the lives of the Spanish missionaries and the Native Americans who lived here in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Download our pack of 5 free printable coloring sheets to commemorate your visits to San Antonio!
5.) The San Jacinto Battle Monument and Museum, La Porte
Even if you don’t know his specific feats of battle prowess and bravery, you have more than likely heard his name.
I am, of course, speaking of the one and only Sam Houston.
On an April afternoon in 1836, Texas settlers, Tejanos, and a host of volunteers raged against the armies of Santa Anna with the blood-curdling roar, “Remember the Alamo!” and “Remember Goliad!”
With his ragtag army, the last hope for Texas’ Revolution, outnumbered more than two-to-one, General Houston led his troops to victory in a battle that lasted just 18 minutes.
You might say we were rather ticked off …
The San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site includes the San Jacinto Monument, which is the tallest stone column monument in the world (567.31 feet), and the San Jacinto Museum of History, which chronicles the history of Texas from its earliest days to the present.
6.) George Ranch Historical Park, Richmond
An internationally-recognized living history museum, George Ranch Historical Park tells the story of the evolution of Texas from the days of the early settlers to the present day.
Begun in 1824, this 20,000-acre working ranch is one of the oldest continuously-operated ranches in Texas.
Visitors to the park can take part in a variety of activities, including blacksmithing workshops, hayrides, roping and branding with cowboys, pioneer games, chuckwagon dinners, and touring one of the restored homes on the ranch.
The George Ranch is located in Richmond, Texas, just southwest of Houston.
7.) Historical Fredericksburg
Fleeing political oppression in their own country, a group of German settlers seeking religious freedom arrived in Texas in 1846.
They founded the town of Fredericksburg, named for Prince Frederick of Prussia.
I find that perplexing considering they were fleeing political oppression …
The town quickly became a thriving center of German culture in Texas, and today Fredericksburg is known for its abundant peaches, wineries, its quaint shops and cafes, and its beautiful Hill Country setting.
The Fredericksburg Heritage Museum chronicles the history of the town and its settlers, and the Pioneer Museum Complex includes several historic buildings, including a one-room schoolhouse, a church, and a blacksmith shop.
8.) Spindletop Gladys City Boomtown
The people of Texas have known about the abundant oil under Texas’s soil for hundreds of years.
As early as the 1500s, the Spanish used it to seal the seams of their ship hulls, easily gathering the crude as it naturally seeped from the ground.
But it wasn’t until January 10, 1901, that oil was struck at Spindletop near Beaumont, Texas, ushering in the era of the great Texas oil boom.
The Spindletop-Gladys City Boomtown Museum tells the story of the people who made their fortunes during the oil boom, as well as those who were left behind.
The museum includes a replica of the Spindletop gusher, an 1890s boomtown, and a collection of vintage automobiles.
9.) Victorian Mansions of Galveston
The great hurricane of 1900 did its worst; but, as Galvestonians are quick to point out, the island city is still here.
However, not everything had to be rebuilt. Some things were built hurricane-proof, it seems.
The first structure in Texas built on a steel frame, the Moody Mansion was constructed in 1895 by W.L. Moody, Jr., one of the island’s most prominent citizens.
The 28,000 square-foot home is a masterpiece of Victorian architecture and design, with original family furnishings, Italian marble fireplaces, hand-carved mahogany woodwork, and leaded art glass windows.
The mansion is open for tours, and the gardens are free to enjoy.
Oh, and did I mention it is haunted?
Built over the course of 6 years, from 1886 to 1892, by Galveston architect Nicholas Clayton for Walter Gresham and his family, the Bishop’s Palace is a stunning example of Victorian architecture.
Worth $250,000 at the time, it is now valued at $5.5 million!
The 75-room home was damaged by the hurricane of 1900 but was restored and is now open for tours.
The palace is said to be haunted by Mrs. Gresham, who died in the hurricane, and her daughter, who died of pneumonia shortly thereafter.
10.) Fort Leaton State Historic Site
Life in the deserts of West Texas in the mid-1800s was no picnic. And a lone adobe pioneer trading post stands as a monument to all who endured it.
