Dallas is a fantastic place to spend some time, but when you’re ready for something different, it’s also a great launching point for day trips. Travel a few hours in any given direction, and you’ll find eccentric small towns, major cities, and incredible natural landmarks -- in short, you’ll get the best of what the area has to offer.
If you’re not sure where to start, we’ve got you covered. Here are a few of our favorite Dallas day trips, including some suggestions for spending your time as effectively as possible.
1. Austin, Texas
Austin, Texas, is known as a hub for great food and even better music, but that’s just scratching the surface. The Texas capital has a dynamic art scene as well as plenty of parks, museums, and history to explore.
While walking through the city, you’ll see dozens of murals, including the famous Greetings from Austin mural at 1720 South First Street. Take in the sights while making your way to South Congress Avenue (known as SoCo to the locals), a delightfully eccentric neighborhood with a variety of shops and restaurants.
However you spend your time, you won’t want to ignore Austin’s incredible restaurants. Check out our guide to the city’s hidden gem eateries if you’re looking for something off the beaten path.
Austin is about 3 hours and 15 minutes from Dallas via Interstate 35. You can see quite a bit in one day, but consider turning your day trip into a weekend trip to fully experience the city.
2. Jefferson, Texas
History buffs will love spending the day in Jefferson, Texas. With more than 70 historical markers throughout the town, there’s no shortage of buildings and museums to tour.
We suggest starting with a visit to the Jefferson Historical Museum and a ride on the Historic Jefferson Railway. The museum is located in the former Jefferson Federal Courthouse and Post Office, a visually striking red brick building built in 1888. Explore four floors full of Jefferson County history, including Caddo Indian artifacts and an enormous model train set.
After touring the museum, sit back and enjoy the lush scenery from your seat on the Historic Jefferson Railway. The locomotive takes you on a 40-minute ride through the Big Cypress Bayou. For an even closer look at the local flora, you can hike or paddle your way through the nearby Caddo Lake State Park.
Before you head back to Dallas, be sure to stop by the Jefferson General Store. This shop has operated as a general store since the 1870s, and it maintains an old-time aesthetic -- you can even purchase five-cent cups of coffee or ice cream!
Jefferson is 2 hours and 30 minutes east of Dallas via Interstate 20.
3. Beavers Bend State Park, Broken Bow, Oklahoma
Don’t overlook a day trip to Oklahoma. The Broken Bow area is popular with vacationers from Texas and Arkansas, and Beavers Bend State Park has plenty of amenities for active travelers.
Camping aficionados can choose from several campgrounds, though there are also modern cabins and RV sites for those who don’t enjoy roughing it. Alternatively, you could head down for a single day, but you’ll spend a decent amount of time on the road; Beavers Bend is about 3 hours and 15 minutes from Dallas.
The destination is worth the drive, though, since you’ll be rewarded with opportunities for hiking, canoeing, kayaking, and golfing. There’s also a Chocktaw Casino nearby with more than 450 gaming machines -- a nice way to end a day in the great outdoors.
4. Terrell, Texas
Terrell, Texas, is an unconventional destination, but that’s why we love it. This small town’s claim to fame? It’s haunted, according to the locals. Take a ghost walk to see the spirits for yourself while learning about Terrell’s mysterious past.
Of course, there’s a decent chance that you won’t see any ghosts during your tour. If that’s the case, you can always head to Thrillvania for slightly more dependable thrills. This unique theme park comprises three chilling haunted houses, recommended for adults and teens (younger kids can come, but the park discourages families from bringing infants).
If ghosts aren’t your thing, there are still reasons to visit Terrell. Stop by the Scuba Ranch for a unique diving experience. This privately owned freshwater lake is a popular destination for certified divers. Some third-party schools offer lessons at Scuba Ranch, but you can also snorkel or kayak if you’re not interested in scuba diving.
5. Fort Worth, Texas
Fort Worth is a big city, but it has a much smaller population than Dallas, and the cities' cultures are markedly different. The town’s former motto sums it up: Fort Worth is “where the West begins,” and it combines the best aspects of country living and big-city thrills.
