Texas encompasses so many different landscapes. The southern tip boasts Florida’s climate and beaches that can be visited throughout the winter. The western end of Texas with its desert climate very much resembles New Mexico and Arizona. Eastern Texas, with its plentiful forests and lakes, is much like Louisiana. And you might be surprised to hear that the Texas Panhandle gets a lot of snow in the winter! After all, the drive from northwestern Texas to the Rocky Mountains is only 150 miles long.
That’s probably the most amazing thing about Texas. On the same day, within the same state, you can drive from the beach in Brownsville where it’s warm and sunny to Stratford in the Panhandle where it’s snowing. The drive would take you all day, though: You’d drive 875 miles, all without leaving the state! It’s the largest state in the lower 48, as they say.
Considering Texas’s size and diversity, it’s no surprise that the state is home to a variety of fantastic weekend getaway spots. Here are just five of them.
My aunt lives in Kerrville, so I’d be remiss if I didn’t begin with what she calls “the best-kept secret in Texas.” After years of living in Pennsylvania, Missouri, and California, she and her husband went looking for a great place to retire. They settled on Kerrville, Texas.
Kerrville is a town of approximately 25,000 located right on the Guadalupe River in South Central Texas. An hour’s drive northwest of San Antonio, it is perhaps best known for its Kerrville Folk Festival, a three-week celebration that takes place annually in late May or early June and features some of the top folk-music stars in the country. My aunt says she meets people from as far away as Europe and Australia at the festival.
But Kerrville is much more than just a venue for the folk festival. The town has a very artistic vibe and offers regular craft shows, art exhibits, and even an annual furniture show. You can check the calendar at the Kerrville Convention & Visitors Bureau to see the latest events going on around town. I should note that my aunt would tell you not to miss the Kerrville Arts and Cultural Center. Check the website for current exhibits.
There are also plenty of great places to eat in Kerrville. For the best view and the best meal, try 1011 Bistro, located right on Nimitz Lake, the widened portion of the Guadalupe River in the Kerrville area. If the weather is nice, sit out on the deck and enjoy your after-dinner drink with some incredible views.
It’s hard to imagine any city more different from Kerrville than Dallas. Dallas is so big and so booming that some consider it too intimidating for a weekend getaway. But here are some ideas for making the Big D a little smaller -- and perfect for your Texas weekend getaway.
Try to focus on only one or two parts of the gigantic city when planning your weekend out. After all, you could spend nearly an entire day in the downtown area just visiting the memorials and museums. Near the City Hall you’ll find Pioneer Plaza and the Dallas Police Memorial, an impressive outdoor space with water features and rock formations. The John F. Kennedy Memorial Plaza is a large concrete monument designed by a family friend of the Kennedys following the assassination of the president in Dallas. And, of course, there’s The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza in the former Texas School Book Depository, a solemn reminder of that fateful day in 1963.
Another great place to visit in the downtown area is the Ronald Kirk Pedestrian Bridge. Located parallel to the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge -- the funky arched bridge you see in many photos of Dallas -- the Kirk Pedestrian Bridge is a repurposed bridge that is now only for pedestrians. And the entire length has been redesigned, so along the way you’ll find a maze, a life-size chessboard, lounge chairs, and a dozen other outdoor activities. The absolute best photos of the Dallas skyline can be taken from the bridge.
For dining in Dallas, check out the very unique Deep Ellum district. This area, originally known as Deep Elm but changed to Deep Ellum to correspond with the local pronunciation, is a vibrant, rebuilt community of restaurants, shops, entertainment venues, and living spaces. Artwork covers the walls of the district’s buildings, and your choice of restaurants is nearly limitless. The best destination, in my opinion? Pecan Lodge, a world-renowned barbecue joint. Just don’t go the day after Christmas like I did on my first trip to Dallas -- it’s the one time each year that they close the restaurant to clean the smoker.
If your idea of a Texas weekend getaway is a visit to the Old West -- someplace steeped in cowboy culture -- then Amarillo is your best bet. Located up in the Panhandle, Amarillo was the main Texas stop along the famous Route 66. It’s the halfway point between Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and Albuquerque, New Mexico, and it has a long and storied history.