Fort Leaton was built in 1848 as a trading post and was witness to many hostile encounters between the settlers and the Comanche and Apache Indians.
The fort was also a stop on the Butterfield Overland Mail Route, which operated from 1858 to 1861.
Today, the fort has been restored to its original appearance, and visitors can tour the buildings and see the artifacts on display.
The fort is located in Presidio, Texas, just south of Big Bend National Park.
There’s So Much More …
Texas State Capitol, Austin
It’s taller than the nation’s capital by 15 feet. We like to brag about that …
Texas Governor’s Mansion, Austin
Since 1856, it has housed our leaders, the ones we’ve liked and the ones we’ve run out of town.
Bullock Texas State History Museum, Austin
Texas history … from an insider’s perspective. The good, the bad, and the ugly.
Battleship Texas State Historic Site, La Porte
It’s 27,000 tons, 573 feet long, and can haul butt at 21 knots.
And, it’s armed to the teeth.
But, it’s 100+ years old; so, now it’s a museum.
The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza, Dallas
On November 22, 1963, a man climbed to the 6th floor of the Texas School Book Depository building, loaded his rifle, took aim, and assassinated a 46-year-old American president.
This museum houses the memory of a nation.
Fair Park National Historic Landmark, Dallas
The home of the State Fair of Texas since 1880, Fair Park is a 277-acre historic site that hosts over 24 million visitors each year.
In 1936, it was the setting for the Texas Centennial Exposition, where the first Cotton Bowl game was played.
And, in 1984, it hosted the Summer Olympics Games.
Now, it’s home to museums, performing arts venues, and the world’s largest collection of art deco architecture.
Fort Davis National Historic Site, Fort Davis
Buffalo soldiers, Indian wars, mail coaches, and a nation caught in Civil War.
A frontier military post in distant West texas tells the story.
King Ranch National Historic Landmark, Kingsville
In the mid-1830s, the son of an impoverished family stowed away on a ship leaving the Manhattan wharves.
In 1865, now a giant-of-a-man, he established, owned, and operated a 146,000-acre ranch whose brand is still known worldwide and continues to symbolize “uncompromising quality and authenticity” and the Texas never-give-up spirit.
National Museum of the Pacific War, Fredericksburg
In honor of all the brave soldiers who served in the Pacific during World War II.
The Texas State Railroad, Rusk
Hop aboard a late 1800s train car hauled by a steam locomotive, get held up by a band of low-down bandits and saved by a mysterious masked rider.
And enjoy an adult beverage while you’re at it.
USS Lexington, Corpus Christi
Christened “The Blue Ghost,” the befuddled Japanese reported her sunk 4 different times.
But, she just kept coming back!
Exploring this 42,000-ton, 901-foot-long phantom of the ocean will make you wonder how such a beast could be so evasive.
Space Cowboy Road Trip
- Total Distance/Drive Time: 2,142 miles/35 hours
- Total Destinations: 10 cosmic stops that will leave you spaced out … in a good way
- Suggested Route
Remember Steven Spielberg’s movie Cowboys and Aliens? Well, here in Texas, we’ve got plenty of the former and, with our space program, observatories, and dark skies, we’re certain to have the latter eventually.
Interested in a rodeo through the cosmos? Saddle up, space cowboy!
1.) Space Center Houston
A leading space exploration and science center, Space Center Houston is the visitor center for NASA’s Johnson Space Center.
This 250,000-square-foot complex features astronaut training simulators, interactive exhibits, a life-sized mock-up of the International Space Station, and the mind-boggling massive Saturn V and Space X Falcon 9 rockets.
You can even walk through the ginormous Space Shuttle Independence, still mounted on the even-more-ginormous shuttle carrier aircraft!
Before you visit the Space Center, grab our free coloring pages for you and your kids to commemorate your space walk! Add them to your trip pics in a scrapbook or hang them on the fridge for all to see!
2.) Lamar Bruni Vergara Planetarium of TAMIU
Funny name. Seriously high-tech planetarium.
Step inside this 40-foot dome housed within a glass pyramid on the Texas A&M International University campus and experience the genuine sensation that you have left earth behind.
