Texas is vast and gigantic. It is really hard to plan a single trip that covers all the major attractions of Texas. Thankfully, you don’t need to do that! Instead, you can visit the Lone Star State region by region and cover the most popular attractions in each region during a single trip.
Plan a summer vacation around the beaches of the Gulf Coast and spend a romantic Valentine’s Day weekend in Hill Country. Keep the hot southern region of Big Bend Country for the winters and visit the Texas Panhandle Plains during fall.
Texas has a total of 7 regions and each has a unique geographic and cultural identity. From Pineywoods in the northeastern corner to the South Texas Plains, here is a complete guide to the 7 Regions of Texas.
Beach-loving travelers headed to the United States probably won’t have Texas at the top of their lists.
The lone star state ranks deep behind the seaside giants of Florida and California when it comes to American sands and waves.
However, the southeastern part of Texas has an enormous coast on the Gulf of Mexico famous for its ocean views, abundant wildlife, and tons of activities to choose from.
The coast is 624 miles long and travels all the way from the Louisiana border to Mexico.
The Northern part, closer to Louisiana, is mostly swamp and marshland and has several state and national parks.
As you go further south and closer to Mexico you’ll find more desert-like landscapes with a flourishing coastline full of beach resorts and pretty white sand beaches.
One of the cooler attractions is the tourist city of South Padre Island. You will think you’re in a spring break paradise as you order a cocktail and walk down these thin and sandy streets with the salty ocean splashing beside you. If you’re traveling with the kid, the boardwalks and amusement parks nearby help create a family-friendly atmosphere among the party chaos.
If you’re more interested in the natural side of things, the rest of the barrier island, called Padre Island National Seashore is a protected wildlife reserve. Or, take a trip further south to visit the Rio Grande Valley and become acquainted with the sandstone canyons and coyotes.
The biggest cities for tourists are Corpus Christi and Galveston where you can shop, eat some great Texas BBQ, and even catch local entertainment.
Corpus Christi is right next to Padre Island and closer to Mexico while Galveston is more Northern, closer to Louisiana, and just a short drive away from Houston.
Texas beach towns like Rockport and Freeport make perfect summer vacation destinations on the coast.
Major Cities & Towns:
South Padre Island
Padre Island National Seashore
Rio Grande Valley
Beach Park at Isla Blanca
Shopping in Galveston/ Corpus Christi
Port Aransas Wildlife Refuge
A lot of people think of Central Texas as a desolate desert. The setting for films like The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly where you can barely find water to drink, let alone clean your boots.
Little did you know that there is a flourishing domain here full of vineyards, antiquing, quiet bed and breakfasts, and much much more. The landscape of the region is surprisingly flush with brightly colored wildflowers and abundant green shrubbery draping the many hills from which the region gets its name.
Austin and San Antonio are only about 1-2 hours by car from Hill Country and offer their own variety of metropolitan excitement and enthusiasm. However, one of the main reasons to visit Hill Country is for wine.
Dozens of vineyards decorate the hills here and regularly compete with California’s wine country for the best tasting wines produced in the United States. For lovers of the outdoors, take a trip over to Garner State Park where you can find some fabulous oak trees and crystal clear lakes.
This is a great place to take a dip in the summertime or enjoy peacefully while you watch the colored leaves fall in the Autumn. There is also an awesome system of rivers and lakes entangling the entire area in fabulous outdoor waterside locations. The Texas Hill Country is also home to many of the best waterfalls in Texas.
Travel from deep Horseshoe Bay to the towering Marble Falls, over to Lake Travis, stopping finally at Canyon Lake for a nice tour of the freshwater nature here. Also, make sure you visit some of the excellent small towns to get a taste of local Texas like Gruene Dance Hall, Fredericksburg, and Vanderpool.
Major Cities & Towns:
Garner State Park
Enchanted Rock State Natural Area
Fall Creek Vineyards
Hamilton Pool Nature Reserve
Blue Hole Regional Park
South Texas Plains
Looking for a little house on the prairie? Curious about the part of Texas where it and Mexico just start to blend together? Then this is the region for you. Situated in the southern tip of the state, you can find many things here from the fabulous city of San Antonio to the rolling landscapes of the Rio Grande Valley.
Beyond these two excellent destinations, you can also discover a lot about Texas history. This is not only home to one of the most famous battles from the Texas revolution (the Alamo), but also a series of other Spanish missions that can be dated all the way back to the 1600s.
If you’re a fan of tacos and burritos you also landed in the right spot. The South Texas Plains have some of the top rate Mexican-American restaurants in the nation. While you’re in San Antonio make sure to stop by LaLa’s Gorditas for an authentic experience with this delicious food. Also while you’re in San Antonio take a walk along the beautiful river walkway for a cool evening of music, dancing, and fun.
When you decide to visit the Rio Grande Valley make sure you bring a bird watching guide. The valley is sometimes called “The valley of the Birds” because it has several hundred species of bird; some of which can’t be found anywhere else in the world.
Want to see what life is like on the border? Head over to Laredo, a border town that almost always has some kind of event or cultural celebration for locals and newcomers to enjoy.
Major Cities & Towns:
San Antonio Riverwalk
Hiking and Biking Trails
Alamo and other missions
Festivals in Laredo
Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge
Roma Historic District
Big Bend Country
Why not take a step off the beaten path and travel somewhere you can see the stars for a change? Don’t be afraid of the wild. Travel way out to west Texas to see some of the widest, most open, and encompassing landscapes in the entire state.
The immense region which straddles Texas’ entire southwestern portion is the perfect location for anybody who likes to camp, hike, explore, adventure, and look up at the night sky. Instead of saving the best for last, you can start your journey in the park from which the region gets its name: Big Bend National Park.
Situated on the Rio Grande and cutting through the Chiso Mountain Range, this park is named after the enormous turn the river takes in this area. At the park, you can find hiking trails, rock climbing, kayaking, canoeing, and basically any national park activity you can think of.
If it’s the sun you’re after then grab a place to stay in El Paso. The city has 300 sunny days a year, highly rated BBQ and TexMex, and a ton of outdoor activities nearby to keep you busy in the nice weather.
Franklin Mountains State Park is the largest State Park inside of any city limits and has 125 miles of hiking trails to go along with rock-climbing in McKelligon Canyon. There is also some ancient history to be discovered in the region.
About 40 miles east of El Paso is Hueco Tanks State Park and Historic Site. Here you can find natural rock basins where native people used to collect rainwater and over 3,000 rock-paintings. If you want to see one of the more bare, untouched parts of America, and spend all your time outdoors, West Texas is the place for you.
Major Cities & Towns:
Big Bend Ranch State Park Mountain Biking Trail
Rafting on the Rio Grande
Hueco Tanks State Park
Big Bend National Park
Monahans Sandhills State Park
Seminole Canyon State Park & Historic Site
Typically when you think of Plains you think of flat, boring land in green monocolor. The Panhandle-Plains are the exact opposite of that. Travel up to the northern part of Texas and see awesome rock formations piled up over dramatic canyons with sandy reddish soils.
Among these sweeping plains and stooping canyons, you can find artistic little towns that will acquaint you with authentic American southern culture and then win you over with their unique (and sometimes absurd) charms.
Make sure you put Lubbock as a stop on your trip here. The town may be most famous for its relationship with Texas Tech University (a sports powerhouse for college athletes), but it can just as easily impress you with its musical history and awesome BBQ. Check out Triple J Chophouse & Brew Co for some good eats and tunes.
Amarillo is another town that should be on your Panhandle-Plains Radar. This town is home to many unique attractions like Cadillac Ranch; 10 Cadillacs are buried headfirst and open to the community for spray painting and artistic purposes. If spray-painted Cadillacs aren’t your thing then check out Palo Duro Canyon, the second biggest canyon in America.
The Plains are also where you can find Route 66. The route is one of the most famous in America and a popular topic for a rock song, it is also lined with endless diners, landmarks, and Americana for you to casually enjoy.
Don’t forget to see the great parks here if you want to visit some interesting landscapes. Caprock Canyons State Park & Trailway has red rocks of multiple shades that can reach as high as 1,000 feet. Needless to say, these plains are not plain.
Major Cities & Towns:
Palo Duro Canyon State Park
Eat 72 ounces (2041 g) steak at The Big Texan
Fort Griffin State Historic Site
Caprock Canyons State Park & Trailway
Visit waterfall at Wichita Falls
Prairies and Lakes
This is Texas’ largest travel region. The landscapes here are very green and filled with a number of lakes that make it an awesome destination for summer holidays to combine the urban and outdoor experience together.
First, let’s talk about Dallas. There are two neighborhoods you need to visit. Find your way into Deep Ellum if you’re looking for a lively part of the city with tons of live music and art galleries all within walking distance of one another.
The food in Lower Greenville is very popular among foodies for its blend of traditional southern and Mexican cooking with new wave practices and techniques. Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden, the Dallas Zoo, and the Cedar Ridge Preserve are great places to escape from the city and spend some time outdoors while you’re in the Dallas area as well.
You also can’t visit the Prairies and Lakes without making a stop in Fort Worth. This famous stop for cowboys in the 1800s has now become an entertaining and exciting devotion to the wild west way of life.
Plan your trip accordingly so you can get a seat at the rodeo in Fort Worth Stockyards and visit the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame to learn about female ranchers, rodeo stars, pioneers, writers, and other leaders who helped shape the American West.
If you want to see some of the better nature in the area then try Attwater Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Refuge where you can take a peaceful stroll on the easy trails and observe the local birds like the endangered ground-dwelling grouse.
Major Cities & Towns:
Grapevine Vintage Railroad
State Fair of Texas
Fort Worth Stockyards
Attwater Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Refuge
Six Flags Texas
George H.W. & George W. Bush presidential libraries
Mckinney Roughs Nature Park
Piney Woods region is home to several East Texas attractions.
The trees are what characterize this region of the diverse Lone Star State. Almost all of Texas’ National Forests are located here. All the roads and forests are infested with hundred-foot pine trees. In between the pines, you will find charming local towns, dense marshes, interesting local history, and vibrant gardens.
If your plan is to visit Texas and stay away from the desert then why not visit its wettest part? Up in the northeastern corner of the state, the border is shared with the famously wet and swampy Louisiana and some of these characteristics actually travel over to Texas as well.
The first stop on your wet and wild journey should be Caddo Lake State Park. This abundant natural area is the largest lake in Texas and contains one of the biggest Cypress forests in the world. Rent a canoe and row through the Bayou with your family or a friend to learn more about this diverse ecosystem.
Tyler, Longview, and Nacogdoches are just some of the adorable little Texas towns tucked inside the forests where you can experience things like the Rose capital of America, an opera house from the year 1885, and Heritage Village.
Big Thicket National Park is the dream of anyone who loves Marshland and definitely the best Nature site in the Piney Woods. Come to this system of lakes and swamps and walk along the wooden pathways around the next unseen turn.
Major Cities & Towns:
Texas State Railroad
Mission Tejas State Park
Big Thicket National Park
Texas is amazing to explore and travel to. There are innumerable attractions in all the regions and each of them has its own distinct identity. We hope you have a great time exploring the Lone Star State.