Last month, my in-laws took an impromptu trip down to Texas. One evening, as my husband and I were working in our attic (where we’re installing knotty pine paneling), our phones started blowing up with pictures they were taking along the San Antonio River Walk. We couldn’t make out much beyond some twinkling lights and their smiling faces, but it was plain to see they were having a romantic evening — and that January in Texas is considerably more pleasant than January in Saint Louis, Missouri!
My mother-in-law brought me back a split pea soup mix from Schilo’s (the oldest restaurant in San Antonio), which has been serving “German-Texan” fare since 1917, and as a Magnolia fan, I’m still looking forward to hearing how things went when they visited Waco. In the meantime, I’m imagining my first-ever trip to Texas and have been inspired by our writers’ best of Texas recommendations.
Marfa And The Chinati Mountains
The vastness of big Texas skies collides with a vibrant arts scene in Marfa in West Texas. Visit museums and art galleries, have your fill of artisan cheese at the “dairy on the prairie,” and visit Wrong Marfa, which Architectural Digest named the most beautiful independent store in Texas, or Prada Marfa for unparalleled shopping (or window shopping) experiences. See how to spend an amazing day in Marfa, Texas.
Just North Of Alamo City: New Braunfels
If you consider yourself a water baby and/or a foodie, New Braunfels, less than an hour northeast of San Antonio, is calling your name. Here, you can float the Guadalupe River in a tube, raft, or kayak, visit the world’s best water park, and check in to a river camp. Dry off and put your real clothes on for the Hill Country Beer Tour (hop on the bus and leave the driving to someone else!) and a donut from the oldest bakery in Texas. Read our suggestions for the best things to do in New Braunfels, including where to eat, stay, and play.
Back In West Texas: Alpine
If you’re captivated by the Wild West and wide-open spaces, Alpine, which is just a half-hour west of Marfa, is another Texas town you’ll want to pencil in. Here, you can brush up on your cowboy history thanks to a noteworthy museum and walking tour. Or see another kind of cowboys: the Pecos Minor League Alpine Cowboys who play at Alpine’s Kokernot Field. Stretch your legs on the hike to the fabled desk on Hancock Hill (an actual desk planted on a desert overlook), then fuel up with hearty takes on Texas fare that you’ll find served in restaurants all over town. Here are seven fantastic things to do in Alpine, Texas.
Pitch A Tent In The Piney Woods
If you’re pining to pitch a tent, the Piney Woods in East Texas (as far east as you can go in the Lone Star State) could be your next outdoor playground. Of course, there are RV camping options and even screened-in cabins, like the one writer Kim Croisant enjoyed staying in at Tyler State Park. Wherever you stay in the Piney Woods, she says you’re in for a treat: hike fish, paddle, camp, repeat! These are our picks for the 11 best campgrounds in the Piney Woods of East Texas.
Pick Your Own Adventure In Marble Falls (Hill Country)
Yes, Marble Falls, about an hour northwest of Austin, is home to a beloved pick-your-own-berries or pumpkins experience at Sweet Berry Farm. There are also wineries, hiking and biking trails, cave systems, and a downtown where you can get delicious treats and/or a “glass to go.” Here are the best things to do in beautiful Marble Falls, TX.
For Winter Travelers (And Gulf Lovers): Rockport
If you want to take a Lone Star vacation in winter, specifically, head south to Rockport, a Gulf Coast community where the palm-thatched umbrellas planted in warm sand might just have you thinking Mexico. Rockport is just 30 minutes north of Corpus Christi, which means deliciously warm days — and delicious seafood. This is also a prime destination for bird-watching as whooping cranes and other winged ones overwinter in the area. Here are our writer Robyne Stevenson’s top five reasons to fall in love with Rockport, Texas, in the winter.
A True Texan Experience: The Fort Worth Stockyards
Small Texas towns are all well and good, but nothing says Big Texas like the famous cattle drive, championship rodeo, or Western wear at the Fort Worth Stockyards. There’s raucous nightlife thanks to saloons and the world’s largest honky-tonk (Billy Bob’s Texas, a lauded country music establishment). If you want to park yourself in the Stockyards for the night, you can even stay in an old Texas-style hotel that’s been welcoming guests for over 100 years. Here are Kim Croisant’s suggestions for eight fun things to do at the Fort Worth Stockyards.
Get Your Fill Of All Things Magnolia In Waco
When we hear Waco, we think of the Branch Davidian compound that was raided in 1993 — or Chip and Joanna Gaines, gorgeously restored Southern homes, and shiplap. Today, Magnolia, the Gaines’s enterprise, is redefining Waco, where you can visit their market, restaurant, and maybe even stay in one of their fixer-uppers. There’s also the Dr Pepper Museum (home to a unique make-a-soda experience that bubbly beverage fans will love) and two halls of fame: one for Texas Rangers and the other the Texas Sports Hall of Fame. Read Sage Scott’s recommendations for 11 ways to spend a perfect day in quaint Waco, Texas, to make the most of your time in town.
Way South Texas: South Padre Island
If Rockport and its beaches don’t feel far south enough for you, another 200 miles down the sweeping Texas coast, you’ll find South Padre Island. Go seashell hunting, experience the beach on horseback, indulge in fresh seafood (including ceviche), or just dig your toes in the sand. There are plenty of family-friendly accommodations in South Padre, or, if you want a more mature (and potentially quieter) getaway, there’s an adult-only hotel, too. See Kim’s recommendations for 17 incredible experiences in scenic South Padre Island here.
Peace And Vines In Fredericksburg (Hill Country)
Fredericksburg, like Marble Falls, is a breathtaking destination in Texas Hill Country. Here, you can visit tasting rooms or branch out to wineries, tour the National Museum of the Pacific War and the Japanese Garden of Peace on its grounds, and even check in for a stay at an herb farm with an on-site cottage, restaurant, and spa. Read our suggestions for the best things to see and do in Fredericksburg, Texas.
Adventure In Palo Duro Canyon
Further north than any of the Texas destinations we’ve explored so far, adventurers can make their way to Palo Duro Canyon State Park. About 30 minutes outside Amarillo, this panhandle pick promises wide open spaces and a true desert experience. Hike, camp, or even horseback ride among the red rocks, hoodoos, and steep mesa walls. Here is Heide Brandes’s take on how to spend a long weekend in Palo Duro Canyon.