From the Gulf Coast beaches in the east to the western desert region, Texas promises a bucketload of fun to its visitors. The Lone Star State is simply huge – did you know it is the second largest in the country – and has a mind-numbing diversity of landscapes and attractions.
Texas also has a rich and vivid history as well as many cultural attractions. Beautiful waterfalls, spectacular city skylines, urban parks, stunning natural areas, and pretty beaches, Texas has it all! Here are our top favorite things to do in Texas, all worth adding to your bucket list!
Best Places to Visit in Texas
San Antonio is a must for everyone traveling in the state. Considered the center of Texan culture, it is a great starting point for any Texas trip.
San Antonio is home to some of the most visited attractions, including the world-famous Alamo, a historic site where you can learn all about this crucial event in the history of Texas.
Another must-visit is the beautiful 15-mile long San Antonio Riverwalk and its many attractions.
It offers a relaxed and romantic atmosphere and an abundance of great restaurants, eateries, and shops.
It can be explored on foot or by bike.
Austin is a bustling Texas capital, known for its live music scene, beautiful parks and lakes, and world-class museums. Don’t leave Austin without visiting the State Capitol and Hamilton Pool.
Texas’ first permanent capitol was completed in 1853, but the Italian Renaissance building burned down in 1881. Throughout the years, it was restored and completed in 1993 with an extension to the north side. Today, Texas Capitol is the biggest State Capitol in the United States in terms of square footage. The grandiose four-level structure includes offices for Senators and House Representatives, parking, a bookstore, cafeteria, and auditorium.
The other top attraction, Hamilton Pool Preserve, is home to a wonderful natural pool located just outside of Austin. The place is very popular with travelers, so you must make a reservation if you want to take a dip between May and September. You can also choose to wait in line, which might take a bit of time. Don’t forget to bring a camera to capture those views, apart from the pool itself, the area features a 50-foot waterfall, and fern-covered cliff sides, as well as distinctive plants and birds.
Big Bend National Park
Located right on the border with Mexico, it is a unique spot for nature lovers. Walk along the famous river, Rio Bravo, and observe beautiful landscapes as well as diverse fauna and flora within this natural sanctuary, which is home to around 450 species of birds, as well as hares, roadrunners, mountain cougars, and bears.
If Big Bend National Park is on your list, we recommend stopping by the information center to get more information regarding the routes and the activities available. Some of the most popular activities at the park include hiking, horseback riding, or navigating the river.
You can even cross the border here and visit Mexico for a few hours, or more. If you decide to do so, choose the Boquillas Crossing Port of Entry, located near the park’s Rio Grande Village.
Home to famous attractions like the Space Center and the Museum District, the city prides itself with some of the best barbecues in the state and a laid-back vibe that keeps visitors coming back again and again.
The Museum District in Houston is an area of the city where about 20 museums for all tastes are located, including the Museum of Natural Sciences, Museum of Fine Arts, Contemporary Art, Children’s Museum, and more.
Each is within walking distance surrounding Hermann Park, making the tour of this district very enjoyable and is best explored on foot. If you are a museum lover, you will surely find this area unique. It is recommended to visit the Museum District on Thursdays because the entry is free to many of the museums.
The Space Center has been one of Houston’s top attractions since it opened in 1992, receiving an average of 1.1 million visitors per year. This 180,000-square-foot educational and entertainment center features more than 400 space artifacts, games, exhibits, and replicas. At the visitor center, you can walk inside a replica of America’s first space station, Skylab, or touch a rock from the moon.
Padre Island National Seashore
Located a short drive from Corpus Christi, this beautiful barrier separating the Laguna Madre from the Gulf of Mexico is 70 miles long and features 65.5 miles of Gulf beach. This makes it the longest barrier island in the world.
A big part of the island is a natural reserve, which means it’s not packed with tall buildings, shops, or restaurants. Enjoy clean sandy beaches and relax, or spend your time actively. Some of the most popular activities here include camping, kayaking, fishing, windsurfing, kiting, and even observing the baby turtle release in Spring. All in all, it is an ideal location for those looking for a piece of tranquility with plenty of opportunities for having fun.