3.) Big Bend Ranch State Park (Dark Sky)
Now that you have experience space virtually, it’s time to immerse yourself in it for real.
And, a Dark Sky Park is the perfect place to do just that.
Stretching along the Rio Grande in the far west, here you can pitch your tent or shack up in one of the area’s former hunting lodges.
At sunset, spread a blanket on the ground outside, grab your telescope if you brought one, and get ready to see the galaxy unlike you have ever seen it before.
4.) McDonald Observatory
The Aggies have their impressive planetarium. And the Longhorns have one of the world’s largest telescopes.
Located in the remote Davis Mountains of West Texas, the McDonald Observatory is one of the world’s premier astronomical research facilities.
Visit during the day and you can take a tour of the facility, see inside one of the massive telescopes, and learn about the ongoing research being conducted here.
In the evenings, join a Star Party and take a night sky constellation tour.
It’s pretty stellar.
5.) South Llano River State Park (Dark Sky)
This stretch of the South Llano River is a Texan family favorite for beating the summer heat, communing with nature, and, at night, getting starry-eyed.
Put the beer away. I was talking about the view of the night sky.
Or keep the beer. It pairs well with a big shot of the Milky Way!
6.) Eagle Eye Observatory
Located in the Canyon of the Eagles (named for the American Bald Eagle that nests in the area), this observatory is a part of the Canyon of the Eagles Nature Park and Resort.
Stay in the well-equipped guestrooms or your own RV or tent, hike the nature trails, take a canyon cruise, visit the observatory, attend an astronomy presentation, or catch a flick under the stars.
Relax. Stargaze. Repeat.
7.) Enchanted Rock State Park (Dark Sky)
Twenty miles north of Fredericksburg in southwestern Llano County rests a billion-year-old granite giant. Revered by the Comanche and Tonkawa Indians, they offered sacrifices at its feet, considering it enchanted by the strange groans coming from it in the cool night air.
Climb to the 425-foot summit of this massive prehistoric dome for an unimpeded 360° panorama of Texas’ Hill Country, and, at night, walk the loop trail around its base as the stars of this Dark Sky Park put on an impressive show.
8.) Noble Planetarium of the Fort Worth Museum
A science and history museum with something for every member of the family, the Fort Worth Museum features an 80-seat planetarium, a massive Omni theater with its 120-foot-wide screen, and a hands-on children’s museum.
The Noble Planetarium is the latest high-tech addition to this already top-notch facility.
Experience the night sky in a whole new way as you journey through the solar system, out of our galaxy, and into the infinite universe.
9.) Moody Planetarium of Texas Tech University
Aggies, Longhorns, and, now, the Raiders!
Packed to its starry brim with up close and personal looks at the sun and moon, walks among constellations, dives into dark matter and black holes, and 40+ unique shows …
… and a laser show to the tune of Metallica and Pink Floyd.
Those are rock stars, folks!
Helpful Tip: The Moody Planetarium only operates on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Plan your trip accordingly.
10.) Copper Breaks State Park (Dark Sky)
Even the Comanche Indians needed a place to get away from it all.
And with its spectacular sunrises, sunsets, and immersive Dark Skies, Copper Breaks State Park still provides solace for those who want to escape the noise and light pollution of the cities.
Camp, hike, fish, horseback ride, kayak, swim …
… and when the sun sets, as it has on this road trip, watch the galaxy do its thing!
Natural Science and Dinosaur-o-phile Road Trip
- Total Distance/Drive Time: 934 miles/15.5 hours
- Total Destinations: 10 way-cool caverns and stop-o-sauruses
- Suggested Route
Back in the day … or millennia, Texas was a vast shallow sea. If you take a drive through the Hill Country, it is easy to imagine how what are now hilltops used to be islands peeking above the surface of the water, cut and carved by the ebb and flow of changing water levels.
And, water begets life. BIG life, in this case. Gigantic dinosaurs once roamed these parts.
We’re talking massive leviathans like the 60-ton Sauroposeidon and nightmare-worthy predators like the Acrocanthosaurus!