The main attraction in Amarillo is Palo Duro Canyon State Park, the largest canyon in the United States after the Grand Canyon. Carved by the Red River (and no, this isn’t the Red River Valley from the song, although it fits), this deep canyon is a sight to see. The adventuresome can hike or mountain bike in the valley, but just driving to the overlooks will give you amazing views.
If you’re looking for something to do in town, the Route 66 Historic District is a great choice. As I mentioned above, Amarillo was a major stop along Route 66 for those heading west (or back east) along the historic highway. Find your way to Sixth Avenue between Georgia and Western Streets, where the historic shopping district along the old Route 66 still exists. Grab lunch, check out the antique shops, and browse the art galleries.
If you’ve got more time, head out to Cadillac Ranch, Texas’s quirkiest public art installation. It’s located just a short drive outside the city.
For dinner? Well, you’re in cowboy country, so you’re going to want a great steak. If you’re looking for an old-time saloon, head to The Big Texan Steak Ranch. It’s famous for its 72-ounce steak challenge, but there are plenty of smaller steaks to order. Just look for the (world-famous) bull out front. For a higher-end steakhouse experience, try Prime Chophouse & Lounge.
Texas has an expansive shoreline along the Gulf of Mexico, so perhaps a trip to the Gulf is in your plans. One overlooked shoreline destination is Corpus Christi. Located right on Corpus Christi Bay and protected from the Gulf of Mexico by Mustang Island, Corpus Christi is a great place to get away for the weekend by the water.
If it’s the beach you’re looking for, take the bridge across from Corpus Christi to Mustang Island. The island offers 18 miles of beach, so you’ll certainly find a great spot. Or, if you’re not looking to relax at the beach, explore Mustang Island State Park or check out the shops in Port Aransas at the very northern end of the island.
Corpus Christi is home to a naval base and has a long maritime history. When you’re in town, don’t miss the USS Lexington aircraft carrier docked in the bay. The ship was built during World War II and was in operation until 1992, when it was turned into a museum. You can tour the massive aircraft carrier and see just how it operated during World War II. Right next to the USS Lexington is the Texas State Aquarium, another popular Corpus Christi attraction.
Just across the turning basin from the USS Lexington are several great restaurants near downtown Corpus Christi. The turning basin provides a place for the massive oil tankers that enter the river to turn around and go back out to sea. Many of the restaurants in this area provide a great view of these oil tankers coming into and out of Corpus Christi Bay. One very popular restaurant is Water Street Oyster Bar. You’re right next to the Gulf of Mexico, so you’ll want to try some of the fresh fish and oysters from the Gulf.
Interstate 44, which parallels the old Route 66, runs from Saint Louis, Missouri, to Wichita Falls, Texas. Wichita Falls, which is located on the Wichita River, is an Air Force town -- the Sheppard Air Force Base located just north of town.
If you’re looking for outdoor adventure in your Texas weekend getaway, then Wichita Falls is your town. The waterfalls within the Wichita River that gave the town its name were washed away by a flood in the 19th century, so new falls were built within Lucy Park, one of the top outdoor recreation destinations in Wichita Falls. Adjacent to Lucy Park is the River Bend Nature Center, an environmental education facility. A butterfly conservatory, a children’s garden, and a forest nature trail are all part of the River Bend Nature Center experience.
Another unique outdoor experience in Wichita Falls is the model airplane landing strip in Lake Wichita Park. Depending on the time of year, you can sit and watch the planes take off and land. It’s like sitting near the local airport to watch the airplanes, except that these planes are smaller than you. Lake Wichita Park is a massive park as well, so there are quite a few outdoor activities available.
You can also enjoy some great food in the area. After a day exploring the parks and nature centers, you’ll want to try some authentic Tex-Mex. A great choice is Gutierrez Restaurant. Like many of the best restaurants, it’s nothing fancy on the outside, but its food is consistently rated some of the finest in the area. Gutierrez Restaurant is open for breakfast, so if a breakfast burrito sounds like your kind of Sunday morning, then this is your place. But be forewarned: Like everything in Texas, the burrito is huge!