Galveston, located on the coast of the Gulf of Texas, is the perfect place for activities such as fishing, diving, and kayaking. If you want to get to know the city well, you will need more than two days, but here are a few of the top things to do:
Get an adrenaline rush at the Pleasure Pier, a beachfront amusement park at any time of the year. Visit the Moody Gardens, a tourist complex with a botanical garden, huge glass pyramids, an aquarium and various species of animals or spend an afternoon at The Strand, a National Historic District packed with antique shops, restaurants, art galleries, and wonderful architecture, with some buildings more than 100 years old. For those looking to catch some sun, Galveston offers 32 miles of beaches.
Fredericksburg is a small city founded in 1846 by Baron Otfried Hans von Meusebach, who looking for land for German immigrants, found this place with more land and resources.
Today, the German heritage here is everywhere, combined with some Texas flavors. Isn’t it a unique combination? Although small, Fredericksburg is full of life, with many bars and shops, and even a spa. Eat pretzels, drink some quality craft beer, and enjoy old original architecture.
In the evening, head to Luckenbach, located on the edge of town, an awesome beer garden offering live music shows, various themed events, and delicious food. It is definitely one of the locals’ favorites!
Palo Duro Canyon
About 25 miles southeast of Amarillo, Texas, and 12 miles east of Canyon, Texas, you will find something you may have never heard of.
Palo Duro Canyon is the second largest canyon in the US after the Grand Canyon, but a lot less crowded when it comes to visitors. This canyon is 120 miles long, up to 20 miles wide, and between 600 and 800-feet deep.
Enjoy the streaked bright red and brown rocky mountains, and observe the plants and animals typical to only this region. The park offers a wide range of activities for enthusiastic nature-loving travelers, including wildlife and RV camps, walking and biking trails, and various picnic areas.
Whether you prefer driving, walking, mountain biking, or exploring on horseback, you will find plenty of opportunities to experience Palo Duro Canyon State Park.
South Padre Island
In the southern part of Padre Island, there is a tourist town called South Padre Island where visitors can engage in various recreational activities and find more opportunities for entertainment, dining, and shopping.
This location is more suitable for those looking for city-like vibes by the beach. Visit the South Padre Island Art Space to unleash the artist within, or book a tour with Fins to Feathers company, which offers a variety of private and group sunset, dolphin watching and bird watching cruises and activities.
Head straight to Fort Worth to visit the historic district of Stockyards and experience the true spirit of Old Texas. The Stockyards area features several buildings and streets set in the purest style of the Wild West, halls with concerts at night, rodeos on Fridays and Saturdays, museums, and restaurants, and something else slightly more thrilling.
It’s called “The Herd”, a daily cattle drive. Real cowboys with their boots and hats lead cattle from point A to point B, putting on quite a spectacle! The Herd is now a tradition that has been around for a long, long time. The good news is, many of the attractions here are free. A good starting point for the trip is the visitor center located on 508 Main Street.
Travelers looking for a calmer environment to observe some wildlife can visit the Mustang Island, located south of Port Aransas between San Jose Island and Padre Island featuring 5 miles of a beautiful coast.
An ideal location for those looking to escape the hustle and bustle of big cities and slow down time. Simply relax and do whatever you wish, may it be sunbathing, fishing, paddling, hiking, having a picnic, kayaking or bird watching (or anything else you can think of). Those interested in paddling can check out the Mustang Island State Park Paddling Trail.
There are areas for camping with water stations, showers, and toilets.
Located 70 miles northwest of Houston, Brenham is a small city that holds huge importance in the history of Texas.
Every year, it attracts visitors for beautiful Texas bluebonnet displays as well as Maifest, the annual festival celebrating the German heritage of Brenham that has been taking place since 1881!
More top places to visit in Brenham include Blue Bell Creameries, Unity Theatre, and the Antique Rose Emporium.
Dallas offers travelers luxury hotels, bars, and restaurants of all kinds, as well as shopping malls and entertainment for all ages. It is a major center of commerce and industry, and one of the fastest-growing cities in the country. Some of the visitors’ favorite places in the city are the Botanical Gardens, Dallas Zoo, Reunion Tower, The George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum, and more.
Among many attractions within the city, the Sixth Floor Museum is a must. Built in the very shed from which the former president was shot, this museum is where visitors can learn about what happened with the assassination of President JFK and his legacy in the history of the United States. Along with the entry, visitors are given an audio guide that allows to follow different information panels step by step with photos, videos and excerpts of news related to President Kennedy, his family, and his murder. It is worth spending at least two hours here.