And underneath their feet ran underground rivers that carved the porous limestone into sprawling cave systems that, in some cases, developed openings to the surface, allowing daylight to pour into their black inner spaces.
So, if you love geology, paleontology, discovering fossils, cave exploring, and the natural sciences in general, then we’ve got a Texas Road Trip for you!
1.) Caverns of Sonora, Sonora
Recognized globally as one of the most beautiful caves on the planet, the Caverns of Sonora, located just northwest of San Angelo, offer visitors a chance to see unique calcite crystals and helictites that have formed over millions of years into breathtaking sculptures.
On the caverns 1 hour 45 minute tour, you’ll be treated to some of the most astounding geologic showcases mother nature can contrive.
Stay on the ranch in your tent or RV, pan for gemstones, hike, and grab some homemade fudge.
2.) Perot Museum of Nature and Science, Dallas
Walk into the Perot Museum’s Life Then and Now Hall and you’ll immediately come face-to-toe (your face, its toe) with the towering skeleton of Alamosaurus, a gigantic, 80-ton quadrupedal herbivore that once inhabited Texas.
And that’s just one of the many that stand guarding this place.
Observe real paleontologists at work processing newly-discovered fossils in the Paleo Lab, a real laboratory crowned by the menacing skeleton of a Nanuqsaurus hoglundi (think velociraptor mixed with a polar bear).
Explore the ancient footprints of giants, mesmerizing fossils, and ancient plant life.
Then, hit up the other parts of the museum for a full day of discovery!
3.) Dinosaur Science Museum and Research Center, Keene
One of America’s largest dinosaur fossil collections, Southwestern Adventist University curates and preserves over 30,000 dinosaur bones!
In this nationally-recognized fossil treasure trove, you’ll get to hold a leg fossil the size of a 10-year-old (human), take a VIP backstage tour, and even take a Fossil Class to learn the basics of paleontology, excavation, and preservation!
And, leave with a bigger brain!
4.) Dinosaur Valley State Park, Glen Rose
Most people don’t know it; but, Texas used to be one of the world’s largest prehistoric seas.
And where there was prehistoric water, there was prehistoric life. BIG life!
And they left BIG footprints.
Camp (by tent or RV) where agile, ferocious theropods and massive, sauntering sauropods once tread.
Hike among, and even swim in, the ancient riverbeds that once carried massive herds of dinosaurs to their doom.
On a brighter note, grab our free coloring sheets to commemorate your walk with the dinos! These are a great way for you and your kids to memorialize your adventures in Texas!
Helpful Tip: Visibility of and access to dino footprints depend on the amount of recent rainfall and river levels. Call ahead or check the website for current conditions.
5.) South Gabriel River Tracks, Leander
One hundred million years ago, a 38-foot, 7-ton nightmare on two legs stalked through the mud of the South Gabriel River.
Wrapped in rippling muscle and weaponized with razor-sharp teeth and ripping claws, the Acrocanthosaurus hunted its prey in these parts.
To walk in its footsteps, you’ll have to take a 15-20 minute hike from the roadway along the riverbed through undeveloped terrain, high grass, and mud.
To access, this location, follow Google Maps to 601 S. Gabriel Dive, Leander, Tx 78641. You’ll find an unpaved parking area where Hwy 183 passes over the river.
Hike west along the worn trail along the river bed for about 15 minutes. The dino tracks are on the left-hand side of the river bed.
Helpful Tip: This area is public property; however, it is not developed land. There are no amenities, restrooms, or lodging accept in nearby Leander, Tx.
Also, check the area’s recent rainfall before venturing out. The river bed must be dry to view the tracks.
6.) Inner Space Caverns, Georgetown
Twenty-five million years ago, a cave was born.
Hidden from the surface, this geologic time-vault became a death trap 45,000 years ago when it developed a series of sink-hole openings that swallowed giant sloths, saber-tooth tigers, and mammoths.
Unable to escape the thick quicksand that covered the cave floor, they were doomed and their fossilized remains were preserved. Then, the cave closed in on itself 14,000 years ago.
In the 1960s, the Texas Highway Department developing the I-35 corridor unintentionally tapped the underground void of the cavern when core drilling.