When we say country living, we’re not kidding. Head to East Exchange Avenue every day at 11:30 a.m. or 4 p.m. to see authentic cattle drives through the Stockyards National Historic District. While you’re there, you can visit the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame or stop by Billy Bob’s Texas, an iconic honky-tonk with mechanical bulls and an indoor rodeo arena.
Fort Worth is also home to one of the nation’s best zoos, a world-class modern art museum, and some of the state’s best wineries. Whatever you’re looking for, you’ll find it -- and you won’t have to fight the crowds on your way.
Fort Worth is only about 35 minutes from Dallas by car via Interstate 30, but if you’d prefer not to drive, you can take the Trinity Railway Express between the cities.
6. Davy Crockett National Forest, Kennard, Texas
With more than 160,000 acres of pristine woodlands, Davy Crockett National Forest sits within the Trinity and Neches River Basins. If you’re looking for a way to experience the natural wonders of Texas and you don’t mind quite a bit of hiking, you’ll love spending time here.
The forest offers 50 miles of trails for horseback riding, along with a swimming beach, hiking trails, and opportunities for fishing and boating. On the trails, majestic pines offer some relief from the sun, and numerous campsites provide campers with peace and quiet. You could spend days hiking the trails, but if you’re looking for a less physically taxing trip, the forest has plenty of picnic spots for unwinding and enjoying the views.
This is one of the longer day trips on this list, since Davy Crockett National Forest is just under 3 hours from Dallas via Interstate 45 South and Texas State Highway 7 East, so keep that in mind when planning your trip. Additionally, the forest is a popular spot for hunters, so avoid visiting during the fall deer season (unless you’re planning on hunting).
7. Arbuckle Wilderness Park, Davis, Oklahoma
Located about 2 hours and 15 minutes from Dallas via Interstate 35, Arbuckle Wilderness Park in Davis, Oklahoma, is a private animal sanctuary with bison, emus, zebras, giraffes, and various other exotic creatures roaming free over 200 acres. It’s not quite as impressive as the aforementioned Fort Worth Zoo, but if you’re headed to Oklahoma, you’ll certainly want to schedule a quick stop.
Take a drive-through safari to see and feed the animals. Note that the drive is fairly rough; while it only lasts about 30 minutes, the experience is better if you’ve got access to an SUV or a truck.
Kids get discounted admission, so Arbuckle Wilderness Park makes for a great multigenerational destination.
8. Canton, Texas
Drive an hour east of Dallas, and you’ll find Canton, a quiet, quaint town with a nice selection of parks, restaurants, historic buildings, and local shops. It’s also the site of the First Monday Trade Days, billed as the world’s largest flea market -- and if you’re looking for a place to shop, you certainly won’t want to miss this enormous event.
Start your shopping at the Original First Monday Park, and then have fun working your way through the miles of paved aisles. You’ll find vendors selling everything from golf clubs to antique furniture.
The First Monday Trade Days are held from Thursday through Sunday before (you guessed it) the first Monday of every month. Nonresidents should bring cash to pay for parking.
9. Greenville, Texas
Greenville is about 50 miles northeast of Dallas, and it offers a few key stops for history lovers and architecture buffs.
Start with a downtown walking tour, which will take you by four buildings on the U.S. Department of the Interior's National Register of Historic Places: the Katy Depot, the Greenville Post Office, the Hunt County Courthouse, and Central Christian Church. All of these structures feature spectacular architecture, and while you’re marveling at the buildings, you’ll pass by numerous historical markers detailing the town’s colorful history.
Those with an interest in World War II will want to stop by the Audie Murphy/American Cotton Museum, which honors the town’s most famous resident. Murphy won every military combat award for valor given by the U.S. Army for his service in World War II -- all before the age of 21. The museum also has exhibits highlighting other Texas veterans, and as its name implies, it has sizable exhibits dedicated to the history of the American cotton industry.