Texas Hill Country Wineries
The picturesque Texas Hill Country is a popular tourist destination in Texas. Although many visitors don’t know about the region’s hidden gems that are wineries. In fact, no fewer than four dozen wineries and vineyards color the Hill Country landscape, and most produce high-quality wines that every wine lover would appreciate.
Located between Fredericksburg and Stonewall, Becker Vineyards organizes events, tastings, and tours within the walls of its impressive stone reception hall. If you doubt the quality of Becker Vineyards’ wines, here’s a fun fact: their wines are served in the White House! A series of events are held at Becker Vineyards throughout the year, including weekly live music events, giving visitors the opportunity for a unique visit, regardless of the season.
Grape Creek Vineyards is one of the oldest producing vineyards in Texas, established in 1983. Grape Creek Vineyards is also one of the most decorated wineries in Texas, having received medals throughout North America. 4.0 Cellars, Armadillo Leap Winery, Inwood Estates Winery & Bistro, Lost Draw Cellars, Messina Hof Hill Country Wineries, Pontotoc Vineyard, Rancho Ponte Vineyards, Santa Maria Cellars, and Torre di Pietra Vineyards are also located in or near Fredericksburg.
Located at the tip of North Padre Island near Corpus Christi, Port Aransas is a charming island community with an interesting variety of unique restaurants and shops to complement its miles of pristine beaches.
One of the highlights of visiting Port Aransas is the ferry trip to the island. Other activities available include kayaking, windsurfing, fishing, among others. You can easily find rentals here.
Some of the best beaches in Texas are located here including the IB Magee Beach Park and If you’re interested in history, visit the Port Aransas Museum where visitors can learn about the past of the little town.
Marfa is one of the most unique small cities in Texas. On the surface, it closely resembles the other oldest cities in Texas, with a number of historical attractions dating back to the mid-1800s. But, what makes Marfa stand out from the rest is the appearance of mysterious lights on the horizon, known as Marfa Lights or Marfa Ghost Lights. These lights, associated with paranormal activity, have been seen almost every night since they were first detected in 1883. But even now, more than 100 years later, no one can explain this phenomenon. Head to the Marfa Lights observation area just outside the city to see the view for yourself. Or attend the annual Marfa Lights Festival, watch the parade and check out the food and craft vendors.
Corpus Christi is a good combination of the sun, the beach, and the city. It is full of activities for different types of travelers. Observe the marine world at the Texas State Aquarium, visit Selena Memorial, and listen to the famous songs of one of the most important musicians of all-time. Go to the Selena Museum if you want to learn more about this important figure and her role in Texan culture.
Head to the North Beach near the Harbor Bridge to catch some sun or swim in the water on a hot summer day. Or, take a tour at the USS Lexington naval museum located inside “The Blue Ghost”, the aircraft carrier built for the United States Navy that was used in World War II and see various military artifacts, aircraft, Lockdown on the LEX Escape Rooms or even try the flight simulator.
Caddo Lake State Park
Travelers can find this beautiful spot in nature near Karnack in northeast Texas. The park features the largest natural lake in the state, great hiking trails, picnic areas, as well as 6,810 acres of cypress swamp. Visitors particularly enjoy observing wildlife and year-round canoeing or kayaking surrounded by magical scenery and serene ambiance that the Caddo Lake State Park provides. There are various campsites and some cabins available for rent, including kids’ playgrounds in some areas.
San Jose Island
Come to San Jose Island if you are looking for something more remote and wild. A great place to escape the noise of the city and wind down, read a book, collect seashells, and take in the scenery, it is recommended for those looking to have a quiet afternoon.
Enchanted Rock, located in the Enchanted Rock State Park north of Crabapple, is one of the largest natural rock formations in the whole country, rising 425 feet above the ground. Climb the rock for spectacular views and rocky outcrops, just don’t forget to bring water. The climb is a little challenging, but definitely worth it! Within the park, there are various other trails and places to rock climb. Other activities include camping, picnics, observing wildlife, geocaching, stargazing and taking photos of the beautiful landscape. The park also offers ranger programs, which is great if you want to understand more about the creation of formations and wildlife.
Being a border town in the Wild West, El Paso combines Mexican flavors with historic architecture and a unique Texas atmosphere. Visit the Plaza Theater built-in 1929 in the Downtown Historic District, soak in some culture at the Museum of Art, roam through the Mexican Markets, or explore El Segundo Barrio, one of the oldest neighborhoods where you will find beautiful street murals revealing the town’s Hispanic heritage.
