Editor’s note: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some of the attractions mentioned below may have limited hours or be closed altogether. Please check with any venues you plan on visiting before you leave.
Summer is the season for road trips, and given the current state of things, road trips are the only viable option for traveling out of town for a getaway. Whether you’re looking for somewhere you can make in a day or a week-long driving tour of Texas, we’ve got you covered.
Read more below for our list of the 20 Great Road Trips from Houston:
Hunstville State Park is under two hours away from Houston and has great amenities like their swimming hole with a platform, nearby washrooms, a snack shop, camping sites, and more. Make sure you stop by the local statue of Sam Houston on your way, A Tribute to Courage. Huntsville is also the home to The Blue Lagoon, a beach and training facility for scuba diving. Don’t worry, you don’t have to scuba to swim there!
We’ll be upfront here- Shiner, Texas is a very small town. We think the trip is worthwhile but it won’t be the most glamorous vacation you’ve ever had. Still, the town is charming with its own, unique businesses. You definitely want to tour the brewery and have your daily tasting. Just down the road is Howard’s, a gas station with picnic tables outside. You can drink beer and play cards at the gas station. How cool is that? Also, stop by Antiques Art & Beer, Sunken Gardens, and of course the Shiner Brewery for a tour. Stay at a local B&B for even more charm.
3. TWIN LAKES
Don’t feel like going too far? This RV and scuba park in Manvel is fun for everyone and it’s not far at all from Houston. You can scuba, swim, paddle, and fish. They have barbecue pits for grilling and a few tables. The lake usually does not get very crowded but on busy days, there may not be any tables available so come prepared to be flexible. Admission is $5 per car and scuba diving has extra fees.
One of the most under-rated towns in Texas is Seguin. Surrounded by the Guadalupe, there are places to tube and plenty of cascading water features around town. They’re also home to the oldest licensed bar in Texas, the largest World’s Largest Pecan, and plenty of amazing festivals. While you’re there, you definitely want to check out Son’s Island. It is a real island in the middle of Lake Placid with blue water, a sandy beach, cabana rentals, live music, kayaking, and more. You can enter the island only by reservation. Definitely bring your river shoes- the bottom of the lake is rocky.
You probably know Fredericksburg as a vintage and antique mecca and it’s true. Go there for the shopping but stay for the natural beauty and great attractions. You will definitely want to stop by one of their many wineries and weingartens but don’t miss the Lady Bird Johnson Municipal Park or the Pioneer Museum. The real gem, though, is the Enchanted Rock State Natural Area. This huge, dome-like mountain of limestone has miles of trails. Make it to the top for a never-before-seen view of the Hill Country.
The Heart of Texas has recently become famous for its Magnolia Market, the birth child and flagship home & decor store of Chip & Joanna Gaines from HGTV. They have so much more to offer- the Waco Mammoth National Monument is one of the best. Their nationally recognized trails at Cameron Park are worth an entire day. If that’s not enough, you can visit the Texas Rangers Hall of Fame & Museum. End your evening with a trip to Buzzard Billy’s Swamp Shack to let the kids feed the animals while you sip on cocktails.
7. FORT WORTH
Dallas gets a bad reputation, and while we think that’s a little unfair, we KNOW that Fort Worth is the bomb! The Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth is one of the top-rated museums in the United States. They have a permanent collection of Monet you must see in your lifetime. Admission is free and the grounds are Insta-worthy. Their water features out front are fun for the kids and you’ll definitely want to lunch at their restaurant. There are tons of other great things to do in Fort Worth, like visiting Sundance Square, the cultural district, the stockyards, and the Trailhead.
8. SEA CENTER TEXAS
This aquarium and aquatic educational center near Lake Jackson, Texas is FREE! There are several different aquariums and exhibits, plus a fish hatchery. There are also three forest areas nearby and you’re just a short drive from the beach. If you’ve had enough of the outdoors, be sure to stop by the Center for Arts and Sciences, an interactive, kid-friendly museum.
Also known for its tubing and swimming, Wimberley, Texas is the home of both Blue Hole Regional Park and Jacob’s Well. Both of these nature areas are known for clear, beautiful water holes. If you’re there any time from March to December, check out their Market Days held every Saturday. You can also visit a drive-in movie theater, The Corral Theatre.
10. GREEN ACRES
Located in Elgin, Texas, just outside of Austin, this is the home of glamping professionals. They have eight different accommodations to choose from, including glammed-up tents, cabin oases, renovated Airstreams, and the Spartan Mansion. You would expect outrageous prices but these people are down to earth- they are priced reasonably.