For the first time in over 10,000 years, daylight beamed into the black maw of what is now known as Laubach Cave, a miles-long system that still has not been fully explored.
From a basic walking tour to advanced wild spelunking, you can choose your level of adventure throughout its 1.2 miles of accessible passages.
Then, head to the surface, pan for gemstones, grab some homemade fudge (which seems to be the official cave food) and spruce up your rock collection with specimens from the Gift Shop.
7.) Natural Bridge Caverns, San Antonio
If you haven’t figured it out yet; Texas is, below the boots and hooves, a massive slab of geologic swiss cheese.
And, like a fine cheese, it gets better with age!
As water percolates through the limestone bedrock, it slowly enlarges fractures and fissures creating underground channels, caves, and sinkholes.
Natural Bridge Caverns, Texas’ largest-known cave system is an excellent example of this process. The cave formations here are still alive!
The caverns, which are located 25 miles northwest of San Antonio near New Braunfels, were discovered in the 60s by two students from St. Mary’s University.
The owner of the land, Clara Wuest, tried to convince the National Park Service and the Texas Park System to help fund its protection and development but was told that the project was too expensive.
So, she decided to do it herself.
Today, the Wuest family are the sole owners and operators of the caverns, its tours, and the extensive Wildlife Ranch and attractions that inhabit the surface.
Caverns, zip lines, fossil mining, giraffes, antelope, ostriches, bison …
… a multi-million dollar archaeological enterprise listed on the National Register of Historic Places!
I wonder if the NPS regrets turning them down?
8.) Government Canyon State Natural Area, San Antonio
Just outside of America’s 6th largest city lies 12,244 acres of pristine Hill Country wilderness.
I know, it’s not what you’d expect so close to a major metropolitan area.
Named for the “government road built through the government’s canyon” (referring to the military supply route blazed through the area in the 1850s), the area is protected to preserve a vast, critical portion of the Edward Aquifer’s Recharge Zone, supplying water to the increasingly thirsty San Antonio population.
But, dinosaurs are thirsty too, or were, and came here long ago to slake their thirst.
A new study has discovered that the Acrocanthosaurus and Sauroposeidon track sites in this area are some of the oldest known in North America.
Dating back 200 million years to the Early Jurassic, these fossil footprints tell a story of a time when dinosaurs roamed a very different landscape: a beach, in fact.
This was a time when Texas ended here and the Gulf of Mexico began … woah.
The tracks provide evidence of at least four different types of dinosaurs, including two sauropods (long-necked) and two theropods (bipedal carnivores).
9.) The Witte Museum, San Antonio
As I’ve said before, back in the Cretaceous, Texas was a huge shallow sea. If you think everything is bigger in Texas now, you should have dropped by 110 million years ago.
Instead of horses, we had 60-ton sauroposeidons, affectionately known as “earthquake lizard gods.”
Oh, and we had ginormous crocodiles 40 feet long and weighing 5 tons.
Oh, and an impossibly huge flying reptile with a 36-foot wingspan and an equally impossible-to-pronounce name: Quetzalcoatlus.
And, don’t forget the T-Rex. We had those, too.
Want to walk among their massive bones and a whole lot more? Swing by the Witte!
Download our free printable coloring sheets featuring the Riverwalk to commemorate your visit to San Antonio!
10.) Houston Museum of Natural Sciences, Houston
In the Morian Hall of Paleontology at the Houston Museum of Natual Sciences, you will let you walk among the beautifully preserved and mounted remains of prehistoric giants.
Once you’ve marveled at these terrible lizards, wander through the rest of the museum’s amazing exhibits to fill your day with an enlightening journey through earth’s history.
The Big City Texas Road Trip
- Total Distance/Drive Time: 1,684 miles/26 hours
- Total Destinations: 10 unique cities that represent Texas’ rich, diverse culture
- Suggested Route
Texas has vast swaths of unsettled wilderness within its borders; however, it has no shortage of bustling metropolises.
This road trip covers some of the best that Texas has to offer, both in terms of urbanity and rural tranquility and also some that never sleep.
1.) Lubbock, Tx
While not world-renown, Lubbock is famous to us Texans for being the birthplace of Buddy Holly and home to Texas Tech University.
It’s also a great place to start your road trip as it is centrally located within the state.
2.) Dallas and Fort Worth, Tx
Dallas and Fort Worth are two distinct cities usually referred to in the same breath. They offer great food, entertainment, and shopping opportunities.
You could easily spend a few days in each city and still not see everything they have to offer.
3.) El Paso, Tx
It’s way the heck out there, no doubt. On your way, you may feel as if Texas stretches on forever … cause it does.
El Paso is worth the drive as it offers great Mexican food and culture, not to mention being a stone’s throw from Juarez, Mexico if you’re feeling adventurous.
4.) Fredericksburg, Tx
Where the Germans settled you can expect good beer, bratwurst, and live music. This town is a great stop-off on the way to Austin as it offers a break from the big city feel.
Main Street can easily trap you for a whole day or more with its many shops and restaurants.
5.) Austin, Tx
The heart of Texas, and super-weird as its residents proudly proclaim, Austin is a must-see. There’s live music 365 days a year the best of which can be found at the infamous Austin City Limits!
Pair that with great food, and more bars than you can shake a pilsner at and you’ll quickly fall in love with the place.
One of Texas’ oldest cities (settled in 1730), it has aged like a fine cheese developing an array of flavors that cater to a range of tastes.
What a weird metaphor … appropriate.
It’s like Asheville, but with more Mexican food and less Mary-Jane. Maybe.
If you plan on heading to Austin, download our free coloring sheets featuring Austin City Limits to commemorate your adventures in Texas’ weirdest city!
6.) San Antonio, Tx
Established in 1718, the metropolis of San Antonio is easily the most famous Texas city outside of the state. The River Walk, the Alamo, SeaWorld, and Six Flags at Fiesta Texas make this a great destination for families.
7.) Houston, Tx
At 186 years old, Houston is the most populous city in Texas and the fourth most populous city in the United States. It is also the largest city in the Southern United States … everything’s bigger in Texas!
Home of the Astros, the Texans, and NASA’s Johnson Space Center, there is no shortage of things to do in Houston.
8.) Galveston, Tx
Texans are survivors, and Galveston is proof of it. Since 1818, it has been hit by 11 hurricanes, the worst being in 1900 which killed over 6,000 people.
Hurricane Ike tried to do it again in 2008.
But the city has since been rebuilt (and rebuilt, and rebuilt …) and comes back better each time. It is now a popular beach destination for Texans and tourists alike.
9.) Corpus Christi, Tx
Corpus Christi, TX is a great place to visit because it offers a wide variety of activities and attractions for tourists. These include the Corpus Christi Marina, the USS Lexington Museum, and the Texas State Aquarium.
10.) Laredo, Tx
Straddling the Rio Grande River on the border of Texas and Mexico, Laredo is the perfect place to end your road trip. This city has a rich history and culture, as well as a variety of shops and restaurants.
After your road trip, you can relax and enjoy the views of the river before heading home.
There you have it! A road trip that covers all of the best that Texas has to offer.
Oh, wait. What about Marfa?
So, What’s This Marfa Everyone Talks About?
If there was ever a backwater town where people got abducted by aliens, it would be Marfa, Tx.
This tiny town in the middle of way-out-west-nowhere is famous for two things: being the location for the movie Giant, and for its mysterious lights.
The Marfa Lights are an unexplained phenomenon that has been occurring for decades. No one knows exactly what causes them, but they’re definitely worth checking out.
Prepare to get spooked in a goosebump-inducing sort of way.
In addition to the Marfa Lights, there are several art galleries and shops in town, as well as a few good restaurants. If you’re looking for something a little off the beaten path, Marfa is a worthy addition to this Texas road trip.
The End of the Road … For Now!
Like I said: It’s a country!
And, this is just a taste of what Texas, in its enormity, has to offer. Once you’ve soothed your saddle sores, and procured yourself a fresh hawse, swing back on by for another rodeo, pardner.
Now, get out there!