Boca Chica State Park
Boca Chica State Park near Brownsville encompasses the Boca Chica beach as well as the SpaceX launch site, 22 miles east of Brownsville. The facility is pretty impressive that all the spacecraft lovers will appreciate. The Boca Chica beach is relatively remote and less crowded than the South Padre Beach. This means fewer services being offered, but it is perfect for things like fishing, birdwatching, strolling along the beach, and building sandcastles, or kiting. There aren’t many amenities, so prepare well if you do decide to spend an afternoon here by bringing enough water and snacks. Although not very popular among campers, there is an opportunity to camp here if you wish.
Waco is a cozy city in central Texas by the Brazos River, offering plenty open-air activities, such as the Waco Mammoth National Monument, where visitors can see the remains of these wonderful creatures that no longer walk on this earth, Cameron Park Zoo or the rivers that can be navigated either by kayaking or strolling along the Waco Riverwalk or in the well-known Magnolia Market.
There are many indoor activities too. Visit the Dr. Pepper Museum to learn about the Texas icon, visit art galleries, boutiques, or restaurants in Waco Downtown Cultural District, or surprise those taste buds with some quality beer and wine at Bare Arms Brewing or Waco Winery & Vineyards.
Pedernales Falls State Park
Located around 35 miles west of Austin, Pedernales Falls State Park is where travelers can find some of the best natural views in the area. Swim in the river, hike Twins Fall Nature Trail, or the more challenging Wolf Mountain Trail. There are options for kayaking and tubing the river too. Campsites with the necessary amenities are great for those who want to spend more time here. Ranger Programs are available.
Between Dallas and Fort Worth, Arlington, a loud and lively city that attracts many adventure seekers for the variety of exciting activities it has to offer. Six Flags Over Texas, Hurricane Harbor water park, the home of the Dallas Cowboys, Arlington Skatium, and Theatre Arlington are just a small part of what you’ll find here. After a hectic day, head to lake Arlington or River Legacy Park to wind down before continuing your trip.
If you are looking to have some fun, Arlington is not the one to skip!
Guadalupe Mountains National Park
Guadalupe Mountains National Park is a prime example of what a Permian-era fossil reef is. It is famous for great hiking and backpack possibilities and for being one of the most unspoiled wilderness locations in the United States. Around 80 miles of trails, winding through the desert-like areas, displaying some beautiful plants, the mountains, and riverside oases won’t disappoint any type of hiker. Guadalupe Mountains National Park, located in Pine Springs, northern Culberson County, is also home to the highest point in Texas, Guadalupe Peak.
Amazed by the falls and would love to see some more? Visit Gorman Falls in Colorado Bend State Park, one of the most beautiful and popular state parks in Texas. You can explore the 65 feet falls on a 1.4-mile guided walk, or choose the 2.6-mile hike to reach the same destination. In the nearby lake you can go boating, kayaking and swimming. Campsites are available in the park and dogs are welcome too. Groups can book tours of the falls to learn more about them.
Jacob’s well is located in an 81-acre natural area near Wimberley. Surrounded by limestone cliffs, this artesian spring always remains the same temperature at 68°F. It is about 140 feet deep, which just adds to its mysterious vibe and look. People are welcome to take a dip inside this natural wonder, just keep in mind that the swimming season is between May 1 and September 30. The bravest visitors can go diving and cliff jumping. The water is crystal clear, so you may want to bring a snorkel or water-proof camera for some underwater views.
Natural Bridge Caverns
The largest known caverns that are open for visitors, Natural Bridge Caverns were discovered in 1960 by four St. Mary University College students, and are now included in the National Register of Historic Places because of their importance in cultural history. Many ancient artifacts dating back about 10,000 years were discovered within the caverns, such as stone tools, as well as fossils from species that went extinct almost 12,000 years ago. Various tours are available, the most popular being the Discovery Tour
Gruene Historic District
Gruene, located about an hour away from Austin in New Braunfels by the Guadalupe River is a legacy of the first German settlers in the area, whose cotton production fueled the growth of the region and brought it to life. It is a sweet little place to visit, wander through various boutiques, antique stores, and bars in some old buildings that still preserve that old Texas charm. Gruene Hall, the oldest working dance hall in Texas, is a must. This authentic venue has contributed a great deal to Texas’ music scene and continues to do so, featuring some of the best live shows in the country.