11. BARTON SPRINGS
Located right off the Colorado River in Austin, this spring-fed municipal pool is open with lifeguards year-round. It’s about 3 acres in size with plenty of grassy areas for sunbathing. The pool has a cheap admission fee but the nearby Barton Creek is free! This is a local Austin favorite so you may want to go early on a week day to avoid crowds.
12. PEDERNALES FALLS STATE PARK
Another beautiful swimming area you don’t want to miss is Pedernales Falls. Nearby is the famed Hamilton Pool, a crystal clear swimming hole located inside a cave with a waterfall. This particular swimming area is best for kids who can swim and climb well independently- younger kids are allowed but it’s a bit stressful, especially on busy days. Get there at least an hour before they open and be prepared to wait in line in your car, then walk about half a mile to get to the swimming area. You will want to wear water-safe shoes. To make your visit truly remarkable, try staying at the nearby Cypress Valley Canopy Tours. They offer zipline tours but the real gem is their treehouse hotel. It’s pricey but the views and experience are amazing.
13. CAVE WITHOUT A NAME
There are a handful of caves in Texas to visit and we recommend you see them all! The most beautiful cave is Cave Without A Name. You’ll love the dripping stalagmites, soda straws, rimstone dams, and more. The cave is about 66 degrees all year round so it’s comfortable to walk around- you might even need a light sweater. Admission starts at $10 for kids and $20 for adults.
14. CORPUS CHRISTI
Just going to the beach should be reason enough to visit Corpus. If you’re wondering why we’re suggesting Corpus and not Galveston, you may just have to go to see for yourself. Corpus Christi is a little bit sleepier and that’s a good thing. Less traffic means better-preserved beaches, smaller crowds, less traffic, and a more laid back crowd. You will also enjoy their museums, galleries, aquariums, botanical gardens, the USS Lexington, and great cuisine. If you go in October, be sure to check out their Jazz Festival.
15. LOST MAPLES
If you’ve never seen the trees in New England when the leaves change, this is your chance to do that with just a five-hour drive. The sights and colors here are amazing year-round. The area is known for its beautiful trees, stargazing, swimming, and fishing. As a bonus, you don’t need a fishing license to fish from the shore or pier in the state park or natural area. Keep in mind, there is no cell service.
16. RIO FRIO
The Frio River in Three Rivers, Texas is one of the coolest rivers around. Spring-fed means the water is crystal-clear and the average temperature is around 68 degrees. There are some rapids and waterfalls but it’s typically an easy tubing trip suitable for kids and elderly. Be sure to check the water levels and flow rates before you go. The river is also just one mile from Garner State Park, known as one of the most beautiful parks in Texas.
17. CHISOS MOUNTAINS
Whoever told you Texas has no mountains was a liar! This mountain basin in Big Bend National Park has rivers, scenic drives, and more. This is one of the most visually appealing parks in the state with a variety of landscapes including carved-out canyons, desert scenes, and limestone cliffs. Take the kids to Colorado Canyon and the experienced rafters to Mariscal.
18. PALO DURO CANYON STATE PARK
This place should really be one of the wonders of the world. Known as the “Grand Canyon of Texas,” their crimson mountains and sunset-colored cliffs will make you feel like you’re in a whole other state. Palo Duro is a great place for climbing and horseback riding. Star-gazing here is a nightly ritual.
Marfa, Texas is probably the most unexpected mention on this list but if you visit, you’ll see why we recommend it. The small, desert town is an art mecca. You’ll find a Prada store on the side of the highway, except it isn’t open for business- it’s a permanent installation by artists Elmgreen and Dragset. There is also an entire army base- 400 acres worth- dedicated to art and sculpture. If you’re budget-conscious, stay at El Cosmico, a desert ranch offering a collection of Airstreams and tee pees. If you can afford to spring for nicer accommodations, check out Hotel Paisano with their indoor, atrium-style pool.
20. THE SHOWBOAT DRIVE-IN
Looking for a quick trip just down the road? Located in Hockley, Texas, this drive is just about an hour from Houston. Bring the kids to experience a real, old-fashioned drive-in theater. Get there early for the best parking and to visit their snack bar and games areas. The drive-in is popular with kids of all ages. You just tune into a radio station to hear the movie. If you have a hatchback, make sure to tie it down so that it doesn’t block anyone else’s view- or they will do it for you.
Do you have another favorite Texas road trip destination in mind? Tell us why you’re going in the comments below: