They say that everything is bigger in Texas, and it is certainly true that there is a large range of things do so, see and explore in the second largest state. Texans are fiercely proud, and they have a lot to be proud of. Whether you’re interested in history, art or cowboy culture, it’s all found in Texas. As you plan your upcoming trip to the Lone Star State, be sure to checkout this list of best places to visit in Texas.
Cutting through the High Plains region of Texas is the Palo Duro Canyon, the second largest in the United States, after the Grand Canyon. Red rock is exposed, creating a beautiful sight to behold, but the canyon is more than just a void. It is also where Native American tribes like the Apache and the Comanche once called home. There is an abundance of wildlife in the park, so as you hike the miles of trails, keep your eyes peeled for things like Aoudad sheep, whitetail deer and even mountain lions. You can also ride horses and dine on chuckwagon cuisine in and around the canyon.
Right on the Mexican border in the far western corner of Texas is a city called El Paso. This destination is also known as Sun City, and it boasts incredible views as the sun sets nightly over the Franklin Mountains. There are many great attractions in El Paso, just some of which include the Chihuahuan Desert Gardens, the Museum of Archeology at Wilderness Park and the Centennial Museum. El Paso offers plenty of opportunities to get active outdoors, so don’t miss the chance to hike along the El Paso Mission Trail, picnic in view of McKelligon Canyon or drive along the scenic Transmountain Road. Trips to Ciudad Juarez just across the border were once popular but have become to dangerous due to drug-related violence.
Although Big Bend National Park is one of the least-visited parks in the United States, it is a jewel in the heart of Texas and a must-see destination. The park is enormous, and borders the Rio Grand River. The park was once underwater, and dinosaur fossils speak to the history of the region. There are miles of scenic drives throughout Big Bend National Park, but hiking is an even better way to see the rock formations and landscape up close. Try an east stroll along Window View Trail, the more challenging Chimneys Trail or just a relaxing float down the river instead.
Making up a significant portion of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex is Dallas, the state’s third largest city. Dallas is probably best known for the infamous assassination of former U.S. President John F. Kennedy. Located in the same building from which Lee Harvey Oswald fired the shots, the Sixth Floor Museum is dedicated to the assassination. The city is a shopper’s dream thanks to more stores per capita than any other American city. You can also visit one of the many amusement parks in Dallas or attend a local rodeo for some local Texas flavor.
Less than an hour’s drive south of the city of Houston is Galveston, a coastal retreat on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico. As a popular vacation spot, Galveston boasts miles of sandy coastline and unending dining, shopping and nightlife options. While you’re in Galveston, don’t forget to check out the older architecture of the Strand National Historic Landmark District, stroll through the incredible indoor Moody Gardens or explore aviation history at the Lone Star Flight Museum. Galveston is the perfect place to make a splash, so don’t miss the free Bolivar Ferry rides or a walk along Pleasure Pier.
In the very center of Texas is Hill County, where a variety of cultures combine to create a melting pot of history, heritage and cuisine. Enjoy the natural beauty of the region at Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, ideal for hiking and camping, or the Hill Country State Natural Area, which is a favorite for swimming and fishing. Head to Fredericksburg for a dose of German culture, since the area was settled by German settlers in the 19th century. In Fredericksburg, you might visit a winery for a tasting, enjoy bratwurst and sauerkraut at an authentic beer garden or shop for Bavarian souvenirs at an outdoor market. The best time to visit the region is in spring when the Hill Country is ablaze with wildflowers including the Texas State Flower; the Bluebonnet.
A small, thin island extends parallel to the coast of Texas, stretching all the way from Corpus Christi to the Mexican border. Surrounded by the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, this is known as Padre Island. The bulk of the island itself is made up of the Padre Island National Seashore, a protected treasure where you can see blue waters in virtually any direction you turn. Filled with wildlife, and an important spot for bird watching in Texas, the Padre Island National Seashore leads to South Padre Island, a popular getaway spot for beach vacations, family fun and serious nightlife.
Known for its slogan, “Keep Austin Weird,” this city definitely feels a little different from the rest of Texas. The population is youthful, thanks in part to the enormous campus of the University of Texas, and it also serves as the Live Music Capital of the country. Austin is the capital of the Lone Star State, so don’t miss the chance to tour the capitol building, which is famously pink and even taller than the U.S. Capitol Building. Also worth exploring is the LBJ Presidential Library, the stunning paths that wind along Barton Creek and the Congress Avenue Bridge, where you can see more than one million bats fly out at sunset, creating an unforgettable event that locals know is a must-do in Austin.
As the biggest city in Texas, Houston is one of the most popular places to visit in Texas. Famously known for being home to the NASA Mission Control Center, Houston is also where you’ll find places like the beautiful campus of Rice University and the high-end shopping of the Galleria Area. Many of the city’s biggest attractions are located in the Warehouse District of Downtown Houston, so head there to see the incredible Downtown Tunnel System, soak in the views from the 60th floor Chase Tower Observatory, explore the Downtown Aquarium and catch an outdoor performance at TUTS, or the Theater Under the Stars.
The third largest city in Texas is San Antonio, which is nestled in the South Texas Plains. San Antonio’s heartbeat is its downtown, thanks to an abundance of restaurants and nightlife options. Nestled in by tall buildings and cypress trees, and tucked away from the noise of traffic above, the River Walk draws huge numbers of tourists to its boutique hotels, specialty shops, and plethora of restaurants with open-air dining. Downtown is also home to the famed Alamo, a national landmark where the iconic Battle of the Alamo was fought. For more history, check out the many 19th century homes in the King William Historic Area, tour the Casa Navarro State Historical Park or admire the extensive collection at the Institute of Texan Cultures.
Read more: Top San Antonio Attractions