Located in the heart of the Texas Panhandle, Amarillo attracts visitors for its art deco buildings together with hints of Old Texas throughout the town, amazing beer, and great food scene. For those brave enough, the Big Texan Steak Ranch offers the famous 72-ounce Steak Challenge, which has been around for almost 60 years.
After filling that tummy, drive the historic Route 66 and visit the Cadillac Ranch, an art installation situated along the south of I-40 between exits 60 and 62, where visitors are welcome to spray graffiti paint on one of the half-buried Cadillacs in the middle of farmland.
Dinosaur Valley State Park
A short drive northwest of Glen Rose, the Dinosaur Valley State Park features million-year-old dinosaur footprints at the bottom of the Paluxy River, various hiking and biking trails, and an area for horseback riding all surrounded by beautiful natural scenery. There are campsites and picnic areas available.
The 4.5 miles wide Lake Travis, one of the lakes on the Colorado River in central Texas is a piece of paradise for travelers of all ages. The lake spans over 18,929 acres and attracts many visitors throughout the year. There is more to do here than you can think of: parks, lodging, boat rentals, zip lining, waterparks, live music events, breweries, and even vineyards, all located around this beautiful lake.
Abilene is a small city 185 miles west of Dallas which was designated as the official Storybook Capital of Texas in 2015. As well as having the biggest collection of storybook sculptures in the country, Abilene hosts various literary events, including the West Texas Book Festival and the Children’s Art & Literacy Festival. For those who are not fans of conventional museums, we recommend visiting Frontier Texas – an interactive exhibition that teaches visitors about the history of Texas in a modern way.
Monahans Sandhills State Park
What used to be a Native American living area 12,000 years ago, now is the Monahans Sandhills State Park covering 3,840 acres, allowing visitors to explore wonderful sand dunes that extend over 200 miles. Sand surf, observe the unique flora and fauna that can only be seen here, take photos and watch as the sun disappears in the horizon. Chances are you will want to do it again! There is a campsite in the park, so visitors are welcome to stay overnight. It is also a great opportunity for stargazing.
Terlingua Ghost Town
Looking for some mystery? The ghost town of Terlingua will give you just that. Once a bustling community, now it is just a few buildings and ruins that echo the village’s history in the Chihuahuan Desert. See the ruins of the Chisos Mining Company, visit the St. Agnes Church, and the cemetery dating from the early 1900s.
Port Isabel, located at the southern tip of Texas is a small coastal town, best known for the Port Isabel Lighthouse, the only one open for the public in Texas. Climb the stairs for a great view of South Padre Island. Take in some history at the Port Isabel Historical Museum, go fishing at the Pirates Landing Fishing Pier, participate in Texas International Fishing Tournament, go on a dolphin cruise, or explore the sea on the Black Dragon ship surrounded by the pirates who love making jokes.
Rusk Palestine Railroad
Take a break from driving in a car and explore the East Texas forests on the Texas State Railroad.
Live a moment in history as you ride a 1896 steam train from Rusk to Palestine via the Piney Woods Route.
The round-trip journey is about 3 hours, 25 miles each way.
Rusk and Palestine are quiet historic towns featuring Victorian architecture, a lot of wood, and some nice beers.
Each town has a depot featuring information about the locomotives and the history of the town, as well as gift shops.
During the holiday season, you can also ride the Christmas train in Palestine.
Adrian is located at 1139 miles of Route 66, marking the midpoint of this historic route, meaning there are 1,139 miles left to go to reach Santa Monica. Like the Cadillac Ranch, the Midpoint is a great place to take photos. There is also a Midpoint Cafe, a small decorated café, where you can grab a snack before continuing the trip. A lot of Route 66-themed merchandise and postcards are available in a store near the café.
Bolivar Peninsula northeast of Galveston stretches over 27 miles in the Gulf of Mexico, attracting visitors for the huge sandy beaches and many attractions available for the whole family. It encompasses a number of communities including Gilchrist, Port Bolivar, Crystal Beach, and High Island. Some of the most popular activities to do on the beach are swimming, surfing, birdwatching, kiting, and fishing. Other attractions include Fort Travis, the Bolivar Lighthouse, shops and restaurants, live music, and other events.
We hope you liked our post on the best places to visit in Texas. Did we miss out on any popular Texas attractions? Let us know in the comments.